Falling into the trap of strife is dangerous. It's very easy to become offended and lash out against the one who hurt your feelings. Offense, greed, jealousy, and selfishness are the basis of strife . James 4:1-2 (Amp) says, "What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask." Conflict will build resentments, destroy relationships, and create an atmosphere of anger.
The arrogance of being right or having the last word generates controversy. We disagree over the smallest things, like: who ate the last piece of cake; the location of a store; the color of a shirt; or what was said in the last conversation. We could go on and on and you could most likely think of a few yourself. Generally that little 'thing', isn't very important and probably doesn't really matter. Believing we must have the last say or argue our belief is an expression of pride.
Families from all walks of life, have discord among the members. Some of those animosities were created years and years ago by relatives that started feuding. And, today, no one knows what that conflict was about. Holding grudges and continuing in resentments, will build a spiritual stronghold and keep people from walking in the promises and blessings of God. James 3:16 says, "For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices." If you could stop and reflect on past grievances, you would find confusion, rebellion, and all kinds of evil. Rick Renner, (Author/Pastor) described the meaning of evil like this: "The word 'evil' is from the word 'phaulos' describing something that is terribly bad or exceedingly vile. We get the word 'foul' from this Greek word. James is saying that where envy and strife are permitted to operate, thus producing confusion and anarchy in relationships, they ultimately yield a foul-smelling situation!"
So, how does one avoid strife, you ask?
First, Recognize strife immediately and refuse to participate. Philippians 2:3a (Amp) " Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance..." We must decide to lay down pride and selfishness. Love does not insist on it's own way. (1 Cor. 13) Secondly, prefer one another. Philippians 2:3b (Amp) "...Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]." Letting others express their opinion, ideas, or concerns without verbal disagreement, only demonstrates that you value their right to have a different opinion. Let's face it we're not going to agree on everything! The truth is, the Bible is the only Truth!
Beware of the dangers of strife. It can lead you down the wrong path, causing pain, sickness, heartache, bitterness, poverty, and despair. Consider, for a moment, if you've been in any "strife" situations. Take this time to ask for forgiveness from God. Repent. and decide not to do it again. Now, forgive those that were involved and let it go. As the Spirit directs, you ask them to forgive you for holding resentment. Mat. 6:14-15 "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." And Eph. 4:32 "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Choose life Not strife!
Scriptures for avoiding Strife!
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
Prov. 13:10 Arrogance produces only quarreling, but those who take advice gain wisdom.
Prov. 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Prov. 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.
Prov. 26:17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
Prov. 26:21 As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
Prov. 18:6 A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.
Rom. 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
Prov. 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Prov. 18:25 A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.
Prov. 20:3 It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
Prov. 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
We had the privilege of visiting a Christian school and watching a program during their spiritual emphasis week. Being very impressed about the message that was shared, it came to mind that the subject was one that many struggle with daily. The message taken from Eph. 2:10 "For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]."
This verse is talking about us being God's 'masterpiece', His work of art, NOT being saved BY good works BUT saved TO DO good works. And walking in the paths He has already prepared for us so that we can complete our destiny, which is His purpose.
The issue at hand is that numerous people don't see themselves as God's masterpiece. They might refer to themselves as a 'real piece of work' in a derogatory way. Mainly because for years, they've listened to the lies of the devil; to things like, 'you're not very smart', 'you're not going to amount to anything', 'no one cares about you', or 'you're a problem - a mistake'. And whether it was from relatives, school mates, instructors or just self inflicted thoughts, they were still lies from the devil.
Eph. 2:10 says, "For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew]....." You are NOT a mistake! You were created to do good works that God predetermined for YOU! YOU were in the mind of God long before you were born. He intended for you to BE! He deliberately created YOU! YOU are His work of art, masterfully, wonderfully fashioned! When you come to realize that you were a deliberate creation, then you can comprehend the full scope of His purpose for you.
Take time today to say, "I am God's Masterpiece, His workmanship! I am recreated in Christ Jesus! I am part of God's plan. Lord I ask You to reveal the path You have ordained for me that I might live the good life and do good works to glorify You."
