Sharpening the Ax

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

This quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Whether he actually said this or not is immaterial, the concept is sound. If you are given a task, using the best tools you can to do the job helps you to perform the task more efficiently and effectively. A dull ax will take longer and require more strength.

Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed. — Ecclesiastes 10:10

Over the years, I’ve often questioned what my true mission is. I’ve received revelation from God over that time, yet I still question and wonder if I’m following the right path. Is my ax sharp enough to do the task that God has put before me?

Before heading out on mission from God, sharpen your own ax by getting yourself straight with God, praying and reading the Bible.

I find that often I’m looking for how to best serve God and I realize that I don’t take time to read the Bible. I find that I struggle to start the day with prayer and I’m too tired at night to end the day with prayer. Throughout the day, I’m way too busy with too many things on my mind, that taking the time for even a short prayer in the midst of my busy day is beyond my thoughts.

Martin Luther is rumored to have once commented, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend the three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.

Are we so busy that we can’t take the time to pray? How much time do we spend on needless things? Could we cut out an hour of television? God wants us to enjoy life,

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. -James 5:16

How can we be the most effective tool for God, if we don’t allow Him to sharpen us? God sharpens us through the reading of his word. We find out his mission for us through reading and prayer. God has given us the tools to do the job he set out for us wherever we are, whether on the mission field or at work.

God has given all of us the tools, but so many of us (myself included) don’t bother to pick the best tool for the job. We choose a dull ax to chop down the tree. We strain ourselves to do the job God has put before us. We work so hard at His mission for us, that we fail to sharpen our tools.

Prayer and reading of His word will sharpen us. If we spend the time sharpening our tools, we will be able to do His work so much more efficiently and effectively.

 

We Must Decrease

So a while back I wrote a post entitled “Increase Don’t Decrease.”  Today I’m writing one called “We must decrease”. So what gives, that seems like a contradiction. Well to quickly review my previous post, we talked how we should live consistent, quiet, committed faith driven lives to provide an example of God’s fruits. Let me repeat one of my favorite quotes;

The only Bible that the unsaved are bothering to read, is the bible that is characterized by our lives. If our unsaved friends and neighbors do not see Jesus Christ in us, they may never see Him at all.

When we set that godly example of living and our lives reflect the love of Christ we naturally increase. Not ourselves, but Christ’s presence in our communities or work places. Christians living out the Christian life can become a transforming presence in their areas of influence.

We run the risk at times, though to increase not just the influence of Christ, but if we’re not careful, we can increase ourselves to the point where we overshadow Christ.

John the Baptist says it best,

He must become greater; I must become less – John 3:30

John was sent ahead of Christ and when Christ arrived, John faded into the background because he realized that by making himself less, he focused the attention on Jesus where it should be.

Looking in our own daily lives we can see plenty of examples of this. I love American football and Friday night football doesn’t get much better. However, one thing I see that I struggle with is those parents (mostly us dads) who become loud and obnoxious at the games. Their voices are heard above all others as they yell at the referees or coaches or perhaps even their own child. Sometimes they are throwing out advice or strongly worded suggestions, other times its just criticism. But in all cases the attention is drawn to them and away from their child or the team.

Or there are those that aren’t loud, but get involved in everything. And this is a bit more tricky to see where the problem may come into play. See these parents are helpful, they do a lot of the work that needs done, that others won’t do. But they run the risk of mostly unconsciously being “look at me and how much I volunteer and help” which again, takes away from the child or the cause they are trying to help. I coach and I volunteer for our school football programs. Right now I don’t have a son playing, but I have to be careful that it truly stays about the players and the program and not about Jason. I may or may not succeed at that. I also coach baseball. Again, I try to make it about the players and the team and not about me. How do I do? Well probably with varying degrees of success and different people will have different opinions on that.

When it becomes more about me than it does the team (or my children) then it’s time to call it a day. I must decrease so the program or my child can increase. When the time is done for my involvement in the coaching or volunteering, my success will be defined on if I made the program or my child better for my time and involvement.

Increase Christ

So apply this to our faith. Do we find that we volunteer or help others in the name of Christ? When it becomes more about us than it does Christ, then we are running into dangerous territory. John could have kept on doing what he was doing, rode the coattails of Christ and became just as famous. But instead he faded into the background so that the one who deserves to be in the spotlight, was.

God is on mission around us and calls us to be on mission with Him. But, he doesn’t need us he just wants us to join with him. When we are on mission in our lives, it should be about Christ, not us.

Our role in the mission is not our reward. Jesus is our reward. Roles begin and then they end. When our role ends, has Jesus increased? If so, then our role in the mission has ended well.