When I was younger and in a scouting program, I had to earn my Cut and Chop card to be able to carry a knife and use it. The card also gave me permission to use an axe, hatchet and other cutting tools, but I had to prove I knew how to use them and care for them. One of the requirements was to show how to properly hone your cutting tool’s edge, and another was to show how to sharpen it. You would need to hone your tool’s edge when it got misaligned or folded over because of all the wood you cut or whittled. You would need to sharpen it when the edge was gone and it needed a new one in order to cut the way it was supposed to. Honing used the existing cutting edge while sharpening and sharpening created a new edge.
In Scripture we see where God places some people in our life to hone us and others to sharpen us. When Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles in front of the Jews, Paul had to correct him (Galatians 2). This was a case of a person who was misaligned and God used another to set him straight. When David was running from Saul, he would get tired and worn out living in caves and in the wilderness. Jonathan, David’s best friend, would encourage him and care for him. He was sharpening David using words and his friendship to give David the edge back in order to keep him going. We need both of these types of people in our lives, and we must give them permission to do and say what needs to be done. Being homed and sharpening can be painful at times, but when it’s done in love, it’s easier to receive.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion]” (AMP). Who has God placed in your life in these roles? Have you discussed it with them? It’s important to know who it is and to give them permission to speak openly with you if you’re going to be used to your full potential. Many times we’ve become dull or misaligned and don’t even know it. You need someone who can have an honest discussion with you, without you getting defensive about it. Sharpening is a slow, repetitive process, but is vital to our growth. Think back over your life and see who God has used repeatedly to encourage you, sharpen you and correct you. You probably already have someone in this capacity and didn’t even know it. If you can’t think of anyone in that role, think of who you trust enough to be in that role and ask them to be the iron that sharpens you.