Are You On The Edge?

honingrodEarlier this year, I read the sad story of a promising young man named Logan J. Stiner. Even though he was a healthy 18-year-old and a state-qualified wrestler, Stiner died in May from an overdose of powdered caffeine. The corner, Dr. Steven Evans, said he doubted that Stiner had any idea he had consumed a toxic amount of the powder.

Stiner, a national honor society member who planned to attend Toledo University, may have been influenced by the antics and influence of some of the elite athletes among the ranks of the pros. The NFL has already suspended more than 20 players this year for violating the league’s policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs and illegal substances. They were trying to get an edge by hedging the rules.

Paul used the context of athletic competition to call Christians to a lifestyle of self-discipline: “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself ( The Message ~I Corinthians 9).”

You can summarize what Paul said in five words: “No sloppy living for me.” It’s hard to get the winning edge when you’re dulled by sloppy living.

I used to make knives, and I know a sharp knife can lose its edge suddenly or slowly. When it is abruptly dulled, you usually know why because you have abused and misused your knife.

When your knife slowly uses its edge, you may not be aware of the dullness that has slowly crept in. Solomon spoke of this in Proverbs 27:17: I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of one who lacks wisdom. I saw that thorns had grown up all over it, the ground was covered with weeds, and its stone wall was broken down. When I saw this, I gave careful consideration to it; I received instruction from what I saw: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to relax, and your poverty will come like a bandit, and your need like an armed robber.”

This type of dullness can be the result of not taking the proper care of your knife or it can be the influence of the wrong kind of friends. The power of friendship is a principle of the Proverbs: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).”

What kind of a friend are you? Are you the iron that hones the life of your friends and posse, so their lives are more polished and glossy? Another key question is: How do your friends influence you?

Words of Steel

ironThere is one thing that we all have in common, and it will either be used for the good or the detriment of society. Influence is a power that we knowingly or unknowingly exert upon the life of others.

Solomon spoke of the power of influence in Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Since I used to make knives, I know that the way to sharpen iron is to rub it against another piece of steel or some other object.

When sharpening a knife it is important to use the right amount of pressure, to keep the grind line straight, and to align it to the correct degree. If too much pressure is applied, the knife can be damaged; if the grind line is not straight, the knife will not cut smoothly; and, if the knife is held at the wrong degree, it will either become dull or easily lose its sharp edge.

The same is true with our influence. The words we speak will be either a source of encouragement or discouragement. Solomon said: “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).”

We need to think about the way we speak to a friend, a family, or a co-worker. What do they hear in our words? Are they hearing words that build them up or that tear them down?

When I read the New Testament, I see that we are to use influence to:
• Do good to each other (Galatians 6:10)
• Bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
• Forgive each other (Colossians 3:13)
• Restore each other (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20)
• Encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
• Admonish and exhort each other (Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 3:13)
• Pursue peace and Build up each other (Romans 14:19)
• Stir one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Paul knew the power of influence, and he encouraged Timothy to use his: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2).”

Does the light of your influence blind the eyes of others, or is it a lamp to their feet and a light to their path (Ps 119:105)?