Big Rocks First

by Jeff Simmons August 17, 2016

Big Rocks First

I remember the first time I saw it, and I was mesmerized. There were five big rocks and a jar full of beans. His name was Hamp Pitts – a graduate of MIT and an inventor. He was the smartest man I knew (and maybe still is). He was a scientist and a Christ-follower. He took some beans and poured them into a jar. They came very close to filling up the entire jar. Then he asked, “Now, do you think I can get these five big rocks into the jar and close the lid?” No way. It was impossible. The jar was almost full already. There was no way he could add the rocks. All of us were perplexed, but Hamp was fully confident.

After a few moments of silence, letting the dilemma fully sink in, Hamp emptied the jar of the beans and placed the big rocks in first. Without saying a word, he began to pour the beans back into the jar over the rocks. As the last beans fell in, they came right up to the top. Hamp calmly took the lid and put it on the jar with the big rocks and the beans all inside. He simply said, “Put the big things in first.”

What a life-impacting principle. What we all do, especially this time of the year, is we cave to the little things. “The tyranny of the urgent” as some have called it. We fill our lives with the little things, and then we don’t have time for the things that really matter. Our schedules are packed with little things that are not that important, but that take our time, energy and attention away from the big things that do matter. At the end of the day, there is a difference between activity and accomplishment.

The solution? Put the big things in first. Don’t let your schedule run your life. We must prioritize what is truly important and put that into our life first. I believe our top five priorities must be:

  1. God – you need to spend time with your Heavenly Father. No one ever drifts into a closer relationship with God. You must be intentional. You must commit the first 15-30 minutes in the morning, or at night, to be with the One who is Sovereign over it all. If you don’t prioritize this, then you will never find the time. The little things will consume you; yet, this is your most important priority.
  2. Family – how much time do you actually spend with those you love the most? Think about it. Again, if you don’t schedule the time, the little things will keep you from truly experiencing the best things of life. You need to schedule date nights with your spouse. You need to schedule vacations with your family. You need “Family Fun Nights” and other times to just sit, talk and laugh. If you don’t schedule it, then homework, sports, tv, social media and all the other little things will consume your life.
  3. Church – you need the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ needs you. Prioritize Sunday morning services, Community Group, Wednesday nights at church for your kids, etc. Church keeps you grounded and focused on God, His Word and His people – the three things that are eternal; everything else will fade away. Prioritize what will last.
  4. People – people matter. Don’t let your schedule consume you so much that you miss out on making a difference in the lives of others. Make time for your friends. You and I need godly people around us. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Having great friends takes time. And, make time to help others. Schedule a mission trip or commit to sponsoring a child. Put this big rock named “People” into your jar; otherwise, you’ll never get around to it.
  5. Your potential – God created you, and He wants you to fulfill your full potential in Him. Always be moving toward the goal God has for your life. Carve out time to read, pray, write and dream. Don’t let the urgent drown out your deep desires. God created you to do and be your best. Refuse to settle for the excuses of “I can’t” or “there’s not enough time” to keep you from fulfilling your dreams. God is with you, and He is for you. Even if it is only 15-30 minutes a day, make sure that every day you are moving forward to accomplishing your God-given potential.

Truth is – we all have the same amount of time; it is just how we use it. We all have big rocks and little beans. It really comes down to how we put them into the jar of our life. It is not about more time – we don’t get any more time – only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. The people who achieve the true great things in life are the ones who prioritize the big rocks first.

A dad recently told me, “We let gymnastics rule our lives, and we forgot the things that were really important. We stopped coming to church, and we were not spending time with God or with our family. We were taking our daughter to gymnastics five nights a week, and we were stressed-out and falling apart. We had to make the decision of what is really important.” We all have to make that decision of what is really important. And, what you will find is that if you put the big rocks in first, then all the other little things find a way to fit in. You establish the priorities, and all the little things get done as well (or, the ones that don’t matter fall away).

Take time to look at your schedule. Evaluate it and be honest. Seasons in life change, so you need to take an inventory at the beginning of each new calendar year as well as at the beginning of every new school year. Do you have the five big rocks in your jar? Have you established the priorities of your life? If not, then take the time to make the change. You will be glad you did, and you might be surprised – but, everything will fit in the jar.

Jeff Simmons
Jeff Simmons


Jeff Simmons is the Founder and Lead Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, TN. He also serves as the President of Justice & Mercy International, a nonprofit that exists to make justice personal for the poor, the orphaned and the forgotten of the world. His faith in God and role as husband and father motivates him to be the leader he is and to do the work he has been called to.

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