In each of our last few posts, we have filled in the blank with a different person in our life; friends, family, parents, kids, spouse. Now in the final post of this series, we chose barista to say, this message will apply to whomever you need it to apply to.
Whether you need help with a student, teacher, coworker, brother-in-law, spouse, ex-husband, ex-wife- the causes of conflict are the same.
Four Causes of Conflict
1. Poor communication
Most conflict flows from miscommunication or misunderstanding. Conflicts start with something seemingly small or insignificant, but it grows by how we react. Whether we just checkout and shutdown or get forceful and angry, the conflict grows.
2. Unfulfilled expectations
All anger begins right here. You have never gotten angry except when you had an expectation of something and it didn’t happen. You had an expectation that you’d be treated a certain way, that your kid would do something the first time you asked, you expected to have a highway free of cars or have peace & quiet at home and it didn’t go that way. We hold people to a standard and a pressure that only God can fulfill in our life.
3. Despising differences
We think we want everyone else to be just like us, but the more different you are, the better a team you are. Your family doesn’t need to be a group of people that think just like you. Your workplace doesn’t need everyone to be the same. We can be different, but still united. When we start despising those differences, rather than uniting them, it causes conflict.
4. Sin nature
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25 NIV
People are fallen. We are all sinners. So often our spirit is alive and longs to be with God and to honor God, but our flesh is still prisoner to sin. This is why we try to feed the spirit and starve the flesh. Since we are still in this fallen world, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard and it causes conflict.
What can you do when there are people in your life who only have one law at work in them. They’re a slave to only sin, they aren’t feeding the spirit and they’re led by the flesh. Maybe you’re dealing with someone who did believe but have turned from God. They’re no longer seeking peace with God and peace with you.
Those are the types of relationship we are going to focus on in today’s post. What to do when a spouse isn’t faithful and they’re not committed to fighting for the marriage anymore. The coworker or friend or family member who is not repenting and not wanting to fight for the relationship.
The Bible talks about this in 1st and 2nd Timothy. The writer, Paul, is telling his friend Timothy about the kind of people who have turned from the truth.
These two guys begin to work out the very same thing many of us are working out and struggling with. People who ignore wisdom, understanding, distort the truth or have turned from the truth.
Paul offers specific examples of people Timothy knew. These examples are a warning to us that there will be those who cannot accept sound teaching and those who disappear at the first sign of trouble.
When Others Have Turned From The Truth
1. Remember those who are faithful.
Yes, there are those who are disloyal, but are there any who have remained faithful?Look where Paul is talking about those who have deserted him and abandoned him.
“As you know, everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me–even Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains.” 2 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)
Immediately after saying that everyone had deserted him, Paul offers a quick insight into the faithfulness of Onesiphorous. He had been supportive in the past and most recently, when he arrived in Rome he diligently searched until he found Paul and ministered to him. Paul commends this brother to Timothy.
This is a principle in life we have to learn and remember: When we want to focus on who’s not there, we need to remember those who are faithful.
There are going to be people who don’t show up this week. There are also going to be those in your life who abandon you and desert you. They weren’t faithful to a vow they took, a promise they kept or a covenant they signed. People who have turned from the truth of God and His word.
Even though there are people turning from the truth in this passage from 2 Timothy, Paul remembered, celebrated and commended the faithful.
Do you thank God for the faithful few or moan over the disloyal many?
It is more important to thank God for those who have remained faithful to the gospel and faithful to friendship, even when times have been hard.
2. Refuse to play the game.
Difficult people who have turned from the truth, love to argue and debate. If you fall for this trap you’re going to believe that you can logically explain to them why they are wrong. But people who have turned from truth didn’t come to their position through reason. They got into that behavior from serving their sin nature, not logic.
You can’t reason people out of a behavior they did not reason themselves into. When you try to show them how they’re wrong they will just get mad at you. Facts won’t change them because it wasn’t facts that caused them to make that decision anyway. They made their decision based on emotion and sin.
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26 NIV
If you’re in conflict with a friend or family member who, they haven’t turned their back on the truth and it’s just a disagreement, you need to work that out and reconcile.
If you find yourself in foolish and stupid arguments with those who oppose the truth, save your breath, don’t waste your time. People who have turned from truth use conflict to get your attention.
Everybody has a deep need for approval and when approval isn’t possible, they will settle for attention, good or bad.
“Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.” Proverbs 26:4 NLT
What’s interesting is the very next verse says the very opposite thing.
“Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” Proverbs 26:5 NLT
The advice is different here because your response depends on the situation. Maturity is when you can discern whether or not to answer the fool.
