Tabi and Abe on Sharp Axes

Here is a copy of a speech that I helped a 16 year old at my church develop. It was both fun and rewarding to help her with this and watch it and her develop over time. But it was even more interesting to see how her life suddenly got crazy busy while she was working on a speech about busyness and how we can be prepared for it and handle it. Not avoid it. Be ready for it. Because there are times, and perhaps even entire seasons, of life, where it’s both unavoidable and important to do what we are doing.

She sent me another quote a week or so after the fact from Abe Lincoln: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Good job, Tabi. I’m very proud of you.


Am I too busy to serve the Lord?
By Tabi Layton

 

Some years ago a young man looking for work approached a foreman of a logging crew and asked him for a job. “It depends,” replied the foreman. “Let’s see you take this one down.”

The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. The foreman was impressed and exclaimed, “You can start on Monday!”

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday rolled by. Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today.”

Startled, the young man asked,” I thought you paid on Fridays.”

“Normally we do,” answered the foreman, “but we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last place on Wednesday.”

“But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and I’ve even worked through my coffee breaks!”

The foreman, sensing the boy’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your ax?”

The young man replied, “Well, no sir. I’ve been working too hard to take the time.”

This young man did not understand the importance of sharpening his ax. He was so busy working as hard as he could that he neglected the most important thing that made His work effective. This is a problem Christians are faced with, as well; we become so busy serving the Lord that we often lose sight of whose glory we are working for.

We should never be too busy to serve the Lord; every breath we take is a gift from Him. When we do become busy, it should be to further God’s kingdom, not centered on worldly interests. This can sometimes seem really difficult, putting God first in all we do, but that is where God wants to be. Serving Him doesn’t require training; all we need is a willing heart. Sometimes a simple e-mail or text message is what God chooses to show His love through.

However, we must be careful to make sure that our busyness does not deteriorate our relationship with others and with God. We can’t let our service become routine, something we think we have to do. The beauty of serving God is that we want to, because of all He has done for us. It’s a way of saying ‘I love you’ back to our Maker who says it to us by reaching down and picking us up when we fall. When our actions match what we say, it screams to others that it is something very close to our hearts.

The balance of matching our actions with our words can be difficult, but it is necessary. James 2:14-17 is a great example of this importance: “What good is it, dear brothers, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

The balance comes when your relationship with God is continuously growing; you fall more in love with Him everyday. And because you have that amazing love for Him, you can’t help but serve the ones He came to save! The closer you become to God, the more you yearn to be like him. In John 13 we find Jesus Christ himself acting in service to those he loves. This isn’t normal service, this is loving service, and it has special qualities that make it unique and effective. You begin to want to serve others because of the deep love God puts in your heart.

It is important that we maintain these qualities by keeping our ax sharp and ready for use. To keep our ax sharp, we need to grow closer in our relationship to God. As we love God and serve others with the same love, our service becomes a praise offering to God and an example to those around us.

1 Peter 4: 9-11 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.”

In these verses, verse 9 is the one that catches my attention, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” We are supposed to offer it, not wait until we are asked. If someone has a need that the Holy Spirit is prompting us to meet, we should do all we can to help out. It doesn’t matter if we had plans or if we are too busy, we are to drop everything to go help those who need it, and not complain about it.

Our service to others is the same as our service to God, and if that’s true, then why should we grumble about serving our Savior, the Creator of the universe? In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells his disciples, “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This is something we often forget when presented with an opportunity to serve others.

These passages come back to one main point: that our actions and words should reflect God. We are used to administer God’s grace, to speak His words, and use the strength He gives to serve. All of this is to bring glory to God, to bring praise to Jesus Christ. If we are careful to sharpen our ax, we can work efficiently and our service can be a joy to us and to others, while deepening our relationship with our Maker all the while. Our service is a gift to and from God, and when we become busy, it becomes all the more important to keep our focus on God.

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