Does Not Wisdom Call Out? Pt. 5
Study Guide , August 18 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
Perhaps you have noticed that Kids often have a different perspective on matters of faith and the Bible. For example: One little guy was overheard praying: “Lord, if you can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am.” Then, after a child dedication service of a little brother, the older boy was really upset on the way home. When his parents asked him what was wrong, he said, “Well, the preacher said that he wanted us to be brought up in a Christian home…but I want to stay with you guys!” Then a Sunday School teacher asked the children why it was important to be quiet in church and one little girl said, “Because people are sleeping!”1
Our focus in the past several studies has been on the acquiring of wisdom…wisdom for the purpose of honoring and serving our King and of genuinely being able to bless others along our journey of faith. And just like these kids were in need of some ‘tweaking’ in their understanding of Discipleship, so are we all…we each need continual sharpening in our understanding and in our demonstration of faith before the eyes of God and a watching world. So let’s take a look at this essential need of the ‘discipline of sharpening’ as we pursue and seek to practice wisdom.
Perhaps the most direct statement in Scripture about this need is from Prov 27:17- “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” NASU Now this is probably one of the most well known, yet at the same time, least practiced proverbs in the Bible. And why is that? Well, for one thing, it is because we live in a very confusing culture. On the one hand, concerning things in our culture that are not okay, our culture pushes an attitude of ‘I’m okay and you’re okay, and so anything you or I do or say is also okay’; okay?!’…and so on. But, ironically, we also live in one of the most rude and critical cultures of all time. So many people are so critical about the things that really are okay, it’s just that they are not okay with them. And so when you try to promote these things that are okay; such as faith and values and virtues and character…especially Biblical character, that’s when the critics lash out at you. So, yes, there is a great deal of confusion about what’s okay and what’s not okay in our culture today. And the thing about confusion is that ‘confusion’ is never a confident motivator for seeking to accomplish that which is good…especially in a Biblical sense. Confusion doesn’t motivate us to righteousness…but commitment does; especially when we’re committed to being sharpened more and more for God’s use.
But this condition of our culture does partly explain why this proverb about this ‘discipline of sharpening’ is one of the least practiced. However, we want to try to explain how this proverb can become one of the most practiced and one of the most profitable proverbs we can practice in our own lives, and help others around us practice it, too. And part of the surprising help here is to simply come to a better understanding of who this person really is that is helping to sharpen us. Look at how the New Living Translation states Prov 27:17- “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” NLT Whoever this person is who can help you sharpen your understanding, sharpen your behavior, sharpen your character, sharpen your attitude, and so on, is not to be viewed as just some buggy kind of person that you hope to avoid whenever possible…no, not at all. Rather, this sharpening person, or rather, this God-given ‘sharpening tool’ that has come into your life is ‘a friend’, and you and I need to consider them as ‘a friend’. That is, unless you discover or discern that they are not trying to sharpen you at all, but are trying to just stab you…stab you with their critical spirit and condemning words. And that is very important to differentiate, because friends don’t stab you if they are trying to sharpen you. No, remember; a friend is not a stabber, but a sharpener. You are to defend against ‘stabbers’…but you are to open up your life to ‘sharpeners’. And ‘wisdom’ is knowing the difference. As the old song says… “You’ll know them by their love”…or lack of it.
But notice some more counsel on this wisdom of being open to the ‘sharpeners’ in your life.
Prov 1:5- “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel…” NASU
Prov 6:23- “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life…” NIV
Prov 9:9- “Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” NLT
Prov 9:12- “If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.” NLT
Prov 12:15- “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” NLT
Prov 28:23- “In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” NLT
These truly are remarkably wise proverbs. And we would each be remarkably wise to practice them. But one thing we notice right away is that the impetus on this whole sharpening process lies with who? It lies with US!
The point is that when it comes to the things that really matter in our discipleship, like growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ in our daily character and actions and attitudes, we tend to assume that these things will just somehow happen in our lives. But they don’t…and they won’t, unless we initiate a process for them to happen in our lives. In other words, we are to try to make sure these things are happening in our lives by initiating help from others with this goal of ours.
So mark it down: if we don’t act on this goal to become sharpened in these areas of discipleship we will most likely become or remain dull in each of them. Like if you wait for a tool to be sharpened it will just remain or even become more dull than it was. Just like we have to initiate the sharpening process for the tools we use in order to build things, we also have to initiate the sharpening process in our own lives in order to be useful tools in order for God to use us in building whatever He intended to build through us, or through our lives.