Anyone out there ever made a mistake that you were embarrassed about? A bad decision or a fall into a sin? Then right after the realization that you fell short of the grace of God, remorse set in. All the repenting didn't seem to help you feel better. And the devil, who is quick to bring up past sins, guilt or condemnation was right there on your tail. Even some friends or family seem to constantly rehearse the mishap, which doesn't make the situation better. Getting past the hurt and guilt is extremely difficult. Forgiveness from yourself and those you hurt, generally seem a long time coming.
1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Of course the first thing we need to do is confess to the Lord we messed up. The second, is to ask for forgiveness. Then the scripture says, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us! That means He cleans us up. It's as if we never sinned. Now, the hard part, in our mind is, we must forgive ourself! Yes, we have to let it go, just as if we never sinned! (A word of caution, all this forgiveness and cleansing, doesn't give us freedom to sin again. Rom. 6:15) Forgiveness is not condoning the sin or even the lack of accountability, it's letting go of the anguish or resentment of the sin. It's coming to realize that Jesus himself took our sin, guilt and iniquities. Is. 53:5 NIV "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole." We can be free from pain of guilt and condemnation only by receiving it by faith from God, when we truly repent!
Now let's talk to the people that were hurt by the offense. I am reminded of the story in the Bible where, Jesus spoke to the accusers of the woman caught in the act of adultery, "he who is without sin cast the first stone". I believe that everyone of us at one time has committed a sin that affected others. I can already hear "but my sin wasn't as grave as the one committed against me"! Listen people of God, sin is sin! Lying is the same as stealing, sexual sin is the equilvalent of anger, unforgiveness is synonymous of murder. One sin is not greater than another! And if Jesus can forgive us of any sin we commit, then how simple is it that we forgive others! Holding grudges, animosity or someone hostage for their sin hurts us as much it does the one who committed the infraction. First of all it keeps us from being forgiven. (Mat. 6:14-15) Secondly, the bitterness that comes from unforgiveness keeps the blessings of God from flowing to us because we grieve the Holy Spirit. "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph. 4:29-32)
How many times are we suppose to forgive, you ask? Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4 "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” I know some of you are saying, 'How can I forgive this person that has done this dastardly deed against me? My feelings are hurt. Trust is broken. How do I know they won't do it again?' The answer to forgiveness is LOVE. Agape Love which is unconditional Love, like the love Jesus gave us. He forgave us even before we were born. He paid the price for our sin and forgiveness 2000 years ago. The only way to get past this hurt is by faith in the Lord. Through prayer, praying like you would for yourself and faith, forgiveness will flow. Every time you think of the pain you must forgive by faith, until one day you realize it's no longer tormenting you. That's when forgiveness is established.
If you are one of these two kinds of people I urge you to operate in the Love of God and forgive. Allow the healing power of God to come into your life and minister to you. Remember 2 Cor. 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." Trust the Lord for a new beginning. All things are possible with Him.
Prayer #1: Father, in the name of Jesus I come to you repenting for my actions. I ask for Your forgiveness and invite the Holy Spirit to help direct me and lead me in the path of righteousness. Open my ears and seal Your Word, that I may do what I have heard. Amen.
Prayer #2: Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus praying for the person that sinned against me. I forgive them as Christ forgave me. I loose them from my anger and allow the Holy Spirit to minister healing to them and to me. I ask forgiveness for anything I may have done to cause this transgression. And I choose to operate in the Agape Love towards them. Amen.
Have you ever had a serious situation that occurred and left you feeling devastated? Perhaps you were so distraught that you thought God was the cause of your problem. You may have prayed, stood in faith and believed the circumstance would turn out differently. And when it all happened, in your thinking, you thought God caused it to transpire. You may believe that you did everything right, that you were diligent and faithful, but in the end you now believe that God brought you to this place and has left you.
Many people go through life believing that God caused the mishap. And now they are mad at Him, because of a catastrophic event. It could be that you or someone you know lost their job, had their house foreclosed, got in a terrible accident, experienced an unexpected divorce or had a loved one die. All those kinds of things happen in life and are always hard to explain 'why' they happened. Truthfully, we could spend the rest of our days reviewing the issue at hand only to find we are still asking 'why', and not any closer to an answer than before.
