Now and Later


Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11
Let us be alert and self-controlled. 1 Thessalonians 5:6, NIV

SIX-YEAR-OLD Lauren helped her mom and dad with odd jobs around the house for months until she had saved enough money to buy a doll she’d admired.
Four-year-old Andrew saved money and cereal box tops for weeks to buy four tiny toy cars. He had to wait almost six more weeks for the cars to arrive in the mail.

Jenita’s mom gave her a choice between a nice restaurant dinner with her family on her thirteenth birthday and waiting almost two weeks for a larger party that would include her friends from church and school. It wasn’t easy, but Jenita chose to wait. She later said she had “the best birthday party ever!”

It may not seem like much, but Lauren, Andrew, and Jenita all did something that few kids (or adults) seem able to do anymore. They delayed gratification.

Huh? “Delayed gratification?” What’s that mean?

Well, gratification means enjoyment. Pleasure. Satisfaction. Reward. Fun. Some¬thing that tastes good or feels good. Something desirable or pleasing.

One of the marks of maturity is the ability to delay gratification, the ability to postpone pleasure until later. Like Andrew did when he put that money and those box tops in the mail and had to wait six weeks to get his cars even though it would have been easier to buy something right then! Like Jenita did when she waited almost two weeks for her birthday party. Like Lauren did when she saved for months to buy a doll she wanted-a lot of us would have given up after three days (or hours!) and spent the money on some candy or gum.

There’s another term for this ability to delay gratification-it’s called self-control. It can be hard to control our wants and wishes and put off getting everything we want. That’s why some kids get in trouble for stealing stuff. That’s why some kids get into drugs. That’s why some kids get pregnant or get a girlfriend pregnant. They have trouble delaying gratification because that takes self-control.

To tell the truth, it can be painful to wait for something you really want. (Ask any Chicago Cubs fan!) But if we don’t learn to control ourselves, we can really get into big, big trouble-no matter how old we are. Not only that, but we’ll end up missing out on a lot of important things. Like the respect of others. Like the trust of our parents. Like a good education. True love. And all kinds of really neat stuff.

REFLECT: Think of a time when you couldn’t wait for something good. Think of a time you delayed gratification. Did one have better results than the other? If so, which one and why?

ACT: Be alert for chances to delay gratification today.
PRAY: “Thank you, God, for all the good things you have planned for me—if I’m willing to wait.”


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