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Sharpen Your Saw

Waking up to the same routine, day after day, can get really old. When I get into this kind of a rut, I feel as if I have zero energy, and that it takes everything I have just to get through my day. If I stop to objectively consider my condition, I generally understand it is not the extreme workload that is robbing me of my pep – my daily grind is not all that rough. I am suffering from stagnation.

Years ago, I studied Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. To remain effective – to keep from burn-out or stagnation – the last of his Seven Habits is Sharpen the Saw. The concept of sharpening the saw involves the process of continual improvement. Sharpening the saw emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, prayer and meditation, good reading for mental renewal, and service to others. For years when I was younger, sharpening the saw (for me) involved going out for a nice, long run or a bike ride. I also enjoyed hiking, camping, and floating our beautiful Ozarks streams. I had my daily prayer time, but, honestly, much of my time in prayer was perfunctory, another task to check off on my daily to do list. Rather than sharpening my saw, too many times my prayer time only served to dull my sensibilities further. It was later in life that I learned the value of honest, open, heart-felt conversations with God, and how important that time became to keeping me on track and equipped to face the day. I am presently learning to go beyond segregating time in my day for prayer and living in a continual attitude of prayer. Learning, but not all the way there yet.

The most meaningful saw sharpening technique for me has always been to I step outside of my own interests and concerns and spend time in service to others. Serving others has never failed to reinvigorate me and freshen my attitude toward life. Steven Covey says, “We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” As an old-timer from here in the Ozarks used to like to tell me, “There ain’t no time wasted a-whittin’”. Using a whetstone or file on your knife, your saw, your axe, or your pruners may take a few minutes of time away from working directly at your task but will pay dividends in time by making your work more efficient. That is the effect serving others can have on our psyche and even our physical condition. We can be renewed, even while working vigorously in service to others.

That got me to thinking, if service to others is beneficial to the individual, what about the benefits of sharpening the saw for an organization, such as a church or other ministry, or a business? I would have to say, the times I have observed such service, the sharpening of the saw had a similar effect. Christian Action Ministries gets invigorated whenever we come together to love on a family who is struggling to keep food on the table and a roof overhead. We feel renewed after our regular mobile outreach distributions to various communities and neighborhoods around Taney County. Our batteries get recharged every time we have the opportunity to share the Good News with one of our neighbors.

These periodic episodes of saw sharpening have their effect of refreshing Christian Action Ministries and those who serve here. As beneficial as these episodes are to us as individuals and as a ministry, the real blessing comes from knowing that we are growing and strengthening the Kingdom.

Our model of serving is intended to grow our staff and volunteers spiritually, and it is having its effect. Everywhere you look, you see individuals who are growing, maturing to become more Christ-like. That is a very good thing. However, not everyone who comes to serve at Christian Action Ministries comes in as an active, committed believer, and some (most often among our “volunteers” who are ordered to serve community service time) are openly antagonistic toward Christianity. It is so rewarding to see the changes occurring in these individuals’ lives as they learn of the joy that comes from serving others and getting out of their own self-interests. I love being in a ministry of committed, maturing servants, that alone helps to replenish my spirit. But, surrounding a new or not-yet believer with those who are more spiritually mature and seeing these people grow in their faith is richly rewarding.

We live in a community known for its faith and biblical view that has a significant portion of its population that has no walk with the Lord, a segment of our community that has been ignored or even injured by the church. What if we worked at ways of sharpening our saws by serving this portion of our community, introducing or reacquainting them with the God of the universe. No, it is not about the numbers. It is about growing our relationship with Christ while sharing His message with those who are in need of Him. With every number, there is a name. And, with every name there is an eternal soul.

Now, that seems like a win-win solution. We sharpen our saws while bringing others into His saving grace. That beats stagnation every time.


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