May 1, 2014

Sharpening A Spiritually Dull Life

May 1, 2014
The following is a brief challenge shared with our deacons by Pastor Mike Summers at our last leadership team meeting. We trust you will benefit from this biblical wisdom as well. 

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As a small boy I loved watching my great grandpa work in his garden. Each evening when he was finished weeding or hoeing or planting or harvesting he would meticulously clean, oil and sharpen the shovel or hoe that he used that day. I never understood why he took so much time caring for his ancient tools. But my grandpa knew that if he did not take the time to care for his tools then they would become rusted, pitted and dull. He knew that dull tools required the use of more strength.

Solomon used a proverb to describe the need to work with wisdom by frequently sharpening your tools so that you don’t wear yourself out.

If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success. - Ecclesiastes 10:10

What is true of the woodsman and his axe or the gardener and his shovel is also true of the Christian and his life. Our lives can become spiritually dull when we do not give time and attention to sharpen our spiritual edge. Living life with a spiritual dullness is like cutting a tomato with a butter knife—it leaves you with a mess! Our lives need to be spiritually sharp and useful for God. And to stay sharp spiritually we need to recognize when our spiritual edge is getting dull. How do you know if you are getting spiritually dull?



If you have grown spiritually tired from following God then you are spiritually dull. 

Spiritual weariness is not the result of serving God, but rather the result of serving God in our own strength. It is the Spiritless effort of depending on ourselves for strength that wears us out. When we try to live for God in our own strength we quickly burn out and this spiritual burnout reveals a spiritually dull edge. Many Christians foolishly respond to this by expending more effort—they try harder or seek to manufacture more strength. But what began in the Spirit is never perfected by the flesh.

If spiritual disciplines have become a duty then you are spiritually dull.

It is easy to get into the rut of "doing" devotions rather than giving heartfelt devotion to God. When our edge is dull almost every spiritual discipline becomes monotonous. A dull edge makes prayer dull and powerless, makes reading and studying God’s Word a bore, makes worshiping God a chore, and it makes fellowshipping with other believers undesirable.

If circumstances dominate your focus then you are spiritually dull. 

When we are dull spiritually molehills in life seem like huge mountains. A dull spiritual edge causes us to become overwhelmed by our circumstances and renders us incapable of seeing God's purpose for difficulty. When our spiritual edge is dull we are unable to rejoice in trials, give God thanks in everything and experience His peace and joy and contentment in our lives. A dull spiritual life fails to see a big God who is able to do far beyond what we could ever ask or think.

If you have become pessimistic and critical then you are spiritually dull. 

A dull spiritual edge causes us to become cynical, sarcastic, irritable and critical. It leads us away from hope and makes our heart sick (Pro 13:12). This ungodly, pessimistic attitude not only affects us but it impacts those around us because it causes our fuse to become short and our patience to grow thin.

A few years ago, I went to a farm auction. One of the "treasures" I brought home was an old shovel that had been neglected for several years. After oiling, sanding and filing the edge the old shovel was restored! All it needed was a little attention. If your spiritual edge has become dull this is precisely what you need! You need to take some time to sharpen your edge because Ecclesiastes 10:10 states, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success.” So how do we sharpen a spiritually dull edge?

1. Sharpen your spiritual edge by spending intentional time with God in prayer.

Stepping away from responsibility for personal spiritual maintenance is a must. During His earthly ministry Jesus regularly got away to meet with the Father. In Mark 1:35, following an intense period of ministry Jesus rose up a great while before day, departed to a solitary place, and prayed. If Jesus saw the need to pull away from His busy schedule for some time away with the Father shouldn’t we? Spiritual maintenance should be done daily to keep us on the cutting edge. The discipline of having a daily quiet time with God allows Him to keep you sharp.

Not only should we maintain our edge daily but we should periodically get away from the routine of life for times of refreshment. When I do this God renews my perspective and provides the spiritual refreshment I need to continue. God often uses a change of scenery and change of pace to revive our souls.

2. Sharpen your spiritual edge by spending time in His God’s Word.

There is no substitute for personal exposure to God's truth. When we are exposed to the light of God's Word the Holy Spirit changes us to be more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Holy Spirit uses God’s Truth to chip away everything in our lives that doesn’t reflect Christ. He is like the sculptor who takes his hammer and chisel to a block of marble. What remains is the image the sculptor desires. It is the chisel of God's Word that the Holy Spirit uses to sharpen what is dull in our lives and shape us into the image of Christ.

3. Sharpen your spiritual edge by spending time with a godly friend.

Godly relationships are an important tool that God uses in keeping us sharp spiritually. Proverbs 27:17 says that as, “Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."

When "iron sharpens iron" two metal objects come in contact with one another and some of each is ground off. This doesn’t happen by just banging these iron objects together! Sharpening is an intentional process. It is the steady, even-pressured rubbing of two objects together that produces a sharp even edge. I am grateful for how God uses my wife to encourage, counsel, and keep me in check. He also uses other trusted relationships to rub against my life to keep me sharp spiritually. You need to put yourself in situations where God can use others to help sharpen you when your spiritual edge gets dull.

With spring trying to show its head, it is time to check the garden tools to see if they are clean, oiled and sharp. But more importantly, it is time to make sure your life is clean, oiled and on the cutting edge spiritually so you are fit to be used in God's garden of life.