The story is told of an old lumber jack who vanished many a foggy and cold morning into a sea of trees to carve out his living. He worked among many younger peers who were stronger, faster, and whose bodies showed far less scars. The handle of his ax was smooth and his hands were strong and sinewy. He would constantly amaze his younger peers because he was at least as efficient, if not more so. His industry and energy was catalyzed by one key factor- he kept his ax razor sharp! To the younger lumberjacks, sharpening the ax after each tree fell seemed so redundant and so unnecessary. Move on, they thought. Time and money depended on it. Trees don’t fall while we sit and sharpen, they reasoned. The old man sharpened anyway.
The Bible says, “If an iron axehead is blunt and a workman does not sharpen its edge, he must exert a great deal of effort; so wisdom has the advantage of giving success” (Eccl. 10:10, NET). There is great reward in spiritually investing time in the details necessary for spiritual action. The Berean Jews searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was teaching them was true (Acts 17:11). Sharpening their spiritual sword was coupled with an eagerness, open mindedness, and nobility (Acts 17:11).
Perhaps you’ve heard similar wisdom.
- “noticing the little things can help us conquer the big ones”
- “you cannot dig a hole in a differing place by digging the same hole deeper”
- “the best paths to success are different today than they were yesterday”
- “Working smart is harder than working hard. It’s just less visible, and we care too much about what others see.” 
The old lumber jack knew that virtue rested in the details. When you think about your spiritual ax, how sharp is your ax head? Here are some areas that might help.
Take Personal Accountability
The lumberjack did not toil day in and day out judging the efforts of the other lumberjacks. He entered the forest not to critique but to cut. His skills were securely intact as they were solidified by years of practice and persistence. Like the Christian soldier whose spiritual armor is well rounded (cf. Eph. 6:10-20), the lumberjack was well rounded in his labors. He took his mission personally and he was fully accountable to his peers, bosses, buyers, and sellers. Time and years had made him more gracious. Each evening he would lay his ax down and wipe the sweat of his brow. It was an honest day’s labor.
When you think of how you serve in your congregation, stop now and inventory your labors in the Lord. What if every Christian served exactly like you did? Additionally, what if every Christian exhibited your same attitude in how you serve? What if every person in your congregation was devoted to the apostles teaching precisely like you are, broke bread with brethren (ate meals) like you do, fellowshipped (spiritual sharing) like you do, prayed like you do, and gave to the Lord just like you did (cf. Acts 2:40-47)? Who is the church now, because of you? Where is this church headed, because of you?
Remember Your Labor of Love for the Lord
The old lumberjack loved to work and every time a tree fell, he paused, took the leather strap and stone edge to massage his favored instrument for the next tree. With art and science, he approached his love with favor, fervor, and passion. Christians are to have this same earnestness toward their Lord. Christian slaves were told, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). Every deed of Christian service should have this mindset that is pointed toward Christ. What drives us should not be the praise of men or the glory of one-upmanship or fleshly prestige in our efforts. Instead, we should work out of pure motivations where everything we do, we do through, to, and for the glory of Christ. He is the end.
He is the beginning. Deep within our hearts we foster an attitude of care and visitation because caring for the stranger or visiting the sick and imprisoned is in fact serving the Lord (Matt. 24:43). If we will do this, we’ll be remembered like the generous Thessalonians who were remembered for their work of faith, their labor of love, and their patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 1:3).
Have an Opportunistic Mindset
Axes are sharpened for the purposes of laying them to the root of a tree. Having an opportunistic mindset says – “I’m here! What can I do to help?!” Every time someone cleans the baptistry, invites a visitor for a meal, opens their home in hospitality, teaches a bible class, leads a song, knocks on a door, invites a neighbor to church, or has a personal bible study, they do it heartily for the Lord. Other motivations must move over. Christ is the ultimate motivation, beginning and end.
Serving the Lord is everyone’s privilege and opportunity. But, the doors of your heart will have to fly open and you’ll want to run after God with little attention to obstacles in your way or what lays in the past. Ananias would go to one of Christianity’s greatest tyrants – Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:15). In the heart of the fruitful the distance between the Lord’s call and their action is not that far or infrequent. Isaiah exclaimed “Here am I! Send me” (Is. 6:8). We too have opportunity to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach the lost (Matt. 28:19-20). When we dawn the door of an interested heart, we delight in unpacking for them earth’s greatest treasure – Christ’s kingdom (Matt. 13:44-46).
Christ says we were created for good works (Eph. 2:10). How have you defined your ministry in Christ’s church? What stops you from championing a Divine cause to his glory? What is your execution plan to achieve your God given strengths?
The forest is dense. Let’s pick up our axes and go to work because the dawn of eternity is nearer now more than ever.