The little things matter. And our failures in them show how we are underestimating the bigness of our God. Regardless of how small the matter, the God of Psalm 139 sees, knows, and cares. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (v. 7).
The Little Habits
J.C. Ryle (1816–1900), the evangelical Anglican bishop, published a series of children’s sermons called Stories for Boys and Girls in which he writes: “Oh, my dear children, who can tell the power of the littles? The power of littles is very wonderful! No one knows what can be done by a little, and a little, and a little.” Ryle continues: “Oh, the importance of little habits! Habits of reading, habits of prayer, habits at meals, little habits through the day—all are little things. But they make up the character, and are of utmost importance.”
Every particular calling in life, in every specific season, presents us with unique opportunities for faithfulness in the little things, with their attendant joys. Have you considered your callings, and what distinctive opportunities they present? Whether at work, at home, or with the church, whether as father or mother, whether as husband or wife, whether as friend or neighbor, God wants us to know the pleasure of pleasing Him—not just in the big, public moments we tend to emphasize but even (and especially) in the secret and seemingly insignificant habits that “make up the character” and “are of utmost importance.”
What “little things” are pockets of untapped joys in your stations?
In the Workplace
I grew up a dentist’s son, and I often heard high praise from my father’s patients about his work. More than one took to calling him “the ouch-less dentist.” Others effused about how enjoyable he made the otherwise miserable trip to the office. On multiple occasions, I heard from patients how they could see for themselves in the mirror the quality of my father’s fillings—little things—compared to previous dentists who had “just slapped them in.”
Many of us give half our waking lives to our workplace, and even the most glamorous public occupations are filled with little things. So, it should be no surprise that when the Apostle Paul specifically addresses our labor, he emphasizes the often unseen aspects of our work. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23), “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (Eph. 6:7). Twice he accents “sincerity of heart” and speaks of serving “not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers” (Eph. 6:5–6; Col. 3:22).
The little things add up over time, like how we treat our employer’s property and resources, how diligently we work when off-site or out of sight, whether we abound with words of encouragement to employees and coworkers, and whether we are willing to pause our own productivity to listen. Will we give an extra few minutes to clean up a common space or honor others’ time by being on time (or even early) or by not calling unnecessary meetings or letting them drag on past the point of diminishing returns?
Such faithfulness in the small things often begins when we are students. University life teems with tiny, seemingly insignificant moments in which we either train ourselves for a career of diligent, energetic labor or learn to default to laziness and cutting corners. On campus, Christians can honor God by practicing academic honesty and studying, as Paul charged Timothy, like a worker who has no need to be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15).
In Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3, Paul not only commends industry in our labors but promises reward. He wants us to remember the blessing and to look forward to it (Acts 20:35). Work hard, he says, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Col. 3:24). Indeed, we ought to work hard “knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Eph. 6:8).