Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of The United States and arguably the greatest president of all time, once famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” You don’t have to be POTUS to know that a sharp blade makes all the difference. I once bought a machete as a youth thinking that I would be the next great explorer as a I bushwhacked my way through the neighborhood woods. I didn’t consider that the machete came unsharpened. I started hacking away with great zeal but soon gave up in exhaustion. The machete wouldn’t even cut the tiniest of branches. They just bounced back as if to taunt me! I quickly realized my blade had to be sharpened if this machete was going to do anything! I later took it to a friend who had the appropriate equipment to give it an edge. What happened next I won’t forget. Sparks flew as my friend sharpened the blade with an electric whetstone, and the noise, my goodness the noise was horrible! However, when I all was said and done, I had a real tool! The machete could not only cut through small branches but also small trees! It was a youth’s dream come true (and a mother’s worst nightmare!).
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The scripture speaks a certain truth. A blunt life is like that of a blunt blade – it isn’t a very effective tool and produces little effect. We like the machete of my youth need to be sharpened, only an electric whetstone isn’t our solution. We need other people around us who pursue God with all of their hearts and minds who we live in community with. It was Jesus’s plan that this place would be known as The Church. This living institution is a place where truth can be spoken in love to one another through the means of accountability. When one of us falls short of the royal law of loving others as Christ has loved us, it is the duty of a fellow brother and sister in Christ to reflect that truth to us. Is this a pleasant process? Absolutely not! Sparks will fly as our first response to accountability is always defensiveness. There will also be some unpleasant noises too as voices will reach passionate pitches of discourse perhaps never heard before. We might even feel wounded or betrayed when receiving feedback from those we love and trust. However, as Proverbs 27:6 says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted” because God can use them to produce an improved you. Your life will be sharper spiritually speaking. You will have deeper empathy, integrity, and discernment when you live in such a way with others who genuinely care for you but will always place your walk with Christ above a desire to keep everything “comfortable” with you.
Do you have friends who sharpen you? I hope so. If you don’t I want to encourage you to earnestly seek God’s heart in prayer, asking where you can find such people. You can also seek the wisdom of a pastor who is bound to know men and women of Christian character with whom you can connect. Call it a hunch, but I believe that God or a pastor will direct you to The Church and specifically to small group ministry. Within these circles you will find sufficient trust to let others have true insight into your life as you gain insight into theirs. In time, the ability to give and receive “real talk” will be profited as you encourage, prod, and admonish one another into deeper conformity with the Risen Savior in Christ Jesus. Such lives will be of great ability and purpose instead of ineffectiveness and frustration. Spend some time now reflecting and planning on how you can be around other persons of “iron” who will sharpen your life.