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? 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. Though there probably was plenty of trash talking and jokes between the two, both players entered the gym 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 them.
When it comes to ironsharpening, the whole idea, as we have identified in a previous article, 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. 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?
Here's the deal, God allows us to face adversity not to kill us or stop us, but to help us learn how to overcome challenges that come our way. In sports, you can practice and study your craft as much as you want, but until you use the skill you work on in an actual competition, you will never know if you have what it takes to overcome. Life provides ample opportunity for adversity to test you. It will push you to the limits of all you know to do. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
The good news is that you will get through any adversity you face, the bad news is that you will have to struggle to get through. That's where this idea of ironsharpening through competition comes in.
Competing is sports is all about learning how to struggle through the battle to achieve the goal of winning. Someone once said that when it comes to sports, either I win or I learn. I really love this saying because what it means is that though I may not win the game this time, i've learned through this game what it takes to produce a win next time. For the winner, it is about learning what you did to overcome so that the next game, you will be able to keep doing what you did and also you will learn about your weak points that caused you struggle during the battle. That kind of knowledge is invaluable as you grow in your craft.
When it comes to ironsharpening relationships, 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. 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. 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. Their objective is not to embarrass or demean, but to push you to being the best you were intended to be. They live out what the apostle Paul describes in his letter to the church at Philippi.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others " (Philippians 2:3-4)
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!
Stay Forever Strong!