Picture it – a lumberjack competition, the finals- an old man and a much young opponent are pitted against each other. The young man smugly looks across at his rival. No contest? His confidence grows as he sees the old guy sitting down, taking frequent rests. At the end of the contest the crowd are shocked to discover that the older man has won – he has simply out-chopped the young upstart! The young man is incredulous. ‘How can that have happened? You sat out while I kept working?’ ‘Well, young feller, you see, I was stopping to sharpen my axe’.

The start of September crunches us back to 4th gear. Has your relaxing holiday become a distant memory? Before the sand is shaken from your suitcases, it’s back to go go go. Western work culture can encourage this: increasingly long hours, lunch at the desk, machismo overtime schedules, emailing through family meals, constantly checking mobiles. (A new study from IDC Research released this week found that 80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning and 79% have their phones ‘right with them’ for 22 hours a day.)

The Bible speaks of seasons and Sabbaths. Stopping for ‘selah’ pauses, joyful festivals and quiet retreats to keep us focussed on what really matters. God’s leading includes ‘green pastures and still waters’ (Psalm 23). Working from a place of rest. Knowing we are human beings more than human doings. Does this lead to a life in inefficiency? Or sustainability and happiness?

There’s an axe sharpening lesson from the book of Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NLT)


10 Using a dull axe requires great strength,
    so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom;
    it helps you succeed.


Are you living wisely in this respect? Do you give time to relationships as well as deadlines? If not, will you be surprised by a shocking loss at the end of the round?