The Power of a Penny

US_One_Cent_Obv_SmallImagine being given a choice between a million dollars or a penny. Not too difficult a decision, right? But then throw in this caveat: the penny is put into a special account where its contents are doubled each day for 31 days (e.g., Day 2…2 cents; Day 3…4 cents; Day 4…8 cents, and so on).

Now which would you choose? The million dollars or the penny?

If you chose the million, you would have shortchanged yourself nearly $10 million dollars ($9,737,418.24 to be exact!).

It’s all about compounding. And what is true with regard to money is true in other areas of life.

Take your health, for example. Jeff Olson in his book The Slight Edge writes:  “Imagine that instead of a penny doubling every day, it’s your health that you’re increasing by one penny’s worth, and then by two pennies, and then four, then eight, and so on…up to $10 million. If you could come up with something that would make you feel one penny’s worth better, could you do that every day? Of course. A little moderate exercise, a brisk one-mile walk, fifteen minutes on a treadmill. Get your heart rate up slightly, no big deal.

And your reward? When you get up the next morning, do you feel better? Not really. That is, not noticeably. Maybe just a little. Say, a penny’s worth. Hardly seems worth the effort. And after a week, you’re feeling sixty-four cents’ worth better. Big deal. You’ve had to put up with some rainy weather, walk through a few stiff muscles, and miss your favorite news program, and after all that it’s not like you’re feeling like a million bucks. Hey, is this all really worth it? Maybe not. But then, what if you kept doing it anyway? Would you eventually feel like a million bucks?

No: Ten million. But you need to start with a penny.

Now envision that penny is your knowledge. You select a good book and read only 10 pages per day. You choose Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It is 173 pages. You could finish that in two-and-a-half weeks. Then you pick up Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. It’s a little over 300 pages. At 10 pages a day, you could finish that in one month. Then you could read Andrew Murray’s classic Humility. It would take you a week-and-a-half at 10 pages per day.

In two months time you would have read three great books by tackling a mere 10 pages per day. And the dividend? Surely a few thousand in your discipleship quest!

Or how about memorizing 1 Bible verse each week? At that rate, you could tackle 52 verses per year. How about doubling it to 2 verses per week (104 per year)? You would then potentially memorize 4 chapters of the Bible in one year (the average verse count per chapter in the Bible is 26). Think about it: Four chapters of the Bible by memorizing just 2 verses per week! How valuable would that be!

Here is my point: The things that lead to success are all simple. They don’t take much effort. They don’t demand a lot of time. And when done consistently, day after day, they have a compounding effect in the tomorrows of your life.

The problem is, however, that when you make the right choice, you don’t see the results immediately. The same is true when you make the wrong choice. Eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger won’t kill you…today! Compounded over time, though, it will (sorry for the bad news!). Likewise, not eating that cheeseburger won’t transform your health and save your life, at least not today. But compounded over time it will.

Now let’s go back to the penny illustration. By the end of week one, you would only have 64 cents in your kitty. After two weeks…$81.92. Three weeks…$10,485.76. You are still a long ways from 1 million. It is not until you hit day 28 that you break 1 million. And then things start multiplying exponentially.

The same is true in every area of your life. By doing those simple, easy-to-do things, you won’t see significant results right away. But over time, they will show up.

Telling your spouse, “I love you!,” taking the steps instead of the elevator, drinking water, washing your hands, smiling at the clerk at the grocery store, greeting your co-workers with a “Good morning!,” turning the dial of your radio, going to bed 15 minutes earlier…each of these actions repeated daily has a compounding effect. They may seem inconsequential, but over time, they pay big.

That, my friends, is the power of the penny. So harness it for your good and His glory!

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in it branches.” (Mt. 13:31-32).

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