Iron Sharpens Iron
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17
It was several years ago, and I felt lonely at church. It wasn’t as if I was alone...I saw friendly faces each Sunday, and I was able to have conversations. But, still...I was lonely.
Warren Wiersbe explains that phenomenon in his commentary on Proverbs. He says, “It’s possible to have many companions and no real friends...friendship is something that has to be cultivated, and its roots must go deep.” (p. 437)
And what better place for roots to grow deep than on our knees?
I began praying… “God, I would love a friend at church. I have many good relationships outside of church, but I would REALLY love a friend at church, too.” Later, our church transitioned through a pastoral retirement, and my prayer grew… “God, you know Miss J is alone in her age group. Please bring a pastoral family with a friend for her.” Add another long-ago prayer, way back to a small group I was part of shortly after getting married… “God, please provide good, solid friends for my husband.”
God heard all of those things. He numbers our days, and He knew just the right fit. And, in only a way He could, He answered all those prayers in the form of another family. Husbands & wives, boys & girls. It just was a good fit. Over time, the bond was solidified.
Having kids the same age helped. Not giving up on each other helped. Walking through adversity together helped. Praying together helped. But I know what it really boils down to is that God likes to give His kids good gifts. And this one was worth the wait!
I’ve come to lovingly think of this dear family as soul-friends. As iron-sharpens-iron friends. No matter where we start a conversation, we always make our way back to the Lord. And since He is the One in which all things live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28), it’s only appropriate to center our lives, conversations and friendships on Him.
I admit this is all on my heart this week because we had to say goodbye to each other last weekend. This wasn’t a surprise to God, but it sure hurts. We’ve gotten used to having coffee and meals together. We’ve gotten used to having superb conversations together. We’ve gotten used to teasing and joking with each other. We’ve embraced each other’s kids and each other. And maybe at the top of the list, we’ve gotten used to holding each other accountable and sharpening each other, spurring one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
So, all that said, I couldn’t help but write about friendship this week!
Wiersbe, again in his commentary on Proverbs, outlines six qualities of true friendship. And in honor of my dear friends, I want to share his list today:
- Loving friendship will produce loyalty. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17); “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (18:24)
- True friends know how to keep a confidence. “If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man’s confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.” (25:9-10)
- True friends have the ability to control the tongue. “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.” (11:9) Don’t believe the first thing you hear about a matter because it may be wrong. (18:17) And, beware of people who cause trouble and then say, “I was only joking.” (26:18-19)
- Be lovingly honest with each other. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (27:6)
- Faithful friends counsel and encourage each other. “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (27:9)
- Friends exercise tact and are sensitive to each other’s feelings. “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him.” (27:14)
May each of you experience the sweet communion of soul-friends, and may those relationships be rooted deeply into Christ. Because, like all of life, that is how we stand firm! And may we willingly be iron sharpening iron, continually stirring each other up and forward, always to Christ.