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A True Test of Character: Being Faithful in the Little Things

By Dennis Rainey

I love great stories of leaders who are effective, inspecting what they expect, and then hold their people to what was asked of them.

Like Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, who regularly arrived at work before 6 a.m. One morning he found a report on his desk from his chief financial officer. Immediately Sam jotted down a curt note at the top of the report that was designed to get his CFO’s attention and placed it on his desk:

Joe, come see me immediately!


As you might imagine Joe sheepishly read the note and headed for Sam’s office.

Joe, a top performer on the Walmart leadership team, was clueless about why Sam had called him to his office. Sam got right to the point. “Joe, why did you leave the pennies off the financial report?

Joe instantly responded, “Sir, I was just doing my job, trying to simplify a report that had too many numbers, so I took the pennies out of the report.”

Sam responded and undoubtedly made his point with some degree of intensity: “Joe, Walmart is all about the pennies … our profits are about the pennies … our shareholders count on us saving pennies … it’s what makes us competitive in the marketplace.”

Sam continued, “Now I want you to rerun the numbers and include the pennies!” Then Sam paused to make his point, “If you ever do that again, you are FIRED.”

I doubt that Joe ever forgot that encounter. He learned from Sam Walton that he needed to be faithful in the little things.

Jesus said it this way: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10).

Are you a faithful in little things as you lead your home? Do you do what you promised your wife you’d do? How about with the kids?

I knew that if I secured a “yes” from my dad to play catch with me in the front yard, it was a done deal. My dad was a man of his word, even to an 8-year-old boy! I don’t ever recall him backing away from a promise.

How about at work? Do you do just enough to get by or do you do “exceedingly, abundantly” (Ephesians 3:20) all that was asked of you?

How about in service of your community?

A series of questions may be appropriate:

· Are you trusted by your friends?

· Do you follow through on what you promise to others? Or put another way, “Do you do what you say you are going to do with excellence”

· Are you reliable?

· Can others count on you?

· Do you want to know how to be an original in a culture of copycats?

· Do you want to be countercultural and cut a fresh swath … a part of a vanishing breed in today’s generation?

If so, then set your sights on becoming a person who is faithful—a person who follows through. One whom others can count on whether things are rough or smooth. A person whose word is good on the little stuff as well as the mammoth, gargantuan tasks.

Have you ever worked with a person promises high and delivers low?

A person sets the deadline then moves it out further when he misses it…and then moves it again and again:

How about the person who doesn’t finish the job or who doesn’t do quality work:

The kind of person who promises to wake you up with a phone call at 4 a.m. … and doesn’t. And also promises to arrange for a taxi to show up at 4:15 a.m. … and doesn’t. That happened to Barbara and I as we were recently traveling.

Or are you the person who pledges to complete a task and does it—exactly like you were told to do it.

If you are known as a faithful person, people use these words to describe you: trustworthy, dependable, reliable, and responsible. A “get-er-done-leader.” These words describe a person of strong character. Character that quietly, yet convincingly, says, “You can count on me—at any cost!”

Few are on the character path

I sense in our society a growing feeling of entitlement. People feel they deserve a promotion without going through the process of learning and gaining experience. They want the position, prestige, and responsibility without having to pay the price and do what they said they would do today.

Many seek a career path, but few seem to be on a character path. I think that was what Jesus was calling us to when He said, “He who is faithful in little, much more shall be given to him.”

By the time I graduated from the university, God had convinced me that if I was that kind of person, I would never lack for work. Fifty years later, I can honestly say that’s true. In all those years I’ve never asked for a promotion, but ended up leading an organization of over 400 people and thousands of volunteers.

As I write this, Barbara and I are on my way back from a speaking engagement in Europe. As we traveled home, I spoke with a flight attendant who was explaining the chaos in airports like Amsterdam, London, Paris, and many other European countries … all because the leaders of those airports can’t find “good people.”

She said flat out, “People don’t want to work.”

Getting what we want now

Yet all too frequently, people of character are discarded upon the altar of ambition.

