OVERCOMING STRIFE IN OUR LIVES (by benaiah juma) (Edited 1st August 2017).
WHAT IS STRIFE?
Pro 20:3 It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
Strife means angry or violent disagreement between two people or groups of people. There is strife everywhere; in the family, at the workplace, in ministry, in church and so on and it eats away at human relationships. There is probably no facet of life left untouched by this cancerous thing called strife. At home, we find strife between the husband and wife, between parents and children, and among siblings. As children we may have fought over toys and as adults we fight about land and money! There is strife in our workplaces, among team members and between employer and employee. Unfortunately we find strife in our churches too, sometimes among members of the same congregation.
WHAT CAUSES STRIFE?
Pro 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
Hatred causes strife. For example, on your first day at work as you were being introduced to your new team, you were probably happy. But later you realized that there was this one person on the team with whom there was no ‘chemistry’ you just could not get along with that person. Initially you tried being civil to him but slowly began to dislike the person. Later you started avoiding him and even started hating him. This hatred may burst forth one day, but until that moment the person may not even have been aware that you disliked him. Thus your hatred for that person produced strife between you and him.
Pro 15:18 A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.
All of us have the potential to get angry. The feelings including Anger that build in us have to be channeled right. We must be angry about the right kind of things. Sin, injustice and intolerance. But some of us have this fiery thing inside us and even a little thing that someone says or does causes us to flare up. Our uncontrollable tempers may have caused us more strife than we can imagine. Anger often stirs up strife and causes breakdown of relationships.
Pro 29:22 An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.
Pro 30:33 Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.
Gossiping, Backbiting and Tale-Bearing
Pro 26:20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
A talebearer, a gossiper, a whisperer or a slanderer causes strife. For example, consider the case of two good friends. Assume when one friend is away on a holiday someone else backbites about him to his good friend. When the friend returns, he finds his friend behaving totally different. This is because there was a gossiper around. Likewise when we unintentionally gossip about people, we are sowing seeds of strife that eat away at relationships between people. So we have to be careful when we speak about other people.
Pro 16:28 A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
Being Contentious or Quarrelsome
Pro 26:21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
With a contentious man, whatever we say or do causes him to get angry. Something that is part of his personality causes him to be contentious and creates strife that breaks down relationships with everyone else. It is not because other people are wrong but because something is wrong in him that causes him to be contentious.
Pro 28:25 He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.
Let us consider the instance of a team in a conference room discussing how a project has to be carried out. Assuming you are part of that team and you are prejudiced that your team leader has not graduated from a top university like you have, and you feel resentful that he instead of you, is handing out instructions for the job to be done. Your pride is unwilling to make you submit to his authority because you think you would do a better job than him. This causes strife. All of us will cause strife in our relationships with others if we are too proud to accept someone else’s better ideas or refuse to accept someone else’s ways of doing things, merely because it is different from our ways.
At possibly Jesus’ last meal with His disciples, as preparation for His crucifixion, He intentionally instituted the Lord’s Supper. He tried to get his disciples to understand that He was going to be crucified and about to leave them. But observe what really concerned the apostles when they heard about Jesus going away. There arose a dispute among the disciples as to who would be the next ‘boss’ after Jesus! Their dispute caused strife among themselves.
Notice how Jesus answered them on who is greater. He explained to them that they had understood it all wrong. He told them that they may be looking at the world and modeling themselves around what they saw in the world. Jesus told them that the person at the top may be the boss in the eyes of the world but their role model should be a servant, who IS the leader in God’s eyes. He told them to find out among themselves who was going to be the least, because that person was the one who was going to be their leader. Thus selfish ambitions can cause strife.
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution (Acts 6:1).
There was strife within the church in Jerusalem. The reason being that the Greek-speaking Jews (the Hellenists) complained about the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being neglected in the distribution of food everyday. They brought this issue to the attention of the apostles and asked them to solve their problem. The reason for the strife was the misunderstanding that they were not being paid as much attention as was being given to another sect.
Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.
Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:36-41). Personality differences too can produce strife because each one of us has a different kind of personality and we do things differently.
Disputing Over Speculative Ideas
1Ti 6:3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
1Ti 6:4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
1Ti 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
Instead of fighting over people’s opinions, let us concentrate and agree on the wholesome Word of God which cannot be disputed about, and leave aside people’s opinions. Withdraw yourself from speculative ideas.
2Ti 2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
2Ti 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
2Ti 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
2Ti 2:26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
Avoid foolish and ignorant questions because they only generate strife. For example, you may decide to witness to your college friend, John, who is from a Christian background but is not a believer yet, and you ask him gently why he does not attend church. He immediately retorts and asks you if you are one of those “born-again types.” Assume he also tells you that if you can tell him where Cain and Abel got their wives from, he would listen to all that you have to share. That question stumps you and you begin asking God for wisdom to answer that. You may then decide to tell your friend that probably Cain and Abel married their sisters, and he may scoff at that. You may get upset and walk out on him. Thus it is wise to avoid questions that stir up strife.
