Drawing Strength from God to Manage Conflict

Our this month’s theme is “Countering Conflict God’s Way”.

The first thing that comes to mind when we think about this topic is the word conflict. Do we have conflicts in life? Wow!! What a question. Let me ask it in a different way. Is there any one who has not come across conflict in your life. Well , if you have not , just get married, and you will understand the meaning of conflict soon.

Conflict is a reality, as day and night. There is no life without conflict. There is conflict of priorities, conflict of ideas, conflict of personalities, conflict of race, religion, faith, finances, etc etc, the list can go on an on. There is conflict between couples, conflict between siblings, conflict between parents and children, conflict among neighbors, conflict among friends. There is serious conflict in the offices, between coworkers, between employees and bosses. A conflict less life is a myth that does not exist.

So, how do people deal with conflict. There are many ways, some of which are as follows 

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The most common form of dealing with conflict is that of avoidance. Many just run away from conflicts. This is true especially in Christian circles. We mistakenly believe that by avoiding, the conflict will go away. This is not true. Avoiding conflict does not solve anything. This is what Jacob tried to do his whole life, till God had to literally wrestle with him. He was avoiding conflict with his parents, with his brother, with his wives, with his father in law, with God himself. We know that it did not work.

The second common form of conflict resolution is to fight aggressively. Some people keep fighting and competing till they win. That is the only solution acceptable to them. But this is a dangerous way of dealing with conflict. This destroys all forms of relationships. This destroys communities and countries and humanity. This is what Hitler tried to do. This is what the Jihadis recommend. This is the “My way or Highway” mentality.

The third form of conflict management is by giving up and yielding. Here, one just accommodates the other points of view, and letting the other person have their way, without considering the cost. Incidentally, this is what I do when I have conflicts with Leslie. She always wins.

The forth way of conflict management is through productive cooperation. This is when the parties involved in a conflict decide to cooperate. In corporate circles, this is always the preferred manner of conflict resolution. This is the method that is taught in management schools. This is considered to be the ideal form of conflict resolution.

Let us also look at what happens to the parties involved in these forms of conflict management. When we avoid conflict, actually no one wins. Everyone loses in this process. This is a Lose-Lose situation. When we compete and fight and win, it is always at the cost of the other party. So, only one party wins here. This is true when we yield or accommodate, we let some one else win at our cost of losing.  When we cooperate, it is truly the Win-Win situation.

These are all Man’s ways of dealing with conflicts. But then, God’s ways are different from Man’s ways. God’s ways are reflected in His teachings. Matthew 18:15-17,  Romans 12:17-21, Luke 17:3, Philippians 2:4, Leviticus 19:18,  Deuteronomy 1:17 etc give us sufficient glimpse into how God wants us to handle conflict His way. God knows that true cooperation does not come without sacrifices. God knows that everyone has sinned and hence they need Reconciliation and Reparation and Restoration. So that is God’s way of dealing with conflicts. In God’s way, all parties win, but with the added sweetness of sacrifice that He demonstrated on the cross. God’s way is winning with the touch of Grace.

Dealing with conflict is not easy. And it is even more difficult to deal with conflict when we have to do it God’s way. It needs enormous amount of strength, strength beyond what the world can give us. So where do we go for this strength to deal with conflicts? That is today’s theme.

Let us look at Joshua to see where we can go to get our strength. Today’s reading is from Joshua 1:1-9, but before that I would like to go back a bit and start from the last Chapter of Deuteronomy.  :Let us see why Joshua needed strength. Deuteronomy 34 is a short chapter where the last act and death of Moses is recorded. Let us go there. In a brief but very impactful manner this chapter paints two strong images of  Moses.

  1. Servant of the LORD: Deuteronomy 34:5. This particular title “Servant of the LORD” is applied to Moses 18 times, more than any other individual in the Old Testament. Moses was the first model of for the title“Servant of the LORD”
  2. Israel’s Greatest Prophet: Deuteronomy 34:10.  Moses was  a prophet filled with power Deuteronomy 3:24, Deuteronomy 11:2. God performed many signs and wonders through Moses. The plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the ten commandments etc are just a few of them.  Moses was also a prophet who was close to God. Moses was the only one God spoke to “face to face” like a friend. Jeremiah described Moses as one who “stood in the council of the LORD to perceive and to hear his word…. (and had) proclaimed God’s words to His people in order to turn them from their evil ways” (Jeremiah 23: 18, 22)

Now, this is the man who passed away leaving the massive job of leading the Israelites to the promised land to Joshua. Just imagine Joshua’s plight here. On one had, He had such big shoes to fill, such a high reputation to follow, such a great legacy to continue, such a mighty example to reflect, such high expectations to fulfill. On the other hand he had this seemingly impossible task of crossing the huge barrier that stood between them and the promised land in the form of this swollen river Jordan. Thirdly, even if he were to cross over,  he had very strong enemies waiting on the other side of the river. The Canaanites, the Hittites, the Midianites etc.  To add to his woes was the fact that most of the people crossing over with him was of a new generation and had not seen the LORD’s signs and wonders in Egypt. And most probably they have heard how big and mighty were the enemies in the promised land . You remember that was the reason why they did not cross over 40 years back.  So, many in the flock could have been afraid or outright skeptical. Thus, the task that Joshua had in his hands was not an easy one at all. 

That is where God steps in. That is where God tells him in Joshua 1: 1-9 . Let us read this passage. “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. 

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I want to quickly highlight three aspects from this passage.

  1. The call: “Now, then get ready and go…”. Moses is dead, but the work must go on, and I have called you for the work. So get ready and go. The NKJV version puts it even better, “Now therefore arise and go…”. This morning, may I request you to think about the call that God has given to you in life?
  2. The promise: God promises many things in this short passage. He promises land, he promises prosperity, he promises inheritance, he promises victory, he promises success. But most of all, God promises his everlasting presence with Joshua. As I was with Moses, I will be with you, says the Lord. I will never leave you nor forsake you, says the Lord, the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go, says the Lord. That is the promise God has for you and me this morning. This promise is not just for Joshua, it is for each one of us. Do you feel his promise this morning?
  3. The charge or command: To fulfill the call, to claim the promises, Joshua had to abide with certain commands. He was to conform himself to the law. To “mediate on it day and night” is how the Lord put it.Do not turn from it to the left or the right, commanded the Lord. He should not let it depart from his mouth, commanded the Lord. You must do everything written in it commended the Lord.  But most importantly, God commanded Joshua to be Strong and Courageous. In this short passage the Lord repeats it four times, thrice in positive language (Do) and once in the negative language (Don’t).

So, when Joshua needed strength the most he turned to God and God told him his strength will come from the LORD. Who do you plan to turn to, this morning for strength to fulfill your calling.

Let us pray.

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