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Iron Sharpens Iron

Well, last week we wrapped up our series talking about the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges, so normally I would start a new series today. However, we’re just about into the summer months and most of us, including myself, will likely miss several Sundays as we take vacations, spend time at Bible camp, or whatever else we find ourselves doing this summer. So I didn’t really want to kick off a whole new series at this point.

But it is Father’s Day – and so I thought it might be good to do a message that was really geared for the men. Now that’s not to say that it won’t apply to you ladies – I think there’s lessons here for all of us today – but I really want to try to connect with the guys this morning. And so to that end, today’s message will be shorter than usual, it will include power tools, and it will end with food.

I think most guys would be agreeable to all that – so we here we go! Let’s jump right into it.

The main verse that I want to focus on today is Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

Now of course, when I was a kid, I memorized this verse in the 1984 edition of the NIV – and back then, the translators weren’t so concerned about being gender neutral – and so that edition put it like this…

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV 1984 Edition)

So while, obviously this verse can apply to anyone – both men and women, today I want to focus on applying this verse to us men. Because I think this is really a missing ingredient in our Canadian culture today. We really don’t have that element of men sharpening men.

But I guess, before we get too far along, I should probably define this whole concept of sharpening one another and why its so important.

So, let me start with a little story. When I was kid, I grew up on a mixed farm. We did a little of everything – we had grain, hay, cattle, sheep, chickens, we even had rabbits for a time.

But I remember one day we had a cow that got into the alfalfa. And some alfalfa is good, but too much alfalfa can be fatal for a cow. It can cause a condition called bloat – where basically, they get a ton of gas trapped in their gut that they can’t expel and the pressure inside them grows so much that it compresses their lungs and they basically suffocate.

And this happened to one of our cows. But the time we got to it, the cow was already down on the ground – it’s belly had swollen up like a giant balloon – and it was to the point where it probably only had minutes to live. And so the only way my dad could save it was to actually stab the cow in the right spot – relieving the pressure from all that gas.

So my dad got our big ‘ol butcher knife and and he went to puncture the swollen belly of the cow, but the knife apparently wasn’t sharp enough to puncture the tough cow hide. Instead of puncturing the belly, the knife stopped and my dad’s hand continued downward. And while the knife wasn’t sharp enough to puncture the hide, it was certainly sharp enough to slash my dad’s hand open as his hand slide down the blade of the knife. That was certainly not the intended result!

And I tell you that story because it really illustrates the importance of being sharp. If that had been a sharp blade – as it was intended to be – that knife would have been an incredible helpful tool – it would made a nice clean puncture and would have saved the life of that cow. But instead, as a dull blade, it was extremely dangerous. It caused major injury and damage to my dad’s hand. The sharpness of the blade (or the lack thereof) made all the difference.

I think anyone who works with a knife or blade of any kind would tell you that they certainly want that blade to be sharp.

  • If you’re cooking, you want a sharp knife. You might think a sharp knife is more dangerous than a dull knife, but the opposite is true. Any chef will tell you that a dull knife requires more pressure and is more likely to slip and cause injury.
  • If you’re chopping down a tree, you want your ax to be sharp. A dull blade takes way more effort and is more dangerous because it doesn’t always cut like you expect.
  • If you’re in a print shop and you’re cutting paper – you want a sharp blade on your paper cutter to get a nice clean edge – otherwise it’ll be ragged and torn.
  • If you’re a surgeon – you sure don’t want to use a dull knife! You want a precise incision exactly how and where you want it – not a mangled mess of someone insides!

Whether it’s chainsaws, scissors, planers, swords, needles, chisels  – there are so many tools that we used every day that are powerful and effective when they are sharp – but dangerous and ineffective if they are dull.

And I think the same is true of men. Men can be powerful and effective when they are sharp – but dangerous and ineffective when they are dull.

We saw last week as we looked at the life of Samson how when powerful and effective he could have been – but instead, He was ineffective as a husband and as a leader and was very dangerous to those around him.

As men, God has given us great responsibilities –  to love our wives, and to lead our families, to stand for what’s right, to rescue the hurting, to be salt and light in this dark world. God must think an awful lot of us to give us such great responsibilities – and he does. But with those great responsibilities, God has also given us the authority and power necessary to carry them out.

