The Chisel

The summer after I graduated college, I worked as program staff at a Bible camp. One of my projects was to take a collection of old windows and turn them into giant picture frames that could be hung around the campus. Easier said than done. I made my project home in a dimly lit utility room in the girls’ dorms.

My first task was to remove the plaster holding each pane of glass into the grilles, either to remove broken panes or to give the photos a rim. Some plaster was soft and could easily be peeled away. Other plaster was hard and stubborn and could only be removed carefully by tapping a chisel lightly with a hammer. I remember laboring for over an hour on one particular pane, but only making a few inches headway. “How will I ever finish this?!” I wondered. The thought occurred to me that I could try sharpening my chisel, but it seemed like a waste of time. I couldn’t afford to step away and run up to the shop to do so; I was too far behind already. I kept at it.

Finally, I had to humbly acknowledge that what I was doing wasn’t working. I had to at least try something. I snatched the chisel and headed off to the shop. One of the site guys helped me use the grinder to sharpen my tool and I headed back to my lair, with little hope of an improved outcome. I settled into my stool, leaned over, and started tapping away with my hammer. To my surprise, whole sections started lifting! I moved along with incredible speed and finished the whole giant, 3-pane window in a half hour, a fraction of the time it had taken me previously to move just a few inches.

On Sunday, Pastor Ken talked about the importance of having both a strong internal and external life with the Lord. We must spend time with Christ so that He may be formed in us, remembering that apart from Him we can do nothing. At the same time, we must be willing to step out and be obedient to Christ in our actions and life, applying what He’s taught us in the stillness. We alone do not produce fruit that will last, Christ does in us and through us. But if we do not allow Him the chance to work in us, we will produce nothing of eternal value. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

I learned a brilliant lesson that day in the utility room. Taking time to step away from work and allow ourselves to be sharpened is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Our effectiveness utterly depends on it. Without taking ourselves before the Lord regularly for Him to work in us and transform us, we will wear ourselves out working and accomplishing nothing at all. But God has not asked us to work for its own sake, nor to work so others will approve of us, nor to work to make ourselves feel worthwhile; He has called us to work to accomplish His purposes in the earth. Had I set out with the goal of working to work, I could have easily reached my goal on my own. But if I had set out to complete that which was assigned to me, in my limited time to do so, I could not afford to be dull.

You cannot afford to be dull either. You have eternal purposes assigned to you. You have a limited window of time. Jesus calls you to come and abide and be transformed, continually, for its own sake, but also for the sake of His kingdom. Don’t underestimate His ability to work in and through you, if you will only give yourself over!