I remember these hilarious commercials back in NZ for the energy drink Lift Plus, that were based on young guys in suburban New Zealand trying to get the best of each other. The Tagline: SHARPEN UP.
Yesterday I met with the creative collective that I’m a part of called KREE8, and we discussed “sharpening up” within the context of this passage:
If the ax is dull
and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed
but skill will bring success.
(Ecclesiastes 10:10 NIV)
I heard a wonderful message from pastor Erwin Macmanus of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, where he talked about this very passage. In his talk based on this passage he shared an allegory before he leapt into asking 3 questions.
The Chop Comp
The allegory was that of a woodcutting competition. I don’t know whether in your locality, woodcutting contests are regularly publicized, but in NZ they very much are. Pastor Erwin shared of a contest where there were two contestants battling one another to chop their logs. The first contestant went at it wildly with all his might. His start was fierce and produced very promising initial results. The second contestant also gave it all he had, but upon reaching the middle of the log with his axe, he walked away with his axe off to the side to begin grinding it for sharpening. The first contestant appeared to have this one in the bag, he was now 3 quarters of the way through, when he began to realize two things:
1) He was growing tired
2) His axe was becoming dull
The second contestant returned looking rather refreshed. Not as much effort was required in sharpening his axe, so he had strength and a newly sharpened axe to complete the task. He had learnt to work smarter, and won the contest.
So in our context, how do we “sharpen up”?
Here are Pastor Erwin’s 3 questions that he posed to those who desire to get their blades sharpened away from the chopping.
Are you doing what God created you to do? God gives us many clues and signposts (skill, passion, calling, wise counsel, and of course prayer) that act as indicators in answering this question somewhat for you.
Are you doing what God created you to do the way he created you to do it? Pastor Erwin spoke about moving from imitation to emulation, understanding that initially God allows you to have models in your life that you can begin to follow and copy, but from there one should find nuances in your own capability, culture and creativity that move you from being a carbon copy to a beautiful original piece of creation.
Are you doing what God created you to do with the one who created you to do it? This for me of the three is the most crucial point of sharpening up. Having time to reflect. Not rushing through life. On one level it’s to chew on what has been shown to you; to assess your circumstances. Like a painter of a masterpiece who walks back a few steps from his or her canvas to see the big picture. There is no one who sees the big picture, or has quite as big a picture as the Creator of the universe. Spend time away from being on the grind, to reflect, chew and savour what God is doing, that in that time He by his grace shall empower you to continue chopping away at your destiny.
How will you sharpen up today?