And that’s why it so important that we stay sharp. We can be powerful and effective in doing the things that God has called us to – or we can misuse that power and be ineffective and dangerous to the people around us.

As we celebrate Father’s Day today, I think we all realize the impact that dad makes on a home. A single word from dad can either build that family up and strengthen it – or a single word from dad can cause deep wounds and destroy a family.

The choices we make every day in our words and in our actions have a huge impact on our wives, our children, on the church, and on all the people around us.

Men, we have to stay sharp! And as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

So what does that look like? Well, this morning I’ve brought a couple of tools that will help us understand how we can sharpen one another. And the first sharpening tool that I want to show you is the angle grinder.

[ Live Angle Grinder Demo ]

You need some angle grinders in your life. You need those people who significantly shape who you will become. Chances are you’ve already had one or two. For a lot of us, our dad was our first angle grinder. For good or for bad – He was likely the first man had a major impact on who we would become.

And some of us, we’ve had an uncle or Grandpa who was that angle grinder in our lives. Maybe it was a youth leader or a teacher. Maybe a pastor or whoever… But we all need that older, wiser mentor in our life that significantly shapes the man that we will become.

Proverbs 13:20 says… (And I like the poetic language of the NKJV for this verse)

He who walks with wise men will be wise,

But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20 NKJV

That’s so true. The people we hang out with are the people that we become. So if want to be sharp men of godly character, men who love and serve their families, men who are leaders in their community, men full of wisdom, strength, and resolve – then we need to spend a lot of time with those kinds of men because iron sharpens iron.

When I look at the man that I’ve become – I am really the reflection of the men that I’ve hung out with. Two of my greatest angle grinders in life have been my dad and then Gord Russell from Camp Little Red. These are the two guys that I have spent a lot of time with – and they have significantly shaped the man I’ve become. People will often comment how much I’m like Gord or like my dad. Well, that’s because I’ve spent a lot of time with them. They’ve worked like an angle grinder, shaping me into reflections of them.

And on that note, this really points out to me how important it is that I spend time with God. This principle works in my relationship with Him too! The more time I spend with God – the more I take on his character – the more I think like Him – the more I act like Him. Our character really reflects the time that we spend with God in His word and in prayer. Who better to walk with and become like than God Himself! He’s the ultimate angle grinder. He doesn’t just shape us – he makes us into new Creations – made in His image.

It’s so important that we spend a lot of time walking with our wise Creator – letting him shape us through His Word and through prayer. Because it’s just like the proverbs says…

He who walks with wise men will be wise,

But the companion of fools will be destroyed. – Proverbs 13:20 NKJV

And that brings me to the second tool that I want to show you. The second tool is a whetstone.

[ Live Whetstone Demo ]

The thing about a whetstone is that its not just one pass. It’s one pass after another after another after another. To effectively sharpen anything with a whetstone, you’ve got to keep at it for a long time. It’s requires consistency.

And that’s true of men sharpening men as well. It’s a long process. It requires dedication and consistency. There are no shortcuts to becoming a man of God. You can’t just go to a great conference or hear a great sermon or get fired up about living for God for a few weeks. It’s a long term investment. And if you’re going to stick with it, you need to have some guys who will stick with you for the long haul. You need guys who are going to spur you on on a regular basis.

That’s one of the reasons why we get together for church every single week. We need that consistent regular encouragement and accountability and spurring on. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us…

24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

That consistent, repetitive action of meeting together every week to encourage one another and to spur each other on is so important. That’s a key part of the sharpening process! And I’m not just talking about Sunday morning services. Those are important for sure, but I think we also need to have those times when we can regularly get together with one or two or a handful of other guys and encourage one another and to talk through some of the issues that don’t always come up on Sunday mornings.

I think probably everyone has issues or burdens that they don’t really what to share with everyone – but they’ve got to share with someone! And having those one or two or three guys that you can share those burdens with and who you know will walk with you through those tough times – man, that makes all the difference in the world! That consistent meeting together – sharpening one another – spurring each other on – that is so valueable!

I think that’s exactly what we see in early church. Look at Acts 2:42.

