The Art of Delayed Gratification
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In our society, we are sounded by instant gratification. Text messages, social media, 24/7 news updates, emails, and of course phone calls are a routine experience for the average American. In addition to this, we have access to fast food, online ordering, 2-day shipping, and moment by moment weather updates; the list goes on and on. These conveniences are reaching beyond other first world countries into the developing and underdeveloped areas of the world.
While there can be positives to each of these things, there is also a downside. Unfortunately, having instant access to so many things has caused many to forget the art of delayed gratification.
God does not dwell in time the way that we do. “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). He is not pressured or rushed; His will is carried out at His pace. This makes Him the Master at delayed gratification.
When something is God’s will, that does not mean it will happen very quickly. Consider some examples:
Noah and his family were never told how long they would be on the Ark with the animals. They were on the ark for about 1 year.
God promised Abram (who was later renamed Abraham) that he would have a child in Genesis 15:1-7. It was over 13 years before this promise came to pass.
God gave Joseph a dream that his family would bow down to him. It took about 13 years for this to come to pass.
The Prophet Isaiah received a revelation from God that Immanuel would be born as a sign from God. This was a prophecy about Christ being born; it came to pass about 700 years after Isaiah received the promise (Isaiah 7:14).
These are just a few of many examples we could give. When God gave the promise to each of these people, He never set a time table on when these events would come to pass. While a promise from God can be very encouraging, we are often frustrated while we wait for it to come to pass.
There can be negative consequences to rushing God’s timing. Consider Abram for just a moment. Sarai and Abram rushed God’s timing in having a baby. Abram conceived a child with Sarai’s maidservant Hagar. The child was named Ishmael and his birth caused conflict within the family.
Another interesting story is found in the book of I Samuel. King Saul was asked by Samuel to wait seven days for his arrival. At the end of seven days, Samuel would make a special sacrifice to honor God.
“8 He stayed seven days, according to the time set by Samuel; but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering to me here, and the peace offerings.” He offered the burnt offering. 10 It came to pass that as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you didn’t come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines assembled themselves together at Michmash; 12 therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me to Gilgal, and I haven’t entreated the favor of Yahweh.’ I forced myself therefore, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you; for now Yahweh would have established your kingdom on Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom will not continue. Yahweh has sought for himself a man after his own heart, and Yahweh has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept that which Yahweh commanded you” (I Samuel 13:8-14).
Saul pre-empted the appearance of Samuel by just a few moments. If he would have waited a little longer, God would have brought about a complete victory for Israel. Saul’s dynasty would have been established forever. The consequences were definitely not worth the rushed action.
Saul allowed what he saw to rush the sacrifice. People were fleeing; he was concerned. He allowed the size of the enemy to steer him towards action.
Abram and Sarai did not see results in the timing they liked, so they rushed to have a child. Each of these decisions caused pain and heartache. In Saul’s case, just a few moments made the difference between obedience and disobedience. It was years before the promise came to pass for Abram and Sarai.
In both cases, trusting in God’s promise and timing would have produced more fruitful results.
We want what we want when we want it… God wants it for us when we are ready for it.
We will continue this series in our next blog.