The Insidious Nature of Division & Strife

Hello everyone (anyone?). It’s been some time since my last post. I was blessed with a new job last April and the work keeps me busy. It also keeps me in prayer, crying out to God for help, wisdom, grace and peace. Which brings me to the  topic of this morning’s post:

Strife and division.

Hopefully everyone knows the definition of these words, particularly in light of scripture. It’s imperative to know how to recognize when these 2 enemies are operating in our life, and to put a stop to them quickly. If not, the consequences are destructive and deadly:

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16

Strife is prevalent and amplified at this point in time, thanks to the multiple ways available to express our anger, discontent and abuse.

You turn on the TV and people are fighting. Fictional TV or reality, it doesn’t matter. Arguing, rebellion, arrogance and vindictiveness are highlighted and glorified.

You read an article online and want to post a comment, then BAM! The responses come fast and furious (emphasis on the furious), where civility and kindness are lost among the profanity-laden insults being hurled at anyone expressing a different view.

Facebook has become a place of division and anger. Friendships are lost and emotions run high because so many people feel compelled to throw in value-judgments and name-calling, instead of just making a statement or engaging in honest dialogue.

And politics…well, seriously. I don’t need to explain, you have eyes…and ears. I can’t listen to talk radio because I can’t stand to hear people argue all the time. It disturbs my calm. The Holy Spirit has spent a lot of time helping me get to a place of peace in my life and I don’t want to screw it up.

Which again brings me back to the reason for this post. We have to protect what we allow into our sight, what we listen to and what we focus on. I have enough on my plate just keeping the strife out of my own thoughts, than to jump into someone else’s trumped-up battle or make-believe war.

There was a point in my early Christian walk when I battled a LOT of confusion. I mean it literally sounded like bees swarming around my head at times. I cried out to God asking for help, and in His goodness and mercy, He highlighted the scripture in James posted above. I had to own up to the fact that I was in almost constant strife in my life. If I wasn’t verbally expressing it, the conversations going on in my head were enough to suck the life right out of me. I could get worked up inwardly over the slightest incident because I was experiencing a lot of hardship outwardly in my circumstances. Through the Holy Spirit’s loving conviction and instruction, I came to realize that some of my outward troubles were the direct consequence of the strife-filled life I had habituated to. Only through God-directed conviction, confession, repentance and help have I been able to overcome anger, blame and a critical spirit.

Not that I have arrived…

Like I said, it’s insidious. If the enemy can’t trip you up with old habits and trigger points, he will come at you in a new way. And usually it’s more subtle than before…

Lion hiding

“Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  1 Peter 5:8

About 10-12 years ago, the Lord specifically directed me to stay in unity with my husband, and to avoid strife in our relationship. That may seem like a no-duh kind of direction, especially for a Christian marriage, but the Voice I heard in my spirit spoke those words simply & clearly, knowing the attacks that were to come. God had already healed and restored our marriage in 1992, but the devil loves nothing more than to take that which glorifies God and twist it into something ugly. Or break it apart (John 10:10). Or wear it down. Things can get so bad in your circumstances that the family unit you are supposed to have- the safe haven, the secure place of unconditional love and acceptance- turns into just another relationship that you have to “deal with”. It becomes a cold-war, where mistrust and miscommunication lead to an uneasy détente. Each side silently blames the other for the current state of affairs, not recognizing that the source of those thoughts is hiding in wait, ready to pounce when the opportunity presents itself.

But God…

It hasn’t been easy and we certainly haven’t walked it out perfectly. My husband and I made a righteous decision to seek God and keep our relationship submitted to Him. Through God’s continued help and mercy, we talk to each other and listen to one another, prayerfully seeking His counsel and strength everyday. And God is faithful to show us when strife and/or division is quietly sneaking in through a back door:

“But He (Jesus) knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.” Luke 11:17

Those lessons learned about staying in peace and in unity are coming in very handy now. The applications go beyond my marriage and family. It extends to all areas of my life: work, friends, extended family, at church, in the grocery store, while I’m driving on the road…

Strife is swirling all around us, but we are to be salt and light in the earth. We are supposed to reflect Jesus, the One who slept in the back of the boat during a storm while everyone else was freaking out (Mark 4:37-40). We need to be the humble, gentle voices that speak truth into situations, motivated by love for our Father and love for our fellow man. Be bold, yes, most certainly be bold! But boldness does not mean in anger and with hate in your heart.

Make the quality decision to stay out of strife. His peace is worth the cost of whatever you have to get rid of to receive it.

Blessings!