The serious danger in harboring anger towards God, can push us past the point of finding comfort or peace. When we harbor the question 'why' and hold on to our complaint for too long, it turns into irritation, which turns to bitterness. And then our bitterness turns into rage. At that moment we will no longer listen to reproof and God's Word will not have an effect on us. We shut out any words of wisdom or consolation from friends, family, spiritual authority or the Holy Spirit. Stepping into pride - we begin to blame God.
The Bible tells of a man named Jonah who got so angry with God that he wanted God to kill him. Jonah felt he had a right to be angry all because his situation didn't turn out the way he thought it should. His rage against God made him believe life wasn't worth living.
Because of your situation, you may believe life isn't worth living or that God failed you. Let me assure you that no matter what we encounter in life, God never fails. There are reasons responsible for whatever has happened. Somewhere someone missed GodWhether we were out from under God's protection (Ps. 91), or that we just didn't have the knowledge we needed (Hos. 4:6), it's time to forgive. Understand ".... that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Rom. 8:28 NIV) At this instant, decide to put down your anger. "Lay aside anger..." (Col. 3; Eph. 4:26-32) Quit asking 'why' and begin thanking Him for His love and grace. "Trust Him with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding." (Pro. 3:5-6)
Prayer: Father, I come humbly to You asking for Your forgiveness for my anger towards You. I begin today to lay aside harsh feelings and complaints. I make a decision right now to trust You with all my heart, putting my understanding down knowing that I may never know the 'why'. And I believe that You have my interests at heart and are working all these things out for my good. I love You and praise You for Your goodness and grace. Amen!
We've had people ask, why is it necessary to attend church? Can't we just watch a television evangelist, watch an internet minister or listen to a cd and get the same results? However good or educational these may be, there's just something about attending a corporate church service. Heb. 10:24 amp. "Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together (as believers) as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging and encouraging) one another and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching."
The church is a place where we learn and receive faith. (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The Word here is preached Word) Being built up in faith ensures that when challenges arise, faith meets them rather than fear. Being separated and alone gives place to fearful thoughts and discouraging attitudes. Seeing other believers that are confronted with the same kinds of situations as yourself, and learning of their triumphs and victories builds faith! You can't get that from t.v., the internet or a c.d.
There are some who say: 'I'm not ready to go to church, I need to get myself together first before I go.' The local church will accept you just the way you are. But, if it's a faith filled, spirit filled, bible teaching church it will not leave you the same way you came. Your faithful attendance to listen to the message of the Word and apply it to you life daily, will cause you to change. (Rom. 10:14 "How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?") You must come to hear and hear to believe.
One might say: 'I used to be in a church and worked so much I got burned out.' Let me say first, people who feel overworked are generally unorganized. Pressure comes because of the lack of organization, not because one has a role in serving in the local church. We can get 'burnt out' doing sports, hobbies, and the like, and quit as a result. Secondly, burn out comes because an ember is too far away from a flame. Our flame gets extinguished because we're doing 'works' without a relationship with Christ. The lack of organization gets us to working so much we neglect to spend quality time praising and praying. Plus when we're not scheduled to work, we stay away from service rather than come and get energized from the preached Word and fellowship, using the excuse 'I'm burned out.'
I've heard some say: 'There are just hypocrites in the church. They come to church but don't really act like they should.' My question to you would be, are you going to allow a 'hypocrite' come between you and your relationship with God? Because if you refrain from attending church, worshipping the Lord, or serving Him, then he just got between you and Christ and he's closer to Christ than you are. Besides what better place for a hypocrite than church? Just perhaps he'll hear the Word at one point and get his life changed. We should pray for them, not allow them to control what we do.
People have even said: 'I've gone but I just don't get it. I don't understand what's being taught.' If you're not 'getting it'. Then you need to put into operation Mark 4:14-20. Work on your (dirt) heart. What determines what your dirt is like is you. Cast your cares over on the Lord, walk in forgiveness, or put your sight on things above not on the earth. Become a spiritual man, because a 'natural man' can't receive spiritual things. (1 Cor 2:14-15) A change of heart will help you better comprehend the Word of God.
