“If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.”
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon pens his thoughts about life, love, wealth, friends, health, and wisdom. He uses a series of contrasting images to set the unwise alongside the wise. One such image that is crystal clear is the one he writes of in verse ten. The image is of a person taking on the job of cutting wood, with the ax being the tool of choice. As this person continually swings the ax against the wood, over time a dulling occurs. The longer this person works without sharpening the ax, the more strength is needed to make a difference. Solomon says that “wisdom brings success”. In this case, the wise move would be to stop, sharpen the ax, and continue the job. In essence, work smarter and not harder.
This is a thought worthy of consideration. As we serve in the ministry of the local church, we must regularly evaluate what strength we are working under. It is very easy to set out on a work for the Lord under our own strength and neglect the greater strength available to us. Our tendency is to swing, swing, swing harder, and all the while wonder why we are not making progress. With wisdom bringing success, our goal should be to do what is wise and seek what is wise.
If we think about this on the practical level it becomes clear. The person swinging the ax is you. The blade of the ax represents power. The wood to be chopped is the ministry to be completed (teaching believers, witnessing to the lost, healing of relationships, restoration of families, etc). The real issue of ministry that is God-honoring is the power by which it is done. It is possible for us to attack ministry under our own human and limited power (the dull ax blade). On the other hand, we can attack ministry with God’s divine and unlimited power (the sharp ax blade). One choice will result in frustration, stress, anger, and a desire to give up. The other choice will lead to success, fulfillment, peace, and a desire to continue. It is really is a matter of working smarter and not harder. As Solomon wrote, “wisdom brings success”. We must be wise enough in the Lord to recognize the blade dulling.