All of us don't like conflicts but we have to face them everyday. At work we will have conflicts, at home with our most loved partner will have conflicts, with our children we will have conflicts, with our parents we have conflicts, with friends on the field we have conflicts. Conflicts are everywhere. Let us look at some of the reasons for the conflicts we face in our lives. This is especially helpful for us to understand that conflict is very common and that we must learn to face it and handle it and overcome it and be victorious in a spiritual way.
A - Arguments.
Now why do we have arguments? Mostly because we see things differently. One problem but we see it differently and so we argue. Or we argue because our experiences are different. There is the problem but we approach it with different experiences and we have a conflict because we can't agree. And we say, 'No it won't work this way because my experience is that way'. And so we just can't agree because we have strong feelings about the problem because our experiences are different. We have conflicts because we are different individuals with different opinions. As a result we have arguments. And arguments are they wrong? Not necessarily because we get to know a lot of things when we argue in a good way. And when we argue there is an opportunity for us to resolve things as well and find a solution to the problem.
In the Bible, one of the most famous arguments is between Paul and Barnabas. What was the argument about?
What does the Bible tell us not to do?
2 Timothy 2:23
Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.
What is the Bible against? Not against arguments but against stupid and foolish arguments. We argue for the sake of arguing just to get our point across, just to feel like we've won. So, most of the time we end up in quarrels. Why? We start off with genuine interaction and an exchange of views and opinions but eventually it becomes a quarrel because we just can't give in, because we want our way to be accepted. So we fight.
Do everything without complaining or arguing,
It says do everything without complaining or arguing. The Bible is very clear that arguments which are foolish and stupid are not going to help anything but instead they will create quarrels and fighting. Sometimes in marriage we quarrel a lot based on very silly issues. It can be quite silly with opinions like, 'I think the tea should be made like this. More tea leaves, less sugar, less milk' whereas your spouse will say, 'No, no. Lots of sugar and milk and less tea leaves'. There's a guest whom you both want to please and so you argue about tea leaves, sugar and milk. Both of you are arguing over a stupid issue like tea. If your wife is making the tea, let her make it the way she wants to. If she gets praise or criticism for it let her face it. If the husband is making the tea let him face the praise or criticism.
Don't we argue about our kids? So much arguments take place over raising up our little, sweet, darlings. Father thinks lot of things should be fed at breakfast time whereas the mother thinks a little is enough. Sometimes it is the other way - mother thinks he should eat a lot of idlies and lots of chutney and drink at least two glasses of milk whereas the father thinks it is more important to go to school on time and so a few idlies is fine.
New parents or newly married couples waste many good days and months of their lives fighting over these foolish, stupid and silly matters. If you have grandparents living with you, they'll say, 'what are these fellows doing? Why can't the mother do what she wants? Why is this fellow so insistent that they should follow his plan only? Let one person decide. Why are they fighting?' That's what others think but you feel, 'Huh? My kid is going to suffer that day. She's not going to eat food. She's going to get a headache. She's going to be tired. She won't do her homework'. So you fight over silly stuff. Ultimately after they grow up we'll think, 'Man, we fought over such silly stuff'. One extra idly or a little extra sugar didn't matter after all'. Ultimately the person who wanted extra sugar is diabetic and after 5 years wont be able to take sugar at all.
B - Betrayal.
The word betrayal is a very strong, serious word. Sometimes we don't understand it deeply. Do we get betrayed by our enemies? Who betrays us? Friends. Somebody who is close to us. The word betray conveys, 'I trusted you, my friend, I shared this information with you, I shared my life with you, I shared my wealth and prosperity with you, I shared my heart and our friendship with you'. And when that person hurts us by being disloyal, betrays that trust, it hits us hard. That is why it's a very deep hurt. Betrayal is an insider hurt. So we don't talk about enemies betraying us we talk about loyal, faithful people betraying us. That's very hurtful and cuts deeper. It usually happens between husband and wife because that relationship is very deep and very intimate, very close. That's why when there are affairs or adultery or lies, dishonesty in the relationship it hurts deep because we don't want the person closest to us to betray us.
In the Bible there are a few people who betrayed. One is Absalom, a son of David. What did he do to his own father? Betrayed him! How? He wanted to take his over his own father's kingdom. His father was the king and Absalom wanted the kingdom. What did he do? He started to become nice to people. He started telling them, 'By the way, I'll do a great job of ruling this kingdom'. It is like, 'come to me all you who are weary and burdened. I'll give you rest'. He sounded very nice but he had an ulterior motive of hurting his own father. That's why the Bible talks of Absalom betraying David.
We know the most famous story in the Bible of who betrayed who. Judas betraying Jesus is one of the most painful incidents in the Bible. Why was it a betrayal? Judas was one of the chosen twelve. Jesus could have chosen anybody in the Bible but He chose Judas to be part of that close-knit group. And Jesus loved him, taught him, shared his heart and plans and pains with him and the rest. When this person betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins it hurted deep. Even now, when we talk of betrayal in the world, the first person to come to mind is Judas. Why? How could someone who walked with us so closely, who ate with us, drank with us, slept in the same house do something to us? That pain is unbearable. That's why betrayal is very hard to deal with.
