Sharpening Your Ax

If the ax is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
Then he must use more strength;
But wisdom brings success. Ecclesiastes 10:10

So you want to cut down a tree. Is it worth the time to sharpen the ax before you use it? Even if it takes a few minutes and some effort?

ABSOLUTELY!

Please don’t waste your limited energy trying to do hard things without the best tools you can use. When you take a minute to plan the best way to tackle a project, you save time working as well as work itself. Time spent getting a little bit better at different skills will give you sharp tools in your tool box, preparing you for each task down the road.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser… Proverbs 9:9a

Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. Proverbs 19:20

The more you know and apply, the better you can do what you need to do. The wiser you are, the better you will be able to know what needs to be done.

Wisdom seeks teaching and absorbs it, and wisdom brings success.

Using Your Time Wisely

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

How do we make the best use of time? That’s a HUGE question, and one we will not cover completely. We discussed this briefly in an earlier post. But still there are a few more points to help us make the best use of our time today.

In the verses earlier in Ephesians 5, we can see more background on the “unwise” and “evil” from the verses above. As much as we would like to walk in sunshine each and every day — and though we DO walk in light if we are children of God — that does not mean the darkness is not real or present. Sin abounds. Part of walking wisely will involve the rejection of sin and acts of darkness and evil. We need to be careful to watch for habits that support what is wrong (i.e., laziness, gossip, selfishness). Getting together with a friend can be valuable and enriching time, or it can be a gossip session that tears both of you down. Taking care of our responsibilities is necessary, but only as an expression of our love for God and our neighbor — not at the expense of those loves! Guard your heart and home, and you will be using your time well.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:17

The next verse gives more detail on the foolish vs. wise contrast. If we are wise and making the best use of our time, we will be continually wrapping our minds around what the Lord’s will is. What has He said is right? What pleases Him? What will reflect His character and glorify Him most in any situation? This, of course, will take time in the Word — as much as you can wrestle into the schedule at this season of your life.

These parts of using your time well are harder than some others. Remember, although it can be a struggle, the reward is great!

 

Working Diligently

By Jim Odens

Jim Odens is a pastor in Minnesota, and the below post is an excerpt from a recent sermon in a series from Ecclesiastes. The entire recording is available online, as well.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:6

The uncertainty about which ventures we pursue will prosper and which ventures will fail should lead us to diligently apply ourselves to every venture and every opportunity God gives us.

There is no place for paralysis from fear of circumstances and possibilities in the life of a person who truly fears the Lord. There is also no place for inactivity because of laziness and sloth.

Rather, in the fear of the Lord there is great motivation to be persistently, actively abounding in our stewardship of the time, energy, money and other resources He has given us to use for His glory. It may be that some of our efforts will succeed more than others, but that is good reason to give ourselves to sowing both morning & evening! If what we sow in the morning does not bear much fruit, perhaps what we sow in the evening will. Or vice versa. Or perhaps both will succeed!

When we have acted patiently, prudently, yieldedly & diligently, we can leave the outcome in the Lord’s hands & be content with what He does.

Therefore, take advantage of every moment of every day the Lord gives you to trust Him, love Him, serve Him, worship Him, proclaim Him, obey Him in every aspect of your life (home, church, work, school, neighborhood, etc.) . . .

Don’t be hindered by concern about how it will turn out (for like the growth of the seeds sown in the ground, how things turn out is in the Lord’s hands). Instead do all you can in the Lord’s name, trusting that whatever He wants to do with your work is His will for His all-wise purposes.

Best Use of Time

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

How do we make the best use of time? That’s a HUGE question, and one we will not cover all today. Yet there are a few points to help us as we try to make the best use of our time today.

Wisdom

Most importantly, we need to apply wisdom. We must be wise to make the best decisions about how we spend our time. How do we do that?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

God wants us to be wise! He will give us the wisdom we need, as we honor and look to him. Scripture, the word of God, is full of His wisdom, ours for the asking. He will give us what we need each time we ask.

Time to Consider

Looking carefully does take time. We can’t assume it will magically happen as we stay busy with other things. We do need to take the time to think about our lives, what we are doing and why we are doing it. Time soaking in Scripture, time meditating on God’s word, time taking a deep breath before acting — these all help with making the best use of our time.

Remember Priorities

If we know what we should be doing and how we should be doing it in theory, but then we don’t DO it — we’ve missed the boat. Take your priorities — what you know is true and right — and apply that to your day.

Creating

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 ESV

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Genesis 1:31a ESV

She seeks wool and flax, and works with her hands with delight.
Proverbs 31:13 NASB

A few years ago, I designed and made a quilt with photos of hands doing a variety of things — from kneading bread to laying tile to holding butterflies. A final touch included stitching two phrases from the verses above onto the top and bottom border: “In the beginning, God created” and “she works with her hands with delight.”

Our desire to create and our joy when we do so is a reflection of the image of our Creator.

In my own experience, there is a little extra energy, beauty, and delight in the day when I have the opportunity to create anything — from a complete blog post to a beautiful dinner to a polished and accurate report to a finally-finished (Hooray!) studio space to an attractive dining table centerpiece. It can be big, the result of many hours of effort, or little, like putting a child’s gift of fresh-picked weeds flowers in a small glass jar on the sunny windowsill.

What have you created today? Comment below to share your delight.