Big Lessons at Small Costs

Even before Matthew was born—while he was still in the womb—I would pray this prayer for him: that he would learn big lessons at small costs. Somehow this had been my life path, for which I’d been enormously grateful, and I wanted the same for him. Even though he is now in his 30s, I still pray on occasion that not only he but his entire family will know the blessing of big lessons at small costs. What might these small costs be? Let’s look.

The small cost of reading the Word. How many times have we seen everyday folks grounded in Scripture and guided by it, showing judgment far sounder than that of the academically erudite? As King David observed, “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”1

The small cost of listening for the Spirit. Isn’t it our natural tendency to react to temptations in our own human “wisdom” without seeking the Spirit of Him who has all knowledge and power? Jesus promised His followers, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”2 Stop and listen3—it is worth the wait.

The small cost of heeding instruction. Among Solomon’s proverbs of wisdom is this priceless gem: “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding . . . I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me . . . ’Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.’”4 We can avoid much pain and by heeding godly instruction from those who have already traversed the path we now walk.

The small cost of reproof. Rebuke and admonition can be painful to tender egos, but when given constructively and received honestly, strong reprimand from others can hold a positive and purposeful place in our lives, for “the ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.”5

The small cost of observation. Are you a people-watcher? Then you’ve likely witnessed the ripple effects of both the good and bad decisions of others. We can learn enormous life lessons simply by observing them and humbly taking them to heart. An excellent example is found in Proverbs 7:6-27.

The small cost of repentance. Repentance means to turn around and proceed in the opposite direction. After Jesus healed a man crippled for 38 years, He told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”6 This is what grace does—it frees us to change direction and walk in “the way that is good and right.”7

A cost is an expenditure of money, time, or resources. Then do you know what we call expenditures with a strong possibility of a return? We call them investments. This is what we desire: big lessons at small costs. May we and those who follow us invest wisely.

Father, You are good and You always want the best for us. Grace us that we would learn big lessons at small costs, that we would grow and live in Your wisdom. Amen.

1 Psalm 119:7
2 John 16:13 ESV
3 See our November 3, 2021 post for a guide and links to our series on hearing God and discerning the Spirit’s voice.
4 Proverbs 4:1-4
5 Proverbs 15:31
6 John 5:14 NLT
7 1 Samuel 12:23


The Pharmacist and the Physician

True story. It was in a church committee meeting several years ago that we took time to seek the Spirit’s guidance on a matter through Scripture and prayer. When it came time to share our thoughts, a doctor on the committee looked at his scrawled notes and, a bit baffled, confessed, “I can’t read my own writing!” Seated next to him was one in the pharmaceutical profession. He calmly reached over, took the physician’s notepad, and said, “Here, let the pharmacist read it.” And he did! He read the doctor’s chicken scratch verbatim! Talk about perpetuating a stereotype!

The prophet Jeremiah once mused, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”1 We know of our sin, and some of it we know all too well—it has been too painful and discouraging for us not to. Just when we think we’ve seen the worst of it, however, or that we’ve overcome the most of it, we realize otherwise. For though our hearts are our own, we can neither entirely read them nor fully comprehend them. What temptations sneak up on you, for instance, and tantalize a hidden chamber of your soul? But God can search our hearts, and He does know our minds,2 and this is for our own good. Why? Because, as Paul writes, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit himself intercedes for us . . . in accordance with the will of God.”3 So also, through the Word of God, the Spirit God speaks understanding into the deepest reaches of our soul “to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right.”4 He turns a tough diagnosis into a great prognosis.

There are times when we cannot read our own hearts, and there are other times when we choose not to for fear of what we will find. But like a physician, “the Lord looks at the heart”5 and like the pharmacist, he reveals it to us in a way we can absorb, understand and commence with our healing. We can entrust ourselves to God entirely, for He is all about our wellbeing.

Father, You love us perfectly. Forgive us when we are oblivious to our sin or when we are afraid to face it. Jesus has paid for all of our sin, so we are perfectly safe in facing any of it, knowing You are transforming us into something unimaginably better. Lead us in this confidence and joy today. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Jeremiah 17:9
2 Jeremiah 17:10
3 Romans 8:26-27
4 2 Timothy 3:16 TLB
5 1 Samuel 16:7


True Virtue

Virtue signaling—it is the outward display of personal “goodness” for the purpose of showcasing one’s moral correctness on a matter. For instance, while many people base their sanitary mask decisions on a perceived threat or lack thereof, some others—from never-maskers to ever-maskers—parade their choice as a public assertion of personal virtue. Or what about the CEO who publicly postures diversity as a corporate value, even though it bears no evidence in his private hiring practices? Virtue signaling is a thing, and it can show up in our Christian witness.

Have you ever heard—or uttered—this kind of recounting of personal witness: “People at work know I’m a Christian”? I’ve heard and said this many times. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with others knowing we are believers—we should live in such a way that is consistent with our faith and freedom in Christ Jesus, “[shining] as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.”1 Jesus himself taught the crowd gathered on the Mount to hear Him, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”2 Likewise, Paul taught the Philippians, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”3 Yet it is not enough for people simply to know we are believers. If anything, showcasing our faith before others without holding out to them the Source of our hope and the promise of their own further separates us from each other. It signals a contentment to appear virtuous before others, yet with little regard for their ultimate good.

Our witness to the world is our changed life, but our message to them is that theirs can change, too. For “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”4 And when Christ is born in us, we have nothing to prove for He is our everything, nothing to hoard for His abundance is limitless, nothing to hide and everything to proclaim. Jesus is, in us, true virtue. He turns our inward focus outward. “Yes, I am a believer, and you can be, too.”

Father, You lavishly pour Yourself out for our good. Lead us by Your Spirit today, that we would share with others the hope they may have in Christ Jesus, Your Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 Philippians 2:15-16 ESV
2 Matthew 5: 16
3 Philippians 1:27
4 John 1:12 ESV