Volume. XXX, No. 21
Sunday, 22 November 2015

From The Pastors Heart: Conflicts

We wonder if there is any word more frequently used than “conflict” these days.  There are regional conflicts, conflicts between nations, ideologies, perspectives, priorities, sexes, cultures, religions, schools of thoughts, generations, and so on. I checked the definitions of the word from the Noah Webster’s 1828 English Dictionary. As a noun it means: (1) A striking or dashing against each other, as of two moving bodies in opposition; violent collision of substances; (2) A fighting; combat, as between men, and applicable to individuals or to armies; (3) Contention; strife; contest; (4) Struggling with difficulties; a striving to oppose, or overcome; (5) A struggling of the mind; distress; anxiety. (6) The last struggle of life; agony; and (7) Opposing operations; countervailing action; collision; opposition.

Having read through these definitions, we cannot but say that “conflict” is truly widespread and that “it” reaches to every part of human beings and human experiences. By saying human beings, I mean “the whole of humanity” and “both spiritual and physical aspects of human beings.” Romans 12:18 exhorts us to keep a life of peace with all mankind: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”  There is no one living and existing above conflicts.  Though we may be peace loving, unselfish and altruistic people, and not the initiators of conflicts, we can still be victims of conflicts.  One stunning example is the  series of terrorist attacks in Paris only a few days ago. Terrorists brought conflicts against soft targets, innocent civilians, and excused themselves by saying that they could not but attack the civilians because the western countries had brought conflicts against their people in Iraq and Syria. The whole world is now on alert for possibly more attacks in the future.

Conflicts are not just physical and material.  There are lots of inner conflicts within our minds. There are conflicting thoughts, desires, ideas, or emotions.  There are anxieties, stresses, worries, and distresses, which could stem from overall life problems, and mental and spiritual issues. There are only two verses in the Bible having the word, “conflict” in them. Interestingly, each reference refers to physical conflict and spiritual conflicts respectively. Philippians 1:30 says, “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”  Here, Paul is talking about his physical suffering in the ministry.  Colossians 2:1 says, “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” Conflict here probably refers to distress, anxiety, concerns, cares, or worries, which is internal and could be spiritual.

Why do we need to consider an issue such as “conflict?” The foremost reason is that there is no such a life without experiencing conflicts. Though it sounds very pessimistic, it is true to say that life is surrounded by conflicts.  Let me consider this matter a bit more. (1) Conflicts are inevitable because of our inner nature. We do not have to go far to find examples. We have our conscience which tells us what is right and what is wrong. Though there are inner signals coming from our conscience, it does not mean that we desire to follow our conscience all the time. Thus, there will be inevitable conflicts between the two. Or even if we decide to follow our conscience because we deem it right, it still does not mean that we may do everything gladly without any regrets in the process or afterwards. We may desire to do something right, but we may often face challenges from our weaknesses including sinfulness and corruptions. It is probably what Paul had to say in Romans 7:14-20, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” There will be perpetual conflicts between holy desires and evil propensities, or between the old and the new man, within us.

This thought tells us another side of conflicts.  (2) Conflicts were, are, and will be with us, until we are in glory. In fact, the book of Genesis has story after story of conflicts.  There were conflicts between God and man, brothers, man and woman, parents and children, tribes and nations, and between the power of light and the power of darkness.  The wars between the people of God and the people of Satan brought lots of losses and casualties.  However, these conflicts are still continued in the book of Revelation.  The last conflict scene is recorded in Revelation 20, and only after the prince of peace comes, Revelation 20 and 21 record the life of peace.  Such a persistent presence of conflicts in human experiences could not but take exhortations from the Lord.

Conflicts must be managed.  Many of us do not like conflicts. I said, “many of us,” not “all of us,” because there are truly evil ones who take pleasure out of others’ miseries and unhappiness.  Whatever the cases will be, it is more than truthful that we cannot eradicate conflicts. If we cannot live a life free from conflicts, the only option is to manage them rightly and righteously. At this point, we might like to ask “Why can’t we eradicate conflicts though we desire to do so?” This simple question could be examined from so many different perspectives.  However, I cannot but say that the depravity of man (sinful nature) must be carefully studied and considered. I am not intending to talk about it now.  Instead, I would ask why we think that conflicts are always bad and negative? For example, James 1:2-4 say, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Diverse temptations in verse 2 are referring to various trials.  There are conflicts in life.  However, James does not appear to understand them negatively but rather positively for our good.  It is because through them we gain, which eventually will lead us to a place of wanting no more! James says even more in verse 12, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” Instead of eradicating trials (conflicts), he speaks of them as a means for our growth and reward. In other words, all of James’ exhortations appear to indicate that God uses trials (conflicts) for our good, if we live by faith, though they are inevitable because of our depravity. He uses our inability to completely remove conflicts to bring forth benefits for us. It has huge implications in our lives. One of them is to change our perceptions of conflicts. We always think that they are bad, but God says that He works them out in such a way that they can benefit us. Then, the importance is on our attitude towards them. It is always the case that perceptions bring forth reactions. If we think that conflicts are always bad, then we will constantly pray to God to remove them.  If not, we will blame God for them and our miseries. In such cases, they will not change us but make us even bitter toward God, man, and life itself.  Romans 12:17a is a good example, “Recompense to no man evil for evil.”  Somebody’s evil against us brings both physical, psychological, and even spiritual conflicts.  God changes our perceptions of someone’s evil against us, so that our reactions will become different. In ordinary minds, people will perceive conflicts as enemies that must be fought back until they are removed completely.  However, God wants us to overcome them by not retaliating against them.  Instead, in the next verse, verse 18, God tells us to live peaceably as much as we can. God talks about managing the conflicts. I must continue on this thought next time. Until then, be determined to live peaceably with others as much as you can.

Your Pastor

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Prayer Items
Journey mercies: Elder Michael & Sis Alice Lee; & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Church activities in the past week.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore); Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; & others in affliction.
Special Prayer: Rev George van Buuren;
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.
Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Journey mercies: Deaconess Joyce Gong (Adl); & those who are travelling.
Good health in pregnancy: Sis Isabelle Ng.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.
Exams for university & high school students.
Persecuted believers in Islamic countries.
God’s guidance & provision of new church property for worship, office & fellowship activities.
Australia: God’s wisdom for our political leaders. People to repent and turn to God.
God’s comfort - those who lost their loved ones; comfort & healing for those injured in France’s Islamic militants’ terror attacks.
Islamic militants - to turn from their evil works, and their salvation.



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