Betrayal leads to hurt and eventually to bitterness and anger and unforgiveness. When we feel betrayed it is hard to forgive that person, to let go, to love that person because eventually the person who was our friend and betrayed us becomes our enemy. This is a deep hurt and we need to resolve in our hearts not to do that to our friends and family friends, to people whom we love. And those of us who have faced betrayal - that pain may be still lingering in our hearts - need to go to the cross of Jesus. Jesus taught how to forgive. Jesus taught how to handle such rejection and betrayal by his trusted friend. He taught us by forgiving everybody who hurted him even though he had done no wrong. So we've got to go to the cross of Jesus and learn from our Savior because he's the only one who can give us the strength to deal with the deep wound and deep hurt.
Competing with one another. We know what people do? They compete with each other. What does that mean? They are trying to impress that they are greater, smarter, wiser, stronger, more good looking, more qualified. Our society is so deeply driven by this. What drives young people to study harder? They want to prove to everybody, 'I'm better'. Where does this come from? It comes from a deep insecurity that we are not accepted. We feel that the only way we'll be accepted is if we prove ourselves, if we are good in this area, if we excel in that area, if we are better than everyone else in some other area. This drives us to be ungodly, even in our relationships at home.
We see it happening between children - they argue and compete with one another for attention, for love, for appreciation. We see it happening in school, in college -everybody is fighting to be No.1. We see it in politics, in the workplace where one manager competes with another manager, one office competing with another office, one Company competing with another Company. That is what drives this world and that is not from God.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
If we practice this scripture it will remove all competition but the problem is we find it hard to practice it. See, when we consider others better than ourselves it will drive out all competitiveness because we are not going to compete any more. Because we are happy with whom we are and how God made us and what God has given us, what blessings he has given us, what talents he has given us. We are not complaining or trying to outdo somebody else and this will make us happy. When we are willing to say, 'You're better' or 'I'm not as good as you' it takes a lot of humility. That's what the Bible says. And when we are willing to do that it changes our heart towards people. We will still excel but the motivation will not be competition. It's out of a pure heart and devotion to God.
The first instance of competition in the Bible is between Cain and Abel. What was the issue for competition?
2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.
4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer who worked the soil. This is one of the most tragic stories. What happened? Both made offerings to God. Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil. Some. What did Abel do? He brought fat portions of some of the firstborn of his flock. sGod looked at their offerings and said, 'Yeah, Abel has given his heart. He has given his best'. And God approved of Abel for his sacrifice or offering but God did not approve of Cain. Did not approve doesn't mean God did not love Cain. It's just that of what was offered Abel's was better. That Cain could not bear.
The Bible says he got angry and upset. That's what happens when you lose in a competition. People get angry and emotional and can't take it. They sleep for the next three days, they don't talk to anybody and some people take sleeping pills, some people hang themselves. They can't take failure. Failure doesn't mean God doesn't love us. Failure doesn't mean people don't love us. It just means we've got to do a better job next time. We've got to give our heart in whatever we're doing. If we're going to make a half-hearted effort, we'll get a half-hearted response from the other side. If we put whole-hearted effort into what we're doing, we'll reap the benefits of that.
How did Cain deal with the competition? He removed the competition? Who was his competition? His own brother. See how dangerous competition can be. People say, 'competition is healthy', but if it's in the heart and we don't deal with it in a spiritual way, we can end up doing such unrighteous things.
Disunity destroys our family. Disunity destroys relationships, friendships, ministries and churches, organizations, businesses, companies. Disunity has the power to destroy all these things. Why do we have disunity? Disunity comes out of lack of a shared purpose. When we don't all have the same purpose that's when we get disunited. It's like this. In a family, the husband wants to take the family in one direction, the wife wants to take them in a different direction and the children want to go in one direction. What happens to that family? They face disunity. That hurts deeply. Somewhere we need to learn to be united.
Jesus prayed that all disciples would be united.
I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
'How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity'.
In your family when you and your wife are united and your kids are united, how does it make you feel? It says, 'How good and pleasant it is'! It is a pleasant feeling, it's a good feeling when there is unity. When there is disunity it is very unpleasant and it does not feel good at all.
As a church, as disciples, we all have one purpose, one goal. Do we all want to go in different directions? No, we all want to go in one direction and what direction is that? Heaven. Imagine if we all went in different directions what would happen to the church? We'll be splintered and hate each other and we'll be scattered. We must have all think of going to heaven, fix our eyes on Jesus and heaven. Jesus is the only way for us all to go to heaven.
When we are all united in the same purpose and direction, there is no disunity and differences are not as important. Let's pray for unity. When there is disunity in our hearts, let's sit and talk to that person to resolve, to share, to reconcile and to pray for the other person or for the group or wherever we are. You'll see amazing miracles happen when we follow simple steps to go towards unity.
