Have you ever been around someone that was full of flattery? Every time you spoke to them they just told you how great you were, how smart you were, how pretty you were? What about those people in your life that tell you the truth, not just what you want to hear? The ones that are willing to say the hard things, they are willing to tell you you’re wrong, and they are willing to stand beside you, no matter what. I find that I would much rather be friends with the one who is willing to say to me the things I need to hear, not the ones who tell me what I want to hear.
Yesterday, I listened to a pastor on the radio who talked about challenging one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. One of the comments was that we are to be “iron that sharpens iron.” This got me to thinking about all the friends I have in my life, as well as those who are in my past. This made me ask the question, what kind of friend am I? Am I a friend that encourages and builds up, do I sharpen those around me, or do I tear down the people in my life, or perhaps I flatter with my words and tell people what they want to hear, rather than take the high road and tell them what they need to hear. What kind of friend are you, and what kind of friend does the Lord Jesus tell us to be?
“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17
As I read this passage, I thought about my kitchen knives. Each time my knife begins to dull; my husband takes them and puts them to his stone, sharpening them so that they are of use again. We all have moments in our lives when we too begin to dull. Our faith wanes, doubts come; we lose hope, and find ourselves needing support. As a Christian, and as a friend, we are to be the stone for those that are growing dull. We are to be the iron, the stone that helps them become a better person, challenges them to become more than what they are, and brings them to a place of sharpness once again.
There have been many times in my life when I have needed to be sharpened, I have needed someone to break through the doubts and the fears of my life and encourage me to be a better person. Many times I have gone to a friend, and all I get is flattery and the usual Christian scriptures, then they give me a smile and a pat on my back. You might as well have placed me in the junk drawer of dull knives after that conversation. But then, there have been those friends that have come along side me and told me the things I needed to hear. They have provoked in me a spirit to do better, a spirit that makes me want to change, to grow and to be more than what I am now. It is those friends who I go to now, those who are willing to be the iron that I need to sharpen the dullness in my life.
The word “countenance” means the face of a person when expressing their character or mood. We all have that face, that face that looks down, upset, hopeless. When we, as friends and family in Jesus Christ, see a brother or sister in that expression, what are we to them? Are we iron, or are we just another dull knife to them?
Matthew Henry writes, “Wise and profitable discourse sharpens men's wits; and those that have ever so much knowledge may by conference have something added to them. It sharpens men's looks, and, by cheering the spirits, puts a briskness and liveliness into the countenance, and gives a man such an air as shows he is pleased himself and makes him pleasing to those about him... Men are filed, made smooth, and bright, and fit for business (who were rough, and dull, and inactive), by conversation. This is designed, 1. To recommend to us this expedient for sharpening ourselves, but with a caution to take heed whom we choose to converse with, because the influence upon us is so great either for the better or for the worse. 2. To direct us what we must have in our eye in conversation, namely to improve both others and ourselves, not to pass away time or banter one another, but to provoke one another to love and good works and so to make one another wiser and better.”
A good friend is not necessarily someone who agrees with everything you do and say. A good friend will challenge you to be a better person. We grow in Christ and in maturity when we are around people who challenge us. We can bounce our thoughts and ideas off of one another and when we need encouragement or help, they are willing to give it- no matter how much it may hurt us to hear it. Hebrews 10:24 tells us that we are to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”
Being a friend of iron means that we are willing to challenge one another and we will have a positive effect on others. The choice is ours, we can either have a positive effect on those whom we are friends with, by challenging them, and loving them, or we can have the negative effect. The negative effect causes others to turn away from us; they do not get encouraged or challenged, so they go elsewhere. The flattery, the speaking what is easy only dulls the blade more. To sharpen a knife you have to work at it, you have to grind it against a stone, over and over again. Jesus was willing, and still is willing to tell you what you need to hear. How many times have you read your bible and been convicted by His words to you. Did that make you stop reading, stop studying, or did it stir up something inside you to be a better person?
If we want to be true friends to one another, than we must be willing to be the iron when others need sharpened, we must be willing to say the hard things, we must be willing to not always say what is easy but willing to say what is hard. As I look back on my life, I see a small handful of people that were willing to stand with me and be the iron I needed. I may not have liked what they were saying at the time, but I am thankful for them now, for it was their words, their willingness to put their iron to mine and challenge me to be a better Christian, wife, mother, and friend. What kind of friend are you?
Lord Jesus, open our ears to hear Your words to us today. Teach us to be the iron our brothers and sisters in Christ need. Help us to see their needs, and help us to be willing to be the friend that sharpens our friends, just as You sharpen us. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.