Sharpening Your Ax

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

Isaiah 40:29-31


25 thoughts on “Sharpening Your Ax

  1. What an awesomeing message and lesson…taking time to “sharpen” his tool…and our tools are overlooked every day…how it still amazes me that we still overlook such small details in our every day lives that could add up to such an overhaul in the big scheme.

  2. Karen, this is a powerful story and great lesson for us all! I feel like I have been “swinging my ax” for much too long without giving myself much-needed breaks to rest, to rejuvenate my soul and refuel my tank in God’s Word. Thank you for this powerful image and timely reminder!

  3. Yes this is an important point. You have to stop and pray and strengthen yourself. It is written that Jesus broke away from the disciples and prayed often and in one verse it said it strengthened him. What a great post!

  4. Isn’t that the truth?! It’s all-too-easy to hack away, thinking we’re serving, but we can often stop relying on His strength in the process. And, we know how far our own strength gets us! Not very. 🙂 Great post, Karen, thank you. And, thanks for sharing with #ChasingCommunity today. ((hug))

  5. I love this, Karen, and the illustration you’ve given. I’m in a season of waiting and I most certainly feel like God is urging me to use this time to sharpen my ax. Thank you for helping me to see the value in that.

    1. Waiting is never easy, but we can endure those times better when we see them as purposeful times that sharpen us for the tasks ahead. Appreciate your comments, Tiffany!

  6. Thank you, Karen, for sharing this story. A beautiful analogy for how we should approach our faith walk. Keeping sharp our study of the word, with diligence and prayer.
    Glad I was your neighbor at #ChasingCommunity! Have a great day.

    1. It’s way to easy to just take off and do the work our way and in our strength… then wonder why we are over tired and coming up short. He never sends us to do work, but invites us to go with Him to complete tasks. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Great analogy. We can be so full of activity but may accomplish little for the very reason you pointed out: nor refuelling spiritually. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I haven’t thought of time with God as a “daily spiritual break.” Like the sound of it. Loved this statement, “When we cultivate this kind of regular faithful rest in Jesus, (Matt. 11:28-29), we also hone the edge of our effectiveness.” I’m working on a book and this is a great encouragement to take it at God’s pace rather than race pell-mell to the end. #CoffeeforyourHeart

    1. One of the main things we have to learn is that God’s schedule frequently isn’t ours. We want our project done ‘now’ and He sees such value in the process of getting there. Oh how many times I have to learn that lesson! Thanks Ginger.

  9. What a great post Karen! Thanks for the reminder, I see myself trying to be like the younger son. Over time I fatigue and wear myself out. I need to make rest in Jesus a higher priority.

    1. I’m the younger brother a lot of the time too. Just going about my work in my own strength. How much better to spend time sharpening while we work before we become so ‘dull’ we are of no effectiveness. Thanks Julie

  10. Amen! Daily spiritual breaks for the believer are truly important and necessary. And for those serving in ministry perhaps even a sabbatical would be of great benefit. I just recently came back to serve after a 3 month break and not only is my ax sharpened and ready to keep on chopping, but I have built some muscle power as well! Thank you Karen, for this very refreshing post.

    1. The world tells us that we can’t take breaks b/c we will get behind, but God instructed us to take sabbath periodically so that we could be refreshed by Him and prepared to do His work. Blessings as you swing your ax, Joe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *