Battle Strategies for Overcoming Strife and Division
Satan's number one weapon in his battle against the plan of God is deception of mankind. Satan's number one area of attack is to attempt division of mankind, using deception.
Division and strife. Often masked under the nicer names of 'misunderstandings', 'communication breakdown' and 'generation gap'. Or the more explicit descriptions called 'fights', 'arguments', 'divorce' and 'splits'. Satan's plan is designed with one thing in mind -- to keep relationships churned up, to maximize the levels of stress, worries, anxieties and fears. To keep people at odds with one another so they will never unite to fight against him.
What many of us have never recognized is that our relationships with one another, and our maturity in and through them, is a spiritual activity. It's the growth that develops strength, joy, unity and support.
"If anyone says 'I love God' and hates (detests, abominates) his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen". I John 4:20
The only measure of love is that from God's Word. It is easy to be loving to the majority of people that we pass by every day. The small chats at church, or to a relative that lives 1000 miles away and we see only once in a while. But the most important relationships that help to develop our maturity -- both spiritually and emotionally, are the ones we are around the most. Our co-workers, our family members, our neighbors. People are important to our lives -- to support as we grow, to comfort as we mourn, to share in the joys; to share in the ups' and down's of life. Colossians 2:2 tells us that we are to be "knit together in love".
Whenever I think of something knitted, it brings to mind a labor of love -- something that has been planned. Directions for making it carefully followed. I also associate it with warmth and coziness, such as a baby sweater or a knitted quilt. Each stitch must be carefully made to ensure a uniform, quality end product. Our relationships rarely fall into the depth of love that stretches past our emotions. What God's word is teaching us, is the absolute necessity of taking the time and labor to knit the relationship.
Unity was paramount in Jesus' life and ministry. The first thing that Jesus prayed concerning His disciples in John 17, was for their unity with Him and with one another. It is so interesting to me that as He prayed, He spoke of His unity with the Father over and over. If the Holy Spirit put this prayer in the scriptures, it obviously is for us to follow Jesus' example and pray for unity in our relationship with Him, unity in our relationships with other people and unity in the Body of Christ as well. No wonder our enemy works so hard in his attempts to keep us divided and striving with one another. Our Father knew it would be a battle -- but provides us with the help we need, through prayer.
The New Testament warns us repeatedly, that the end time signs will include major relationship attacks.
"But KNOW this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power." II Timothy 3
To ignore this warning is to open ourselves wide for the destruction of the perfect plan of God and His purpose for our family and ministry. This warning is not concerning people in the world so much, but is written to the professing Christians. The biggest attacks against us will be from those in our own ranks.
Identify the Enemy
We must walk in the truth of the revelation from God's Word that tells us who our real enemy is.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12
Our enemy is the one who "comes only in order to steal and kill, and destroy" (John 10:10) Satan -- and he will use whatever vessel is available to him, to attack us. This can come through our own thought life or can come through other people who are being influenced by him. When we truly recognize and believe this, we will have reached a strategic mountain top on which to wage the warfare. For there must be warfare, spiritual warfare and not a warring in and of our flesh. (Specifically with our mouths!) By knowing who the real enemy is and discipline ourselves to keep our weapons aimed at the divider we will overcome. If we war against the one that the divider is using and manipulating, we are battling against the wrong enemy!
It is only with this truth that we are able, through grace, to maintain our walk in the love, peace and unity that God desires and requires of us. To reach His highest and best plan for our lives -- individually and corporately, we must above all, obey Him.
When satan is successful in causing husband to fight against wife, son against mother, sister against sister, employer against employee, friend against friend and congregation against their Pastor, then he has people unable to move ahead in life to follow God's plan.
"Misunderstandings = deception"
Most of us can look back over the course of our lives and acknowledge that so many of our "disagreements" with others have stemmed over some form of deception...not having all the facts -- "misunderstandings". These are not so easily identified or admitted to and have left scarred people embittered and full of hatred. Marriages have ended over deception. Families have been torn apart over deception. Businesses have been destroyed over deception. Churches have been split over deception. Remember: Satan's number one area of attack is to attempt division using deception.
How can we guard against this deception? It's only through spending time learning God's Word -- hiding it in our hearts, meditating on it and devoting ourselves to long periods of fellowship with our Father, through prayer and through fasting.
How can we walk in enough truth to spare the turmoil in our emotions the next time we get into strife with another? We must walk into the light and learn, not only how to identify what has happened, after the fact, but learn how to discern and expose the deceptions and divisions.
This is a teaching that cannot be left to the preacher or the Sunday school teacher. It must be taught in our homes and exposed daily to our spouses and our children. Prepare them for what is life's greatest opportunity for failure. Alert them -- a ready army cannot be taken by surprise. To recognize not only the subtle but also the obvious. For when we want to tear someone's head off -- using words or a weapon, we must know that it is the enemy!! It's the evil influence come to steal our friend or mate or child; to kill the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and to destroy our peaceful and strong relationships. In unity we stand. In division we fall. Whether a country, a military unit or a family. God's word says that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When we teach our family who is the author of the problem, then it becomes easier to step back from the opportunity for strife, address the culprit and stop the attack.
Proverbs 11:29 says, "He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind." When we become knowledgeable about the devastation of strife, we can hate it with intensity and call it for what it is -- SIN.
When the "storms of life" blow it's only the solidly anchored home -- built and established on the power of God's Word -- that will stand.
