Sharpening your axe

SERMON TOPIC: Sharpening your axe

Speaker: Ken Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 10 December 2017

Topic Groups: COMMITMENT

Sermon synopsis: 'Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.' - Abraham Lincoln
Hard work, determination and energy can accomplish only so much. Sometimes what a worker needs to do most is, “sharpen the axe”
How do we do this when we have so much to do and so little time to do it? We can go for specialized training, receive addition education, or attend seminars and conferences, however there are some simple practical Biblical guide-lines that will make us more effective.
- Dedicate your work to God
-Pray for wisdom.
- Trust in His direction.
- Get enough rest.
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Sharpening your axe

Once upon a time there was a very strong woodcutter. He asked for a job from a timber merchant, and he got it.

The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.

His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.

The first day, the woodcutter brought down 18 trees. The Boss was very impressed and said, Congratulations Go on that way!

Very motivated by the words of the boss, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could bring down only 15 trees.

The third day he tried even harder, but he could bring down only 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing down less and less trees. I must be losing my strength, the woodcutter thought to himself. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. When was the last time you sharpened your axe the boss asked? Sharpen, I had no time to sharpen my axe! I have been very busy trying to cut trees.”

This story represents our lives in a nutshell, we sometimes get so busy that we don’t take time to sharpen the axe

Hard work, determination and energy can accomplish only so much. Sometimes what a worker needs to do most is, “sharpen the axe”

How do we do this when we have so much to do and so little time to do it? We can go for specialized training, receive addition education, or attend seminars and conferences, however there are some simple practical Biblical guide-lines that will make us more effective.

Dedicate your work to God

Pray for wisdom.

Trust in His direction.

Get enough rest.

Dedicate your work to God.

What are the motives behind your work?

Professional enhancement?

More money?


What you should do as a Christian, is dedicate your work to Lord and seek to honour Him in what you do.

Proverbs 16:3 (Amp)

Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him], And your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance].

Colossians 3:23-24.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Pray for wisdom

Knowledge and skill are good, but most often wisdom in how to proceed most effectively with our work is even better.

James 1:5-8.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 4: 13-15.

Now listen, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

Trust in His direction.

Often our work is complex, and there are many alternatives we could pursue.

Which is the best, most efficient, least time consuming direction to take? We may not know, but God does.

Proverbs 3: 5-10.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Proverbs 16:9.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Get enough rest.

Sometimes when pressed by deadlines, we feel tempted to work longer and sacrifice sleep. That might work for a short time, but eventually the lack of much needed rest will take it’s toll.

Psalm 127:2 (TLB)

It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest.

Get enough rest.

Mark 6:31. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.

Exodus 23:12. Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.

Mark 2:27. Then he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

The rest our bodies need.

This does not mean that we should be sleeping on the job.

There are some Christians who may be “sleeping on the job.” If so, this is not to comfort them.

Remember that Jesus told the disciples to watch and pray when he found them sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane.

We know that it is important for our bodies to get a proper night’s rest, and if we don’t, there are unpleasant consequences.

But if physical rest is important to our physical well being, spiritual rest is even more important to our spiritual well being.

Rest in God.

Psalm 62:1-2.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 116:7.

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Canaan and the “Rest of God”.

Hebrews 4:1.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

The kind of faith that enables us to enter into God’s rest is a faith that first demands that we rest from relying on our own works. Then the writer to the Hebrews seemingly contradicts himself by telling us to make every effort:

Hebrews 4:10–11.

For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

Biblical faith involves our submissiveness to God. We cease our self-efforts to earn salvation and the promised eternal rest, and we “make every effort to enter that rest” by choosing to depend solely on God, to trust Him implicitly, to yield totally to Him in obedience.

The “Rest of God”.

Deuteronomy 12:7-10.

There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you. But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.

Pruning, Prioritizing, Praying, Praising.

We have looked at some simple biblical principles as to how to sharpen our axe, here are the guidelines for a few more.


Signs That You Might Be Overcommitted

 You feel deadened and drained more than enlivened and fulfilled. Much of life feels like a series of chores.

 You feel chronically resentful of particular commitments and obligations, and/ or you all too often find yourself feeling cranky and irritable.

 You can’t find time to eat a real meal or nourish yourself fully.

 You feel tired most of the time but can’t seem to get to bed as early as you need to.

Sharpening your axe

 You feel disdainful of someone who gets eight hours of sleep.

 You get sick more than usual (and/ or, once you get sick, you don’t recover as quickly as usual).

