beyond a hammer's limit

The new year always affords us a fresh chance to begin again. January with its cool breezes brings with it an environment of newness. The beginning of a new year dawns like a farmer preparing to his fields for a new season. Even if we’ve led the same plow and team across the same field, the new season invites us in with an occasion to look afresh.

I’ve been reflecting on Abraham Maslow’s famous Law of the Instrument which he stated simply “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail.”

As missionaries we know that our goal is to plant the church of Christ where the church has not been before. Like farmers at the plow lock their eyes on the far-end of the field, as missionaries we set our sights on the far end of history. We turn over the ground, sow the seed of the gospel and steadfastly set our eyes on Jesus, our eternal Lord.

But at times we set out to build the church with a simple hammer/nail mentality. We mistakenly believe that every problem, every challenge, every situation is a nail that must be hammered into submission. But as we mature we begin to recognize some things are not nails to be driven in, but clawed out. And other things are not nails at all! Rocks in a field must be dug out, and some strongholds must be torn down to make way for the kingdom. As powerful as a hammer may be some rocks need pickaxes and some strongholds need backhoes. Hammers have their limits.

Too late, we may find we’ve wasted our lives slowly hammering away at boulders, disregarding with our pounding stubbornness the Lord saying, “It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil.” (Ps. 127.2a). I am more and more convinced that approaching the great mission of God with our weak little hammers of self does more disservice to the planting of His Church among the unreached and resistant peoples. We desperately need to Holy Spirit to imbue us with power and equip us with gifts and tools for ministry.

Hammers cannot replace apostles and prophets in building the Lord’s house. Hammers cannot do the work of an evangelist, pastor and teacher. Before us is a field ready to be worked, cultivated and bear fruit, but beneath the surface are stills old roots and boulders to be removed.

The work of destroying the boulders may be hard, but empowered by the Holy Spirit, we know that we are not laboring in vain. We can rest assured, as His beloved, we are equipped by His Spirit. We will not be put to shame in the presence of those that oppose us; and even more so, in our hard work He will give us rest.