Would you choose having smart parents? Would you choose having money? Would you choose attending an Ivy League university? Would you choose an extra marshmallow?
Some years ago, behavioral psychologists such as Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of emotional intelligence (EI). A great deal of research has been done since to show that whether an individual can control his or her emotions is a greater predictor of success in life than almost any other factor. Controlling emotions meant primarily delaying gratification. Early testing was done with young children who were left alone in a room with a marshmallow on a table in front of them and were told that they could have another one—if they would wait for the adult to come back later.
There is a great parallel for us spiritually. In Hebrews 11 we are given a recounting of many of the faithful, some who even preceded the first-century Church. One of the things that we can learn from their example is that they didn't always receive the fulfillment of God's promises in their physical lifetime (verse 39).
We face this often in our own lives, don't we? Consider a few hypothetical questions: "I can't keep the Sabbath, I'll lose my job, and then how will I take care of my family?" "How can I tithe if I can't pay my bills as it is now?" These questions and others like them involve trusting God. They also require delaying gratification. Will we forsake this life (and sometimes bear the brunt of Satan's persecution) for a better (eternal) life later?
Paul addressed this matter in part in Philippians. In Philippians 3:17-21 he reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven and that God dwells in us to make that citizenship a reality. In Philippians 4:6 we are told to "be anxious for nothing;" that is, to not place the focus of our concern on the physical things in this life. Rather, in verse 8, he encourages us to dwell on the positive aspects of what God is doing in us.
The EI aspect of what Paul is teaching is summarized in verses 11-13: "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
We are to prove God in our calling, but we are also to wait and hope on Him (Galatians 5:5). Are we willing to forgo the "marshmallow" in this lifetime for the better calling of the blessings to come from being a son or daughter of God? Our hope is in the delayed gratification of the spiritual life God will give us at the return of His Son. UN