When You Lose Your Cutting Edge

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  • A friend, who is a budding preacher and active associate minister, wrote me for advice about what to do when you lose your sense of discipline and devotion.

    Let me respond with a devotional thought from 2 Kings 6:1-7.

    The “sons of the prophets” – a group of young preachers – studied under the Prophet Elisha. So many lads joined this upstart seminary that they ran out of space. With Elisha’s permission, and encouraging presence, they began chopping down wood to build a new dorm.

    Focus on one young prophet who has borrowed an axe to help with the building project. He is furiously attacking a tree. After one powerful swing, the handle suddenly goes light in his hands. The force almost knocks him down. He looks up just in time to see his axe head splash into the river.

    He lost his cutting edge. He lost his power element. He lost the thing that made him effective.

    This can happen to any of us. It has surely happened to me at times. There have been seasons when I been so spiritual dry that I could spit dust. And it can happen to you. (Warning: Don’t scoff or judge or dismiss this reality if it hasn’t happened to you yet. Thank God. Be humble. And memorize 1 Corinthians 10:12.)

    What should you do when you lose your cutting edge? Here are five suggestions for recovering your cutting edge:

    Practice regular self-evaluation. This young man may have lost his cutting edge because of negligence. I’d bet that axe head didn’t just fly off the handle all at once. It had been loosening over time. But he was so busy swinging that he didn’t notice. That’s how life is. A flat is rarely the result of a sudden blowout. There has often been a nail in the tire for some time. So practice regular self-evaluation to ensure your communion with God is tight. You may not have to recover your axe head if you simply maintain it properly.

    Take a break. When this young lost his cutting edge, he stopped swinging. Think about it. If he would have continued swinging, he would have been only been banging on the wood. He would have only been making noise, wasting time, and loosing energy without accomplishing anything. So he stopped swinging. So should you. If you sense that you have lost your cutting edge, take a break. Rest. Pray. Reconnect with God, the scripture, you family, your purpose, and your. For God’s sake, please stop swinging! If you have lost your axe head, you are only getting in the way of the real work.

    Remember you are just a steward. “Alas, my master! It was borrowed” (2 K 6:5). That was the initial response of the budding prophet, when he lost his cutting edge. He lamented the loss of the axe head, because it did not belong to him. It was borrowed. Someone permitted it to use it. But it would have to be returned. He would have to answer to the owner for the lost axe head. Likewise, your gifts, talents, position, relationships, and opportunities are not yours. You are not your own (1 Co. 6:19-20). You are a manager, a steward, a trustee of that which belongs to Another. And you will have to answer to the Lord of all that he has entrusted you to manage.

    Ask for help. The lamentation of the young man was also a cry for help. “Alas, my master!” he said to Elisha. There was nothing he could do about the situation on his own. He needed help. I am not sure he expected Elisha to perform a miracle. But he recognized he needed help. So do you. You cannot recover your cutting edge on your own. Call on the Lord. Ask him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And call on those the Lord has placed in your life for fellowship, encouragement, and accountability. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.

    Examine yourself. Elisha responded to the young man’s cry for help with a question, “Where did it fall?” This question required the young man to look back, retrace his steps, and think about his situation. Indeed, the unexamined life is rarely effective. Take the time and trouble to examine yourself. Where is your cutting edge? Where did you lose it? When did you lose it? What should you do now? How can you retrieve it?

    The story ends with a miracle. Elisha threw a stick into the water. And the axe head began to float. Yes, that’s what I said. The iron swam. God sovereignly intervened to restore what was lost. He can do that for you, too, when you find you lose your cutting edge.

    What do you do when you sense you are losing your cutting edge? How do you recognize it? What do you do to overcome it?

    Please comment.

    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.