This Week's Teaching | Prayer
This Week's Teaching: "Wisdom for Working Through Conflict"
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Today, I want to give you encouragement that you can resolve the conflict. You can work in a healthy manner through the conflict. It's not asking too much. You can do this.
Proverbs 27:17 is a familiar proverb to all of us. "Iron sharpens iron." And it talks about how, as iron sharpens iron, so a brother sharpens a brother, a friend sharpens a friend, a spouse sharpens a spouse. Iron sharpens iron.
It's human to be in conflict, and it's human to not do conflict well, but it's possible to do conflict well. It's possible to follow the wisdom of God and actually do conflict well.
Today I want to present some principles that I've learned by the wisdom of God from scripture that guide me in working through my own conflicts with others, but also as I help others work through conflict with them.
1. COMMIT TO THE LONGER CONVERSATION
Commit to the longer conversation. Slow down. Just slow down the conversation. Listen long, speak less.
Proverbs 18:2 says that fools delight in airing their own opinions. Stop just speaking to air your own opinions and start listening to understand what the other person is trying to say. This is difficult. We all want to just jump in, but just think in terms of commit to the longer conversation. You're not just trying to quick jump through it. It's a long conversation. Slow down. Listen slowly, not quickly. Listen long.
Proverbs 18:15 says that the ears of the wise seek knowledge. Listen to understand. Not to prove your point. Listen to understand.
2. ASK MORE QUESTIONS
I was talking with someone yesterday about helping her and her husband just understand conflict, and I said one of the most guiding principles for me is found in Proverbs 18:13 where it says "it's foolish to give an answer before listening to the question."
If you apply that to yourself, if you apply that to how you lean in toward conflict and say, I'm not going to play the part of the fool, I'm not going to give an answer before I even listen to the question, it'll slow down your conversation and you'll stop missing each other. You'll stop missing the key points. You'll listen for what is the question behind what the other person is saying? What is the offense? What, whatever that is. But it's foolish to quick jump in and give an answer before you even really know what the question is.
Lengthen the conversation and ask more questions.
3. GUARD YOUR HEART
Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart for it affects everything you do." Guard your heart.
When you're in conflict with someone else, you need to know, what do I want out of this? What am I defensive about in this conflict? Is my heart desiring an inequitable outcome? Or is my heart really desiring what is fair and honest and true and equitable in this conflict? Am I just in this to win? Am I in it to win it? Or am I in this to win the person? To restore relationship, to resolve the conflict? Above all else, guard your heart. It affects everything you do.
Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45) If you don't guard your heart, you will find that your mouth, especially in conflict, your mouth spews venom. It spews awful things. Things that you would never sign your name to and, and hold up to the world and say, this is what I want to be known for. You find yourself saying things that you hope are uncharacteristic of you. But the reality is that if it's coming out of your mouth, it's in your heart. Start by guarding your heart.
Proverbs 18:21, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." You have the power in the words you speak toward the other person to give them life or to give them death. There's power in your tongue. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks and that mouth can speak life or death.
Make sure that what's in your heart when it overflows, overflows toward love, toward peace, toward compassion, toward gentleness and kindness, and showing consideration. Guard your heart. Let it desire an equitable outcome. Not just to make sure that you're not hurt, not just to make sure the other person gets what's coming to them.
Ask yourself, am I trying to win this argument or am I trying to win the person? Am I seeking vindication or am I seeking restoration? Guard your heart.
Proverbs 19:11 says that it's to your glory to overlook an offense. Guard your heart. Ask yourself, am I allowing offense to take root in my life? Am I speaking from an offended position? And to be sure there are so many things that you can be rightly offended by. There are offensive things in this world. This isn't to say let nothing be considered as offensive. This is saying don't let offense take root in your heart, because what will spew out will be this venom. Make sure that you're not just speaking from an offended position, but choose no offense.
"A person's wisdom yields patience. It is to one's glory to overlook an offense." Choose patience. Guard your heart.
And so choose the long conversation. Ask more questions and guard your heart for it affects everything you do.
And then love deeply.
4. LOVE DEEPLY
Romans 12:9-21. I can't say it better. Don't skip past this. Even if you've read this. Listen again: "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil? Cling to what is. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 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."
Love deeply. That's the key. Let everything you do when you are in conflict with someone, choose love. Let everything you do be the overflow of love, the desiring of that person's good, even over and above your own. Devote yourself to one another considering them as more important than you.
I know that doesn't seem fair. I'll talk another time about how do you remain in relationship with someone who's abusive, but today to resolve conflict, be devoted to one another in love. Let love be sincere. This is the wisdom of God. This is the wisdom of God.
Commit to the longer conversation, ask many questions, guard your heart and love deeply, and you can work through the conflict.
Now, I know this is a hard word and it's easy to dismiss it. There's plenty of worldly wisdom that runs counter to this. So much so that what I'm talking about sounds counterintuitive if you've been listening, to a lot of the the babble of today where people are guessing at things. What I'm talking about is choosing the wisdom of God, the wisdom of the ages. The one who created it all understands you better than you do yourself. Who understands what's working in the other person's heart, who sends his Holy Spirit and his angels to come and minister to those who will inherit salvation.
The God who is able to take your best efforts and your best desire, and multiply them as prayers in Jesus' name to actually work out an effective resolve and resolution to the conflict you're experiencing. And so above all this, even though it may feel counterintuitive, trust God. Trust God, work through the conflict.
To work through conflict is an act or demonstration of faith and obedience. To refuse to work through conflict is an act of faithlessness and disobedience. It's a hard statement, but I believe it. And I mean it for love.
God will heal what's broken in your relationship, if you both lean into him, if you both follow the wisdom that he's given. If one of you doesn't, yeah, you'll both suffer the fruit of that decision, but at least you'll be one who followed God in it. So don't be the one to give up.
Choose the longer conversation. Ask many questions. Guard your heart. Love deeply. Trust God.
My prayer is that it'll go well with you, and that your relationships will be restored and the conflicts will be resolved.
This is the wisdom of God.