Lately I’ve noticed a consistent correlation between my motivation to blog and time spent with friends. Give me a couple of hours engaged in deep conversation over a “cuppa,” and I will return home energized and inspired. Caffeine could certainly be the culprit. But I believe there may be an even more powerful stimulant at work here.
Hebrews 10:24 instructs us to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Did you catch the word “stimulate?” It is the Greek word paroxusmos. The root of this word literally means “to make sharp, to sharpen.”
This brings to mind a similar verse, Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” After time spent with a friend, my mind is clearer and my thinking does feel sharper. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible describes it this way: “Two minds, thus acting on each other, become more acute.” I have enjoyed several “iron sharpening iron” conversations in recent weeks that have sparked blog posts on topics that we discussed.
Another original meaning of the word “stimulate,” according to Barnes, is “to arouse, excite, to call into action.” He goes on to say that true fellowship between believers should “excite them to persevere in the Christian life.” I have experienced this firsthand. Time spent with like-minded believers motivates me to step out in faith and pursue God’s call on my life. These friends spur me on in following Jesus and remind me that the Christian life IS an exciting adventure not to be missed sitting passively on the sidelines.
Paroxusmos is found in only one other place in the New Testament: “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” (Acts 15:39) Um, excuse me? This wasn’t the uplifting verse about the benefits of Christian fellowship I was expecting. Paul and Barnabas, friends and partners in ministry, apparently had an “iron sharpening iron” moment of their own. Sparks were flying, all right. Yet I’m thankful the Bible doesn’t gloss over the reality that relationships in a fallen world can sometimes be…messy.
The Amplified Version of Proverbs 27:17 acknowledges this double-edged nature of the sharpening blade: “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (to show rage or worthy purpose).” At times “the saints’ communion,” which was designed to be “comfortable and delightful” (Gill, in his commentary on Hebrews 10:24) can become uncomfortable and hurtful. Unfortunately I have some firsthand knowledge of this too. But the Lord has faithfully used these experiences to sharpen and refine me as well. And I can say without hesitation that the blessings and joys of fellowship have far outweighed the pain and challenges.
So I’d like to close with a word to my friends. Thank you for sharpening me through your words and lives. Thank you for the ways you stimulate me to be a more enthusiastic follower of Jesus Christ. Thank you for encouraging me to persevere and for extending grace to me when I fall. I am a better person and Christian because of you.
(Oh, and the inspiration for this blog post? Yep. Time spent with a friend.)