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15

Strife: (noun)

angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues; conflict.
“strife within the community”
conflict, friction, discord, disagreement, dissension, dispute, argument,quarreling, wrangling, bickering, controversy; ill/bad feeling, falling-out,bad blood, hostility, animosity
“these countries have been immersed in political strife for more than a hundred years”
Division: (noun)
1. the action of separating something into parts, or the process of being separated.
“the division of the land into small fields”
2. disagreement between two or more groups, typically producing tension or hostility.
“a growing sense of division between north and south” 
disunity, disunion, conflict, discord, disagreement, dissension,disaffection, estrangement, alienation, isolation 
“the causes of social division”

The Prayer of One or the Prayer of Many

When I was reading in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, I was struck by a verse that hadn’t stood out to me before, which is verse 11:

“And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 New Living Translation

I am an advocate of prayer at all times and for all reasons. When anyone asks for my wisdom or advice regarding their situation, my first question is usually, “Have you asked God about it?” 

I know that God is faithful to speak to me and lead me when I ask for His help and wisdom. He has never failed to direct me or show me the right thing to do. I have learned to have faith in Him through the truth in His word and by seeking Him in my daily life.

The reality of God’s involvement in my life is tangible and evidenced by so many answered prayers. So when someone says something along the lines of, “I’m just one person…my prayers don’t count…”, I am quick to point to the word:

“…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results…” James 5:19b NLT

This is  absolutely true. One person praying can make a difference. But I have been noticing something lately regarding the power of corporate prayer– especially in regards to praying for other believers:

When we as a body, as a group of believers, cry out earnestly for God’s help and intervention– and He in turn answers those prayers– the faith of everyone involved increases and God receives the glory! There are things we need to share and ask others to pray about. God wants to bless us all and see us grow in faith and in unity. Sometimes our answer depends on others joining their faith with ours and everyone crying out to God.

Think about Paul’s situation. He had been repeatedly arrested for preaching the good news about Christ. Christians were being persecuted and put to death for their beliefs. They were considered trouble makers and heretics from differing groups: traditional Jews, followers of pagan religions and an oppresive Roman government. When the Christians of Paul’s time heard about his imprisonment and impending death, it most certainly brought fear and anxiety for their own safety into question. Satan’s purpose in this was to stop the truth of Jesus from being preached, to shut the mouth of the Church, so to speak. It’s the same thing he tries to do today…

…but God.

Instead of the believers cowering in fear, they opened their mouths and prayed for Paul. The news of his escape and continuing missionary journey bolstered their faith in God and strengthened their foundation in Christ. There are so many instances in scripture of God’s people joining together in one accord and fervently praying for His will to be done and for His power to show forth. Check out these 3 when you have the time:

2 Chronicles 20:1-27

Acts 4:18-31

Acts 12:1-17 

There are ministers of the gospel in prison today who need our prayer support. The 1st one who comes to mind is Saeed Abedini, the Iranian American Christian being held in an Iranian jail. Please pray for him, his family and for other persecuted Christians who are suffering because of their faith in Jesus.

Pray for people you know who suffering with sickness and disease. Come together with other believers, crying out to God on their behalf. Our God is GOOD! He heals the sick and brokenhearted! Our church has been seeing an increase of people being declared “cancer-free” or recovering from heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses. The faith of many is being increased as we see God’s answers to our prayers.

My marriage was healed by God and I found Christ because God responded to the faithful prayers of my husband, and the other people he asked to pray for us. No godly prayer is unheard! No desperate plea is rejected.

If you need or want prayer for something, please post your request in the comments. We will pray for each other. And when He answers your prayer, we want to hear about that, too!

To God be the glory!

Believers praying together

Be One

 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? 

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”

 1 Corinthians 3:4-6 New Living Translation

It is time for us to come together as the Church, as the Body of Christ, as God meant for us to be.

It doesn’t matter if one is Catholic, Methodist, denominational, non-denominational, traditional or Charismatic…

You are either a follower of Christ or you are not.

It’s that simple. 

Jesus is the head of the Church, of His body. Lordship does not belong to any human man or woman. We have to learn to lay aside our differences and focus on what we have in common: Christ.

The Lord’s desire is that we, His followers, will be one (in unity), as He and the Father are one:

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me.

May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

John 17:20-23 NLT

We won’t agree on every little thing but we can agree on Truth. May our heart-cry for the church echo Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

“For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”

Ephesians 4:1-6 NLT

Praying for the grace of God to bless each of us with the ability to walk these words out daily.

Blessings Church!

unity-265374_hands_union