Restoring Our Cutting Edge
July 1, 2004 - How many times in our lives do we come to a place of feverish activity—busily doing the work that we think is right to do, that we are qualified to do, that we could do without even thinking? We can often do church that way, can we not? We get so busy in our activities in church, yet we neglect the most important one: daily time in God's Word.
by Cliff Barrows
It reminds me of the experiment by a French scientist called "the processional caterpillar experiment."
Caterpillars were placed on the rim of a flower pot and went around seven days and seven nights, 24 hours a day, without stopping. Finally, the caterpillars fell dead of starvation—even though the scientist had placed their favorite food in the center of the flower pot within inches of their reach. Going in circles, they missed their life-giving food.
Like those caterpillars, it is so easy for us to go around and around in feverish activity, starving ourselves of the life-giving Word of God that is so vitally important. We need to do away with the things that busy our minds and hearts.
In 2 Kings 6:1-7 we have a young man with his student buddies going to a "School of Evangelism" that the prophet Elisha was holding—but they didn't have enough room.
They had a great vision. "Let's build a bigger place," they said. "Let's go down by the Jordan and each cut down a tree, and we'll build a log meeting place." Elisha said, "That's a good idea. Go ahead." One of them said, "How about going with us? We may need some counsel and help, and we need your presence." So Elisha went with them.
Now get the picture. They're chopping away with their axes, working feverishly, doing the work of building this new dormitory. And all of a sudden the axe head flies off from one guy's axe. He lost his cutting edge.
As I've studied this passage and pondered it, I've thought about how it represents my own activity when I am so busy doing something I know how to do. This man didn't lose his ability to cut trees; he lost his cutting edge doing the very thing for which he needed it most!
Some of us can be so active in our work, even in good things, that we lose our cutting edge. We haven't taken time to keep ourselves sharp through the Word of God. We're swinging our arms, but we have only a show without any production at all. The cutting edge is gone. Has that ever happened to you?
I think of my own involvement in the music ministry. It has been more than 70 years since I led my first song in church. While I've never forgotten how to lead, I've thought to myself lately, how many times have I done it simply because I know how? There needs to be joy and the overflowing anointing of the Spirit of God, so that it's not just a performed routine.
A good woodsman watches his axe and checks to be sure that the axe head is on tightly. This young man took it for granted that the axe head was securely fixed, and he neglected to check it. There is a little wedge at the end of the axe handle that you can tap down to keep it tight. If it starts to work loose, you know that you need to strike it again to tighten it. Has the cutting edge of your life slipped? Have you neglected to check it and keep it tight?
The young man in 2 Kings lost his cutting edge. When the axe head fell into the river, he cried out to Elisha, "Alas, Master, it was borrowed." Elisha asked, "Where did it fall?" The youth showed him the place. Elisha took a branch and cast it into the water, and a miracle happened. That iron axe head began to float to the surface! There's no power on earth that could get an axe head to float; it took a miracle of God.
Notice the branch. Jesus is referred to as the Branch of the seed of David. He was the Branch who came into this world and died on the cross. Take the miracle of the cross and put it into the life of a lost, powerless person, and that life is restored. The miracle of the Branch can happen again. That axe head began to swim, and Elisha said, "Grab it. Reach out and take it." The young man did—and his cutting edge was restored.
We need to take hold of the Word of God to restore our cutting edge. Psalm 119 is a wonderful description of the Word and what it should mean to us. It tells us the Word of God is a chart and a map, a sure anchor, a light for our paths and a joyous treasure. It describes the Word as more valuable than silver and gold, sweeter than honey, perfect, wonderful and just. The Word of God is our source of blessing. It gives us direction, keeps us pure and guards us from sin. It brings us delight. It restores our joy and health. It keeps us from stumbling on the trail. It is our only source of hope, it is our comfort and it gives us great peace.
How can we study the Word?
- We have the wonderful privilege of hearing the Word taught, and Bible teaching tapes and ministries also are available. Take advantage of these resources.
- We can read the Word and meditate upon it. Joshua 1:8 says, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (KJV).
When I was about 13 years of age and attending the Mt. Hermon Bible Conference in California, Dawson Trotman, the founder of The Navigators ministry, sat me down on a rock by a creek bed. He told me, "Cliff, the most important book in your life is the Bible. I want to encourage you to memorize it, to hide it in your heart. It will be the greatest source of strength, encouragement and help to you in every situation of your life, particularly in times of temptation." I have found this to be true; Dawson was so right.
- We can hide Scripture in our heart. I love the verse, "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11, KJV). How precious the Word has been to me through the years.
- Finally, we can obey it. How wonderful it is that we have the Bible to read, to hide in our heart and to obey.