“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24,25).
LIKE THE GRAIN OF WHEAT THAT CANNOT BE PRODUCTIVE UNLESS IT “FALLS INTO THE GROUND AND DIES,” SO WE MUST BE WILLING TO GIVE UP CERTAIN LESSER THINGS IN ORDER TO HAVE THOSE THAT ARE GREATER. There is, as the saying goes, no free lunch. Whatever is worth having is worth paying for. And we are not wise to waste time looking for a way to beat the system and “get rich quick.” The riches of the spiritual life are for those who are willing to make real investments of themselves. And the investments that are required will separate us from some things we’re reluctant to let go of. An actual cost will have to be paid. There is no way to have it both ways. Either we make the investment or we do not. And whichever choice we make, we should not expect still to have all we would have if we had made the other choice!
The discipline of prayer furnishes a simple illustration. It is a considerable understatement to say that there are benefits to having a rich prayer life. We often look with admiration upon those who have such a life and wish we could enjoy what they enjoy. But prayer takes time, and those who have spent a great deal of time praying have had to make some sacrifices. Whatever it is that we’ve been doing while they were praying, they’ve had to do without those things. And if we suppose that some way can be found for us to have all the benefits they enjoy and still do all the things we presently do, then we’re only being silly. What we have is what we’ve been willing to pay for, and in all too many cases, that is not much.
In a way, it is only an insult that we offer to God when we try to give Him things that don’t involve any cost (1 Chronicles 21:24; Malachi 1:8). If the investments we make in our spiritual lives don’t require us to give up anything of real value to us, then they aren’t really investments, and the results won’t be worth very much. In the end, God’s value to us will be indicated by what we’ve exchanged for Him. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
“It is necessary that he who looks for gain, should incur expense” (Plautus).