The world we knew forever changed overnight in March 2020, when they locked us down from our families, jobs, schools, and churches due to Covid-19. The strenuous mandates from wearing a mask to social distancing, testing, and vaxing, whether you wanted or not, cause emotional strain on our families. We weren’t only physically locked down but also emotionally and spiritually. At a critical time like 9/11, when we needed to come together as a nation to pray, I couldn’t believe our great country, proud of its spiritually faith-based heritage, had been tested, and we failed to keep our churches open. Eventually, the churches opened, some folks went back, and others stayed away until this day.
Yes, we all have battle scars from the past two years of chaos. We lost jobs. We lost loved ones; we couldn’t attend funerals. We couldn’t visit ill ones at the hospital or hold someone’s hand before surgery. Just as we’re navigating from Covid-19, another wave of economic lockdowns come due to high food and gas prices and possibly world war. I thank God, regardless of the tribulations we face individually, as a church or country, he is faithful; I Chronicles 28: 20 – “And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.” This promise holds for today and forever with the Lord.
I was heartbroken to see some families that haven’t come back to church. My hope and prayer for our Troth Ministry are to build the necessary bonds, strong enough to be there for each other when the next crisis is upon us, either individually or as a congregation. We’re here to encourage each other with God’s word during our trying times and praise God during our blessed times. As we have meditated on Hebrews 10: 23 -25, here’s another verse that will help us encourage one another as we grow together in God’s word: Proverbs 27:17 – “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Let’s ponder on this verse.
Why iron? What does it mean to sharpen the countenance of his friend? According to Sciencing.com, iron isn’t as strong as other metals in yield and tensile strength (it can’t handle the stress test), but it is often added to alloys to make them harder. Iron - One of the components of steel and the go-to metal for tool and weapon makers throughout the ages, iron completes the list of the world’s strongest metals.” By itself, iron is weak and useless, but added to other alloys is more substantial; it can handle the stress test as iron is inefficient alone; we are ineffective alone. Also, like iron, our faith needs to be sharpened. Sharpening iron and our faith both require intentional techniques or actions; we must be aware, as stated in Galatians 6:2 – “ Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
How about the word “countenance”? According to the 1800 Dictionary – “To keep in countenance, to give assurance or courage to; to support; to aid by favor, to prevent from shame or dismay. To put in countenance, give assurance; to encourage; or bring into favor, support.” This definition fits perfectly with Hebrews 10: 24 - 25 - And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
The best example in scripture of a friend being there for a friend is in I Samuel 20, where David and Jonathan encounter a problem, and they both take action to find a solution.
· I Samuel 20:1-3 – The problem. David tells Jonathan that his father wants to kill him. Jonathan can’t believe what he’s hearing and tells David his father wouldn’t kill him. Jonathan is confused why his father wouldn’t tell him about his plans for David. The first scrape of the iron is listening. Sometimes what we hear is not very pleasant.
· I Samuel 20:4-23 – Seek a solution. Jonathan is willing to be there for his distressed friend. They pray for each other and edify the Lord together. The second scrape on the iron is learning to work together to solve a problem. We come from varying backgrounds, so we may find it hard to work with each other. We ask God’s guidance to help us be there for each other. In Matthew 18: 20, God has promised that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
· I Samuel 20:24-34 – Confrontation. Saul’s violent confrontation with Jonathan; he witnesses his father’s deadly feelings toward David. The crescendo of the iron sharpens the iron has increased dramatically, to its sad truth. There will be a time when the truth hurts and is not very comforting.
· I Samuel 20:35-42 – Outcome. As painful and uncomfortable as it is to sharpen the iron, they intentionally executed the techniques to sharpen it. Upon the exposed truth about Saul’s intentions toward David, they could complete their plan for David’s escape. Their friendship grew more robust during this life-changing experience. Because of their prior communication and prayers, they overcame and embraced their newfound friendship, leaving on good terms.
· One interesting note, there are times God will use an innocent bystander to fulfill his purpose. The innocent bystander in this story is the lad, be prepared; you might play a role in restoring a relationship without even knowing.
David and Jonathan made the best of their relationship during the most strenuous times. Here are some other traits of their friendship:
· Mutual fear – David feared dying by Saul’s hand. Jonathan feared his family would die by David’s hand when he became king.
· Mutual encouragement.
· As one chapter closes, another one opens, such are friendships. They move us from one activity to another.
· Embrace God’s provision for today and trust him for tomorrow. Luke 1:37 – “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Find it interesting that the element symbol for iron is “FE.” The Spanish word for faith is “FE.” So iron sharpens iron. Faith sharpens faith. My prayers for this ministry are for God to build and strengthen the friendships. So that we may be blessed with good company and avoid bad company, as stated in Proverbs 13:20 - “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
Like I’ve mentioned before, if you’re struggling, please don’t stop praying. Please don’t stop reading your bible. Please don’t stop coming to church because you don’t know how God will answer your prayer. These actions are also intentional and will help sharpen your iron.