Thoughtful Thursday: The Source of Strife

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Yielding to God in the midst of conflict uses that strife for good and God’s glory.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 17:14

14 Starting a quarrel is like letting out water; stop it before strife breaks out! 19 The one who loves a quarrel loves transgression; whoever builds his gate high seeks destruction.

Proverbs 20:3

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.

James 4:1-2

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”

James 3:14

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.”

I am afraid I might step on toes with today’s post, but the truths in this post have stepped on mine in the past, too. You can’t go through life without strife, but finding the source of that strife helps to move through it.

Motives of the heart are not so easy to discern, but eventually God reveals the source of dissension. Whether it is a competitive spirit, selfish ambition, jealousy or just our flesh being sensitive or irritable, the root of all conflict is spiritual.

Recognizing the battle is spiritual takes away offense. Instead of thinking about self, what we want or being offended, we start to think about why the conflict happened in the first place and how God can be glorified in it. It might be our flesh or the enemy influencing our thought patterns, but we still have a choice. The battle is not against another person – it is ultimately the LORD’s.

After we recognize the spiritual aspect of our conflict, at the heart of discord is self. Somehow in someway we take on an offense for an impression that someone else did not treat us the way we thought we deserved or maybe we assume they did.

I like to avoid drama and needless strife. Seems scriptural, too – not to get involved in civilian affairs. But sometimes God allows strife in and accomplishes amazing fruit in an unlikely way.

What used to break my spirit when others would misjudge or mistreat me is now something I am grateful for. I know it seems pious, but God has shown me how some of the hardest moments of persecution, strife or being shunned have truly served to draw me nearer to God and to trust Him. It hurts, but it no longer affects me the way it once did.

Instead of trying to have everyone like us, we can pray for them and choose to rise above the fray. Maybe we need to examine ourselves and maybe we just need to surrender it over to the LORD. The end of a matter is better than its beginning, but yielding to God in the midst uses that strife for good and God’s glory.

Lord, thank You for helping us to rise above problems and difficulties and for choosing to delight in You, instead. Help us to remember the battle is a spiritual one and to seek Your glory and not our own.

Ministry of Reconciliation

reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 18-21

14 “For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died.  15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. 16 So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come! 18 And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 6:4

But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, with distresses, 5 in beatings, imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, 7 by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and the left, 8 through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as imposters, and yet true.”

Relationships can be tricky – especially if we go by feelings.  Offenses can run rampant in families, friendships and even the body of Christ.  Wherever two or more are gathered, there can be conflict or hurt feelings.  But in Christ, we who have been saved are new creatures and called to a different standard.

Likened to a soldier serving his country, we have been called as ambassadors for Christ and given a ministry of reconciliation.  What a wonderful occupation – peacemakers.  And yet in all honesty, there is not a lot of glamour or appreciation that comes from this position; rather, a lot of humble pie.  But the joy of pleasing God far outweighs the bitter heart weighed down with unforgiveness, resentment or bitter envy.

When someone is uncharitable or unkind to us, it hurts, but what an opportunity to glorify God.  If it is a Christian who is envious or bitter with us, God help us to see the individual as one whom God has forgiven.  We cannot hold a grudge, no matter how justified we feel we may be, for we, too, have trespassed against God and been forgiven.

This ministry of reconciliation should consume our souls.  We are on a mission from God to reconcile man back to a right relationship  with God.  And not just that, but with one another.  God demonstrated relationship to us through His Son.  We are called to relate to one another in humility and grace; embodied by Christ Himself, who we were enemies of and crucified, yet He did not count our sins against us.

At this present time, the “sufferings” of a Christian today in our country do not compare with those of the first generation of Christians in the New Testament.  They armed themselves with being prepared to die to self, to endure hardship all for the glory of God.  Their weapons were righteous – not self righteous, not for their own defense, but to win one soul to God.

Lord help us to not forget our calling and purpose or be distracted by controversies that just do not matter.  We can pursue unity as far as it depends upon us and leave all matters up to God.  Recently I saw a quote, which I had heard many years before in a sermon and it was such a fresh reminder of how to respond when people say things that are not true of ourselves.  To paraphrase, the part of us that wants the truth to be told fights against someone spreading falsehood, yet, in reality, there are things which are true of us that are just as hideous as the lie being told.

God help us to just let it go.  Let God straighten out any misperception and just be about the business of reconciliation as much as depends upon us.  Reconciliation is not for the super religious; it is not for the religious at all; it is expected by all who profess Christ and who have received mercy, grace and reconciliation themselves.

Lord, we surrender to You and ask You to help us to be focused on Your purposes and glory, not our own.  May zeal for Your salvation consume us and may we never tire of serving in this ministry of reconciliation.