April 3, 2007
"Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." (James 3: 13-18 KJV)
Last week I asked you to picture your problem in your mind. This week I'm beginning with a question, then a picture. Question: Are you angry with someone right now? Are you in strife with someone or a few someones, right now...today? Okay...now...picture that person(s) in your mind. Do you have it? Good...
Maybe you aren't quite sure. If that's the case, let's begin by examining exactly what "strife" is. Strife is defined in the dictionary as "a bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension, an act of contention." Synonyms for strife are: Fight. Struggle. Discord. "Discord" is a lack of agreement or harmony (between persons, things or ideas). Active quarreling or conflict resulting from discord among persons or factions. A state or condition marked by a lack of agreement or harmony. Quarreling, factions, antagonism. Struggling for victory or superiority. Got the picture? So...would you honestly admit that you are in strife with someone at this very moment?
Strife is as old as the days of Abraham. Genesis 13:7 says, "There was a strife between the herdsmen of Abram and the herdsmen of Lot." But Abram knew the danger of strife. In verse 8, he quickly addresses the issue when he says, "Let there be no strife I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren." (The Hebrew meaning used here for "strife" was "quarrel or provocation.") Abram saw the danger and dealt with the strife aggressively. I am struck by his comment, "for we be brethren". Is the strife you have today, with your husband, your children, your family of origin or indeed with a "brethren" from the Body of Christ? My prayer today is that I may be able to show you the insidious nature and real danger of allowing that strife to stay in your life. I am going to use most of the Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible because the words are so rich.
You may think that the relationship difficulties you are experiencing don't really matter. That they are petty or unimportant. You may even be used to living in strife with someone all the time. Some folks, for some reason unknown to me, thrive on strife. If you think it's no big deal...you couldn't be more wrong! Do you remember the "Sta-Puf Marshmallow Man" from the movie "Ghostbusters"? He sure was cute when he came waddling down the middle of the street, wasn't he? He looked kind of cuddly and sweet. But do you remember how his facial expression changed suddenly to a look of pure evil? Do you remember when he exploded? There was marshmallow everywhere!! On everything! Well, that's a crude example of the effect of strife in your life. It seems harmless. It might even be a little fun to talk about someone, argue with them or harbor a little resentment in your heart. But watch out....quickly it can take on an evil expression and explode into something that will be on every area of your life and very difficult to clean up. Strife is nothing to play around with, my dear friend!
So now that we know what strife is and what it looks like, let's see where it comes from. What are its roots? After doing a study of every verse in the Bible that contains the word "strife", I've come up with a few root causes that I'd like to share and ask that you honestly, before God, check out in your life.
Anger stirs up strife. Proverbs 15:18 says, "A wrathful (hot-tempered) man stirreth up strife, but he that is slow to anger (patient) appeaseth strife (calms a quarrel)." (KJV and NIV) Proverbs 16: 28 says, "A perverse man stirs up strife." Proverbs 29:22..."An angry man stirreth up strife." Proverbs 30: 33..."For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife." The words for "churning", "twisting" and "stirring" are all the same Hebrew word "mis" and mean "squeezing or wringing". The word is used only here in the Old Testament. Anger stirs up strife and acts against peace. Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the shoes of peace. Stomp around in your muddy boots of anger long enough and watch the strife take over your life!
Meddling in other peoples affairs stirs up strife. Proverbs 26: 17 says, "He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears." When you grab a dog by it's ears, you can expect to be bitten. Meddling will bite you and bring you strife that shouldn't have been there in the first place...mind your own business!
Gossip causes strife. Proverbs 26: 20 says, "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out; so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth." Do you want to be a conduit for peace? Stop gossiping and talebearing. Stop talking about them, stop telling everybody what so and so did to you. Keep the confidences that others have shared with you. Ask God to put a guard over the door of your lips and don't gossip.
Loving to quarrel causes strife. I've never quite understood this one, but many people have shared with me that quarreling was a normal way of life for so long, that they don't know how to function any other way. But the Amplified Bible tells me that, "He who loves strife and is quarrelsome loves transgression (sin) and involves himself in guilt." (Proverbs 17:19a) Proverbs 20:3 says, "It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." God isn't calling you a fool now, is He? No offense, but if you love a quarrel, I think He is! In the NIV, God says in Proverbs 26:21, "As charcoal is to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling (heating up) strife." 1 Timothy 6 tells us that if we are "following false doctrine and not agreeing with the sound instructions of Jesus Christ, we have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." Can you see the tentacles of strife growing into dangerous places. The marshmallow oozing onto other areas of your life? Don't love a quarrel!
And just how do you prevent yourself from quarreling? First learn to overlook insults (see Proverbs 12:16). Drop potentially volatile issues (Proverbs 17: 14). Drive out the mocker. Proverbs 22:10 says, "Drive out the mocker and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended. NIV)
Pride and greed stir up strife. Proverbs 28:25 says, "He that is of a proud (greedy NIV) heart stirreth up strife; but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat (will prosper NIV)." Don't be proud or greedy. Trust in God, not in yourself. Follow the example of the Savior. "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2: 23) After the last supper, a dispute arose among the disciples of Jesus over which one of them was the greatest. Can you smell the pride? Jesus told them that, "I am among you as one who serves." He told them to follow His example. Trust God. He will protect you. Don't make it worse by trying to gain the upper hand. Psalm 31:20 says, "Thou shalt hide them (those who fear You) in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man; thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." Let the other tongues wag. Commit yourself and the problem to God. Let go of pride and the greed of having to be on top. Humble yourself and let God exalt you. If nothing else, the Bible says, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife." (Proverbs 17: 1) I know from personal experience, that is the absolute truth.
