After a particularly destructive storm hit a rural town a few decades ago, two adult brothers had the unenviable task of splitting and stacking the wood from the many fallen trees around the family farm. To make the job more interesting, the younger brother suggested a contest to see which of them could split and stack the most wood in a day’s time. Never one to back down from a challenge, the older agreed.
The next morning, they met in the yard and with axes in hand, the contest began. The younger son began swinging away with all the strength his youthful body could muster, only stopping when exhaustion forced him to rest. Even then, he only paused long enough to catch his breath, drink some water and then return to the task as quickly as possible.
The older brother had a different plan of attack. While he too, swung his ax with steady and even blows, he also took a deliberate break every half hour, whether fatigue was a factor or not. At the end of the allotted time, the younger man was surprised to find that his elder brother had split and stacked significantly more firewood than he.
Bewildered, he asked, “How is it possible that you have more to show for your work than me? I worked harder and you rested way more than I did!”
To which the older brother replied with a grin, “Yea, but every time I took a break, I sharpened my ax.”
This story carries a powerful truth for believers who are trying hard to serve God. Too often, we treat the Lord’s assignments just as the younger son approached chopping wood. With a daunting task before us, we choose to hack away and hack away and hack away with all the strength we can muster. Pushed to point of exhaustion, we encounter frustration and futility, never realizing that our own power is limited and will always fail to produce the results we expect.
However, Christ-followers who understand the importance of discipline and patience, choose, not to work to the point of collapse, but to factor in daily breaks from our labors to ‘sharpen our ax’ through prayer, and meditating on the truths of God. When we cultivate this kind of regular faithful rest in Jesus, (Matt. 11:28-29), we also hone the edge of our effectiveness. His strength in us will produce greater results that stack up far faster while glorifying Him (and not ourselves) in the process.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength