Today, after so many days of eager anticipation, finally it’s Christmas Eve! And this morning, in a couldn’t have planned it any better twist of irony, my Saturday men’s Bible study was scheduled to talk about “Delayed Gratification.”
No, seriously. We started this forty-chapter book earlier in the fall, and we had no idea chapter twenty-seven would fall on Christmas Eve. But there it was.
We live in a culture that knows very little of delayed gratification, patience, or sacrificial giving. We want what we want right now, and “right-now” means even Amazon Prime’s two-day guaranteed delivery isn’t good enough any more.
I’m convinced we are in danger of loosing the kind of quality of life that pretty much requires sacrifice and long-term anticipation. And without anticipation we begin to lose all the way around. Fact is, some things are simply better because of the wait, and the deliberate preparation, and the longing, and the sacrifice along the way.
We talked about the idea of sacrifice in our small group, of turning away from our self-oriented wants, and of deferred gratification. One of the guys said, “Is it really self-denial if what replaces the sacrifice turns out to be better?” It’s a good question, and I believe it gets to the heart of why and how spiritual growth works.
COUNT THE COST:
Typically, when we turn away from instant gratification and turn towards God, there is some personal cost involved. An hour of sleep in order to begin each day in devotion; a nicer car set aside so we can increase our giving to God’s work; an afternoon on the couch watching football sacrificed so we can join the men’s group feeding hungry street people in Raleigh; letting the weekend place go because maintaining and visiting the extra home has become more important than being a disciple… there are hundreds of potential examples.
But – and this is huge – the richer spiritual experiences, the deeper walk with God, the joy in giving, the layers of real meaning added to our lives, these all add up to so much more than what we ostensibly sacrificed.
You see, giving up the sense of entitlement, and denying “self,” turns out to open up a portal to who we can be in Christ. What we on the face of things “lose” is eclipsed by what we in actuality gain.
In other words, a deeper commitment to God through following Jesus is wonderful, joyful, rich, peace-filled, and satisfying. “What profit is it?” Jesus asks rhetorically in Matthew 16, “to have all the material trappings of this life but to be spiritually bankrupt?”
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. – Matthew 16:25-27
So that’s enough rambling from me for this Christmas Eve. But hopefully something to think about, and an invitation to make this Christmas Eve the day you renewed your commitment to follow Jesus. – DEREK
Christmas Eve Schedule at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church:
- 4 PM family Worship
- 7 PM Carols and Candlelight
- 11 PM Communion and Candlelight in the sactuary
- Christmas Day – one combined service – 10 AM in the sanctuary.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.