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Better Together: Three Relationships That Will Make You A Success

It's 5 am and two individuals walk into an empty gym and get ready to spend the next three hours engaged in some intense basketball drills and competition. Why would anyone in their right mind be up at that hour putting in work? Whose crazy idea is this? You would be surprised to know that the student athlete actually suggested the workout time.

As a mentor, you have to say yes when the young mentee actually wants to workout at this hour. Because you understand that investing in someone who wants to be invested into is a precious thing. To have someone pursue you and be willing to sacrifice to get better is one of the hallmarks of a good ironsharpening relationship.

As we learned in the previous post, the ironsharpening relationship is built on the foundation of a shared desire to get better at whatever your passion is. When it comes to Ironsharpening relationships, there are three categories of relationship that exist. When I first started in full time ministry over two decades ago, I learned a phrase that has stuck with me. “Pursue a Paul, Be a Barnabas and Train a Timothy”. If you have known me for any length of time somewhere along the line you will hear me use that phrase. That phrase simply means that you need to have someone ahead of you who can show you the way, somebody in the fight with you that you can go through stuff together, and someone behind you that you are raising up to where you are. Paul, Barnabas and Timothy are three men in the bible who are examples of the three ironsharpening relationships you need to become a success. Let's take a look at each of these men and see how each of them are examples of the type of ironsharpening relationships you need in your life to reach your full potential.


Paul is the ultimate mentor. He is that person that has been where you are trying to go. The beauty of Paul is that he knows the ins and outs of the journey that you are on. He can point out those things that will help you and also help you overcome those things that will hinder you. How do you find him or her? So glad you asked, as you look at your life see who are the people you look up to. It doesn’t have to be an older person that is light years ahead of you. It could be as simple as someone who you see as successful.

You have to pursue that person and actually ask to develop a relationship with them. Let them know what you are striving for in life and ask them if there is any advice they can give you. Spend time with them and ask questions, lots of them. As the relationship progresses maybe you can set up a regular meeting time with them where y’all can talk and they can invest in you. A true Paul will take that time and probably be flattered that you see them as someone that they look up to.


Barnabas is someone in the bible that most people don’t know about, but he was instrumental in Paul’s life. After Paul had his Damascus road experience he had to be mentored, and Barnabas was that mentor. He poured his life into Paul who was an extremely educated man who was a pretty quick study. Paul quickly became Barnabas’ equal in the ministry. Through their relationship they developed a close brotherly bond that was tested when they had their infamous blow up in Acts 15 where they went their separate ways. But before that happened, they were encouragement for each other. They pushed each other to become better. This was a good “ironsharpening” relationship (Proverbs 27:17).

For you, that Barnabas in your life could be a teammate, classmate, a best friend, someone you work with. This is a person that you have in your life that challenges you and pushes you but also encourages you. It’s that go to person that you can confide in, the one that will laugh with you, cry with you, fight with you and all that. Take a look at your friends you have. Are they building you up? Are they pushing you to be better? If they are, then that is the likely Barnabas in your life.


Timothy is that person who is “behind” you that is looking to get where you are. You are the one that has to recognize that person. Rarely does he or she approach you but they appreciate the help you give them. Paul recognized the gift in Timothy just as Barnabas recognized it in him. You have to be willing to give Timothy the best of your time while you are together. How do you recognize him?

He’s the one that is working harder than anyone else on the team. He’s the one that gets there early and stays late. He’s the one that asks questions and then actually tries to work on things. When you see him, offer your hand to him/her. Maybe it’s that new young player on the team with a decent jumper that could use some improvement, Perhaps you should offer to have him/her work out with you sometime. As the relationship progresses, maybe you can set up a time where you can regularly meet to study or workout or whatever. The goal of that time is to build into that person. Look around you, that person may be closer than you think.

I have found over the years that to become a success, you can't just have one type of Ironsharpening relationship going in your life, but you need all three working simultaneously in order to reach you full potential. It starts with your desire to become all that you were created to be. Becoming a success is only three relationships away. Now that we have identified the three types of ironsharpening relationships let's look in our next post to see what it looks like to get "Better Together" through an ironsharpening relationship.

Stay Forever Strong!



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