In That Which Is Least
by J. R. Miller, 1912
One of the secrets of a full and rich life, is in being
always watchful of the little things. We could accomplish marvels in
the quarter-hours we are wasting. We hear of men who have learned a foreign
language at their dressing-bureaus; or have read volumes in the minutes they
have had to wait in reception rooms of friends they were calling upon.
Notable achievements in the way of study and research have been made by men
with only minutes of leisure, little interstices of time between their
absorbing occupation in great tasks. There have been men with feeble health,
who could work only in little quarter hours, who have achieved amazing
results in a short lifetime, or men with poor eyes, who could read only a
few minutes at a time—but who have amassed great stores of knowledge and
attained distinction, even eminence, in years of masterful diligence.
The way we use the fragments of our time, what we
do with the moments, determine largely what we will make ourselves in
the end. Hurry is a dreadful waste of time. A great surgeon said to
his assistants when he was beginning a serious operation, "Do not be in a
hurry, gentlemen; we have no time to lose." We never can do our work with
celerity, and we never can do it well, if we hurry. We must have full
possession of all our powers if we would do our best. "He who believes,"
wrote the great prophet, "shall not be in haste."
Most people employ but a fragment of the capacity
of their life, and then allow great measures of capacity to lie undeveloped,
and in the end to atrophy. A volume could be filled with a description of a
human hand, its wonderful structure, and the things it can be trained to do.
Yet how many hands ever reach the limit of their possible achievements?
Think of the powers folded up in a human brain and of the little of all
these powers most of us ever bring out in life. Now and then a man starts in
ignorance and poverty and reaches a greatness in ability and in achievement
which amazes the world. Doubtless thousands and thousands who never attain
anything beyond mediocrity have just as great natural capacity—but
the splendid powers of their life are allowed to run to waste. They are
lacking in energy and do only a little of what they might do.
In Christian life and character, the same is true. Jesus
came to give his disciples not life merely—but abundant life. We know
what he did with his first disciples, what wonderful men he made of them and
what they did with their lives. Is there any reason to think that these men
were capable of greater things, than the men whom the Master is calling in
these days? They were not beings of a different order from the mass of men;
the difference was in the way they used their gifts. Not a particle of power
in them was allowed to waste.
There is capacity enough in every little company of
Christian people, to transform the community in which they live, into a
garden of the Lord. It is to such consecration that we are called. We are
letting our powers and abilities run to waste, instead of training them and
using them to bless the world. We are not making the most of ourselves.
There is a great waste of power also, in our failure to
appreciate our opportunities. "If I only had the gifts that this man has I
would do the large and beautiful things that he does. But I never have the
chance of doing such things. Nothing ever comes to my hand, but
opportunities for little commonplace things." Now, the truth is—that nothing
is commonplace. The giving of a cup of cold water is one of the smallest
kindnesses any one can show to another—yet Jesus said that God takes notice
of this act amid all the events of the whole world, any busy day, and
rewards it. It may not be cabled half way around the world and announced
with great headlines in the newspapers—but it is noticed in heaven.
We do not begin to understand what great waste we are
allowing, when we fail to put the true value on little opportunities of
serving others. Somehow we get the feeling that any cross-bearing worth
while, must be a costly sacrifice, something that puts nails through
our hands, something that hurts until we bleed. If we had an
opportunity to do something heroic, we say we would do it. But when it is
only a chance to be kind to a neighbor, to call at his house when he is in
trouble, to sit up with him at night when he is sick, or to do something for
a child—we never think for a moment that such little things are the
Christlike deeds, which God wants us to do, and so we pass them by, and
there is a great blank in our lives where holy service ought to be.
When the great miracle of the loaves had been
wrought, Jesus sent his disciples to gather up the broken pieces, "that
nothing be lost." The Master is continually giving us the same command.
Every hour's talk we have with a friend, leaves fragments that we ought to
gather up and keep to feed our heart's hunger or the hunger of others'
hearts, as we go on. When we hear good words spoken, or read a good book, we
should gather up the fragments of knowledge, the suggestions of helpful
thoughts, the broken pieces, and fix them in our hearts for use in our
lives. We allow large volumes of the good things we hear or read, to turn to
waste continually, because we are poor listeners or do not try to keep what
we hear. We let the broken pieces be lost and thereby are great losers. If
only we would gather up and keep all the good things that come to us through
conversations and through reading, we would soon have great treasures of
knowledge and wisdom.