Answering such questions will in fact lead John to ask you another question which in turn may lead to heated arguments and probably break up your friendship with him. Instead it would be wise to tell John that you could tell him something that would be far more useful to him and then share about Christ’s love for him.
All of us will cause strife in our relationships with others if we are too proud to accept someone else’s better ideas or refuse to accept someone else’s ways of doing things, merely because it is different from our ways.
THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF STRIFE
Jas 3:16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
The Bible says, where there is envy, selfish ambition and self-seeking, strife is present. When we get into strife with somebody, we are actually opening the door to confusion and every evil work. It amounts to opening the door and telling Satan to come in and have a party! We would be giving Satan free access into our lives to do whatever he wants-damage our bodies with sicknesses, create confusion in our businesses and families, cause depression, failure, lack of finances and so on.
Every demonic work exists when we get into strife. For instance, if a church allows strife to enter in, it is very likely that the church will disintegrate soon. Satan will take the opportunity to get into that church and begin working all kinds of evil within that congregation to destroy them. In the same way, if strife enters a marriage, owing to the conflicts between husband and wife, Satan will destroy that home. We should always ask God to help us live our lives without strife, immaterial of what others say or do.
KEEPING STRIFE OUT OF YOUR LIFE
Everybody experiences strife! All of us have moments when we can get into strife with people, but strife is such a dangerous thing and we must do our utmost to keep it out of our lives.
Pro 17:1 Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.
It is better to live in a small place with a little dry morsel than live in a big house where there is feasting and fanfare that show signs of happiness but where there is only strife.
Pro 20:3 It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
It is an honor to avoid strife. It does not take much intelligence to start a quarrel, but it is an honor when a man of character or a woman of dignity decides not to get into a quarrel. It’s a mark of good character to avert quarrels, but fools love to pick fights. It is a mark of good character to keep strife out of our lives and an honor to stay out of it.
Do Not Give Strife a Chance
Pro 17:14 The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.
For example, in a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee, we may have been talking on various topics and begun discussing about who the best cricketer was. We may have said ‘Sachin’ and the friend may have suggested other names, and the discussion carried on. But we also may have noticed that the ‘temperature’ has risen. From a casual, good mannered and well-meaning discussion, the conversation may have turned intense.
It seemed to be headed for a serious debate! Maybe even a quarrel. In such a case, the moment we feel the temperature rising, it would be wise to stop the discussion right there. We must change the subject and start talking about something else. We need to know when to get out of such situations. When we see a leak in the dam, we need to fix it before the dam bursts. Let us not give strife a chance!
Mind your own business
Minding our own business may seem simple but sometimes a very difficult thing to do. We need to think of what we have to do and let others think of what they need to do. This avoids strife in relationships.
Pro 26:17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
Many times on the streets of our cities in Kenya, we may see two people on the roadside quarrelling about something no one else knows about. For instance, assume one day while we were traveling by the roadside and saw one such quarrel. Though we were total strangers to the people fighting on the roadside, yet feeling like we ought to be the “Chief Justice” for that situation, we may have listened to both sides of the quarrel. Then suddenly before we realized it, we may have rolled up our sleeves and got involved in the fight. Later, we wondered how or why we got involved in the fight. That is asking for unnecessary trouble. The Bible warns us of this very thing saying “meddling in a quarrel that is not ours” is like a man taking a dog by the ears.
Pro 3:30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. -this is common sense and also mentioned in the Book of Proverbs-as is the case of two people fighting on the road who had not done us any wrong but to whom we had wanted to administer justice! But for such cases, it would have been far wiser to get a policeman if we were desperate to help them. We need to always mind our own business and try to never get into trouble, that is not ours.
Watch your motives
Many times our motives may be wrong. When we are motivated by strife, we will get into trouble.
Php 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
We must not do anything motivated by strife. For example, if someone sent us a mail that upset us, let us not decide to send that person a virus the next day! If we did so, we would only be giving strife a big foothold in our lives.
Jas 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Jas 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not
There are wars and fights among us when we do wrong things with wrong motives. So we always need to check our motives and guard them. If our motives are to get back at somebody for what they did to us, that is motivated by strife and we ought not to do it.
Watch your words
We need to be careful with our words.
Pro 18:6 A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
Speaking foolish words can get us into strife and we could very well deserve good blows for that. Foolish words get people into contention and hence we have to watch the words we speak.
