Fighting for Attention: The Age of Instant Gratification


Everywhere we look, the world is fighting for our attention. Advertising and marketing are not in short supply and are swaying us towards the next product or the new thing. If not careful, our eyes quickly move towards receiving the approval of others and to living the most “secure” lives. I noticed this more than ever after moving to Mexico in August of 2016.

We left the security of our home, paycheck, and friends into the unknown. Two things were consistent in the midst of our transition. First, there was the constant pull of the world telling us how to live and what success looks like. Secondly, we knew that God was in control, constant, trustworthy to follow, and He was leading us to this move.

Success in the United States (and many other countries) asks the question: what will this do for me? In other words, is what I am currently doing going to benefit me? Is this move going to give us more money, more security, more happiness, and a better life and how long will it take for this to happen? Advertising through television, ads in the newspaper, articles online, and friends raving about the next big thing are constantly pulling us to do whatever to make ourselves a better lifestyle.

The other constant in this life is our God. Our God is all-satisfying, all-knowing, completely trustworthy, all-powerful, never failing, always constant, and infinitely valuable. A.W. Tozer wrote, “God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.”

There are two constants in this life: one leads to true life while the other leads to destruction. One promises happiness and doesn’t give it while the other promises joy and delivers it. We are often too easily satisfied and the world is fighting for our attention promising what only God can deliver. 

False Hope at our Fingertips

Instant gratification can be defined as the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment ( We are all guilty of instant gratification. In many ways, it dominates our culture. For example, in the United States, when the new iPhone comes out, many are lined up at the nearest store to purchase this product. Right when it comes out, they don’t have to wait, they can go to the store and get the newest product (of course, only if you have enough money for that).

In psychological models, humans often act upon the “pleasure principle.” Pleasure is the reason why we are so quick to find the easiest thing to gratify our wants, needs and urges. Currently, everything in our culture is being created and focused on instant gratification. We are losing the patience of waiting for a product because of the changing of culture.

One research focused its studies on the habits of 6.7 million internet users and their patience in waiting for a video to load. How long were these users willing to be patient? Two seconds. After two seconds, people began to abandon the video; after five seconds 25% were gone; after 10 seconds, half were gone (Prof. Ramesh K. Sitaraman Computer Science, UMass Amherst).
With amazon prime, you now have the option to receive products in two days or less. In some cities, you can order a product and receive it the same day! In one sense, the incredible technology and advancement helps us to receive things faster and can even help us to be more productive. However, I believe there is a danger here for Christians. If we are not careful, instant gratification can seep into our desire for joy in created things rather than the creator (Romans 1). It could lead to impatience on the promises of God and a desire to abandon the promises of God for some cheaper product.

If we don’t truly believe God can satisfy all of our longings, we will cling on to things that will only lead to destruction. The danger of instant gratification is this: the pursuit of created products that may bring instant gratification, but ultimately lead to empty lives. Instant gratification is false hope at our fingertips and we must battle the constant desire for this and seek Jesus, our true and only treasure!

The Battlefield (Flesh vs Spirit)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-25

As the scripture says, we know that the desires of the flesh and the desires of the spirit are against each other. It is interesting that Paul states that the things of the flesh are evident (v.19). Our natural tendency is to follow the things of the flesh. We don’t even have to try. Our sinful nature will always desire the things of this world. However, life in the Spirit is not what we naturally desire. If we daily don’t seek to know and treasure Jesus, then we will quickly see ourselves finding pleasures with things that will not fully satisfy. As Christians, we are called to keep in step with the spirit (v.25).

Romans 8:5-6 tells us that whoever lives according to the flesh sets their minds on the things of the flesh; also, whoever lives according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit. So what does it mean for us to set our minds on the things of the spirit? We set our minds on Christ! He is the fruits of the spirit. We set our minds on the spirit as we seek to find pleasure in Jesus and Him alone.

When it comes to entertainment in this world, we should consider if it enhances our relationships, joy, and satisfaction with Jesus or hinders it. Use everything this world offers to enhance your enjoyment of Jesus and His glory. If it doesn’t enhance your joy in Jesus or point to His glory, then don’t do it. 

Hearts Desire (Is it Jesus or worldly pleasures?)

So the question this brings me to ask is this: What does your heart long for? Do you long for anything that gratifies your desires or do you long for the satisfaction of knowing Jesus? Our money, time, and conversation reveal what our treasure is. Does the way you live point to Jesus as your treasure? Do you desire to know Him above all else? If not, pray and ask God to give you joy in Him and to find treasure in Him alone.

Below are a few questions that we can ask daily to remind us to set our minds on the spirit, Jesus, the treasure of our lives.

  1. What do you desire more than anything else?
  2. What do you find yourself daydreaming or fantasizing about?
  3. What lies do you subtly believe that undermine the truth of the Gospel?
  4. Are you astonished with the Gospel?
  5. Where have you made much of yourself and little of God?
  6. Is technology interrupting your communion with God?
  7. What consumes your thoughts when you have alone time?
  8. When people see how you spend money, do they conclude that God is a priceless treasure, exceedingly valuable above all worldly goods?
  9. Is your use of leisure time or devotion to a hobby or how you speak of your spouse the sort that persuades others that your heart is content with what God is for you in Christ?
  10. Does your reaction to bad news produce in you a doubt or fear, or does it inspire confidence to trust in God’s providence?

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

Daniel McDonald, Director of Communication