There once was a young man who wanted to be hired by a lumber company, and so he went to the foreman and asked for a job. The foreman asked, â€œyoung man, do you have your own axe?â€ the young man said, â€œyesâ€ â€“ then the foreman said, â€œthis is Bill, if you can keep up with him, then you can have a job.â€ The young man looked Bill over, he saw that he was obviously an old man and the boy thought, â€œno problem â€“ I know I can cut down twice as many trees as this old man!â€
So the two men started cutting down trees. The old man would cut a tree and then the young man would cut a tree. About every few trees, the young man would notice that Bill would sit down and stop cutting. At those times the young man would swing even harder â€“ â€œnow is my chance to get another tree down.â€
Hour after hour went by, and at the end of the day, the foreman went back and counted the trees. Bill had twice as many trees as the young man. â€œWhat, how?â€ said the young man, “I worked twice as hard, I never rested, I just kept cutting, and kept cutting.” And at this point, Bill said, â€œMay I see your axe, and he held it next to his axe â€“ son,” Bill said, “you didnâ€™t stop to sharpen your axe. Boy, you can swing away, but it will take you forever to cut down a tree with this dull thing.â€
Prayer, Bible Study, and the Holy Spiritâ€™s presence in our lives keeps our spiritual life sharp, but we have to stop the work of ministry and service to him; we have to stop taking the kids from this to that; we have to stop being busy, and sit back (preferably every day) and sharpen the axe. If we donâ€™t we end up working very hard, but getting no where.Â It is so easy to work, work, and swing away, thinking that we are getting ahead, only to realize that we are getting further and further behind. Let’s look at the importance of being sharpened by theÂ Spirit, and strengthened by His Word.
The school of the prophets had grown to the point that they needed to provide new facilities.Â As they are in the process of cutting down trees to build their new home, one of the prophets loses his axe head in the Jordan River.Â He becomes distraught because the axe head was borrowed.Â He cries out to Elisha and the great prophet performs a miracle and the axe head floats to the surface and the man puts out his hand and picks it up.
The man who lost the axe head, is engaged in a great work.Â He is busy!Â Yet, if there is a flaw in his activity, it is found in this: he was working, but he was not watching!Â As a consequence, he lost the axe head and was unable to continue his work.Â He had lost the cutting edge.
How Do We Get Our Cutting Edge Back?
â€œ1 The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.” And he said, “Go.” 3 Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” “I will,” Elisha replied. 4 And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. “Oh, my lord,” he cried out, “it was borrowed!” 6 The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 7 “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.â€
If we think of the axe head representing the power to get the job done then no man can chop down tress by flailing at them with an axe handle. Â It takes the sharp, biting power of the axe head to eat through the wood and fell the tree.
In the church we need to realize that without our cutting edge, that is the power of the Holy Spirit, we will never be able to serve the Lord properly, nor will we be able to make a dent in this world for the gospel.Â We need God and His power to get the job done for His glory.
Many times there are people who are so good at what we do that they can operate in the power of the flesh and no one notices the absence of God. Â However, while we may be able to operate our churches, our programs and our lives apart from the power of God, we will never make inroads into the world apart from the power of God.Â We will never be able to serve the Lord in an effective manner until we perform that service in His power alone.
Care That You Have Lost Your Edge (v. 5)
As soon as this man feels the axe head fly off, he cries out in despair.Â He knowsÂ that he cannot continue what he is doing until he recovers the axe head.Â The first step in recovering the power of the Spirit is coming to the placeÂ where we know we do not have it.Â I am convinced that many people walkÂ through this life thinking they are filled with the Spirit, when they have lost HisÂ power and do not even know it.Â They are trying to live for God and to do HisÂ work in power of the flesh and do not even realize that He is nowhere around.
This condition of many modern churches, and modern church people, rivals that of ancient Laodicea, Revelation 3:15-20 â€œI know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarmâ€”neither hot nor coldâ€”I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.â€
Do we care enough to search our hearts, our lives and the life of our church and discover whether or not what we are doing is of man or of the Spirit?Â Are we concerned about the presence and power of God being in the midst of His church?Â We are always congratulating ourselves on the fact that Matthew 3:20 â€œFor where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.â€Â The Spirit of the Lord is in us.Â When we show up at church, He shows up at church!Â I am not talking about His mere presence.Â I am talking about His manifest presence.Â Where God not only shows up, but when He also displays His mighty hand! Do we care?
Confess That You Have Lost Your Edge (v. 5)
When this man realized the axe head was gone, he immediately told Elisha what had happened.Â He confessed the fact that he had lost the cutting edge.Â By admitting that the axe head was gone, he was also admitting to the fact that it had become loose and he had not bothered to tighten it.
After we discover that we are lacking something, we must come to the place where we can admit that lack to the Lord and to one another.Â This is a very hard thing, for us to do is to admit that we have allowed this happen in our lives.