Our words can often get us into trouble. So we need to watch our words. Sometimes even the remarks we make in a lighter vein can create strife. So we have to be careful and wise with our words, to be sure that we do not get into trouble. Taking care of these simple things ensures there is no cause for strife!
Control Your Temper
Pro 15:18 A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.
A wrathful man-an angry man-stirs up strife! But he who is slow to anger allays contention! When I first got saved, at the age of 12, though I was just growing in my Christian faith, I had a very serious problem with an ‘out-of-control’ temper! While I was playing football-a game I loved-at school one day, one of the boys tripped me. I became so angry, turned around, did not even look to see who it had been, and kicked him hard on his back. Little did I realize then that he was also a believer and we were even part of the same prayer group! That was the end of my friendship with him.
Though we were both believers, we had lost our cool. I had lost my temper and hurt him in such a way that he probably never forgot about it. And I had to repent about it the following days. That friend could have helped me a lot, in my walk with God but I lost a friend because I could not control my temper.
Pro 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
If we can rule our tempers, we would be considered better than the worlds strongest man. We would have more strength than him because the Bible says that if we are slow to anger, we are better than the mighty! And he who rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city! I tell myself that if I can control my temper, I am better than being strong and better than a man who can conquer a city. So if you and I can control our anger, we can keep strife out of our lives!
Pro 25:8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
Develop the ability to ignore insults
Pro 12:16 A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.
A fool’s wrath is known at once. If he is insulted, he will retaliate right away! He does not need time to think about it. But a prudent man is somebody who will cover an insult. He will not respond but will forget it! Develop the ability to ignore insults. Insults do not change who we are unless we react negatively to them. They are just people’s opinions. If we know who we are in Christ is who we really are, it will not matter when others insult us.
1Pe 2:22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
1Pe 2:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
When Jesus was insulted, He did not retaliate, and we have to follow His example. We ought to ignore insults and allow it to go like water off a duck’s back. Then we will be able to keep our tempers in control and not be agitated.
Develop the ability to respond with gentleness
Pro 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
For example, when someone ready to start a fight approaches you, and you feel as if there are fumes coming out of that person’s mouth and their words seem red hot and all ready to spurt out against you, just remain calm. For when you have responded to them with a soft answer, you have kept yourself out of strife. A soft answer indeed turns away wrath! But most of us tend to respond quite the opposite way. In a disagreement, we always try to outdo the other person-in loudness or in intensity-and this only serves to escalate the whole situation.
That is why the Bible says that a soft answer turns away wrath. Even if the other person is angry, we should choose to respond with gentleness. The Bible also instructs us that as servants of God, we must not quarrel but must be gentle to all people, able to teach and be patient. So we must develop the ability to respond with gentleness.We should always give a tender reply and a soft answer in heated situations. Many times it just cools things down and helps keep strife out of our lives.
We must develop the ability to yield. Many times we are so stubborn about the wrong things-the things that really do not matter-and our stubbornness causes strife in our lives! Consider the example of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13:1-18): Lot was Abraham’s nephew. On their journey to the land that God was going to give Abraham; both of them had huge livestock and a great number of servants. And often their respective servants quarreled and fought with each other! There was a lot of strife throughout their journey! Abraham realized what was happening and told Lot that it was not good to go on like this in their journey and so he asked Lot to take whichever part of the countryside he wanted to and said that he himself would go the opposite way. He literally yielded to Lot by telling him to take whatever he wanted of the land!
Lot had looked all around; saw the wonderful plains of Sodom and Gomorrah and chose to go there since that part was fertile. He took all his livestock and people, and they moved into Sodom and Gomorrah. And right after Lot departed, God told Abraham to arise and walk through the land. God said He would give to Abraham every part of the land that his feet treaded upon. And since that time, his livestock increased greatly. Even Abraham’s servant acknowledged that God had blessed his master. Whereas for Lot who went into Sodom and Gomorrah, everything was destroyed and he himself had to run for his life with just the clothes he was wearing! Remember it was Abraham who had yielded!
So we also need to learn to let go! For example, if there is a dispute over a family-owned apartment, and you are being given less than your actual share of it, just yield and accept what is given. You could either be stubborn and fight, and keep strife as your ‘friend’ to ensure you get your actual share of the property or you could let strife stay out of the door by yielding! By doing so, the blessings of God will come into your life!
When we befriend strife, the heavens are shut. There will be no blessings. Instead if we keep strife out of the door, God can really pour out His blessings. That is what happened to Abraham.
The day Lot left, God told Abraham that everything else was his, and that God was his friend and He would be with him in all things. God multiplied what seemed a poor bargain for Abraham, and turned it into a great blessing. When Lot had actually looked at one side of the land, and saw it was ‘devalued,’ he chose the fertile plains. He let Abraham have what he thought was not really of great value! But God was with Abraham. So we need to learn to yield, with the sole objective of keeping strife out and we will see the blessing of God.