The case in point with not attending church, regardless of the reason you're being robbed of a blessing Christ intended for you to have. Eph. 4:11 Christ gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to the church for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ. He purposes that our minds be renewed by the Word. He desires that we may better understand and know what promises are already ours so we can live victoriously. And the only way to do that is in the local church. Pray to make sure you attend the church of God's choice for you. Be certain the church you attend preaches/teaches and believes the uncompromised Word of God, not just what you want to hear. (Truth sometimes is uncomfortable.) Then be faithful, because faithful attenders understand and learn more swiftly than the non attenders. If you don't believe that, then only send your child to school one day a month.
Let me just end with this, it' easy to be thrilled with something, it's just difficult to stay thrilled. It takes diligence to remain excited about church. It's an attitude we must choose. Choose to be inspired at your local church!
Have you ever heard someone say, 'he's got stalwart faith'? What is stalwart, anyway? After researching it, I found that stalwart means loyal, reliable, committed, steadfast, unwavering, dependable and steady. So stalwart faith never gives up, never gives in, always relies on and believes in the Word of God, over any circumstance. It's where we choose to believe God's Word over the evidence of the senses. (Things we feel. see, hear, or think) . It's knowing that all natural circumstances, sickness, financial woes, fears, and such are to be kept subject to the Word of God. I'm not talking about denying the circumstances, but believing God's Word and living in agreement with it. That means declaring His Word over the situation and believing that it has the divine power over it to change it. You may have a broken arm, but instead of saying "I have a broken arm", you should say, "By His stripes I am healed". That's acting on the Word, being a doer of the Word.
We must be committed, steadfast, unwavering in belief of His divine power through the Word of God, remaining steadfast to 'see' by faith His results. It's almost like the time, when you were a child and saw into the imaginary realm. You really thought that it was real, no matter what anyone else told you. That's were we need to be in our faith in God's Word. No matter what anyone says. No matter what we see. Regardless of how we feel, we just KNOW that the Word of God is ultimately the real truth with power to accomplish what it's sent to do. (Is. 55:11)
1 John 5:14-15 "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, And if we know He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."
There was a time in our life, where the powers of hell came against us. A business partner stole $60,000. As a result we were evicted from our house, our car was repossessed, our electricity was turned off, and to top it all off, we had no money to buy food. What seemed like the end, was really the beginning for God to work in our life. It took faith to forgive this person, it took faith to believe that we wouldn't be homeless, it took faith to believe that things could turn around to be better than they were. Because we held onto faith, we got a bigger and better house with no payments for 3 month and we were given a new car debt free. Within nine months we received in the mail a check for $10,396.00 and $11,670.00 a month later, from an unexpected source. All because we forgave and exercised stalwart faith in God!
You see, we need to keep our focus on the Word, rather than on the circumstance. Things can change if we stay humble and faithful to believe. Trust the Word, know that all things are possible to him who believes. (Mat. 19:26) Keep your conversation ordered aright, there's the power of life and death in the tongue. (Pro. 18:21) Choose life! Speak faith, speak the Word and Believe God!
Have you ever thought, "I'm a pretty good Christian. Especially compared to others."? Maybe you're even of the opinion that you've reached an elevated plateau in your spiritual walk. And when others point out certain flaws, you might think, "I'm not like that!".
Paul wrote, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Phil. 3:12
It's easy to look at ourself and compare ourselves with others and think we're all that and a bag of chips. The reason we believe that, is because we are measuring ourself to others. Reality check! People are not perfect, neither are we. We should be gauging ourself with the Word of God. It's perfect and complete. That's where we will find, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the places we are missing.
I know, I don't like to think I've got shortcomings either. But, come on, we live in an imperfect world, with devil influences. It's easy to conclude that we're right and everyone else has the problem, because the devil wants us to walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit.
But Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:20-24AMP "But you did not so learn Christ! Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him], Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness."
I encourage you to take a look at yourself, began to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any characteristic that isn't lining up to the Word of God. Trust me, He will uncover those areas. Then, make a conscience effort to request the help of the Spirit to remove those traits. After repentance, it's then that you begin to confess what you are in Christ. Speak God's Word over yourself. Call those things that be not as though they were. It won't be long till you begin to see a new you. One that's walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh. I guarantee it.
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."