And after Jesus had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.
Life gets busier and busier, doesn’t it? Do you ever feel like you are working harder and harder and not really getting what you’d hoped in return for your hard work? I’m not even talking from a monetary perspective. Many of us set out each day, we eagerly jump right into work. But as the day goes on, we become tired and inefficient. The weekend comes, and we keep right on working, slogging through tasks that seem to take longer than they should. Ever wonder why our best intentions go awry when it comes to working “tirelessly”? The problem is that no one can work tirelessly. Work, by definition, eventually makes us tired.
I came across this story that I would like to share with you:
A young and well-intentioned woodcutter got a job with a good salary and decent work conditions. And so, the woodcutter was determined to do his best for the boss. His boss gave him and axe and on his first day, the woodcutter cut down 15 trees. The boss was pleased and said: “Well done, good work!” Highly motivated, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but could only cut 13. The third day he tried even harder, but only 11 trees were chopped own. Day after day, he tried harder, but he cut down fewer trees. “I must be losing my strength,” the woodcutter thought. He apologized to the boss, claiming he could not understand why. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been too busy cutting down trees,” said the woodcutter. He sharpened his axe and immediately was back to 15 trees a day. Since then, he begins the day by sharpening his axe.
The lesson here is that no one works “tirelessly.” We all need to reenergize ourselves. Renewed energy is found in many ways. Here are a few:
1.) PRAYER—Prayer sharpens our spiritual axe. It softens the hard. It helps to tame the temper. Taking some time each day to pray provides needed energy. Why set out on a task alone when you can set about it walking in step with God. Even Christ took time alone to pray and to recharge.
2.) Rest—I feel like a hypocrite writing this because I confess I don’t always take the time to rest. Whether it is sleeping a decent amount or taking some time away from work each week, it is important to rest and recharge. Sometimes it’s easier to get farther by sprinting a short distance and then resting than running at a very slow clip.
3.) Encouraging others to rest—Most of us encourage others—our spouses and our children—to work harder, not to work less hard. What we need to do is encourage them to work hard and then rest, not to just keep working hard. We need to encourage one another to take the time we need in order to recharge.
4.) Inconsequential activity—A doctor recently encouraged me to do a half-hour of inconsequential activity each day. Most of the things we do have consequences—there are high stakes at work, parenting, driving, etc. The stakes are low when it comes to watching TV or reading. We need to do some activity that has no consequence if we finish it or do it well.
The woodcutter was not short on energy, nor desire. He had high energy and a great desire to perform well. If anything, he could have used a little bit of humility, to realize even he needed to take breaks. And he could have used a little dose of reality, that his axe needed sharpening. Thankfully that was provided in a gentle way by his boss and what a difference it made. Let us gently remind one another about the need to recharge, especially spiritually. Let us encourage one another to do our best but also to work smarter, not necessarily harder.
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved. How long will you set upon a man to shatter him, all of you, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his eminence. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Men of low estate are but a breath, men of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no confidence in extortion, set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God; and that to Thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For Thou dost not requite a man according to his work. Psalm 62
Put in a good day of work today (Friday) and sharpen your axe with some rest (Saturday), worship (Sunday), prayer (every day) and some inconsequential activity (every day) as well.