Recently, I encountered a problem. It was not a huge problem, but it was a problem nonetheless. The blade on my chainsaw was blunt.
Thankfully, I also found the solution. There is a shop close to where I live that services chainsaws. I was soon back to enjoying full productivity in my moonlighting job as a lumberjack. But this whole experience taught me some valuable lessons, which I want to share with you in the hope that your walk with Christ will be strengthened.
Several years ago I invested in a small two-stroke chainsaw because I love to cut and chop firewood for our fireplace. After many years of using a manual bow saw, I finally came to the conclusion that there had to be a quicker, more efficient and less labour-intensive method. I made my way to a Stihl dealership and purchased a chainsaw that I felt I could use without performing a self-amputation! What a joy! I well remember (as do my neighbours, I’m sure) the first morning when I fired up the saw and began to look for excuses to cut every piece of wood available on my property. What a sense of accomplishment as, within a few seconds, I was able to cut what previously would have taken me many exhausting minutes. Within an hour my wood pile looked fairly impressive.
But after several months, I began to notice that it required more effort and more time to cut the same amount of wood. I didn’t feel that it was due to lack of strength, but there was something not quite right with the saw. The blade was getting blunt. The motor was working feverishly, and it sounded suitably impressive as I increased its revolutions, but regardless of how hard the motor worked the teeth were simply not as effective as they had been in doing the job.
Enters another problem: I am by nature rather impatient. The thought of sending the saw away to have it sharpened meant that I might miss a few days of woodcutting opportunity. I thus continued for a good many months using an increasingly blunt blade, which required a correspondingly increased amount of energy, which cost me more and more time and was no doubt bad for the motor.
At the end of the day, I concluded that, to ensure maximum efficiency (and enjoyment) from my chainsaw, I needed to give it a rest by having it serviced. And what is true for my chainsaw is true of my walk with Christ and of my ministry for Him.
I preach and pastor a lot. Thus, I study a lot. It is not unusual for me to spend thirty hours in a week preparing two sermons. One might think that all of this time spent labouring in the Word would automatically produce spiritual blessings in my life. There is no doubt that this is the net result of my efforts, but it is also true that, over the long haul, my mind becomes tired and the “teeth” of my labours become blunt. I thus can become weary in a good work, and though the sermons continue to stack up in my notebook, my “motor” begins to strain, my effectiveness diminishes and I am tempted to become “weary while doing good” (Galatians 6:9).
The solution to this problem is like that of my chainsaw: I need to take a break to be “serviced.” I need to be “dismantled” so that the blessed Holy Spirit can “re-oil” me, restoring the bite of a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. In other words, I need a day off. Thus it is that on Tuesdays I sleep later than usual, spend quality time with my wife (almost always involving a meal out and a shopping mall), read books to nourish my soul, work in the garden, and (often) cut wood. This break from my daily routine is indeed a tonic to my soul. The result is that, on Wednesday, I am able to face my workload with new zeal and effectiveness.
I know that this may not sound very spiritual but it is precisely the counsel that the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples when He perceived that they were busy but blunt. He told them to “come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). As someone has quipped, if you don’t come a part, then you will eventually fall apart.
My point in all of this is that we all need similar breaks. We need to stop cutting and be sharpened for further effective service. This is why God has commanded that we labour six days and rest one. No one can properly function for long if they do not follow this divinely instituted principle. In the late 1700s the French tried to implement a ten day week. The results were disastrous. We are not wiser than God, and when we attempt to be, we only manifest our destructive folly.
We all need one day a week in which our routine and activities are different from other days. It is a time for mind and body to rest. God wants us to be effective.
In addition to this, we should strive to enjoy God’s gift of holidays for the same purpose. As that time of year approaches, we do well to kick back and be refurbished for the work of the coming year. At the same time, we must make sure during these breaks that we stay well-oiled by the Spirit as we continue to pray, read and study His Word, and continue to gather together for Christ-centred fellowship. God wants sharpened teeth to make a lighter workload. Do the sensible and right thing of servicing your body. Quit adding to your burdens by using a blunt blade.