Selfishness stirs up strife. In Philippians 2:3, the same word is used for selfish ambition as it is for strife in the King James. Paul tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition, but in humility to consider others better than ourselves. We should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Consider the other guy. You have no idea what may be going on in their life. In our main opening verse from James 3, we are told that where there is selfish ambition and envy, there you find disorder (confusion) and every evil practice.
Worldliness in our character produces strife. Romans 13:13 lists strife as one of the "deeds of darkness." Christ has called us out of darkness and into the marvelous light of His kingdom. 1 Corinthians 3:3 says, "You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling (strife) among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" Are you acting like a blood bought, born again believer? Renew your attitude and actions in response to God's revelation of who you are in Him. Strife is listed in Galatians 5 as one of the acts of the sinful nature as opposed to living with the fruit of the Spirit characterizing your life. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23) Does that describe your character?
I hope that you have stuck with me this far. I have seen the devastating effects of strife first hand in my family of origin and in the lives of so many others that I know and dearly love. Strife destroys marriages, close family relationships, ministries and even whole churches. The outcomes of strife are on our nightly news channels each and every day. Satan has been deceiving us for thousands of years regarding the importance of keeping strife out of our lives. It is the master tool of the master deceiver. It is destructive, cunning and devilish in nature. Proverbs 17:14 shows us the nature of strife. "The beginning of strife is as when water first trickles (from a crack in a dam); therefore stop contention before it becomes worse and quarreling breaks out." (AMP) It looks harmless at first. A little quarrel. A little disagreement. A little gossip. Hurt feelings. Before you know it, it's out of control and affecting every area of your life. It leads to hatred, bitterness and "bitter root[s] grow up and cause trouble and defile many." (Hebrews 12: 15) I implore you, my friend...run from strife. Run hard, run fast, run long....Avoid it like the plague! It is a plague and it will destroy you and eventually destroy those around you.
You can have all other areas of your life lined up in a godly manner, but if you have strife...well, let's see what God has to say in Isaiah 58:4. His people are fasting and praying and wondering why their prayers weren't being answered. God says, "Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high." Do you want God to hear your prayers? Get rid of strife! It is your biggest blessing blocker!!
If there is strife in your marriage, your home, your family, your ministry or your church, you can bet dollars to donuts, that area will fall apart if you don't get the strife out. Jesus said in Matthew 12:25, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." In every facet of your influence, "be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4: 2-3) Lovingly tolerate one another even when you have differences, "..being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." (Philippians 2:2) "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (James 1: 19)
Romans 12: 18 instructs us, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Don't worry about the other person. There is no condition. The Word says, "as far as it depends on YOU." We can't control other people or their responses. Do what God commands for you to do. Obey and leave the other person to Him. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." If you are a peacemaker, God's blessings will flow to you.
Our natural tendencies cry out, "What's in it for me?!" Well, let's see:
"Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." (Psalm 34: 12-16) This must have been pretty important since Peter repeats these very words in his letter in 1 Peter 3: 10-12.
Psalm 133 says: "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! (I believe the reference is especially to believers) It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore." The oil symbolized the unity of the nation of Israel in worship under the consecrated priest, Aaron. When the oil flowed over Aaron's head and down his beard, it fell on his shoulders and the breastplate that he wore that had the names of all 12 tribes of Israel on it. The blessing didn't just fall on Aaron...it fell on the whole nation. When you choose by an act of your will to live in unity, your blessings will not only affect you, but will pour down on all those connected to you. You are not your own. Your actions affect others either in a positive or negative way.
A popular preacher asked her worship team to come on the platform and play a song of their choice. They all, of course, chose to play a different song because no instructions were given on what song to play. It goes without saying that the sound was horrible! There was no harmony. She then asked them to play, "Jesus Loves Me". It was sweet, soothing and wonderful. She says, "I made the point that disharmony is noise in God's ears, but living in harmony produces a sweet sound. The Lord appreciates our decision and sacrifice to live in agreement, and tells us to come together in agreement regarding a need and He will answer that prayer. There is power in agreement! There is weakness in strife!" (Joyce Meyer. Life Without Strife)
In closing (thanks for sticking with me!)...Hosea 4: 6 says, "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." I have made it a point in my own life to study the subject of strife. I know the destructiveness it can have and I'm amazed at how much God has to say about it in His word. Maybe we just don't realize it. But that Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man may be about to explode in your life. Hopefully all of the Scriptures I've given you will help you to make a determined decision to get strife out. You now have the knowledge of Scripture. What will you do with it? This isn't Donna telling you..God's word is telling you. You now have the knowledge. It won't be easy. Satan is a deceiver. Other people will plaintively call you to get into strife with them. Take this week and look at these Scriptures for yourself. Let them transform your mind as you look at every conversation, every relationship, every issue that you face. Transform your mind...transform your life!
"Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor." (James 3: 17-18 The Message)
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