In earlier years a woodsman with a double-edged axe across his shoulder went to a logging camp and asked for a job. He was a big and powerful man and his axe was sharp and clean. The foreman immediately hired him and sent him into the forest to cut down trees. The first day he cut more trees than all the other men combined. Everyone was impressed. The second day he cut fewer trees but still more than any other man on the job. The third day he cut less than the man who cut the least. On the fourth day he barely cut any trees at all. On the fifth day, the foreman called him in. “What’s happening? Your production has gone down each day.” The man said, “I don’t know. I’m working harder each day but can’t seem to cut as many trees.” “Let me see your axe,” the foreman said. “This is dull. When was the last time you sharpened it?” “Oh, I haven’t had time to sharpen my axe. I’m too busy using it.”
Solomon writes: Ecc 10:10 If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
Solomon says, wisdom is like swinging a sharpened axe.
If you’ve ever cleared land you know the difference in swinging a sharp axe and a dull axe. That difference is in the amount of effort you have to exert to cut down the trees. The sharpened axe provides a success we cannot achieve on our own.
Well, surely Solomon isn’t talking about clearing land. So why the axe analogy?
Heb 12:1 let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…
A runner comes up to the line wearing his sweats. The first thing he does is take off those encumbrances so he can run effectively. The application is removing things in our lives that hinder us living a successful life—the measure of that success is whether we do what Jesus has told us to do or not. He is the focal point of why we do this in the first place.
Here is the connection with Solomon’s axe. The word lay aside means to put them down, or like trees blocking our way, felling them. What is preventing us from wise living? It must be removed. Wait, those hinderances, you want me to chop them down? I thought I was to trust God and He’d do that for me.
One of the misnomers of faith is that trusting God is a passive exercise in inactivity. Read the Bible again. Faith is an action word, not a state of being. God said: Be still and know that I am God. But be still actually means let go. If you’ve tried to do that, you know letting go of the things that burden you takes effort. Like playing whack-a-mole.
Living in wisdom is an action not a condition or state of mind. Wisdom isn’t a resource but a lifestyle. We intentionally draw upon God’s wisdom.
1Thess 4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God…that you excel still more.
Walk encompasses how we live, act, think, respond.
For each of these writers our relationship with God is our lifestyle not a system of beliefs. What we believe, we do. All else is religious talk, Peter Lord said. How we walk demonstrates our faith and exposes whether we are being foolishness or wise. If you’ve ever watched a baby learning to walk, it takes much concentration and effort.
Saw an incredible sunrise this morning. Think about that. I’m sure you’ve seen some beautiful sunrises as well. Pizza. Chocolate Pie. Roller Coaster. Rainy day. Grandkids. What happened to the image of the sunrise you were thinking about? These other images got in the way. They distracted your focus on a sunrise.
Exercising wisdom takes spiritual effort.
- God wants us to trust Him. We don’t always want to do that. Trusting takes effort.
- He wants us to follow Him. We don’t always want to do that. Following takes effort.
- He wants us to adjust our life to reflect that we are Children of God. We don’t always want to do that. Adjusting our lives takes effort.
- He wants us to remove hindrances that interfere with how we run the race.
Don’t get confused into thinking my effort is my own ability.
When I was a kid, I was sent out to mow the lawn. Don’t know if you remember Monkey Grass, but it was an ornamental grass. Well, my Mom had lined our walkway with Monkey Grass. It got cut down. Why? I didn’t know what was regular grass and what was fancy grass. I had no wisdom to know the difference.
2Cor 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
Couple that adequacy with Eph 5:15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise. The adequacy for the godly life is expressed as godly wisdom. Which takes us back to Solomon’s axe.
Solomon said the axe is sharpened by wisdom and Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
Or in the words of Hebrews, the success of running the race requires removing any hindrance to keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
1Co 1:24 to those who are the called out ones, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Connect the dots: God provides the wisdom through His indwelling presence but expects us to use that wisdom in removing the hindrances that interfere with us going the direction He wants us to go.
Phil 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
The Christian life is a worked-out life. We are to work out what God has worked in.
2Pe 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
What does He expect in giving those provisions? To use them to live a godly life.
Rom 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,
The heart is the place from where the decisions are made as to not only how I will live, but whether I will as a Child of God. The heart is where that the battle of obedience rages.
Jer 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jer 17:5 Thus says the LORD, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.
It is the place from where we either seek God or turn away from God.
Prov 4:20-24 My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
Solomon says: we must guard our hearts. Protect them from invasive thoughts and desires that suggest pulling away from God’s best, thoughts that recommend foolishness over wisdom.
Pro 27:19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.
The belief is, what fills the heart shows up in the life. That’s why Paul said, we are doing the will of God from the heart. Eph 6:6
If I carry a bucket filled with water and bump into you, water’s going to spill out? What if I fill it with milk? Whatever fills the bucket is what’s going to slosh out of the bucket.
If I am angry, what’s coming out? If I am anxious, what’s coming out? If I am dishonest, what’s coming out? If I am controlled by the presence of God, what’s coming out?
Paul said many times: Eph 3:19 be filled up to all the fullness of God. Eph 5:18 be filled with the Spirit, Col 1:9-11 be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…
A mirror reflects what it sees or, if you will, what’s in it. So, the heart reflects what fills it. How we live is the reflection of what or Who controls our heart.
Prov 3:1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments
Wisdom is the sharpened axe removing the hindrances from an encumbered, self-absorbed life so we can run the race successfully.
Prov 6:20-23 My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life.
If you’ll permit me, what goes into our head is knowledge, information. But what goes into the heart is motivation, desire, response. Head knowledge doesn’t always affect me. I can read facts all day and not be moved. But what goes into my heart changes my life.
In early Biblical training I was told to ask: What does the Bible say? What is the information? Who, what, when and where. Later I discovered the greater truth is in What does the Bible mean? How does what it says affect me personally? What does God expect from me? What must I do to obey what God has said?
Solomon knew wisdom worked from the inside out. Prov 23:6 As a man thinks within himself, so is he. So, since the battle is on the inside, he said: Prov 23:26 Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.
When we give God our heart, we are giving Him control of our lives. In the matter of sovereignty that sounds awkward to give God something He already possesses. But in practical terms, we realize there is an ongoing battle inside for that control.
The forces that drove the woman caught in adultery into adultery controlled her life. Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” Why didn’t He say, “Because you are now forgiven, these forces are gone and you will never sin again?” Because the work He had done in her had to be worked out of her. “I have set you free. You are now able to live free. Now, go live free.”
“God has assumed full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.” Andrew Murray.
What does He expect from us? To yield our lives to Him. How many times have I yielded my life to Him! How many times have I removed the same hindrances that so easily encumber me! See, they come back and have to be removed again. My yielding is an ongoing process. But yielding to God isn’t a mental exercise. It’s a spiritual workout swinging the axe of sharpened by wisdom.
- Obeying God can be one of the hardest things we ever try to do.
- God doesn’t make us obey – that would defeat the definition of obedience as willful submission – but He commands it.
- For every spiritual encouragement to actively obey Him by removing hindrances to that obedience, there is a contrary, selfish desire telling us to rely on our own abilities.
- Our abilities are like swinging a dull axe with unrealistic expectations for success.
- Wisdom is taking the sharpened axe and removing all resistance to God’s will.