In our culture, we grow accustomed to getting what we want immediately. Through the internet and smartphone technology we can communicate instantly with people around the world. We aren’t used to working patiently, or waiting on anything—even a hamburger.

We want the tip without the toil, the gain without the grind, the sweets without the sweat, the prize without the pain, and the perks without the perseverance. Today, duty, diligence, hard work, and attention to details are a rare commodity in any endeavor—whether it be at home, at work, or at church.

If you are an employer, a supervisor, a pastor—someone in charge of directing other people—you know how true this is. And if you are wise, you watch your team closely for those who honest, who go the extra mile to make sure a job is done correctly, who treat their colleagues and customers with love and respect.

You will also keep tabs on those who seek to seek to advance through political maneuvering or backbiting, or through their charismatic personalities and persuasive skills. And you will reward and promote those who are truly faithful.

A sloppy generation

Could it be that we are chasing after the wrong thing? Do we want to have it our way regardless of what it costs us? Could it be that faithfulness at home is shredded by the pursuit of just one more dollar at work?

We’ve become a sloppy generation with all kinds of cover-ups for the unfaithful. Like, “It just fell through the cracks!” (Some today seem to have a pretty broad measurement of the cracks!)

Or, “I just forgot—are you sure the deadline was yesterday?” My favorite is “I didn’t have time.” Better stated, “Other priorities were chosen before your thing got done.”

I struggle with being faithful, too. Returning calls, or responding to texts/emails in a timely fashion are a constant challenge in my life, work and family.

Some things to consider

You might be asking, “I agree with you, but how do I know if I am viewed as a faithful person by others?” Perhaps the following questions would be good for you to consider:

Do others constantly have to remind you to get things done? Do you habitually forget to follow through?

What does your word mean to you? Is it a premium seal that secures the deal? Or is it a flimsy wrapper that can be taken off and thrown away with ease?

Do you return your phone calls? Your emails and text messages?

Do your children believe you when you promise to do something with them?

Do you let family or coworkers know if you’re going to be late? Or if you are going to miss a deadline? are missed occasionally—things do derail us unexpectedly … so a call or a note places value on the other person’s expectation and lets them know you are responsible and can be trusted.

Passing on faithfulness

Maybe you are faithful—a cut above the herd. But I’ll bet you work near others who could use a double dose of faithfulness. What if suddenly we had a dramatic rash of people falling all over one another trying to be faithful in the little things in their work? Do you think excellence would be a mere myth?

What would happen in our homes if there was an epidemic of husbands and wives infected with being faithful in the little things in their relationship with each other, their children, and their parents? What if we really did do what we promised one another? And what would happen to the next generation if we trained our children to be faithful in little as well as to be intelligent and athletic?

Are we raising a generation of children who will embrace selfish pursuits or faithfulness? If they don’t learn to be faithful from you, then what kind of leaders, workers, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers will they make? And if you don’t teach them, who will?

The world’s values

But our values are all fouled up and sticky with the things the world values. Do we admire the man who is successful or faithful? Do we give awards for production or for trustworthiness? Are moms honored for slugging it out in the trenches and raising a family, or do we sling a little dirt on the occupation by always talking about the women who are making it “big time” in the business world?

Since Jesus said He will entrust more to those who are faithful in the little things, why not join a growing number of Christians who are giving faithfulness the standing ovation it deserves? How about cheering on:

· Your children for acting faithfully or doing the right thing when no one was apparently watching?

· Your husband who was honest in preparing your income tax returns?

· A mother who is faithfully taking the time to rear the next generation? (So much of her work is unseen and unappreciated by others.)

· A child who tells the truth instead of lying even though the consequences are painful?

· Or your spouse for remaining faithful to your wedding vows? We are making plans to celebrate our 50th in early September and it hit me that I hadn’t thanked Barbara recently for remaining faithful me.

How do you view the details? As picky things to be ignored or that get in your way? Or as a steppingstone to receiving the true riches of the kingdom?

Value. Character. Faithfulness.

As Chuck Swindoll says, “It’s never too late to start doing what is right.”

Want more? Then do the little—faithfully.

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