It's 100 degrees outside and two athletes walk into a hot gym ready to battle each other in some intense 1v1 basketball. Both are intending to make the scoreboard match the temperature outside by pushing each other to the limits of athletic competition. The game is 2's and 3's to 100, win by four. For the next 20 minutes, they go at it with everything they got until someone finally hits that game winner in the face of the other one. One is happy..the other not so much, both exchange a handshake, sweaty brotherly hug and congratulate each other on a hard fought battle. Afterwards they head to the sidelines to rest and talk about not only the game, but about life......that's ironsharpening! But you say, y'all just spent the last few minutes beating each other up and pushing each other to the limits of exhaustion..how is that ironsharpening? It’s the very definition of ironsharpening!
Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so does one man to another" When it comes to sharpening iron, it takes two equally abrasive objects in constant friction with each other to make both equally sharp. When competing in sports, both players are pushing themselves to win. Each play is a test of the skills they have worked on. It’s an opportunity to get better. At the end of the game, Though there probably was plenty of trash talking and jokes between the two, both players come away with a mutual respect for the skills and abilities of the other. What they understand is that true competition is not about embarrassing the opponent but about having the opportunity to test their skills against someone who is fully capable of beating them. When it comes to ironsharpening relationships, I have found that when we engage in some competitive activity, the filters come off and the real person comes out. In the intensity of the game, you react to what happens in the moment. Anger at a bad play or pure joy at making that killer move, there’s no time to put on a polished front. You are who you are and that’s a place where good relationships can start.
The whole principle of ironsharpening , is based on helping each other to reach their full God given potential. Whether its sports or life, we all desire to be the best at what we do. The game is just the springboard to getting “Better Together”
Competition is one way that most don't always think of as a way of producing growth. Especially in matters of faith, especially in Christianity, most live under the idea that competition is a bad thing. The world has made competition a thing about bringing humiliation and defeat to your opponent. We have lost sight of the true essence of competition which is to test your skill against someone who believes they are just as skilled.
The definition of compete is simply a verb meaning to strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same. With that in mind, you ask how does that build someone up? Some of my best friendships have come from people who I have competed with and against. There’s a brotherly bond that comes through shared struggles. You both get what it means to push and be pushed. It’s that foundation of respect for the other person’s game that creates the trust needed to speak into each other’s lives.
I learned this early in my ministry with my friend Dan. He was a freshman at the university where I served and we found an common bond of sports, specifically basketball and tennis. We’d get together to play whenever we could. He was a tough competitor who I came to develop a healthy respect for as an athlete and as a young man pursuing God.
We became teammates on an intramural basketball team and we had fun but that first season wasn’t the best for me and he could see it. Because of the relationship we had built he was comfortable enough to speak to that situation and in a case of role reversal, the mentor got mentored through that issue. The end result was a seriously re-awakening to my calling that has continued to fuel my work to this day 20 years later.
Ironsharpeners know that the two ways they get better is by investing in others and allowing others to invest in them. When you have two ironsharpeners who engage in competition what you get are two people who are striving to get better together. They understand that on the other side of the battle, though the score reflects a winner and a loser, if both of them push themselves to the limits and learn the lessons along the way, they both will end up winning at life!
Who is that person in your life that challenges you and pushes you to the limit? We want to be tested, proven, but you can't do that alone.
Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for adversity" Not only are they there when things get rough, they are there to encourage, direct and to challenge you.
You need someone who has the strength to challenge you, but the heart to love you enough to push your buttons to make you better. That’s the essence of becoming “Better Together”.
In our next post we will look at how that drive to compete between friends can be the fuel to push the both of you to greater things!
Stay Forever Strong!