“…you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control…”
2 Peter 1:5-6
Back in the 1970s, a research team of psychologists from Stanford University performed an experiment on a group of four-year-olds called the "marshmallow test." In the study, each child was given the choice to either receive one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows after a short wait.
What the researchers discovered is that only 30% of the 600 children waited for the second marshmallow, while the other 70% gave into their impulses and ate the first marshmallow. Like the impatient four-year-olds, many of us don’t like to wait. Instead, we prefer instant gratification. In fact, everything around us tells us that waiting is not a good thing. We live in a world of fast food drive-throughs, overnight shipping, high speed internet and Amazon Prime memberships. Yet, we are reminded in today’s passage from 2 Peter to undergird our faith with self-control (among other things).
The Greek word for self-control literally means “in power/might/strength.” So, who or what has power over us? As we make decisions each and every day, who or what influences the choices we make? In other words, what "marshmallows" in our lives do we have difficulty waiting to receive?
I imagine that most of us have things in our lives that seem to have power over us. And these things are not bad in and of themselves—if done in moderation and used in the way they were intended by God. However, without self-control, our impulsive activities and behaviors can consume us and prevent us from becoming the people God has created us be. Therefore, we cannot let even the good things in our lives become more important to us than the best thing, God Himself.
Only through self-control can we keep God at the very center of our lives and everything else will find its proper place. Jesus put it like this, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) If we listen and respond to the voice of God’s Spirit in our lives, we will bear this fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure.
So today, with God’s grace, may we seek to “make every effort to support our faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control.” (2 Peter 1:5-6)