 You get headaches more often than usual.

 Your calendar is packed, with no room for spontaneity or small pleasures

 You feel as if your attention is splintered with the result that you aren’t engaging in things as deeply as you’d like and/ or not attending to people and to moments as fully as you’d like. You rarely feel fully present, focused.

 You find yourself increasingly reliant on caffeine (or other stimulants).

 People tell you (and/ or you yourself acknowledge) that you’ve neglected your relationships or your responsibilities to a degree or for a duration that is uncharacteristic for you and/ or problematic for others.


The cares of this life will choke your spiritual life.

We hear the word preached every Sunday. Why is it then that the very word we hear produces little or no fruit in our lives? Why is it that we can’t tell what the word was that was spoken to us on Sunday when Monday comes? We have our hearts set on our job or our hobbies rather than on seeking God and knowing Him. Be careful, the goals and cares that overwhelm and become the main focus of your heart, will steal your life away from God!

His word will produce no fruit in your life because it can’t take root through all the clutter and cares you filled your heart with, instead of filling it with His word. John 15:2

Every branch in me that beareth

not fruit he taketh away…

Cast your cares on the Lord.

Psalm 55:22.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

1 Peter 5:7.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you

Matthew 11:28-29.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.


Our priorities should not be determined by the needs or demands of others, but by time spent in the presence of the Lord.

Jesus was abrupt and offensive at times, the following is one incident, but we don’t have record of all He did and said.

Matthew 15:21-18.

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly. Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us. He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. The woman came and knelt before him. Lord, help me! she said. He replied, It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs. Yes it is, Lord, she said. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus said to her, Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted. And her daughter was healed at that moment.

A need is not a call, learn to say no.

Do you know your calling, if not you will run around trying to satisfy demands and meet needs.

Steve Jobs (Famous quote)

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

Steve Jobs was well known for always wearing the same black turtleneck, jeans and sneakers to reduce decision fatigue and increase his focus.

A need is not a call, learn to say no.

I used to do that I no longer do.

The Effective Pastor: His first priority is his own personal life. As a spokesman for God to man and as a representative of his people before God, he must be a man of prayer and a man of the Book. These priorities must be safeguarded at all cost.

Acts 6:1-4. In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.


Sometimes there is so much to do and so many responsibilities that we don’t know where to start.

CBN Devotional: God honours us when He is honoured as our top priority. He’s jealous of us (Deuteronomy 4:24). For so much of my life I was scared of letting go; I wanted control. But I at last understood that I just need to trust Him. Plain and simple. No, it’s not as if God doesn’t want us to try at anything in life. He just wants us to do it His way the first time, all the time. Of course He wants us to succeed, but He wants to prove that it is His strength in each of us, because we are nothing on our own. So I encourage you: Let Jesus Christ be at the forefront of your thoughts and the guide of your heart. He’ll put everything else into place.


What does it mean to seek God's face?

If you pay close attention to someone's face you can see a lot of things. In their eyes you can see if they are at peace. In their countenance you can see if they are happy, sad, or indifferent. You can tell what they think about you. When you are seeking God's face you are seeking His heart and His mind.

David was anointed King because

1 Samuel 13:14. "the Lord sought out a man after His own heart..."

God promises you:

Jeremiah 29:13. "You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek me with all your heart"

The problem is most people that are "seeking God" are seeking His hands, not His heart. They are seeking what God can do for them.


Their prayers to Him consist of please heal, please give, please fix...

This is not "seeking God" and this is definitely not "seeking His face." In fact, in order to seek God's face we need to step way out of our daily routine and comfort zone.

We have to be ready to set aside any ideas and thoughts we already have about God. We have to be ready to accept anything that God reveals to us.


Before God reveals himself to us, he reveals ourselves to us as we are often very deceived about our condition and think of ourselves too highly.

Isaiah 6.

Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.

Luke 5:8.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus knees and said, Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!

Job 42:4-6.

You said, Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.


We are changed as we spend time in the presence of God.

We must not make the mistake of trying to get to the place where we feel worthy of approaching God, we are not try change ourselves so that we can come into His presence, but we are to come into his presence to change.

Psalm 26:2. Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

Psalm 139:1-24

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. …..


Isaiah 40:27-31.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hid from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Be aware of who you are worshipping.

Basic to true worship is the reality of meeting with God. But if you want to meet with God, he sets the terms.

Psalm 24:3-5.

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his heart to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.

James 4:8.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded.

