Maintaining Our Cutting Edge

a sl 0 950 700 aPhD Leadership 2017

This message was presented by Dr. Ella Smith Simmons, the AUA University Council Chair
during the AUA Faculty and Staff Devotional on February 20, 2017


Lately I have been studying on maintaining our cutting edge. I have looked at this from varying perspectives. Ecclesiastes 10:10: If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success. When we as educators lose our edge spiritually and academically, we lose our effectiveness. AUA, this school of the prophets, is here to prepare and sharpen leaders.

Scripture: The Floating Ax Head 2 Kings 6:1-7
And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us. 2 Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go.” 3 Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” 6 So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. 7 Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

Analysis and Exposition

6:1–33 This chapter continues the report about Elisha’s active ministry, as an educator it appears.

6:1 where we dwell. It’s about a prophetic and educational community probably located at Jericho.

6:2 to the Jordan River. The place where trees, and logs, could be found. The enrollment had grown so that the students could no longer be accommodated in its space. Perhaps Elisha’s miracles drew in many. Perhaps they increased now that Gehazi was dismissed and likely a more honest man put in his place to take care of their provisions . . .
Let us go. The suggestion came from the students. They were not afraid of work. They were trained to work like the people around them. They did not to hold themselves aloof from those they served. Further, training the hands is in perfect accord with training the mind and the heart—the highest education.

6:3 Please consent. That is, “be pleased,” or, “kindly consent,” to go with us. They wanted to Elisha to accompany them.

6:4 I will go. Elisha was a man of the people. He was equally at home with kings and generals and with the workers at their labor. He modeled caring leadership. Wherever there was the opportunity to serve, that’s where he desired to be. The greater the leader, the greater the willingness to serve. You are educating leaders here at AUA. Teach them right. Help them, though many are experienced administrators, to learn what it really means to lead in God’s Church, and in God’s World beyond.

6:5 it was borrowed. An iron ax head was an expensive tool at that time. During Saul’s reign, the Philistines monopolized the use of iron in Palestine in order to weaken Israel’s military power (1 Sam. 13:19). An axhead in those days was no more secure than today. Moses deals with cases in which an axhead slips from the wood while in use (Deut. 19:5). Interestingly, the Hebrews went to the Philistines to have their axheads sharpened.
He should have known to be more careful with it. The one who had the misfortune of losing something that was borrowed and who probably was too poor to restore the loss, must have felt terrible. We should feel that way about how we use or lose the gifts and resources God has given us for specific purposes. They are not ours to waste. They are loaned to us . . . Teach this to our leaders.

6:6 the man of God. A common way of referring to God’s prophet. Elisha was a prophet who, by the power of God, had raised the dead and read what was in another’s heart. But when the axhead fell into the water he didn’t know where it fell. God does not always tell us why or how certain things are done. We will not always to understand the ways of the Lord. God determines the need and the occasion for a divine message or supplemental enlightenment.
A stick, by some translations, a branch. Most likely a piece of tamarisk wood. He is the Vine, we are the branches; He throws us into human situations of need to be His hands. Ellen White says: God has placed Himself under the necessity of using human agencies as His helping hand. . . in order to reach humanity. He must have the cooperation of those who will be active, quick to see opportunities, quick to discern what must be done (SM99). True leaders.
“floated.” The axhead had been at the bottom of the body of water, beyond the reach of the sons of the prophets. But by divine intervention it rose to the surface and remained there. People can be like that, at the bottom of society or humanity, but when we, Christ’s branches, are thrown in among them, they rise to the top and stay there. This is the effect our leaders—your students—should have on the locations and situations where God places them.

6:7 Take it up. If the student wanted to have the ax returned, he also had a part to play. God could have caused the ax not only to float but to return to its right onto the wooden handle. But the Lord generally does not perform miracles for us in things He has equipped us to do for ourselves. When God asks us to take, His gifts will be ours when we reach out to receive. Lead your students to learn their parts well so that they will receive what God has for them; and teach them to lead others to do the same.

