The Bible says in Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Chalk won’t sharpen iron; it is too soft to have any positive effect on iron. But iron can sharpen iron. In other words, substances of like quality can mutually improve each other. Solomon uses this illustration from the natural world to make a point about the influence that people can have on each other. If a person has strong qualities about him, he can help his friend to improve in those same areas. This principle applies to school children as well as to adults. Students who excel in certain areas of life can help their classmates to excel in those same areas. One of the ways we utilize this principle is through the school academic and fine arts competition. The school competition is a valuable tool in developing young people because it encourages students to do their best, to accept a challenge, and to learn where their identity lies.
Although some people discourage competition because of anxiety or stress that students can place on themselves, competition can motivate a young person to do his best. In order for a child to do his best, he must care about what he is doing. When he cares and puts forth maximum effort, over the course of time, he develops a standard of excellence. The competition pushes a child to do his best; and it shows him that, through hard work, he can achieve more than he thought possible. The positive example urges others to do the same. Solomon said, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Do your best!
The competition also puts students in a position to accept a challenge. Young people need to be challenged,; otherwise, they will settle into a comfort zone and accept the status quo. We should want our children to rise above the minimum expectation. We should want them to excel in their efforts and then to lead others to do the same. We should want them to make the most out of their life. To do this they must accept a challenge; however, fulfilling that challenge will require hard work. Therefore, they must be willing to work hard. They should also have a desire to win, and winning becomes part of the challenge. Young people can sharpen each other if they have a willingness to accept a challenge, a willingness to work hard, and a will to win. The principle of striving to do one’s best is taught in Scripture. Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Accept a challenge!
Finally, competition can teach a child not to place his identity in winning or losing. We should want to win, and it is understandable if a person is disappointed if he loses. However, we should not wallow in self-pity when we lose; neither should we be puffed up when we win. Both of these responses place one’s identity in the outcome. Scripture teaches that our identity, who we are, is to be who we are in Christ. Paul said about the believers in Colossae, “And ye are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). No greater identity can be attained, because Christ, as God, is the perfections of all divine attributes. Since believers are in Him, nothing more can be gained, and nothing can be lost. Children then can learn to win graciously and lose graciously. The lack of a gracious response gives us an opportunity to deal with wrong thinking about self value. The competition affords this. Make Christ your identity!
All in all, the school competition is a very valuable tool we can use to develop our children. It can help them develop a standard of excellence, a willingness to be pushed, and a gracious attitude, despite the outcome. As we strive to help our children succeed in the competition, their effort will challenge their classmates as well. In this way, everybody wins! But the competition will only be to us, what we are to it. Let’s use the school competition for iron to sharpen iron.