Cognitive Training that Outsmarts Our Desires


My Lenten journey has intersected with my weekly First Place 4 Health Bible study and given me such a jolt. It’s like I got shoved in the shoulder by the one and shoved again by the other. “Say, Dawn, did you get this yet?” It all began with the Bible verse for this 5th day of Lent, Matthew 6:16:

‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

I was to read the verse three times and then pick the phrase that I believed could re-form me the most. The verse that called out to me was “…they have received their reward in full.” No matter what the circumstance, if one gets some kind of instantaneous reward from their behavior or choice, that may be enough for that behavior or choice to become a habit. For instance, if eating a sweet brings joy or comfort or distraction from boredom then, whenever one needs those rewards, one may go for a sweet. If being melodramatic during a spiritual discipline elicits sympathetic commiseration, the one who desires accolades for taking on a spiritual discipline may find themselves being melodramatic. In each case, the person has succeeded in meeting his/her needs, but at what cost? Jesus says, “…they have received their reward in full.”

What if the person would have fasted secretly? What if the person would have kept their “weight control” rule of not snacking between meals? Was Jesus insinuating that there would be something better for those with the discipline to wait? My First Place 4 Health Bible Study took me to Matthew 4:4

Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

and Deuteronomy 8:3, the Old Testament record of what Jesus was quoting

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Hmmmm, they were hungry and were fed to teach them that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus tells them the physical bread is not the issue. The issue is learning that they are to live beyond food; they are to live on every word that comes from the mouth of their Lord. He is the Bread of Life. They are to feed on Him. He further tells the crowds in John 6:27

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

And if we do seek after things eternal, He promises in Matthew 6:33

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well

How do we effectively turn our attention from our temporary physical needs and prioritize our eternal spiritual needs? I found some of my answers in reviewing the marshmallow experiment that I had written about almost 4 years ago. You can read about it here.

We have to come up with a plan that outsmarts our carnal humanness. It seems that the habit of delaying gratification quellswell-fedsoul the heat of desire, nullifies the longing for the forbidden. Jesus tells us to turn away from whatever is taking us from Him and deliberately/intentionally turn to Him. He will fill us, satisfy us and keep us forever.

In freedom,



10 comments on “Cognitive Training that Outsmarts Our Desires

  1. I love your illustration above! I read this in my email then came here after clicking the link to read about Kira and the marshmallow(s)—and the sight made me burst out in joyful laughter. Did you set up that photo shoot? Wonderful graphic!

    However, I came over to comment on the marshmallow post: as I looked at the warm pic of daughter and dad in wonderful relational moment, I wondered to myself how much one’s ability to delay gratification has to do with the amount of trust they have in the person (or Person) who says they’ll return with the reward. (Maybe it’s b/c my “one word” for this year is “Trust,,” and I always want to clarify that it’s about trust in the One we really can… trust?)

    Insightful post!

    • If you hover over the picture, you will see the original site of the Bible-on-plate picture. It is from the blog of a young Orthodox woman. I, too, loved it and left a message on her blog that I was using it for subject matter I was writing that it illustrated perfectly. Thanks for coming over for a visit. I’m glad you went to the marshmallow story, too. I revisited it and was so warmed by my son and granddaughter together. My son actively loves his children to the max and they respond warmly to him. Your comment about trust is right on. My word this year is freedom. I’m releasing some chains that bind.

  2. I love as well your Bible on the table setting…He gives bread that satisfies. Always.
    Blessings dear friend
    in Freedom
    I often wonder about the feast He is preparing ~ the banquet with the Bridegroom.
    The feasting…
    We will be satisfied~

  3. I love how you write in short lines. Do you know of Ann Kiemel? She wrote like you, in short phrases, simply and with passion. She did not use capital letters and punctuation much of the time, but, still, the same “Jesus” message burst through in simple phrases. I googled her name to see what she was doing now and discovered that she had passed away last March. I was so sad. She was someone I read voraciously in the 70’s and 80’s. I can remember her saying, “Hi, I’m Ann. I am one simple woman in the world. I have never shaken hands with the President. I cry. Sometimes I am insecure. I am only one, but I have come tonight to tell you I am one… and Jesus and I and love are out to change the world.” sigh Yes, Dear Susan, at the wedding feast of the Lamb, we will be satisfied. We will ALL be there!

    • Ann Kiemel… of course and I remember so clearly her, “Hi! I’m Ann!” and how she wrote so simply off the top of her heart which was always bursting with her love for the Lord… her talk to the Taxi driver and how she so simply began a conversation. I was immediately impressed with her simple yet profound faith in the mid seventies when I had recommitted my life to the Lord and even up until now. Indeed Heaven will be a wonderful place.
      Did you ever hear of Ken Medema, another early inspiration…

      When the people of the Lord get down to pray.
      It is wonderful
      how at our feasts
      it is the fellowship
      that helps so much in making the meal satisfying
      this breaking of the bread
      Jesus in the midst
      our hope
      I love you dear friend
      and the Bread you so faithfully share
      that satisfies

  4. I will need to read this again! Thank you, dear Dawn , for sharing so honestly what He is asking you to. To delay gratification for what will last eternally . .that is a prayer for me. God bless you!

    • I have been praying about a certain something in my life. It has been one of those loooong somethings that is ever so hard to get at. It’s kind of a different take on delaying gratification. I know my God will fill me to overflowing once I do this hard thing, but I have strongholds that keep me from it [from Him, actually]. He knows and so, like the loving Father He is, He is setting up a situation where I have to intersect with this hard thing. It’s so like Him to do this for me. Anyhow, at the intersection, I will be placed to meet this thing, otherwise I would have had to orchestrate it all and I did not have the “whatever” to do that. So He arranged everything and now all I have to do is walk in His provision. He is being so I Corinthians 10:13 about it all, making a way of escaping [my stronghold] so that I will be able to stand up against [the temptation]. Humph! This surely sounds like gobbley gook, but Debbie, thanks for reading it anyway. Perhaps I will be able to write a victory blog soon.

  5. Susan, I am not sure, but I think I may have every CD Ken Medema has made. Of course, much of the music he’s given the world is not in recorded form anywhere because he would write songs on the spur of the moment during concerts. When I was faculty at Messiah College, he came as chapel “speaker”. I remember his asking the college kids for their stories and then he would make a song based on their story – right then and there. Incredible talent! I have seen him in person several times. The longest period of time was over a 3-day seminar in Pasedena, California back in 1981. I remember the year because our Joyce was a toddler. The conference was “The Church and Peacemaking in the Nuclear Age”. Those were the “cold war” days. It would only be a few years until the Berlin Wall would come down. Wow! We have lived in such “what adjective would be best here” times, have we not? There are so many saints I will get to spend eternity with, imagine it!

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