Many of you have seen His glory, but like Sampson the glory and presence of God have departed you.
You once were “counted among the prophets,” but like Saul, compromise crept in and you justified it.
You used to strike with a sharp axe. The Spirit and presence of God anointed you and you struck true and deep doing great exploits for God. Oh, but slowly…slowly that axe became dull. You know where it started. You know what it was. Sin, compromise, pride, distractions even “wholesome distractions.” I once heard of a man who lost the power of God because he got obsessed with stamp collecting! Stamp collecting!
Many pastors, ministers and missionaries have even lost the axe head altogether! There is nothing more pitiful than watching a dry Christian striving with all their might to do what a Spirit-filled person does daily with hardly any effort at all.
It is not enough that you were anointed with the Holy Spirit and had a some supernatural experience yesterday! You need the power of the Holy Spirit today not yesterday! That’s why Paul said in Phillipians…”forgetting those things that are behind and pressing forward…” He wasn’t talking about his sordid history. He was talking about everything especially his mountaintop victories. Don’t get stuck in the “good old days of you faith.” Stop rehashing it, you have an immediate need. So what if your axe was sharp 2 years ago? What about today?
So, lets take this axe analogy one step farther. Spirit-filled people are sharp instruments, but slowly they can become dull because they do not give due diligence to their relationship with Christ. They treat the fullness of the Holy Spirit like an option when it is a command. (“Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit” Ephesians 5:18) That’s like saying, the axe-head is optional on an axe! As ludicrous as it may seem we become like people trying to cut a tree down by flogging it with an axe handle!
Now, I know many “tree floggers” who are much harder workers than I am. They strain with great force and come up with all kinds of ingenious ideas, programs and methods attempting to make up for their glaring impotence. They flail all day long till they are exhausted.
Why such madness? Well, there’s lots of reasons. Some don’t even notice the axe head is missing. Some never even started with an axe head! Others are far to busy to check. Sadly though, many of them know it, but hope that nobody will notice or they might lose their job.
Whatever the reason, years go by as they go on flailing and sweating. They make up all kinds of reasons to justify the madness of it. Here are a few biblical excuses we hide behind to justify our “fruitless tree pummelling”:
1. I’m just faithfully sowing the seed. God will give the increase.
2. I’m carrying my cross.
3. I will not grow “weary in well-doing”
4. Its not about success in men’s eyes.
5. I’m storing up my treasures in heaven.
Listen, friend, stop playing the martyr. Stop making excuses for your ineffective ministry, powerlessness and fruitlessness. Put the flipping axe handle down for a second!
Step back from that tree for a moment. We’ve been working hard. Working hard is good. But, lets pause for a moment, wipe the sweat from our brows and take a realistic look at ourselves.
1. Consider that working with a dull axe defames God’s name before the lost. “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power.” The world stands by and ridicules the impotent church. They see no power. The difference between what the world can accomplish with their hard work and what the North American church is accomplishing with all its fervent efforts are no different. Oh what the North American church has accomplished with out God! Its astounding! But its still without God.
2. Consider that we are teaching young believers that a powerless Christianity is normal. It gives birth to spiritual cripples.
4. Consider that we steal from God by the time we waste labouring in our own strength. We are accountable to God for that time. What would the foreman of a lumber camp do if he found one of his lumberjacks drawing his full hourly wage by hitting a tree trunk with an axe handle? What will be said on the judgment day about you and I when all is laid bare?
5. Consider that “flogging trees” is an arrogant and stubborn statement to God that says our way is better than Jesus’s way. The same Jesus who said,“I can do nothing of myself except the Father shows me.” The one who never even attempted to enter ministry until he was endued with the power of the Holy Spirit. God, help us! What makes us think that we are somehow exempt from the path of our Master? How much more do we need the Holy Spirit than Jesus did?!
6. Consider that we are full of pride. We do not want to consider or face the horrifying prospect that we have possibly worked all our life for “wood hay and stubble” and that it will all be burned up in the end. The prospects of it is enough for most to go strait into denial! We are like a video gamer who is so proud of his high score and all his hard work. Then, Bang! The power goes out. All is lost. Actually nothing was lost because it was altogether nothing in the first place!
7. Consider the Fruit of the Spirit in your life. Are you more patient than last year? Has your ache for lost souls grown. What about joy? Are you full of hope? What bad habits has God given you the strength and self control to conquer lately?
8. Consider your outward fruit. Who have you led to repentance in Christ lately? Do you come with words or do you come in demonstration of the Spirits power? Who are the disciples God has given you? Do they demonstrate the power of God? What specific thing are you exercising faith in by the direction of God right now? What specific fruit has come from your prayers in the lives of people?
Samson was responsible before God for the strength he was given. He squandered his anointing, One morning he woke up with a head as bald as a baboon’s bum. All he had left was an “axe handle.”
Saul flogged trees with an axe handle for years. The Spirit of God left him because of his compromises and an evil spirit vexed him till the day he committed suicide.
Please, Please, Please…this deserves more than just a “hmm…good point.”
If you are serious about this let me recommend a few resources. You need to do some deep business with God. So what if it takes a week or a month to sort yourself out before God. Its better than wasting your life. Take the time.
That axe is dull it needs to be sharpened. You might even need to find that axe-head wherever it fell. The Glory of the Lord may have departed, but God’s glory can return to his temple. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Its time to consecrate it again.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit– by R.A. Torrey. A solid classic on being filled with the Holy Spirit. A very balanced, biblical and practical guide.
The inspiration for this post came from Ian Paisley. He says it way better than I can, so I took the liberty of creating this short video excerpt from his sermon.