A couple Sundays ago pastor Erwin McManus came to our church for our annual Vision conference. What he brought with him was not a feel good message to pat yourself on the back with, but instead an urgency to not let your life go by wondering if you will ever hit your mark. His message impacted me deeply as I have been praying about a clear direction in my own life and work as a freelancer — and if you are just starting out or regrouping then you will want to continue to read my notes on his message to all who would like to stop the wheels from endlessly spinning.
Erwin used to work as a lumberjack before he attended college and so his entire message relates to chopping down trees with focus and a sharp ax. He referenced this scripture of the Bible as a starting point:
“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.”
Ecclesiastes 10:10 NLT
Maybe you’ve been asking yourself (and God) a lot of questions about exactly what you should be working on? If you’re like me you have written down a number of different ideas in your notepad and taking online webinars to find out what direction to go into. The problem sometimes comes when we have so many different ideas going on at once that we can’t get dialed in on just one. But there are other areas in our lives that can also be out of balance, which can cause us to miss the mark and become frustrated.
Here are a few main points that Erwin brought up during his sermon, and at the end of the post I’ve also included a full video to his teaching so that you can also take your own notes :-). Just as a side note I purchased his book, The Last Arrow, and can’t put it down! I highly recommend adding this one to your toolbox.
Sharpen your ax and know your strategy
The main issue with many of us is that we believe that working harder will getting us closer to our goal. Instead it’s burning us out. In order to overcome this we need to stay sharp and know our strategy, and purpose — if we’re not careful we will become what other people want us to be. Stop trying to meeting everyone else’s obligation, and live a life of intention — it’s never too late to focus on just one.
The one thing
Pick a tree. Pick one need. One project. Pick one thing that actually matters. You have a tree that God has given you. Celebrate the different calling and passion placed within you. My two cents here — if you are unsure of this volunteer and serve others in areas that you can use your skills. Over time you’ll discover where your gifts and talents are as you help people first.
Step out of the mundane
Make sure your ax is sharp through excellence instead of mediocrity. Whether you work for yourself or a company remember that you have made a covenant to be your best. Treat your job like an owner with excellence. Take the time to step back and refine. Our standard of comparison should be like Jesus – excellence. For example, if you want to be published become a better writer.
The effort is the payoff
You need to do the hard work of sharpening the edge of your axe. If it’s getting harder and harder for you then your axe is dull. Greatness is on the other side of hard work and struggle. Be determined, resilient, work hard (not harder), and don’t give up. Give it all you have. Keep chopping that tree!
Don’t be afraid of the pressure
Remember when you were in school and everyone got an award just for participating? Erwin pointed out that this actually creates mediocrity and stifles growth. He reminded us that competition and conflict are actually good for us. These compel us to work through the issues of life and be the best that we can be. Everyone getting a participation trophy is not excellence.
We need constructive criticism
Decide to keep getting better — in order to do this it’s important to have people in your life to tell you the truth. There’s a big difference between critics who don’t want what’s best for us and those who critique because they actually care about us moving forward.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17 NIV
Healthy criticism is necessary in order to grow. Underneath you have steel inside – you will not get stronger by being coddled. And God inside you is your source of strength. In a healthy community people are guiding you and sharpening you. Be open and surround yourself with people like this.
Think of success differently
Wisdom and skill together will bring you success. But when prosperity comes we can become focused on ourselves and that doesn’t come from God. Seek after the kingdom first and then you will be blessed:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
Erwin got pretty real here — but it’s so true! Do the work of taking on your skills. Step up. Grow in wisdom and stop making the decisions of the fool. There are some things we do that are just plain stupid — not sin. Like smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol.
Wisdom is the key — expand your skills and know your here to do the most good in the world. We can use success for ourselves versus God’s success, which is how we can help and serve people.
The following men joined David at Ziklag while he was hiding from Saul son of Kish. They were among the warriors who fought beside David in battle. 2 All of them were expert archers, and they could shoot arrows or sling stones with their left hand as well as their right. They were all relatives of Saul from the tribe of Benjamin.
1 Chronicles 12:1-2 (NLT)
God is speaking to us
What does God want you to learn right now? Take on right now? Have you spent time with Him and in His Word? Find out what His will is for your life. What is the sword, bow or axe? You have one — choose just that for now. Stop going in different directions and focus on just one thing.
We are here to accomplish the plans and purposes that God planned for us long ago. Be the best at the one thing God is showing you so that you make an impact on the world. Remember that the purpose of your gifts and talents is to serve others. Ask God today what do you need to give my life to right now.
It’s not hard to become an online freelancer or start your own business while working in a full-time job. Just download my free eBook, and get started on your career today: