This study certainly turned out to be rich with references and lessons. I hadn’t anticipated running with this subject for so long, but there just continued being more and more to explore. Frankly I think I could keep going for a while yet, but I think we’d start just making addendums to the principles we’ve already discovered. Let’s see if we can sum up what we’ve learned.
It is in Our Nature to Seek Immediate Pleasure
Each of us is born with senses that divide our experiences into those which give us pleasure and those which give us discomfort. On the surface level these serve a purpose of protecting us, such as learning to avoid touching a hot stove because of the immediate pain that follows.
Eventually, though, each of us will come to learn that not all sensations can be judged so immediately. Regularly overspending may provide instantaneous pleasure, but cause suffering when it comes time to pay the bills. Not only this, but some moments of immediate discomfort might be followed by a later reward, such as cleaning up a house now so one can relax in an orderly environment after.
Though our minds are able to eventually pick out these patterns, the body still struggles to adjust. Suppressing momentary pleasure is difficult. Enduring momentary discomfort even more so.
Hebrews 12: 11 (NIV)- No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Proverbs 20:4- The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
God Empowers Us to Overcome that Nature
Added to our mind and body, though, is a spirit. Like the body, the spirit has its own needs. It develops certain habits to see that those needs are met. Some examples of this are how we crave to be good, and to make others happy, and to feel God’s love.
More than this, though, God also gives us a taste of His goodness even before we have earned it. Many a time I have noticed that He inspires me with thoughts of good things I can do and with the thought comes a sample of the spiritual pleasure that would follow such an action. Then He allows for me to carry the behavior out, rewarding me as if it had been my idea the whole time.
By this careful tutelage God plants in me the understanding and desire sufficient to overcome by carnal nature.
1 John 4:19- We love him, because he first loved us.
Hosea 10:12- Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy.
Doing So Reveals a Higher Nature
Though the spiritual blessings that follow good works are reward enough, there is the additional benefit of how they change us over time. Our divine nature is inherent in each of us, but needs to be cultivated over time to come to full bloom. Bit by bit, every time we choose the good over the carnal we change who we are.
Thus we see the necessity for trials before blessings and pleasure before anguish. Were things reversed and evil actions provided immediate pain while good actions provided immediate pleasure, then our behavior would be perfect, but never would we have learned self-mastery. We would do right things simply by default, not by any intentional will. Thus we would never actually discover our divine nature, which is God’s ultimate intention for us.
James 1:2-4- My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Hebrews 5:8- Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.