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

Man – these guys were committed to sharpening one another. Verse 42 tells us that they devoted themselves to these things…  They were devoted to the apostles teaching – that is, the Bible. They devoted themselves to fellowship with each other. They devoted themselves to to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper). And they devoted themselves to prayer.

What would it look like if, as a church, all of us men devoted ourselves – like these guys –  to sharpening one another in all these same ways?  What if we were absolutely committed to making sure that every guy here was walking close to the Lord, loving their wives, teaching their children to follow God, serving their community… Imagine if we were all absolutely committed to helping each other do that? That would be pretty incredible, wouldn’t it? I think we’d have a pretty sharp group of guys! A group of guys who would be powerful and effective in doing the things that God has called them to do.

So this morning I want to encourage you guys to do exactly that. Using this verse 42 here as our template, I want to challenge you to…

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. Acts 2:42

…devote yourselves to the apostles teaching – that is, devote yourselves to God’s Word. Read it together. Study it together. Figure out how to apply it together. Yes – we need to have our personal time with God – but there’s a lot we can learn when we learn together. So let’s be devoted to God’s Word.

Be devoted to fellowship with one another – none of this lone ranger Christianity – let’s be devoted to doing life together. Let’s carry one another’s burdens. Let’s help each other up when we fall. Satan would love to divide and conquer. So let’s be devoted to sticking with one another.

And of course, that includes being devoted to sharing meals with each other. It’s amazing how simply eating together builds friendship and camaraderie. We’ve got to eat anyway – why not each with each other? (And by the way, there are free burgers after the service!)

Let’s be devoted to the sharing the Lord Supper together – in other words, let’s regularly remind each other through communion or in other ways about what Christ did for us. When we keep Christ’s sacrifice in the forefront of our minds – and when we remember how he loved and served us – it’s a whole lot easier for us to sacrifice and to serve and to love the ones around us.

And finally, let’s be devoted to praying with one another. Not only is there great value in prayer, but I think there’s even more value in praying together. When men pray together – for each other and with each other – God does does some pretty cool things in and through those men.

I think this whole verse is a fantastic template for how we can be “as iron sharpening iron” – “one man sharpening another.”

Now there’s lots of way that this can play out in your life. Certainly committing to being a part of the weekly church gatherings on a regular consistent basis is a great start! But I’d encourage us to go even beyond that, because staying sharp is so important.

For me, I don’t want to be ineffective or dangerous. I know that God has put me in a position as a dad, as a husband, as a leader – and that whatever I do will make a major impact on the people around me. So I want to make sure that my impact is a positive one. And so I need you guys – you men – to help keep me sharp. And I would guess that many of you would want the same thing for your lives.

So maybe that means we need to find two or three other guys and together devote ourselves to meeting for coffee each week? Take 30 minutes to read a few verses, talk about your week, and then pray for each other and head off to work. It’s not a huge commitment, but those 30 minutes could become some of the most valuable minutes of our week. It’s like investing a few minutes sharpening your ax before you spend the day chopping wood – a sharp blade will make all the difference! And that’s so true for us!

It would be awesome if we had 3 or 4 different groups of men from this church, meeting at different times and places, but for the same purpose of keeping each other sharp.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, I’d give you a couple options for getting started. #1. You can just take the initiative and start your own group. Find 1 or 2 or 3 other guys that you might connect with and make a plan to start meeting. You can work out the where and the when and what you want to do when you meet – there’s no secret formula. You just gotta start doing it.

Or the second option, if you don’t really know how to get started, but you want to be part of such a group, I’ve got a sign up sheet at the back. Just write down your name and contact info and we’ll put together 1 or 2 or however many groups we need to. I’d love to see every man here be part of such a group.

And that goes for he ladies as well, by the way. I know you need sharpening as well! Many of you are already part of the ladies Bible study group and I think there is at least one other group that’s meeting together – there may be more that I don’t even know about – and that’s great!. But if you’re interested in getting together with 1 or 2 or 3 others to be encouraged and spurred on – put your name down on that sheet too. I’m be more than happy to get you connected.

But let’s be devoted, as a church, to living out this verse from Acts 2 and let’s be as iron sharpening iron – so that we can be powerful and effective in doing the things that God has called us to do.

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