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“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”—Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
Recently, my wife bought me a Damascus steel Japanese chef knife. It’s a legit, top-notch knife, and it’s extremely sharp. In fact, my first time using it, I cut myself because I underestimated it. Since then, through constant use, my once super-sharp knife has dulled. So, I need to use my Damascus steel sharpening rod to restore it to its sharp glory. This made me wonder, How does steel sharpen steel? Well, according to KnivesAndTools.com, “Sharpening steel removes material from your knife. Moving the edge alongside the steel removes steel to restore the V-shape of the edge. A sharpening steel can therefore be used to sharpen knives that have become blunt after frequent use.”
There’s a fascinating lesson found here about our spiritual formation. The writer of Proverbs tells us that in the same way that iron is used to sharpen iron, we as believers are meant to sharpen one another. We’re meant to be instruments God uses to shave off that which has dulled us to His will, His work, and His ways. We keep one another sharp, useful, and effective.
Why is this necessary? Because we tend to wander like sheep, waver in our faith, grow complacent, apathetic, and cynical, and become dull to the Holy Spirit and to the work and will of God in and around us. We may find ourselves deceived into embracing false teaching or even falling for a false gospel (Galatians 1:6–10, 5:1–12). We may find ourselves distracted by self-interest, ambition, or as Jesus said, “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” (Matthew 13:22 NIV).
In all these cases, we need faithful, devoted brothers and sisters to “serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13 NIV), to “encourage each other and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT), to share the truth in love so “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV), and to speak “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
Practically, this looks like regular accountability, vulnerability, and honesty with a trusted friend, regular Bible studies and prayer with friends, and walking through struggles and hardships together. Sometimes, it’s having hard conversations and loving confrontations. Other times, it’s riveting conversations about life, marriage, parenting, doctrine, doubt, service, and much more. Sometimes, it’s sharing moments together and others times it’s enduring seasons together. But in all of this, as a friend once wrote, “Sharpening a blade takes time, intentionality, and skill,” and it can’t be done in isolation. It requires two steel instruments (you and another believer or a group of believers) in the hands of the Holy Spirit. As we open ourselves up to His work in these relationships, He will sharpen us to be as we were always intended to be—in the image of Jesus!
Pause: Take a moment to think about and thank God for your community. If you feel you don’t have a community, pray and ask Him to bring you a few faithful friends. He will surely do it.
Practice: Reach out to someone today. Invite them over for coffee or dinner, or just chat on the phone with them for a while. You’ll be amazed at how God will use you to sharpen each other.
Pray: Father, thank You for creating us to live in community. Thank You for blessing us with the gift of friendship. It’s not always easy to do life well with others, but it’s so worth it because it brings value to our lives and makes us more like You. Help us by the power and work of Your Holy Spirit to live authentically in the communities where You’ve placed us and to grow and be sharpened into the image of Your Son. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.