Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Patience (08/21/08)
TITLE: What I Learned From Schoolkids and a Poor Widow
By Debi Derrick
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We could learn a lot from two Washington D.C.-area eighth-graders. They were featured in a Washington Post news story in January 2006 after participating in a scientific study on delayed gratification. They had been given a choice. They could receive a dollar bill. Or they could wait a week and get two dollars. These students were unusual among other young scholars because they chose to wait and get two dollars.
But that wasn’t the only way they proved to be unusual. They were also known for doing their homework and practicing their musical instruments faithfully. They were, it turns out, living proof of a point made by Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E.P. Seligman in the journal Psychological Science. The two researchers declared that self-discipline, the kind that can delay gratification, is a better predictor of academic success than IQ.
The researchers declared self-discipline the savior of U.S. schools. Many “of America’s children have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain,” and programs that build self discipline may be the royal road to building academic achievement, the Post article stated.
Don’t look at me if you’re looking for an example of self-discipline and delayed gratification. Sorry, folks, I’m right up there with the schoolchildren who didn’t make it into the Washington Post story. I don’t want to do my homework, I don’t like practicing musical instruments every day and I want a dollar bill right now – not two dollars next week!
It’s bad enough to have a couple of eighth-graders show me up for my maturity level. Then along comes Jesus.
Jesus understood delayed gratification and self-discipline, both outgrowths of patience. His simple, six-word statement in Luke 21:19 may be one of the most overlooked yet valuable pieces of advice in the New Testament. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible, translates the verse: “Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.”
Let’s look closer at the passage ahead of verse 19 so we can gain some context about what Jesus said on this important subject.
First, we’re told about a widow who had only two small copper coins to her name but gave them to the temple treasury. Jesus commended her for having given far more than those who were wealthy and gave generously, but had much more left for themselves. He transitions into a discussion about the day when the temple would be destroyed, and told of the end of this age and its wars and commotions, earthquakes and tragedies. Then out popped that simple piece of wisdom: possess your souls in patience.
The original Greek words used here give us even more insight. “Soul,” comes from the word “psuche” and refers to our inner self – our mind, will and emotions. “Patience” is especially interesting. It comes from “hupomone,” and if you consider the root from which it’s drawn, means cheerful endurance or constancy. “Possess” is a little simpler. It just means to acquire by any means.
I like to think he was telling his disciples: “Do whatever it takes to grab hold of your emotions and cheerfully wait for the good things to come.”
So not only does Jesus instruct me to do my homework and practice my musical instruments faithfully, he also tells me to do it cheerfully. Oh my, oh me.
There’s a thread running through these scriptures. Jesus tells about a woman who invested her all in the Kingdom of God. Then He talks about troubled times. And, finally, He says the secret to success is patient and joyful control over our emotions.
We are all faced with the decision of how to invest our lives. My vote is with the widow. My 401(k) isn’t looking so hot these days, but the Kingdom has never lost a penny. The return may not be in American greenbacks, but I would be delighted to see compounded interest a la Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
And now that we’re invested, we can count on God to help us with the rest. According to Philippians 2:13, He’s the one who works in us to “will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Now that makes me downright cheerful. I might even practice the piano a little later.
“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” – Dutch proverb
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