Where does envy comes from? Envy comes from self-love. Envy comes when we think, 'Why should that person have and not I?' That is the reason for envy.
And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Solomon talks of a universal truth. Solomon teaches that all labor and all achievements spring from man's envy of his neighbor. The reason people are striving big and want to achieve is mainly envy. We drive ourselves crazy to get what others are having. This is the deep-rooted motivation for this kind of sin.
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
That means we can be so motivated by this evil called 'envy' (we don't even recognize it) that it can rot our bones. It is so deep rooted and deep seeded that everything we do revolve around it and completely destroys us and rots us inside.
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
Sometimes we look at sinners and they keep sinning and have no godly values but they seem to be enjoying all the good things in life while we, Christians who are supposed to have godly values, struggle with the sin of envy. We look at those in the world and think, 'Why should they have it? Why not me when I'm a Christian?' We envy the fun they are having. 'They are drinking, they are smoking, they are hanging out with girls, with boyfriends. They are so casual about faith, God, church, spirituality but they are having such fun. Why am I struggling even though I'm a faithful Christian and carrying the cross? Maybe they are having fun now but they won't be having fun in hell.
We've got to fix our eyes heavenward, on Jesus and not people and on all the material things that people have. Let us watch out for greed. Man's life does not depend on material possessions but that's what the world is running after. We've got to be careful and say, 'No! Jesus is enough for me. He is my entire possession, He is my inheritance and my inheritance is already stored up in heaven as a security'. Let us be content with what we have.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Do we know what will give us peace in our lives? It is when we learn the secret of being content. If we can learn that secret there will be so much peace, so much calmness. Paul learned that secret. We must learn it because it does not come automatically. We have to go after that secret, find it, learn it and hold that secret in our heart. The secret of being content. When we are not content that's when envy becomes a ruling factor in our lives. This is a hard one. The reason why many of us are not happy in our lives is because we are not content.
Basically we are saying we are not happy with what God has done for us so far. We want more. That is the formula we work with every day. And when we go after that desire we don't understand where that's going to lead us to. Yes, we'll have material benefits but that's not going to make us happy. We'll enjoy the material benefits for some time but after that we'll be bored and look at the bigger or better or latest-model things that people have. If we don't learn this secret quickly we are going to burn inside - rot inside as the scripture says.
Where does frustration come from? It comes from blocked goals. It comes when we think, 'These people are blocking me from what I can achieve or what I can be or from my goals because of their incompetence or because they are trying to snatch it away from me'. Frustration is like we are trying to go somewhere but someone is blocking us. We all have felt it when we were trying to get somewhere and somebody, something is blocking us. That just gets us and we get super frustrated.
Sometimes Satan stops us by, sometimes God can put the blocks. You're all set to go somewhere and God says, 'No, sorry you can't go there' and puts a wall before us. We've got to pray in such situations. If Satan is stopping us we must pray, 'God, remove that block'. If God is stopping us we must say, 'God, help me to surrender to the block so I can go in this direction because I'm going in the wrong direction and that's why you are stopping me. Help me to see the right direction and go in that direction'.
Gloating is basically stepping on someone who has already fallen. Making fallen people eat humble pie. Basically it is showing vindictive satisfaction in one's own success over someone else or in another person's misfortune. You not only want to rejoice over someone's misfortune but you also want to step on him or her. In Roman times, when two gladiators fought in the arena, the one who won would not only kill the other but after killing him would also cut off his head and step on his body. They were not just happy with their victory but wanted more. That's gloating. It's when you're not just happy that someone else is going through a hard time but you just want to enjoy and relish it and also step on him or her.
God is not happy with that kind of attitude. In the book of Obadiah, God destroyed the whole nation of Edom because of gloating. Why? It's because, instead of helping their brothers - the Israelites- who were going through a hard time, they rejoiced at their hardship and even told their enemies to attack Israel. Israel was also in sin but God was upset about Edom's sin because it is wrong to do that to one's brother. Maybe Israel had done something wrong but when they were going through a hard time Edom had no right to gloat over them or rejoice over their misery. They are to help them, pray for them, support them, encourage them and guide them. That's what God wanted them to do instead of looking down on them.
A,B,C's of conflicts. All this leads us to into a lot of confusion and a lot of mess. Maybe some of us are struggling with some kind of a conflict. We need to go to God and say, 'God, I'm struggling with these sins' and be convicted before God. Let us confess to God and ask for forgiveness from God. Le us ask him for strength to repent from such sins. Maybe we need to talk to somebody. Maybe we need to reconcile with somebody because we are struggling with these sins. Maybe we need guidance in the process of reconciliation. We need to ask our brothers and sisters to help us to deal with it in a godly, spiritual way in accordance with the scriptures. Finally we need to trust Jesus because He's got the solution for all our weaknesses and sins and he will show us the way- if we go to him - to handle these things in our lives. And God will give us the peace that transcends all understanding.