We preachers frequently talk about the good news of the Gospel. And there are loads of newsworthy items to choose from in scripture as evidence. Some examples are immediate and physical, like restoring eyesight. Other good news items are relational, like the fact that God chose to live as a human as the greatest show of love imaginable. Some examples of good news are in the present, while we wait for the good news of the resurrection.
Sometimes we give credit to the person’s involved when good things happen to us. Like when the doctor tells us that we are cancer-free, or our power gets turned back on after receiving help with our Consumer’s bill. It can be challenging to see the connection to the good news of the Gospel. On our better days, we thank the person who helped us, realizing that they were God’s stand-in. After all, the complexity of the connections that made our good news possible is beyond comprehension.
Brian Resnick writes, “Here’s some good news: Your fate cannot be determined solely by a test of your ability at age 5 to resist the temptation of one marshmallow for 15 minutes to get two marshmallows.” 1 So, how is this good news?
There is a rather famous experiment known as the “Marshmallow Test,” which timed how long it would take five-year-old children to pop a marshmallow in their mouth. There was a catch. The young participants are told that if they can wait just 15 minutes, they get two marshmallows.
In life, we are faced with marshmallow tests all the time. Are we willing to wait for a promise of something better? The big word phrase for the decision to take the one marshmallow, rather than wait for two, is called “instant gratification.” The Marshmallow Test didn’t bother to ask the five-year-olds whether they grabbed the marshmallow because they didn’t trust the adult making the offer.
Regardless, a lot of us raised our children worrying that because Junior grabs the first cookie he can get his hands on, our hopes for his success are muffled. If Junior only waits a few minutes, he can have frosting on his cookie. But Junior ignores our offer, choosing instant gratification over cookies with frosting.
Does this mean that going to college is out of reach for our young prodigy? According to the marshmallow study, Junior’s choice of immediate gratification over waiting even a couple of minutes for something better sets up a lifelong pattern. It is good news that this theory is now debunked. Hopefully, it’s not too late for Junior.
But isn’t patience a virtue? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that we must be patient? Isn’t immediate gratification a sign of impatience? The answer is yes.
One day, Jesus was telling stories that He used as illustrations to help us to better understand how to live joyful and fulfilling lives. In one story, Jesus uses an example of a not-so-nice neighbor.
There was a farmer who, apparently, made a neighbor angry, or perhaps jealous. The neighbor decided to get back at the farmer by pulling a prank. It was a prank that was particularly harmful. The neighbor snuck into the farmer’s newly planted field and scattered weed seeds.
Anyone that gardens, where there was once overgrown weeds, know what this is like. Turn your back on your garden for a few days, and it looks like someone snuck in and planted weeds everywhere. Now, what do you do?
The farmhands asked the farmer whether they should spend a couple of days pulling out the weeds. But the farmer told them to let the weeds stay put. The farmer knew that in trying to pull up the weeds, a lot of the crop would be lost. “When harvest time comes,” said the farmer, “We will harvest the good and the bad. The good will be preserved, and the bad will be tossed in the fire” (Matthew 13:24-30).
As you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them.
Later, in this same chapter of Matthew, a few of Jesus’ friends asked Him to explain what He met by this story? Is this story really about when to weed our garden? (Matthew 13:36-42).
Jesus told the story to illustrate how the world works and how to respond with patience. Leave the weeds alone, and let God sort this mess out later, is how I interpret what Jesus tells us to do. This story fits well into last week’s message to love even those who throw weed seeds in our garden.
I think that this is one of those stories where good news depends on your interpretation. If you feel like you are a flower among weeds, this may not sound like good news. Being patient may seem like too much to bear. What if you feel like a weed growing amid flowers? The good news is that God made you a flower, but you get treated more like a weed? So bloom where you’re planted.
“But how can I have more patience,” you ask? Let’s start here. We read in scripture that God shows incredible patience with us. Can this knowledge help you to respond to others with more patience? Even the weed seed tossing neighbor that makes your life difficult? No?
More good news. God knows you better than you know yourself. And you know that you just don’t have the patience regardless of whatever is behind a different door. God knows this about you too. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul reminds us that throughout history, God shows patience, even with those who are the reason for God’s anger (Romans 9:22).
The Gospel is full of good news friends. And God does not expect us to be patient on our own. Even when we believe that there is a cookie with frosting coming our way, patience is elusive when there is so much at stake. But what if the cookie with frosting is a metaphor? A metaphor for a career we want, or a home that seems out of reach? What if it is a metaphor for a better-behaved son or daughter? How patient can you be if the stakes are really high?
What if the cookie with frosting is joy and peace? What if the cookie with frosting is a metaphor for knowing that you are never on your own? What if the cookie with frosting is an ability to be just patient enough that weeds simply don’t register on your annoyance scale? What if the cookie with frosting is eternal life? How much more patient are you willing to be?
Be patient, reader, the best news is coming. In another letter to a church in Galatia, we read that the Holy Spirit, which is God’s gift to every one of us, will give us patience (Galatians 5:22). All the patience that we need. More patience than we ever imagined possible.
Most “get healthy” programs fail because it is just too hard to resist the cookie in the first place. Bombarded with temptations to eat what isn’t good for us, temptations to grab a marshmallow now rather than wait for something better requires patience that is beyond our reach.
This is why, here at Asbury, we are so hyped up on the Daniel Plan. At last, there is a path to better health that begins with the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Left on our own, we fail. Powered by the Holy Spirit, we find the patience to take on the challenges that keep us from having the joy that God promises each of us.
In a couple of weeks, we begin our preparations for Easter. Yes, friends, Spring is right around the corner. I saw trays of newly germinated plants sitting on the back porch the other day. Blair and Matt set them out in the sun to begin the hardening process. Soon these trays of plants will be transplanted in one of our hoop houses.
At last, there is a path to better health that begins with the power of God’s Holy Spirit
On Tuesday, February 25, we are throwing a party. After all, it’s Mardi Gras. Sometimes known as Fat Tuesday. We celebrate a tradition of turning our attention to God and seeking the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Beginning the next day, we launch the Daniel Plan, version 2.0. The “new and improved” designation is a reference to the new and improved you.
If you haven’t yet signed up for the Daniel Plan, be sure to do so.2 Each person living in our community who signs up receives your very own copy of The Daniel Plan Journal.3 If you are not a part of the Asbury Community, we still invite you to participate with us, but we ask that you purchase a copy on your own. These journals can be purchased on Amazon or from other vendors. You can also go to the DanielPlan.com store to buy this and other resources.
We worship each Sunday at 10:30 am. I hope to see you there. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
1 Brian Resnick, “The “marshmallow test” said patience was a key to success. A new replication tells us s’more.” © Brian Resnick, Jun 6, 2018. Vox Media. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/6/6/17413000/marshmallow-test-replication-mischel-psychology.
2 Warren, Rick, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman. The Daniel Plan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
3 Warren, Rick, and the Daniel Plan Team. The Daniel Plan Journal – 40 Days to a Healthier Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.