We want everyone to think that we are spiritual giants; we need nothing; and that we are in control.Â Where are the honest hearts that will cry out and say, â€œI just donâ€™t have the fire I used to have!Â I am not as close to the Lord as I used to be!Â I need the power of God operating through me to get the job done!â€
What we need are honest hearts that will tell the truth about our condition.Â We just need to come clean and tell the Lord the truth about where we are!Â He already knows, but He wants us to know as well.Â Before we will ever recover the cutting edge as individuals and as a church, we must first come to the place where we can honestly admit that we canâ€™t do it, but God can!Â We must find that place of total and absolute dependence upon God and His power!Â When we do, we will see souls saved.Â We will see the manifest power of God in our services.Â We will experience His power in our midst!
Comprehend That You Have Lost Your Edge (v. 5)
One of the reasons this man is so upset is because the axe head didnâ€™t even belong to him.Â He had borrowed it from someone in order to be able to help build the building.Â Now, losing an axe head may not seem that big of a deal to you and me.Â We can drive to Loweâ€™s and buy them by the gross if we wish.Â However, in that day tools and other things made of iron were very scarce and in short supply.Â This is illustrated by a story from 1 Samuel 13:22 â€œSo on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.â€
Plus the fact that it was a borrowed tool would require this man to replace the axe head, which he obviously could not do since he had to borrow it in the first place.Â The fact that a person would lend this man a tool of such value was a sign that the owner of the axe head trusted the young prophet.Â He did not want to violate that trust!
When we are working for the Lord, as we should, we are operating with borrowed power.Â The power to serve the Lord does not come from within our own human nature, but it comes from the Lord above, Acts 1:8 â€œBut you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Therefore, we need to be especially careful with the power entrusted to us.Â May we never take it for granted. Â May we never come to the place where we act as though nothing can take our power away.Â God help us to never violate His trust!Â Just as surely as the Lord gives His power, He can retract it again.
If we are going to serve the Lord and see eternal results from our service, we must accept the fact that we are unable to do the work within ourselves.Â We need power from above.Â We need borrowed power.Â Yet, let us also understand that the same God Who so freely saves the sinner, will also freely give His power to those who seek it and are qualified to receive it.
Â Getting Your Edge Back Involves Going Back (v. 6)
As soon as Elisha heard about the problem, he called the prophet back to the place where the axe head was lost.Â Before it could be recovered, they had to go to the place where it had been lost.Â Before we can recover the power of God in our lives and in our church, we must return to that place where we lost the power.Â That is, we must uncover the reason why the power has been forfeited.Â Is it because of some sin that has been committed?Â Is it because our priorities have become misplaced?Â Is it because we are guilty of trusting the arm of the flesh instead of the power of the Spirit?Â Where did we lose the power?
If we were honest, we could all pinpoint areas of our lives that stand between us and our having the glorious power of God on our lives.Â What we need to do is to backtrack and discover where we wandered off course.Â We need to go back to that point and make a course correction.
Getting Your Edge Back Involves Confrontation (v. 6) Â Â Â Â Â
Elishaâ€™s response to the situation is to cut down a tree and cast it into the river.Â When he does, the axe head floats to the surface.Â A miracle occurs when human means are abandoned and divine help is sought.
When we come to the place where we acknowledge the loss of the cutting edge, there is only one way to get it back.Â There must be a confrontation with the divine!Â First, there must be a tree involved.Â The tree I am referring to is the cross of Jesus.Â When we get serious about dealing with our sins and shortcomings, the Lord will respond with forgiveness and restoration, 1 John 1:9 â€œIf we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.â€
Then, there must be a total abandonment of all human effort.Â Trusting a stick to make and axe head float sounds crazy, but it worked!Â For us to stop trying to do the work of the Lord, to just step back, place it all in His hands and trust Him completely is difficult.Â However, it is the only solution.
Friends, one of the primary steps in recovering the cutting edge of power in the church is a return to Godâ€™s altar.Â When the church deals with her sins, and the way between us and the Lord is cleared of all obstructions, we can count on the return of His power and glory in the house of God.
Getting Back Our Edge Involves Commitment (v. 7)
The last thing this young man did was to reach down and take the axe head in his hand.Â He committed to receiving by faith that which the Lord had done.Â This may be the end of the story as far as the biblical record is concerned, but we can be sure of what happened next.Â This young man firmly reattached the axe head to the handle and went back to work chopping down trees.Â He had recovered the cutting edge and was able to do what needed to be done.
God has power available for those who will reach out and take it by faith.Â When we come to the place where we are tired of the same old same old and are willing to handle our loss of the cutting edge in Godâ€™s manner, He will give us back the power to do His work His way.Â However, it is not for the faint-hearted!Â It is for the faith-hearted, alone.
Where is the cutting edge in your life? For most of us, it is at the bottom of the river, totally beyond our reach and beyond our ability to recover.Â Can we get it back?Â Yes!Â If we will take the steps we have been given in Scripture.Â Are you willing?