Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Marshmallow Test and Self-Control

When the Apostle Paul stood before Felix he talked about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come (Acts 24.25). Self-control is an important part of the Christian life. We are constantly bombarded with temptations that would drag us away from Christ. But how do we resist?

Professor Walter Mischel has been studying the phenomenon of temptation for years. He uses a very simple test: He offers a four-year-old child a marshmallow but also promises, "If you wait a little while, you can have two marshmallows." He leaves the room for ten minutes and then returns. About a third of his subjects waited for him to return and received the second marshmallow. Later in life these children turned out to be much more successful than those who couldn't wait. Now Mischel wants to run brain scans on these subjects to see if he can understand the physiology of self-control. Read more about his work here.

I don't know about the "physiology" of self-control, but I do know about the "spirituality" of self-control. Paul lists self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

As Christians we have a wonderful opportunity to pray for this blessing in our life.

Dear Lord, there are so many temptations that try to pull me down and weaken my faith. Help me to trust in You and to resist temptation. Help me set good goals for my life, and give me the strength to reach them. Lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your name's sake. Whatever successes this might produce, I pray that they might be for Your glory and for the blessing of my neighbor.

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