Many years ago, a friend shared with me the results of a long-term study performed by sociologists. Beginning in kindergarten, a group of children were followed into their adulthood to determine predictors of success. One of the first tests involved a moderator entering a room where the children were playing. He gathered them together and had them sit at a table. In front of each child was a plate with a cookie. The moderator told the children that he was going to leave the room, and presented them with an option.
"I'm going to be gone for awhile. While I'm away, you can eat the cookie on the plate if you'd like. However, when I return, if you haven't eaten the cookie, I will give you two more cookies."
The study ultimately indicated that those children who delayed gratification in lieu of extra cookies generally became far more successful in school and in their careers. The capacity to make sacrifices in the present moment for greater rewards in the future was confirmed to be a primary indicator of ability to achieve and accomplish.
The Lord Jesus Christ lived such a life. "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). God's prototypical human being, His beloved Son, understood and acted on the principle of delayed gratification. He was willing to make present moment sacrifices in the awareness of greater good in the future. Furthermore, He experienced fulfillment even as He made the sacrifices because human hearts were constituted to find joy in the process of delaying gratification.
As the Spirit of Christ lives in those who trust Him, He will lead us to many such opportunities for faith and sacrifice. In multitudes of ways, crosses are given to endure so that we might be blessed with resurrections to enjoy. The choice will be ours, but the motivation, power and fulfillment of such a life is Divinely provided. We are constituted for "two more cookies," and inhabited by the Holy Spirit to enable the awareness, sacrifice and confidence whereby we forego the pleasure of one cookie in the present. Wonderfully, there is also a "pleasure" in the delaying of gratification. We rejoice in being what we were made to be through Christ, and in the confidence that future benefits will infinitely transcend present sacrifices...
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."