Solomon says in Proverbs 27:17, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”
The importance of relationship is implied by Solomon in this scripture. After all, iron can’t sharpen itself. But for years I’ve viewed this scripture as talking about my Christian friendships and surrounding myself with others that will keep me encouraged. Recently I really dug in to this as I prepared a devotion to share at my church’s men’s ministry breakfast. As I studied I began to develop another perspective about what this scripture means.
Solomon wrote this about 1000 years ago. When I think about working with iron, especially 1000 years ago, I’m thinking this was not pleasant work. It was dirty, hot, dangerous work. I came to realize that iron cannot sharpen other iron unless the surface doing the sharpening is harder than the surface being sharpened. You see when a blade is being sharpened there’s a grinding. The iron doing the sharpening is striking the iron being sharpened and grinding off layers. I came to realize those friendships that I enjoy so much, the ones that when I walk away from together I feel good and they feel good. Those encouraging, pleasant relationships are probably not the relationships that are sharpening me. They are mutually beneficial and important. We need others who love one us, encourage us, lift us up, and sometimes hold us up. But these are probably not the relationships that are sharpening us.
In recovery we have sponsors. Christianity might call these people mentors. Either way, we all need relationships with people that we allow to bring correction and direction in to our lives. People that are further along in their spiritual maturity, in their sobriety, in any area that we want to grow in. People that may not be our daily friends, people who may not always make us feel great, but people who will be honest, in love to help us grow, to help us learn, to sharpen us. I need, we need to allow people to grind the impurities from our lives. People who are on our side but not necessarily by our side. What I mean is we have people in our lives that are around the same maturity level as we are and their important but we need to be intentional about finding people that are where we want to be. People who are ahead of us in the areas we want to grown and then asking them to mentor or sponsor us.
We all should be continuing to grow in our Christian walks and other areas of our lives. I always say, “you can be on the right track but if your not moving forward the train will still run you over!” And this growth is not only for our purpose but also for God’s purpose. In the Great Commission Jesus tells us to go out and make disciples of all nations. If we are to be disciples we need others to disciple us, sharpen us. And as we become disciples we need to be making disciples, sharpening others who are not as far along as we are. After all, you wouldn’t sharpen a knife then never use it! An knife is sharpened so that it will be effective in it’s purpose.
I’m grateful for Celebrate Recovery because I see too many Christians that are not being sharpened because they’re not aware that they need mentors. Recovery is very clear about letting us know we have to have a sponsor in order to grow. A coach, someone further along to show us the way. It’s hard to find our ways in a place we’ve never been. We all need a guide, a mentor, a sponsor who has already been where we want to go to help us navigate our way.
So, keep in mind, we all need those horizontal relationships. Accountability partners, friends who will come beside us and keep us encouraged. But we also need those folks who will grind the impurities from our lives. It’s important, it’s modeled in God’s word:
Jesus mentored the twelve apostles who established the Christian church. The apostles mentored hundreds of other leaders, including Paul. Paul mentored Titus, Timothy, and many others. Timothy mentored “faithful men”, which led to a chain reaction that resulted in dozens of new churches in Asia. Ultimately, this specific mentoring chain is the beginning point of our churches today.
Who’s sharpening you?