Look at how the Apostle Paul put this: 2 Tim 2:20-21- “In a large house there are things made of gold and silver. But there are also things made of wood and clay. Some of these are used for special purposes, others for ordinary jobs. The Lord wants to use you for special purposes, so make yourself clean from all evil. Then you will be holy, and the Master can use you. You will be ready for any good work.” ERV
You talk about having a sense of significance in your life…Paul reveals to us that the Lord wants to use you and me for His special purposes! You are a special vessel…a special tool that God has chosen to use in building His Kingdom and in carrying out His plans that He made from even before the foundation of the world. You want to be ready when He is ready to use you! You want to be as available of a vessel as you can be for what He wants to accomplish through you! You want to be as sharp of a tool as you can be in the hands of God to do what He intended to do with you!
Of course we do. But in order to be ready and available and sharp we must consider or reconsider what it is that we are really trying to accomplish in life. Am I trying to be a useful vessel, a useful tool for God to use in order for Him to build what He intended to build in, through, and with my life? Again, without setting the right goal, or shooting at the right target, we will be hitting everything but the target.
Remember what true success in life really is: True success is usefulness to God. Remember, God made plans for each of our lives long before any of us even started making plans for our own lives. Success then is seeing to it that we become as fitting of a vessel as we can be, or as sharp of a tool as we can be, in order for God to use us in His plan that He had for us, and yes, even before the foundation of the world. And that in itself shows how anxious God was for you to arrive on planet Earth, and to then become born again into His family, and to then become useful for Him to use you in such a way as to bless others, as well as for Him to bless you and reward you in return! How significant is that? As we have said before: You can’t get anymore significant than that!
But again, this all implies ‘sharpening’. And this sharpening requires initiating; it requires that you and I initiate the sharpening process in our lives. And the reason we say that you and I are to initiate it is because most people are rather hesitant to sharpen us, at least the conscientious and caring kind of people that we really need to help sharpen us. Yes, there are the other kind, the critical and uncaring kind, that are more than ready to criticize us about things like our looks and our performances and our personalities and so on. But, again, that’s not Biblical sharpening; that’s worldly stabbing. And we don’t need that! We can refuse that! Although, strangely enough, sometimes we can even positively use others negative criticisms, if we will humbly look at it to see if there is anything that we can use from it to help us sharpen something that needed sharpening in our lives anyway. For example: One of the habits of the founder of the Navigators Christian Ministry, Dawson Trotman, was to review any of the criticisms he had recently received to see if there were any truths in them so that he could make any adjustments he needed in order to be more effective for Christ. Pretty amazing attitude, right? It’s like sifting through the chaff of unjust criticisms to see if there is any wheat we can use out of it. If not, then just let the winds of truth blow the chaff away. But if so, let even the kernels of wheat help sharpen you more, since part of our overall goal really is to become more useful to God as we intentionally seek to be ‘sharpened’ for God’s use.
To help with this, let us suggest that you practice thinking of yourself as ‘a tool in the hand of God’. Yes, there are other great Biblical depictions for our self image, like ‘vessels’ and ‘branches’ and such, and each of these have their own amazing implications. But in connection with this ‘sharpening process’, try to think of yourself as a ‘tool in the hand of God’, since this readily prompts us to then think about our need of staying sharp and regularly being sharpened in order to be as useful as we can to God and for God’s use.
What are some examples of areas we can initiate this sharpening process in our lives? There are five, let’s call them, ‘arenas’ of our lives that regularly need to be sharpened. And these arenas are like what Hebrews 12 talks about as like having a great crowd of witnesses watching and cheering us on to do the best we can in these things for the glory of God and the gain of others and ourselves.
So Let’s list them and then we’ll suggest some ways to initiate the sharpening process.
1. The arena of our knowledge of God and our walk of faith. Review and initiate help from others in becoming sharper in the knowledge of God and in your obedience of faith.
2. The arena of your family. Review and initiate feedback in becoming sharper in your relationship with your wife or husband and with each of your children as well, if you are married and have children. Otherwise, seek to be sharpened in how you relate to your siblings or parents.
3. The arena of your church. Review your service and initiate help from others concerning your service in the family of God.
4. The arena of your community. Review your relationships with friends, co-workers, and neighbors, and initiate constructive help from them on ways to become sharpened in these relationships.
5. The arena of your world. Review your involvement with your country and the impact you are having. Since we citizens of both Heaven and this world, we are to have an impact on both for the good of others and the glory of God. And we can initiate help in this by seeking the counsel of others on how to do just that.
So, these are the five arenas of our lives that we can target for becoming sharper and initiate help or counsel from others to do so. We can even let others know that our goal is to become a sharper tool for God to use in each of these arenas of life, and their feedback or assistance will really be helpful. And even right there…God may even use that to help them catch this Biblical vision of the ‘discipline of sharpening’ and put it into practice in their own lives.
We’ll resume unpacking these five arenas for sharpening in our next study.
1. Kids Illustrations from God’s Minute, August 10, 2019