THE IMPORTANCE OF LITTLE THINGS
by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 3 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Blue Denim and Lace)
Sometime notice in your Bible the many little things that were of great significance: the little gift of the widow, the water pots in which Jesus performed His first miracle, Shamgar's ox goad, Moses' rod, etc.
There is no doubt but that one of the great differences between success and failure is the importance placed on little things. There has to be a reason why men of equal talent do not have equal success, and oftentimes, men of less talent have greater success than many- talented ones.
Often a successful person will be called a perfectionist. He will even be criticized because of his overemphasis on seemingly "trivial matters." It might be wise, however, for less successful people to examine the methods of those who are successful, and in so doing, not criticize the differences but rather pattern after them. The differences between people is composed of their differences. Our differences cause our difference. Hence, it might be wise for one to emulate rather than criticize a so-called perfectionist.
1. The only way to excel is to do the little things. Everyone does the big things. They are the things that challenge each of us. Consequently, the difference between us must be our attention toward little things. I have noticed very carefully successful people from every walk of life. The so-called trivials mean something to them. The nonessentials seem to be essentials. Everything seems to be big. They have found that "little drops of water and little grains of sand make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land."
2. The one who cares for little things will be misunderstood by those who care not. "He is too particular." "He is hard to work for." Similar statements are often made about those who care for details and to whom punctuality, neatness, and thoroughness are important. Hence, when one comes to the place where everything is important and there are no such things as trivials, he is oftentimes misunderstood by his contemporaries.
3. The big is the little. We have found in our generation that the most powerful force is the splitting of the smallest thing. In the splitting of the atom a succession of explosions can be set off to cause the biggest explosion the world has ever known. This has taught us that the power is not in the big but in the little. The spoil lies to the person who counts the little as big. Oftentimes I have said to my staff. "If a task is worth doing, it is worth doing right,. If it is not worth doing well, it is not worth doing." If something needs to be done, it is big. If we have a job to do, it is big. If it is worthy of our attention, it is worthy of our best.
4. When one does the little thing well, he will automatically do the big thing well. Someone has said that a preacher should preach to the back row. If the folks on the back row can hear him, certainly he will be understood by those on the front row. When a person does a little job well, he will certainly do a big job well.
Truthfully, who among us is able to discern between the big and the little? So often we come to the conclusion of a task only to find that it was one of the biggest tasks we had ever attempted. None of us can be sure about the size of a task. It should behoove us to do every task well, thereby insuring ourselves of always doing a good job on the big tasks.
5. The little often becomes the big. Someone has said, "Be nice to your paperboy; you may try to borrow some money from his bank some day." Someone else has said, "Be kind to the boy who plays in your yard. You may be on trial in his court some day." The safest thing to do is be nice to the little man, do well each little task, preach your best to the little crowds, prepare well for the little jobs, and you will certainly corral the big ones. Remember, the little often becomes the big and the big is often the little. Who is able to judge the difference?
6. Do not measure a task by its size. Just do what there is to do. The other day I was parked in front of a big business. I was not surprised when I saw the owner of the business sweeping off the sidewalk. This is the way he got to be a big man. He was a good little man. The way he got to do the big tasks was by doing the little tasks well. Greatness is often wrapped in simplicity. A person who is unwilling to do the little will not have the opportunity to do the big. The person who is not challenged by the little will not be presented the challenge to do the big. A person who has not done well the little is not prepared or qualified to do the big. Do not weigh a task. If it is before you, do it and do it well. Even if it is unworthy of you, you, nevertheless, are setting principles by which you will live a life. One who is not diligent in little tasks will not develop the diligence necessary to do the big tasks. Even if the task is not worthy of you, diligence is; and even if what you do is not big, the way you do it can be big. Someone will see how you do it and realize that you are qualified to do something bigger. Then too, in doing the small task diligently one is preparing himself with the methods necessary to succeed in a big task.
7. Always make a check list of little things. Never trust your memory. You will remember to do the big, but you must remind yourself to do the little. If possible, the little should be done immediately. Fix little things when they break. Most houses become run- down because of the neglect of repairing little things. Many cars lose their value because the little things are not attended to. Make a check list of things to do that are little.
This article is being dictated on a jet plane between Chicago and Seattle, Washington. There I will board another jet for a speaking engagement in Tokyo, Japan. Just a moment ago a little thing was called to my attention. I made a note of it, put the note in my pocket, and will be reminded to do the task and do it well.
8. In doing the little things one becomes Christlike. You must remember that Jesus never pastored a large church. He was never a president, governor or mayor. He took time for little children. he told simple stories. He spoke of a flower, a bird, a gardener, a husbandman, a lost coin, and a boy who ran way from home. His Father and our Father takes note of a bird that falls. He clothes the lilies of the field. He is even interested in each hair on our heads. Hence, if we would be Christlike, we must notice the little things and do them well.
9. The degree of unhappiness you have with yourself over not doing the little things well will determine the amount of growth you experience. For one to improve himself he must realize his inefficiencies and weaknesses. Usually the big things will be accomplished. When one has accomplished the big things, he may then think that he has arrived. The growth he experiences in the future will be determined by how dissatisfied he is in the present. Hence, he must find unhappiness over the failure to do well the little things.
This is true in every field. The baseball player who is in a hitting slump may find he is jerking his head at the wrong time. The football player may find that he is not charging low enough as he blocks. The track star may find that his failures are caused by holding his arms too far from his body or standing too erect when he starts to race. In every walk of life this is the case. Once one has become successful in a field, his continued improvement is dependent upon his mastering, not of the big, but of the little. Remember nothing is unimportant. No task should be taken lightly. Every job is a big job. Every day is a big day. Every sermon is a big sermon.
When I was in college, I took a course called Pastoral Theology. It was taught by the president of the college and was attended by the preacher boys. Each Monday we were asked to give a report of our weekend activities. On this particular Monday I was so happy to give my report. You see, I had just accepted my first pastorate the day before. It was one hundred miles from our college town. Mrs. Hyles and I drove there each weekend in our old Dodge. I was the first preacher asked to give his report on this particular Monday morning. I stood and said, "Dr. Bruce, I would like to report that I had a wonderful weekend. I was called as Pastor of a little church in the country . . ."
Dr. Bruce interrupted me and said, "Sit down, Mr. Hyles."
I could not for the life of me understand why he told me to sit down. Every other young preacher gave his report, and there was not another single reprimand given by Dr. Bruce. Finally when the reports were all given, I raised my hand and asked, "Dr. Bruce, what did I say that was wrong?"
Dr. Bruce replied with an answer I shall never forget, "You said, Mr. Hyles, that you had been called to pastor a little . . . church . . .Mr. Hyles, there are . . .no . . .little churches!"
I then stood to my feet and said, "Dr. Bruce, I would like to give my report. Yesterday I was called to pastor a big church up in the country with nineteen members at a salary of $7.50 a week."
The class roared with laughter, but I had been taught a lesson I shall never forget. There are no little churches. There are no little preachers. There are no little people. There are no little tasks!
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