 Cutting Edge Summary


God had many lessons in that little incident that would long be remembered by those developing leaders and by those of us today who need the same lessons. Not a day passes but the Lord intervenes in the interests of those who call upon Him. The day of miracles is not yet over.

With Him "is no variableness,. . ." James 1:17. The experiences of Israel were recorded for our instruction. ". . . they are written for our admonition . . ." 1 Corinthians 10:11. What instruction do we find here for Sharpening the Instruments in the Hands of God?

1. Get beyond swinging the handle. (vv. 4-5)
As you look at yourself today honestly would you have to say that you have lost some of that edge, that excitement, that zeal, that spiritual passion you once had for education. But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water. It would have been senseless to keep chopping with a handle with no axhead. Yet that is what a lot of educators do. They have lost their cutting edge, and are just going through the motions, making little progress. They think, “as long as I keep busy, maybe nobody will know the state of my heart.” Some have been doing this for years with no progress, no growth. They are just swinging that handle without an ax head.

2. Look to the Master. (v. 5)
and he cried out and said, “Alas, master!”
He went to the prophet. To hear from God, you went to the prophet, and the prophet would give a word from God. Today we can go directly to Him. He only can restore your edge once it is lost. Yet sometimes we cannot hear the voice of God because our neighbors’ opinions ring too loudly in our ears.

3. Take responsibility. (v. 5)
For it was borrowed.”
Ax heads fall off when they are not maintained. If you have lost your cutting edge, take responsibility. As much as you might like to blame the church, or your spouse, or your boss, no one can take your cutting edge away from you. Only you can cause it to be lost.

4. Determine where it was lost. (v. 6)
So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?”
Look at the response, And he showed him the place. You need to know where you lost your cutting edge. Otherwise, you cannot retrieve it. Unless you are willing to deal with whatever issue caused you to lose your cutting edge, you will never regain it. You can probably point right to the time you lost, or began to lose, your edge. Perhaps when you were offended by what someone did. Maybe when you acquired a bad habit or a negativeassociation.

5. Realize the cross is enough. (v. 6)
And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there;
Why a stick? This is a type of, or points to, another piece of wood that makes all the difference for us, the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary was enough, the only thing, to take care of all our problems, and restore our edge.

6. Accept miracles God is offering. (v. 6)
. . . and he made the iron float.
We serve A Miracle-Working God! God worked a miracle when the man did his part, looking to the master, taking responsibility, and going to the place where the ax head was lost. God brings restoration, healing. He restores. As you admit to those areas where you have lost your edge, God will restore it. He will make that ax head float when you admit where you lost it!

7. Receive what God is offering. (v. 7)
Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it. Unless you take hold of what God offers, your spiritual edge will never be restored. Reach out and take what God is doing to restore your cutting edge. (Developed by Bayless Conley, 2016 and adapted by Simmons, 2017)

Conclusion and Appeal

With us, as with Israel of old, success in education depends on fidelity in carrying out the Creator’s plan (Ed 50). Can we still pull the axhead out of the waters? We cannot be the cutting-edge with a handle only. You know what I mean by handle—Mr, Mrs, Pr, or Dr used before the name—or even The SDA that we place before Christian.

Notice this man is working hard. But, in the midst of his effort, he loses his cutting edge. His ax head falls into the water. You might think this could not happen to you. He was in the will of God. He was moving by divine permission. The prophet not only said go, he went with them. This was the right thing to do!

Perhaps you might think a spiritual man or woman would not have lost their edge. But indications are that he was spiritually strong. Be careful not to think we cannot lose our spiritual edge. It can happen to you right here in the school of the prophets. We all can lose our cutting edge if we are not careful. Be watchful. Take care not to lose your spiritual or academic edge. Be intentional and work diligently at to maintain it. Teach this to our leaders.

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