Meekness is not weakness
Psa 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Meekness is really strength in disguise. The Bible says that the meek will inherit the earth. Maybe people have not lived long enough to see it happen. God will never fail and His Word is true.
Make peace quickly
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Mat 5:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
Mat 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Jesus instructed us to agree with our adversaries quickly before they took us to court and got a judge to pass the sentence. We should always be peacemakers, yielding or letting go. As long as our objective is to keep strife out and if by yielding we are able to do that, the blessings of God are sure to follow us in our lives! What we might lose by yielding, God can give us many times over through His blessings!
Do Not Keep an Account of Wrongs
Do not keep an account of the wrongs that people have done. For example, when you are casually talking to somebody, suddenly that person accuses you of some wrong you did to him 25 years ago.
You had long forgotten but he has not. He may not only remember the day the offence occurred, but also the time and everything about you that day. Love takes no account of evil nor does it keep score of the sins of others. So if we want to lead a strife-free life, we must learn to keep other people’s slates clean every day! We ought not to keep an account of what they have done against us! This will keep strife out of our lives.
Pro 17:9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
Mat 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Mat 5:24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
We lose and destroy friendships when we repeat a matter that is in the past. We need to forget what is past and let go of it or else, we will destroy the friendship. If we cover an offence, it means we are really going after love. We need to forgive quickly and forgive liberally. Jesus said that if we go to God in prayer and realize that somebody has done something wrong against us, we have to settle that first before we begin to pray. So if we settle a matter as and when it happens, we can pray anytime.
This means that if instead of forgiving immediately we keep a long score; we will have a lot of running around to do, seeking forgiveness before we can even start praying. We must release forgiveness as and when the offence occurs, forget it, settle it and close the case-wipe the slate clean! Then, we are ready to pray anytime.
Mat 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Mat 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
In other words, Jesus was telling Peter to be liberal and to keep on forgiving. We ought not to keep an account of wrongs, and if we can do that, we will have no reason to get into strife with people. For all is forgiven!
Bind Demonic Operation
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Strife and confusion can also be caused by demonic activity. Though most times, we are responsible for the strife in our lives, there are times when strife and confusion in our relationships can be directly caused because of what the devil is trying to do! We may have done nothing wrong, and others too may have done nothing wrong, but we find something wrong happening in our relationships! Things are not going the way it was supposed to go! In this case, it is very likely that the devil is trying to destroy that relationship. The spirit of strife comes in, trying to work at breaking that relationship!
This is where we need to rise up with our God-given authority and use the sword of the Spirit! We must speak the Word of God and declare peace in that relationship-declaring that it is a Kingdom relationship where there is righteousness, peace and joy. We must always say, “We will not tolerate strife or division to come into any relationship!” We can take our God-given authority and keep the spirits of strife out of all our relationships! This we need to do to maintain peace.
Rom 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
Rom 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
Rom 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
As individuals, we are called to keep strife out of our lives. The day is at hand! Therefore let us get rid of the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. How do we do that? The Word of God says we ought to walk decently. What does it mean to walk decently? We should walk like we walk in the daytime, rid of all the works of darkness, even strife. We are people of the day not of the night! We have to walk decently and put on Jesus! All of us can make the choice to live a life without strife.
There are going to be many opportunities for strife with our friends, neighbors and those we live with! For example, in our apartments, when our neighbors turn on their music loud, we may react by turning our music on louder. We should instead choose not to respond in a way that can create strife. It is a challenge for all of us! We have to keep telling ourselves, “Immaterial of what happens, what other people say or do, how many opportunities for strife may come our way, we are going to live our lives without strife!”
As a body
Psa 133:1 A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Psa 133:2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
Psa 133:3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
Even in our churches there should be NO strife. Where there is zero strife, we will experience the anointing and freshness of God. The dew will be there, so also life, blessing and peace. It is up to us to have a church like that! We ought to ensure we are a body of people without any strife-where everyone walks in love, peace and harmony. Everyone must understand the importance of keeping strife out of our lives.
If an issue arises, we should immediately settle it, forgive, forget and not repeat it! Record only the good things-the successes, the things that got accomplished. Forget the failures and the negatives. Forget people’s mistakes and let those mistakes be erased. Because the Bible says that God puts our sins in the depths of the sea, never to remember them! If God does not remember our sins, why should we take the trouble to remember those things? We can use our memory cells for something positive!
Our motives are so IMPORTANT.
There can be wars and fights among us when we do wrong things with wrong motives. So we ALWAYS need to check our motives and guard them. If our motives are to get back at somebody for what they did to us, that is motivated by strife and we ought not to do it.
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