Where there is insincerity, dishonesty and deception, true worship is not possible. I have met too many professing Christians who love to participate in emotionally charged worship, but are dishonest and lack integrity in their dealings with others.

Stephen Charnock (a English Puritan Presbyterian clergyman)

We may be truly said to worship God, though we lack perfection; but we cannot be said to worship Him if we lack sincerity.


Which of the following approaches do you take to corporate worship?

Sleep till last possible minute before having to get ready for church, drive onto campus just as service is beginning, grab coffee while singing is going on, and walk into the service bleary-eyed and trying to find a seat, getting your bearings and figuring out what is going on just as the last song ends.

Arrive prayed up, knowing verses and songs so you can express yourself well and have the sensitivity to hear the voice of God. You can continue to have limited, dull, lifeless experiences, OR you can take the steps to prepare your heart and mind to encounter the Holy Spirit in a life-transforming and church- revolutionizing way. Approach Sunday morning corporate worship expecting something incredible to happen!


Worship is a response.

It isn’t a list of songs or a dedicated period of time on Sunday morning. Worship is what happens when we catch of glimpse of who God is. It is what happens when we realize what He is doing in and through us. When we see Him, we will naturally respond by being in awe. When we see Him, we can’t help but to fall to our knees, surrendering ourselves to His majesty.

Maybe our worship experience is a little flat because we don’t have anything to respond to. Maybe we have crowded him out of our lives, leaving no room for Him to work the miracles that only He can work. Really. When was the last time you took a leap of faith, having no handrails to hold on to, and you just had to trust that HE was in charge of the result?

What does that look like? For me it is often giving when I have no money. Serving when I have no time. Sharing when I have no patience. Speaking out when I don’t have the words. Standing when I have no courage.

It is when I can’t that He proves that He can.

He works. I worship.


Corporate worship is only an overflow of your private worship?

If we are only worshiping at Sunday morning services, something is wrong. Private worship (meaning personal worship outside of the church) is the necessary fuel for strong and passionate corporate worship. Don’t we believe in the biblical truth that worship is a 24/ 7 kind of thing? (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Jesus reminded us in John chapter 4 when he was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, that worship doesn’t only take place in a building or church. Rather it’s a personal aspect of our faith that is without walls. Jesus is our well when we’re thirsty. He is our portion and our supply. why do we only wait until Sunday morning to ‘worship?’

The challenge before us, is to take time out of our day, and spend time in worship. Your private worship will only add and accentuate your corporate worship.

How much time are you spending in private worship?


Malachi 1:6-14.

Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord Almighty, and I will accept no offering from your hands.

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord Almighty.

But you profane it by saying, The Lord’s table is defiled, and, Its food is contemptible.

And you say, What a burden! and you sniff at it contemptuously, says the Lord Almighty.

When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?

says the Lord....

The “Rest of God” Isaiah 30:1-18.

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses. Therefore you will flee! You said, We will ride off on swift horses. Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Moses and the “Rest of God”.

Exodus 33:12-17.

Moses said to the LORD, You have been telling me, Lead these people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, I know you by name and you have found favour with me. If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.

The LORD replied, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

Then Moses said to him, If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?

And the LORD said to Moses, I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.

Paul a prisoner of the Lord.

We were enemies of God and have been conquered and taken captive by His love, no longer subject to our own whims, desires and pleasures, but His prisoners to obey Him and do His bidding.

There is no need for fear as He is in charge and will lead and direct.

(By William Earnhardt)

Now I have no doubt Paul wrote because God told him to, and it got me to thinking about Paul’s circumstances and one thing I have always noticed: While being persecuted and in prison Paul never thought of himself as a victim of circumstances. He never even though of himself as a victim of the Jews or Romans while in prison. Paul writes,

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.. Ephesians 3:1.

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you… Ephesians 4:1.

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: 2 Timothy 1:8.

Paul a prisoner of the Lord.

Paul never refers to being a prisoner of the Romans or Jews.

Even while in prison Paul saw himself as a prisoner of the Lord! He knew he was exactly where God wanted him to be. Paul did most of his writing from prison. If he had been free to travel and talk to people in person, he would not have written so much, and we would not have had all of his writings preserved in the New Testament that we have today.

Paul was well aware of how an angel freed Peter from prison. Paul was well aware of how Philip just disappeared from one place and appeared in another. Paul knew that the iron bars and soldiers were not really holding him there. He knew he was right where God needed him to be, so he calls himself a prisoner of the Lord instead of a prisoner of man or circumstances.


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