3. Release them to God.
Some people you cannot fix. You have to give them to God. You can still love and care about them, though. Let’s look at some words from Jesus on how to release those who have turned from the truth to God.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
Christ is showing us here is it’s impossible to be perfect. That’s why He took His perfect life to the cross for us. But He shows us that the godly response is to pray for them.
When we pray, we see people differently.
Sometimes we wanna vent, call somebody tell them what they did and turn others against them. When we pray for them we see them differently and respond righteously.
If you’ve ever wondered why many people refused to follow Jesus during his earthly ministry, you have to look no further than than verse 44 when Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
In our day we have watered down the term “enemy” so much that this command has lost much of its shock value. Today, “enemy” is used primarily in reference to people who are rude to us or treat us unkindly. But in Jesus day, the Jews in Israel had real enemies. For the entirety of their existence as a people they had been fending off enemies — from their slavery in Egypt to the occupation of the Roman Empire.
Telling them to love and pray for enemies is like telling the Christians in Iraq to love and pray for ISIS. And yet, that is exactly what Jesus was saying. When Jesus gave the command to love and pray for our enemies he knew it would one day require praying for Islamic extremist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda who murder his Bride.
How do we pray for people who want to murder members of our family? This is where the rubber meets the road. Here are three specific ways we can pray for those who are engaged in persecution against Christians, to those who have turned from the truth and are ruining your life.
Three Ways to Pray For Our Enemies
1. Pray for their conversion
That they’ll come back to God. There are two primary reasons we don’t pray for the conversion of our enemies. Whether they be terrorists or those in our life that have abandoned us.
The first reason is that we believe it is absurd to think they’ll become Christians. It seems like a useless plea. Because we forget that God can do for them what he did for us: provide the gift of grace that they might be saved.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Ephesians 2:8 NIV
The same grace that saved us can save them. If we truly love our enemy, how could we not at least petition God on their behalf?
The second reason we don’t pray for certain people’s conversion is that we fear they might actually convert. They might actually repent. Like Jonah in Nineveh, we want our enemies to receive what they’re due. Not mercy and forgiveness.
“So he complained to the LORD about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.'” Jonah 4:2
But it is precisely because He is a gracious and compassionate God that we ought to pray for the conversion of our enemies. How could we do anything less then ask God to show them the same grace shown to us?
2. Pray the evil they do may be restrained
It is to their benefit and our benefit that they be prevented from committing more evil. For those who have hardened their heart against God, it would be better if their life was shortened than for them to continue to persecute God’s children.
The protection of innocent people requires human governments to take action. The death of those who are harming innocent people and helpless children, while it may be the only effective way to restrain their actions, we should not rejoice in their suffering or death.
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice…” Proverbs 24:17
3. Pray they will receive divine justice
In the order of our prayers, this in number three. This isn’t the first thing you pray. God of justice. Thank God that we can seek the divine justice of our holy God.
Sometimes people look certain events in the Bible and point out the wars or the things God did to people, but they conveniently exclude all the events preceding it. The places in the accounts when those people were evil and performing evil in the worst way and would not stop even after multiple warnings.
God’s response was out of love and compassion to restrain the evil on innocent people. In asking that divine justice be done, we’ve got to guard our motives and leave vengeance to God.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21 NIV
How do you plan to overcome the evil in your relationships? How do you plan to respond to those who have turned from the truth in your life. For those who will neither turn to God nor turn away from doing evil. Let’s be thankful enough for the grace of God that we want even our enemies to receive it too.
Check back on your discussion from last week. How were you at being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry?
Hear the Word
Read: Romans 7
There are four common causes of conflict: Poor communication, unfulfilled expectations, despising differences and our sin nature. (Romans 7:21-25)
What do you do when there are people in your life who only have one law at work in them? They’re a slave to only sin, they aren’t feeding the spirit, they’re led by the flesh. Or, they did believe but have turned from God. They’re no longer seeking peace with God and peace with you. They’re a prisoner to the law of sin at work in them. They haven’t been rescued from their body that is subject to death.
When others have turned from the truth we can choose to…
- Remember those who are faithful.
- Refuse to play their game.
- Release them to God.
- What stood out to you in this message?
- Which of the four causes of conflict are the most common in your life or those around you right now?
- Who are the people in your life that have been faithful?
- How do difficult people tend to trap you in “foolish and stupid arguments?”
- Why do you think it’s so difficult to pray for those who persecute?
- Which of three ways to pray for your enemies would be easiest?
- Spend some time in prayer, praying for your enemies.
Tell Someone Else
Who in your life would be encouraged as a result of this message?