Summary: Temptation is inevitable, but sin is not. We can learn to resist temptation and delay gratification.

Waiting for the Second Marshmallow

TCF Sermon

June 27, 2004

Opening illustration with marshmallows: invite three or four from congregation who really like marshmallows - give each one a marshmallow.

Ask them to hold it, wait until I’ve walked all the way around the auditorium. If they can wait until I’ve walked all the way around the auditorium, they’ll get a second marshmallow.

Or, they can eat that one right away......


We’ve just illustrated an actual experiment that was conducted at Stanford University in the 1970s. They used pre-schoolers in that experiment, and they had to wait 15 minutes to get the second marshmallow. But you get the idea.

The experiment at Stanford was designed to investigate the power of temptation. Preschoolers were left alone with instructions that they could eat one marshmallow right away, or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows.

Some went for the immediate payoff; others held back, distracting themselves from the puffy white treat by singing, trying to sleep or covering their eyes.

A decade later, researchers tracked down the children and, according to news reports, found that those who had waited for the second marshmallow were smarter and more self-confident.

What this research made clear, lines up closely with what the Word of God teaches. There’s a real benefit to the ability to resist temptation... especially in the realm of sin.

Delayed gratification serves a real purpose in the Kingdom of God. Waiting for the second marshmallow is a skill worth developing, worth cultivating by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That’s why I’m calling this morning’s message:

Waiting for the Second Marshmallow

Because when we learn to wait for the second marshmallow, so to speak,we learn to resist the urges that often lead us into sin, and we learn to wait on God’s good and perfect best for our lives.

After reading this story about the Stanford study, two passages of scripture came to mind. One is related to the principle of delayed gratification, the other to temptation. These concepts, while not identical, are closely related. While delayed gratification doesn’t necessarily involve something that’s sinful, temptation often, though not always, does involve something sinful.

The first passage relates to temptation.

1 Cor. 10:11-13 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The other passage relates to delayed gratification.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For the joy he knew would come if He obeyed, Jesus waited to enjoy His rightful place in glory, He endured pain and suffering. He denied Himself.

Part of our problem these days is that we live in an instant gratification culture. The constant message our society delivers is: You can have it now!

How many times, and in how many contexts have you seen that message? I did a little Google search on the internet for that phrase, and had almost 2,200 pages come back. They were related to everything from:

home improvement loans:

Flexiplan - The easier way to pay - Because we know what it’s like when you’ve absolutely got to have it now, we’ve created Flexiplan - a specially designed finance package for all of your home improvements. With Flexiplan you can have it now and spread the costs.

to your dream home:

“Affordable” is redefined at The Ridge. If you thought you’d have to wait for your dream home because you couldn’t afford it now—think again. You don’t have to wait. You can have it, and you can have it now— at The Ridge.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with convenience, there’s nothing wrong with a mortgage...unless you can’t afford it...or a nice home... many of us pay for convenience, many have a nice home, or a mortgage, or both. But it’s the attitude that’s presented in these things that’s troubling, and it relates to what we’re looking at this morning. How many of us in my generation have parents that owned a home?

If so, I’m guessing that many of our parents didn’t have anything close to their “dream home” until they were well along in years, if they ever had what they would classify as their “dream home.”

Yet we, their children, often live in homes as nice or nicer than our parents do or ever did, at a much younger age than they did. Now, you might say that’s in part due to our more affluent society, and there’s clearly some truth to that.

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