To discern what is happening is a key. And once we know where the problem originates, our next question is 'what do I actually do when strife raises its ugly head in my relationships?'
#1 -- Do whatever is possible to remove yourself from the situation and allow your emotions to come under the Spirit's leadership. (After you have handled conflicts according to God's Word, there will come a time when you will not have to do this, but will have the truth of the situation rise up on the inside of you immediately when you are attacked and be able to deal with it quickly and accurately.) Please do not misunderstand what I mean by separate -- not something drastic like living apart. Just physically get away from the other person for a few minutes or a few hours to stabilize. Keeping in mind the importance of resolving the conflict quickly, as we will discuss more thoroughly in this teaching.
#2 - Remind yourself that you have no natural ability in and of yourself to accomplish peace and unity in this problem. Call for the help of the Lord - to sustain you, to give you peace and to enable you to be a peacemaker with the other party. Stir up the Word of God inside of you - what does God's Word have to say about this situation? One of Satan's objectives is to get the Word of God out of your heart and to keep it from coming out of your mouth. Ask yourself, what part have I played in bringing about this conflict? What responsibility is mine towards repentance? And if you need to, ask forgiveness from the Lord for wrong attitudes, words or actions that have already been used in the situation.
#3 - Bring to your remembrance what God's Word has said about our enemy. Put the devil in his place. Bind his power to deceive you or the other person(s). Tell him that you refuse to fight according to his rules. After all, he's the POW (prisoner of war) that Jesus put under bondage to God's Word, the Blood and the Name of Jesus. If we will remember that Satan is yelling instructions to us from inside the fences of a concentration camp, it keeps the truth of the situation easier to deal with.
The Real Enemy
#4 - Remember your enemy is not the person - the flesh and blood. Ask the Lord to work truth, mercy and understanding in their hearts as well. Take the offense to the cross - Christ already shed His precious blood for the sin. Put the hurt and anger under the blood and move back into your place as God's righteous child. The blood speaks of our new covenant rights, that God will step in and fight the battle for us, when we yield to His leading. It is our covenant of protection from Satan's devices. You are full of God's love. Allow that love to take dominance in the situation. Extend God's forgiveness, mercy and love to the other party.
Review God's Word
#5 - Pull out Satan's battle plan - it's been outlined in the scriptures. Review it and use your combat manual for instruction. Review how Jesus dealt with his enemies. Review how Paul and Silas handled conflicts in their lives. Remember the hero's of the faith!
#6 - Cast the care of the problem onto the Lord. He has promised to be with you. He is the greater one living inside of you. Put Him to work for you. Refuse to fret - it only causes harm. Do not fall into the trap of ignoring the problem though. This is as big of a sin as an undisciplined tongue that carelessly throws around insults. Refusing to deal with a problem just allows the problem to fester like poison in a wound. The Bible is clear about the need for confrontation -- approached in humility, grace and truth.
It is extremely important that you operate with the mind of Christ in dealing with the person. Jesus never said anything and never did anything without the Father's direction. There are situations that will need to be dealt with differently than others. The spiritual maturity of the other party makes a big difference too. But there are some general standards that apply in just about every situation.
Refuse to hurt anybody -- ever. Not in word or in deed. Don't even hurt them in your thought life. Take control over your thoughts and bring them into line with God's Words of love and acceptance of everyone involved. There are no "jerks" in God's eyes. Only ugly sin. Cast down the imaginations and reasoning. Refuse to have those mental conversations. We can all imagine others saying and doing things that make us furious - but our fury is over a thought - not an actual truth. Forbid and do not allow Satan to control our thoughts - ESPECIALLY in the heat of strife, hurts and divisions!
Hate strife as much as you do the destruction of innocent babies - or as much as you hate lying or stealing. Don't fall for the trap in thinking that it is just a routine part of life. It's a cleverly disguised killer.
God has called us to live in unity. He has not commanded us to do something that is impossible to do. Once we walk in the revelation of this truth, dealing with strife will become "light and easy" and you will have disarmed Satan's weapon.
Handle the situation according to the New Testament teachings of Matthew 18:15-18. Go to the person and attempt reconciliation. If they do not receive you, go with another person, etc. There are very specific instructions given - take the time to learn them and then apply them.
Don't repeat the matter. It only stirs up the problem in your mind and emotions. When we discuss it with a friend, or a spouse, the tendency is usually to get them emotionally riled up against the other party as well and then the problem is multiplied. It's a rare individual that can discern and rebuke a friend, and keep the friendship -- it's where we should be in our family -- but a position not many of us have reached!
Walk in the Spirit and do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Exercise self-control. Guard your tongue. Watch your voice tone. "Do not let kindness and truth leave you...so you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man."
Be willing to apologize for your part in the problem, even if you are innocent of any wrongdoing. Learn how to make-up. Be a counselor of peace. Proverbs 8:8 says "All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness." Apply this wisdom. The reaction of the other party to you and to what you say, is not your responsibility. Your job is to obey God for your part. Period. God never called you to change anybody. "He who corrects a scoffer get dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself." Proverbs 9:7. Pray for them -- speak God's Word over them and the situation, but do not take God's place in changing people. It will be useless at best, since no one has ever changed without the will to change and the help of the Holy Spirit. Commit the person and situation to God. Receive your peace and joy regardless of the outcome. Your reward will come as God will honor you for honoring Him and obeying what He has told you to do!