TEACHING OUR BRAINS TO PARTNER WITH HOW WE PERCEIVE REWARD
I’ve been guilty of losing faith in the effectiveness of God’s Word. I didn’t realize it—I had been looking for solutions in many good ways and people, and focused more on problem solving and acting, rather than trusting God to act as I agreed with His Word. When I sought Him one day for our son, as I had many times before, and said, “I know You have the solution for this, and I know that you’ve already made it available, just help me to see it,” He reminded me of the simplicity of seeking the answers in His Word and speaking them. I had done this many times before, but this time He showed me I was to believe what I was speaking, and that it would make way for the solution I needed—not only in our situation, but in our vision. This would lead to lasting change…
What I perceive as reward, I will seek out to get more of. Isn’t this the basis of hope that leads to faith of what we have not yet seen (but expect)? When we truly believe that what we’re hoping in is not only going to manifest, but is also a reward to us, we are motivated towards the goal of receiving it. This is the difference between speaking the Word of God because we are supposed to, and speaking the Word of God because we are expecting it to manifest and be a reward to us. The latter is what we call speaking the Word in faith, and we know that faith not only pleases God (Hebrews 11:6), but all things are possible for the one that believes (Mark 9:23).
So, how do we get from simply speaking, to speaking in faith? One answer lies in our perception of reward. The author of Psalm 119 says, “If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts…” (Psalm 119:92-93), and also, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). These are the words of someone that not only follows God’s commands, but also finds His Word to be life-giving and a reward to him, leading to faith in not only God, but His promises through speaking them out. We have to ask ourselves: the last time we began to pray, read the Word, or speak His promises, did we have faith in its manifestation in our lives and did we believe that the Word was a reward to us? We know that the Word of God cannot be compartmentalized—we have to take the Word as a whole, and so internally we may associate the whole with the parts of it that we may find uncomfortable: change within ourselves, seemingly impossible outcomes, or fighting the fight of faith. Any one us would agree the result of these processes (that we sometimes find uncomfortable) are good. However, somewhere in the process we may subconsciously fail to agree that what we are doing is rewarding, and may find ourselves going through the motions—or even quitting— losing faith and looking for other answers.
It’s exciting to know that we were designed to also naturally experience what we perceive as a reward, and this process that occurs in our brains is also what leads to motivation of seeking more of that same reward. Yes, even our bodies—our brains— can partner with our faith. According to research from Icahn Medical School of Mount Sinai’s Neuroscience Department Laboratories (one of the foremost medical schools in the U.S.), “In simplistic terms, activation of the [most important reward] pathway [the mesolimbic dopamine system] tells the individual to repeat what it just did to get that reward. It also tells the memory centers in the brain to pay particular attention to all features of that rewarding experience, so it can be repeated in the future.” If you’ve ever struggled in the ways described above, or struggled with getting the motivation to do what was needed, the solution may lie in your perception. Those strongholds—those arguments that set themselves up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5) are to be destroyed with the weapons of our warfare—the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17), and it has divine power (2 Cor. 10:4). So, how do we change our perceptions to not only line up with the Word of God, but to authentically believe that it is effective and a reward to us? We make a choice to speak it out, meditate on its inherent goodness, meditate on the true character of our loving Father who provided it for us, and anticipate the reward. We will not only “see” the reward, but we will also experience the effects of it, leading to a greater motivation and grace to persevere in faith.
“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings (internal pressure), knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).
 Nestler Laboratory. “Brain Reward Pathways.” Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Neuroscience Department Laboratories, http://neuroscience.mssm.edu/nestler/brainRewardpathways.html. Accessed 6 Sept. 2016.
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