Sharpen the Ax


I have dubbed 2021 the “Year of Self Leadership.” For too many people 2020 happened “to” them. It is time to start building, or re-building, our lives under the current normal. For me, it began with some simple micro habits this year around healthy eating and reading for 10 minutes in the morning nearly daily.

One of the books I am working through is What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. I will certainly have more to say about what I have been discovering while journeying through this book. The main thing that has been pressed upon me and the two men I am working through it with is the necessity of character. I progressed through other stages of mission, goal, roles, and a productive schedule. But God keeps leading me back to character.

If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,
he must use more strength,
but wisdom helps one to succeed.
– Ecclesiastes 10:10 (ESV)

Then, I stumbled upon the above verse (Ecclesiastes 10:10) in my daily reading. The “iron” here is most likely a tool, like an ax. I know how much easier it is to chop wood with a sharpened ax. Everything the Lord had been pressing on me about character started to click into place. Wisdom and character go hand in hand in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. Just like an ax through would, so your experience through life will go smoother having sharpened character.

For me, I can feel how “sharp” I am based on whether I am pushing, despairing, or trusting. Romans 6 unpacks the life of grace, and submitting ourselves to Jesus, that we can take on his life and character. A great summary is in verse 11, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” These are my indicators:

Dull feels (still alive to sin):

  • striving
  • pushing
  • willful or will-less
  • lonely

Sharp feels (alive to God):

  • prayerful
  • dependent
  • open-handed
  • willing

We often want more tips, techniques, hacks, or tools to multiply our impact. But sharpening the ax of your life is about cultivating character. Take a moment to pause and reflect on these indicators in the spheres of your life: where you live, where you work, where you play, and where you learn. What are the common things that feel dull? What is a micro step towards submitting one of those things to God’s grace?