“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” — Proverbs 27:17
A recent issue of “The American Sociological Review” took a look at social isolation in America. This review had few statistics worth noting on this issue of loneliness.; however, one that stuck out was that the average American has only two close friends, which is down from three since 1985.
25% of Americans have no one to confide in meaning “Life is hard. There’s no one to talk to. I need counsel. There’s no one to ask. I’m struggling. There’s no one to help me.” I think this helps explain the rise in therapy, counseling and psychology – not that these things are always bad, sometimes they can be extremely helpful. However; in some cases, it’s people paying for someone to do what a friend used to do whether it’s listening, being sympathetic and empathetic.
Additionally, 80% of Americans only confide in their family, which means they just don’t have anybody to talk to.
When Elijah went into the wilderness, he left his servant behind in Beersheba – v. 3. He was all alone. God knew this was not good and He gave him a man named Elisha. Elisha was to be a companion to Elijah and would take Elijah’s place when his ministry ended. I like the concluding words of this chapter, “and ministered unto him.” God knew that the burdens Elijah carried were too heavy for him to bear alone, so He gave him a confidant, a friend, a peer. He gave him someone to walk beside him through the valleys and through the difficulties. Notice that God told Elijah to meet three people – v. 15-16. Notice also that Elisha is the first one Elijah meets. God puts this man into the prophet’s life to help him along his way!
We All Need Godly Friends
We all need that kind of personal ministry from time to time! Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Basically, we do not need to cut ourselves off from other people, but instead we need friends and companions as we go through this life. What a blessing to have someone to confide in. To have a friend who hurts with you, who will help you bear life’s loads, who will pray with you, cry with you, and even when they don’t understand you will still love you! Certainly, we have that kind of ministry in the Person of the Holy Spirit, John 14:16-18; John 16:7-15. However, we still need human interaction!
It takes iron to sharpen iron. A knife is not sharpened by cloth, bread, wood, plastic, or even copper. A knife may cut and shape these things to be more useful, but they will only dull the knife. Sharpening a knife requires iron at least as hard as the knife. Once sharpened, a knife is bright, sharp, and ready for much more productive service.
Successful athletic training requires competition with those better than you, otherwise, your skills are never tested, you never learn the best techniques, and you deceive yourself regarding your ability and techniques. Being a loner and limiting friends is like preparing for Wimbledon by playing tennis on a computer . Absolutely guaranteed to bring failure!
I watched the Bears beat the Seahawks. The score was 28 to 10 at the half. I watched as the Bears coach, Lovey Smith, began to mix things up and try new maneuvers. They were willing to give up a few points and gain a few more to prepare themselves for tougher teams in the next few weeks. If they are going to win the Super Bowl, they must sharpen the weak areas of the team. They must become vulnerable in those areas before they can gain future victory. So it is with you and I. If we are not willing to find that person with godly counsel, and become vulnerable at times, we will not have greater victories down the road.
We have two lessons from our Proverb. We need noble and godly friends to maximize our growth, and we need to be such friends to others to maximize theirs. Dear reader, are you diligent in fulfilling your role in improving the lives of your brethren? Are you a sharpening influence to make them more useful and productive in their lives? And do you value and promote your relationships with other good men for your own perfection?
We have a great support group for those wanting to find someone to talk to. Join us HERE