The Common Task – F. B. Meyer, Pt. V

This is the fifth of six sections of "The Common Task", in F.B. Meyer's Light on
Life's Duties. Scripture added.
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate 
with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. -- Romans 12:16 NKJV

(5) – Little Things Greatly Done Prepare for the Right Doing of Great Things

     We sometimes lay down the story book or the history with a groan. We have been reading or hearing of some sudden opportunity which came to a “Grace Darling” reared in the obscurity of a fisherman’s home, or to a Florence Nightingale, or a John Brown, living apart from the great world in the heart of the Adirondacks. [1]

     “Oh,” we say, “if only such a chance would dip down into my life, and lift me out of it! I’m weary, weary of this dull level.”

     Ah! it is a common mistake.  Men think that the occasion makes the hero; whereas it only reveals him. 

     The train [rails] must have been laid long before, and carefully, else the falling of a single spark would never blast the mighty rocks or shiver the groaning fortress-walls.  There must be the fabric of strong and noble character, built up by patient continuance in well-doing, else the sudden appeal of the critical hour will knock vainly at the door of life, and the soul will crouch unanswering and helpless within. 

            If great opportunities were to come to most, we could make nothing of them.  They would pass by us unnoticed or unimproved. They would go from us to those who had more nerve, or grit, or spiritual power than we.  

            You can not, just because you will, speak a foreign language, or dash off a brilliant air upon the piano, or talk easily on the motive of one of Browning’s poems. All these demand long and arduous study. That must be given first in the chamber [private rooms]; and then, if a sudden summons comes for any of them, on the housetop of observation, you will be ready. 

  • You can not be brave in a crisis if habitually a coward. 
  • You can not be generous with a fortune if you are a miser with a limited income.  
  • You can not be unselfish in some such accident which imperils life if you are always pressing for the one vacant seat in train or omnibus, and elbowing your way to the front on every possible occasion.

            David must practise with sling and stone through long hours in the wilderness, or he will never bring down Goliath.  Joseph must be pure in thought and strong in private self-discipline, or he will never resist the solicitations of the temptress.  The Sunday School teacher must be regular, painstaking, faithful in the conduct of his class of little ragged boys and girls, or he will never be promoted to serve his Master as a minister at home, or as a missionary abroad. 

Join me tomorrow for the last of this six-part transcription of "The Common Task", by F.B. Meyer in Light on Life's Duties, 1895, Fleming H. Revell, Co.  (available in the public domain on HathiTrust Digital Library).


[1] Abolitionist John Brown’s home and grave is in the Adirondacks. But not only John Brown! In Meyer’s day, many famous people such as philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet James Russell Lowell, and scientist Louis Agassiz took refuge in the Adirondack mountains of northern New York. After the Civil War, many others less affluent chased this dream in large numbers, which of course ruined its sanctity and almost despoiled the forest. In my own life, I think of those who have chased the “dream” of creating a self-sustaining, minimalist life in a “tiny home” on gorgeous acreage with stunning views and relative privacy. What do you lay down your book, or close your laptop or shut off your smart-phone and dream about?

[2] A few items in this chapter have been very slightly modified to clarify older language and bring the intended understanding to the modern reader.


Dear Lord Jesus, I get weary in the training. I long for the fruit before its season. Help me to see today and be faithful in my duties here and now. Help me to ask, “To whom am I responsible?” and then leave to you those matters and people who are outside my influence. They are never outside of yours. Sustain me in peace as I study your Word and face the trials of practical application of it in the matters that press me today. Undergird me with your love and protection, strengthen me with your holy power to do more than I believe I can do on my own. Give me a vision for the beauty and holiness of my situation and circumstances today; help me to see those whom you have given me in a fresh light–to see them as you see them and to value them with the value you give them and myself. I pray also, Lord, for those in greater responsibilities who lead churches, communities, provinces and nations. For all I pray for myself, I pray also for them. You are alive! And You are my God. In the precious and holy name of my Christ Jesus, Amen.


Write a prayer of your own, or a journal entry of praise to the Father.  List 10 things you are
thankful for in your circumstances today.  Give Him your hopes and dreams, and let Him
fulfill them in His own wise design and timing.  Take a deep breath and let it out in a sigh
of rest and peace and praise.  

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