Is it time to sharpen your axe?

May 27th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Growth & Development

If the axe is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success. Ecclesiastes 10:10  NKJV

Everybody goes through seasons when life seems to lose its edge. They are the times when our efforts don’t seem to be producing desired results and our energies are waning.  If you are living in a malaise and you’re feeling tired, this message just might be for you.

Success is a relative term and often seems illusive, but all of us want a measure of it in what we do with our lives. This verse addresses this conundrum and offers some practical advice in achieving it.

1.  Success requires using the right tool for the job. In essence everyone has an axe, just the right tool for them. We just need to identify the axe in our life that God has given us.  (Romans 12:3-6)  Our ax is anything we’re good at and passionate about. What is yours?

Every man knows that to get a job done, whether working in the garage or out in the yard, you need the right tool. The right tool makes all the difference, especially if it is a power tool and it’s in good working order.  I once had a Jonsered chainsaw with an 18” bar and that tool kept our fireplace amply fueled for winter.  When the chain was sharpened it cut through oak like it was butter. Ah the joy, to feel the power and have the kids hauling and stacking wood like it was going out of style.

2.  Success requires taking time to sharpen the axe. Sharpening anything requires stopping work and tending to the care of the tool.  The more complex the tool or machine the longer it takes.  How much more complex and important are we as human beings?

Practically speaking, this principle for success means taking regular breaks in our work regimen to allow the time necessary to renew our being, gain a fresh perspective  and sharpen our focus. If we neglect to do this we will experience like any tool a loss of effectiveness and ultimately a breakdown.  If God Himself rested and commanded a Sabbath, we had better take heed.

3.  And finally, success requires wisdom. The Hebrew word for wisdom here is “chokmah” which means “wisdom in administration” or “skill.”  Such wisdom or skill comes primarily through experience – with God and in life.

The only way to grow in the wise use of our axe by using it. And there is also a skill sharpening effect that comes by hanging out with others with similar gifts.  Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  Instruction, feedback, fresh challenge and even correction, are all invaluable in developing our gift.

Wisdom can come through interaction with people, through classes, reading books and taking advantage of any resource that will help you grow in you’re the use of your gift.

When we fail to identify and use our gifts, or do not take time-outs to sharpen them, inevitably we lose our edge and end up living dull lives. The best remedy I know is to be proactive in adding to what God has given you.  “The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-9

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No Responses to “Is it time to sharpen your axe?”

  1. bonnie beckstrom May 27, 2010 at 9:07 am

    What if you are the tool and the user is abusing you in the way of time, tasks and care? If a forester purchases an axe-he generally is going to use it for chopping down trees-but what if he begins to use it for prying open things or hammering nails with the back side and the axe has no say in the matter because it is owned by the user?

  2. Tom – thanks for the Proverbs 27:17 reference. I was thinking about that very scripture reading the first part of your post but couldn’t remember where it was, then, there it was!
    In reference to Bonnie’s comment, I”m taking a crack at this one, but I think it’s a little bit of the “fight or flight” principle. An axe CAN do those things, but certainly not as well as the tools that are made for the job (a hammer for pounding nails, a crowbar to pry things open, etc.).
    So, eventually the axe head will do what is described in point 2. And unfortunately, no matter what you do, the head just cannot be sharpened; because it did too much of what it wasn’t supposed to do.
    Unfortunately, that’s what happens to people as well. They take on too much, and eventually, they’ll shy away -because they know that’s not what they were made to do. The bad thing about an axe is that there’s no warning system on the thing to tell it when its been overextended. The great thing about people, is that we have other “sharpeners” around us who can warn us…and set us straight.
    Sorry it was so long.

  3. Bonnie – Your question is very instructive. What does a person do who is subject to such abuse? It obviously takes a severe toll on our gift and our person. Jesus gives us strength and grace to endure everything that filters through His hands. I think the Serenity Prayer is appropriate here: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    Paul says if you are caught in a slavery situation, which is what such abuse is like, and have an option to get free from it – do it. (1 Cor. 7:21)

  4. Your input on this whole topic of axe abuse & misuse is very insightful. You make an exellent point that misuse of our gifting has a deleterious effect that ultimately can cause us to bury it like the the guy with the one talent. That is sad. We definitely need the “sharpeners” in our lives. Good stuff Luke!

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