THE story goes that a hiker came upon a woodsman in the forest, vigorously chopping down a tree - with a very dull ax. Noticing the slow progress being made, he asked the woodsman why he didn't stop and sharpen his ax. ''I haven't time,'' the reply was. ''I've got to chop down all these trees.''
This story contains a valuable lesson. If we are going to perform up to our highest potential, we must first sharpen our ax - do whatever is necessary to ensure that the work ahead will be properly done. With the right preparation, the job will be satisfactorily accomplished and the reward will follow. This applies not only to minor undertakings but to tasks that are critical to our progress and well-being.
What we basically need, if we are to do our best in every area, is a greater understanding of the nearness and power of God. Christ Jesus put it this way: ''Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.'' n1 Nothing will better prepare us to successfully meet challenges than to draw closer to God, to discern more of His presence, love, and power, right at hand to bless and guide us. There is no better way to ''sharpen our ax.''
n1 Matthew 6:33
How do we do this? We turn our thought to God as the Bible reveals Him. We strive to understand Him better as infinite Love, Life, Spirit. We perceive, through prayer, more of His supremacy, His omnipotence and goodness. We discern that He is always at hand to guide and strengthen us and to provide the inspiration needed to go forward. Thus, understanding and feeling God's care, we're able to attain worthwhile goals. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, states, ''To begin rightly enables one to end rightly, and thus it is that one achieves the Science of Life, demonstrates health, holiness, and immortality.'' n2
n2 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 274
Starting with God results in a growing comprehension of our actual being as His image, or expression. We see that our true selfhood right now expresses His qualities of strength, intelligence, love, joy, fearlessness. Understanding this cancels out the temptation to be afraid or to consider ourselves limited, ignorant, handicapped. We see that we are equipped to go forward under God's impulsion. Our ax is now sharp.
If our need is for guidance in connection with business or other activities, how important it is to first take time to realize that God's infinite intelligence is at hand to direct us unerringly. Divine Mind is constantly present, providing us with the required capacity to do well whatever it is right for us to do, and even if we seem to lack needed ability for some undertaking, a confident recognition of this spiritual truth will enable us to accomplish our task successfully. If the demand is for courage or strength, the needed quality will be made evident as we pause to remember that we are under the control of divine Love, which orders our every thought and act in accord with its ceaseless care.
I have often demonstrated the wisdom of taking time to sharpen my ax before undertaking a difficult assignment. On one occasion I was assigned to write a report that had to be completed in a time so short it appeared beyond reason. Before starting the necessary work, I wisely resisted the suggestion that I must begin the task without a moment's delay, and instead first spent some time in prayer. I realized that I reflected divine intelligence and that I was impelled by God's wisdom to express the needed acumen to complete the job satisfactorily and with dispatch. When I became quiet and expectant of good, I then went to work. The assignment was completed ahead of time, and I was complimented on its excellence.
Communing with God before undertaking any task is the most helpful thing we can do. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved . . . Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice . . . In every thing by prayer and supplicaton with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus . . . . I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:1, 4, 6, 7, 13