“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
–Proverbs 27:17 nasb
I grew up in an era where every boy and man carried a pocketknife. If I had my pants on, I had a knife. I took it to school during the week and to church on the weekend. I always had my pocketknife. Those days have been replaced by an era where those little knives are seen as weapons of mass destruction! I have had more fun watching the TSA officers in airports discover one of these little knives in people’s luggage as they tried to make it through the security line.
I have spent a considerable amount of time over the past sixteen years in West Africa. Of all the things I need in the field few, if any, are more necessary than my pocketknife. I use it almost every day while I am on a project. One of the difficulties while there is keeping it sharp. I remember one specific time when I needed a sharp knife and only had my dull and useless CRKT. After trying everything I knew to do to sharpen this knife, I turned in desperation to my local friend named Simon and asked for his help. I thought he would be able to find me a stone to use but he simply asked if he could keep my knife for a little while.
The next time a saw Simon, just a couple of hours later, he handed me my newly sharpened knife with a smile. I don’t remember ever seeing it that sharp and I asked him how he’d done it. His reply was priceless. “I used the word of God” he said with a smile. “Proverbs 27:17 tells me that ‘iron sharps iron,’ so I found a piece of iron and I sharped it.”
This verse of scripture, while literally true, is also figuratively true. Just as surely as the rubbing together of two metal blades brings sharper edges which enables the knives to be more efficient and useful, so the continual fellowship of mutual brothers strengthens, encourages, and sharpens them.
It is imperative that Christians surround themselves with other Christians. We are mutually akin and identical because of the Spirit of Christ abiding within us. We are new creations through His transforming, saving, and sanctifying work in us. The same Spirit lives within all true believers, but the fact is that not everyone hears identically from the Spirit individually. It is often, in our times of struggles, frustrations, and turmoil that we more willingly hear the Spirit’s words through another believer. While this is completely a problem for the unyielding and unhearing person and in no way a problem with the Spirit, it is comforting to know that God continues to speak to and draw us unto Himself.
The absolute truth is that our conversations with other believers in times of sharpening must be with the Word of God. While it is easy to interject our opinion in the matters of life, the only certainty for truth is found in the Word of God. Too often what the Christian world refers to as fellowship, sadly even in the local church, comes in the form of meals and movies. The truest fellowship comes as we gather around and in the Word of God and achieve unity of the Spirit. The Psalmist wrote, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)
As we dwell in this unity we will certainly be in the best position to sharpen one another.