Spring is almost here, but there will likely still be some vestiges of “Old Man Winter” for several weeks. Churches will not be celebrating Easter until late April this year so there is time to spend doing “something,” but what should we be doing? I suggest, as Christians, we take some time to sharpen our axes.
The story is told of a contest between two lumberjacks to see who could cut the most trees in a day. Both men worked hard and seemed to be evenly matched. When the whistle for the first break blew the first lumberjack stopped working while the second man worked on with enthusiasm seeing a chance to get ahead. When lunch came, the first lumberjack stopped again while the other, not feeling especially tired, kept working. At the afternoon break the same thing happened and everyone could see that the prospect of winning was giving the second lumberjack energy to keep going when he should have felt tired. At the end of the day, the cut trees were counted and to everyone’s surprise the first lumberjack had won, he actually cut more trees. When asked how he did it, he replied, “It is simple, while I was on my breaks, I sharpened my axe.
A Much Needed Time of Peace
In Acts 9 we read that the church was frail and untested when it started. Then this man named Saul, a known persecutor of the church, came around using the name “Paul,” saying that he was a changed man and that the church could trust him. They gave him a chance and, by preaching the good news without fear, Paul won their confidence. In fact, Paul was so persuasive that he even unintentionally persuaded others who were persecuting the church that they should next try to kill him. Paul’s new friends saved his life by putting him on a boat to Tarsus and things settled down.
According to Acts 9:31, the church then enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase. The church had a time to sharpen its axe, and because of the wise and principled use of that time, the results were impressive.
Our Need Today
What can we learn from their example? Don’t we find ourselves in a similar circumstance today? We have so much going on that we feel like we don’t have the luxury of rest, planning, and worship, but those are the very things that preserve and sustain us. Those are the very things that make our work more fruitful and our lives more enjoyable. I believe that we would find that sharpening the axe is a principle that can make a positive difference in lives, churches, and ministries.
A Method We Can Follow
The method scripture suggests is that we first seek peace. Peace is something that we all seem to want but rarely seem to be working for. The peace described in Acts 9:31 certainly means peace with God, but peace with God requires peace with ourselves and others. Begin by establishing peace.
Second, we have to allow ourselves to be built up. We are unintentionally dulled every day by the constant wear and everyday hard knocks of this world. God has provided the church in part so that we can be built up rather than constantly torn down. By reading our Bibles, doing our daily prayer, engaging in our Sunday School class, and by close association with Christian friends, we can begin to sharpen up our lives.
Third, we have to get up and go in the fear of the Lord. Time spent sharpening the axe is not time spent being useless. God has a purpose and a mission for us to complete and we are actually not happy unless we are working for that purpose. We can never lose sight of the fact that a church that becomes content to do nothing is just waiting around to die. The Lord never means for us to sit idle and die a spiritual death. The Promised Land lies ahead of us, not here and not back where we came from! Get up and go in the fear of the Lord. There is work to be done.
Fourth, we must realize that we can never hope to do this without the Holy Spirit. When we live and labor from our own power, bolstered by our own will and determination we are not working for our Lord and the work we do will not last. It will leave us tired, empty, and angry at ourselves, each other, and ultimately, at God. We have to do God’s work with the Spirit’s power.
The Spirit’s power can be found when we humbly repent of the sins that hinder our lives and so easily beset us. The Spirit’s power can be found when we diligently seek to know, understand, and do the will of God. The Spirit’s power can be found when we order our lives with a balanced rhythm of work, play, and worship. The Spirit’s power can be found when we bring ourselves under the authority of a loving church where we can experience and see the evidence of the Spirit’s power at work. If we want to experience the power of God’s Holy Spirit then make room for Him and then invite Him in. It is a simple method and it is the only way.
Finally, if we want to sharpen our axes to do the work God intends for us, then we must continue to increase. Now the immediate question that comes to mind is what kind of increase is the scripture meaning here? Should our increase be in things like love, knowledge, and devotion to God? Or should our increase be in numbers, literally more people in the church? The answer to both questions is “yes.” Yes, the early church did grow in areas that are difficult to measure like love, knowledge, and devotion to God and, yes, the early church did grow in the number of those being saved. And, yes, we are expected to do the same. We are expected to grow in every way you can think of that glorifies God.
The Foundation Can Help
During this slow spring, when everyone is anxious to get started doing “something,” spend some time sharpening the axe that God has given you to use. Maybe some extra time in prayer and Bible reading is called for. Maybe learning a new skill to use in teaching or witnessing about Christ is what is needed. Or maybe God has given you plenty and you want to leave something for the workmen who will follow you at your church or in your favorite ministry. Contact the Foundation today and let us help.
Are all of your axes sharp and ready to go? If not, then it is a well-known fact that your work will be less productive and there is a biblical method to follow that works.
Let’s sharpen our axe. There is work to be done.