In Mentoring and discipleship, I have had to train people in cultivating the right orientation, lifestyle and perspectives to issues and phases of life. Basically we need to be poised in life to learn lessons (the right ones, of course) and develop a lifestyle of applying God’s Word to our lives as we choose obedience above convenience. Then when we face conflicts, we need to seek God’s perspective on the matter at hand. These are on-going lessons that we need to stay in fellowship with regularly so that our lives can constantly be experiencing ‘course corrections’ as we go on to pursue and fulfil our God-given destinies
CONFLICTS - A COMMON OCCURRENCE IN OUR GROWTH PROCESS
In our pursuit of God and our knowledge of the application of scriptures, we face conflicts at times. We need to navigate through these and still make progress in God. Many times it is our non-contextual understanding of scriptures that causes the conflicts. Other times it’s the application of the principles in the Word and how these apply to the different phases of our lives that cause the conflict. Sometimes these conflicts tend to affect our personal integrity as it seems that the God of Jacob is still in the business of changing natures when we insist on having all He has for us. By this, I mean you can be sincere in your thoughts about what God wants from you but your interpretation of His intentions will be according to your maturity or the prevailing influences in your life. Usually we do not get God’s intention in leading us the way He does, so we end up saying things out of our understanding and in the fullness of time we sound like we told a lie as our perception of God’s intention was different from the actual intention He had for us. All these call for what I call ‘Navigational skills’.
For me this started quite early in my walk with God. When I began to accept that I have been called with a calling to ministry, this came out of some undeniable dealings of God that space will not permit me to expound on, I immediately thought I should have a ministry like the ministry of those who had influenced me a lot at that time. The greatest influences on me along the lines of ministry at that time were all itinerant ministers. I naturally believed I should be called to be itinerant as well. The conflict started when after bible school, I was advised to start a church by the leader of the bible school I attended. I went back to God and got a go-ahead signal to indeed start a church. I had to learn to respect those God had put in authority over me for every season of my life. The counsel of that man of God was further confirmed by God. Now I had to learn new skills in pastoring. It took years for me to see that Apostle Paul was called of God too and he exercised his calling through church planting amongst other things he did When we started in Kano, I had the orientation of faith that says ‘this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith’, I expected the church to grow suddenly and that we should have great victories almost overnight. Well, it did not happen that way and once again I was almost frustrated. Not out of a non-performance by God but by my unscriptural expectation about how soon and how big we should have our young church. The kingdom grows like a seed, I had to learn later. When you think you are based on the Word and have definite expectations, any failure will generate a conflict, or a frustration and usually many miss the path of destiny by being bitter, instead of going back to the closet to see if, ‘maybe I am missing it somewhere’. Some conflicts never go away.
Another conflict is concerning those in spiritual authority in your life. Their humanity is the vehicle that carries the divine grace of God in their lives. Conflicts ensue when by closeness you see their humanity with its faults and you now have a choice, either to celebrate their faults as if its right or to serve under them in spite of their faults (if God is leading you so to do), but generally do not let their faults be repeated in your life. This calls for heart-navigation. To navigate right, your heart must be seeking after God’s best for your life, like Micah 6:8 says, “love mercy, do justly and walk humbly with your God.” Be merciful to the faults of others. No matter what happens, do what you know to be right. Do not take sides with error, and walk with a sensitivity of heart before God so that you will not be overtaken in the fault you perceive to be in others. (See Galatians 6) Humans have faults. Man at best is still man not God. Even when there are no faults, your perception and maturity can see faults where there are none. If a man is going through his conflicts and in his present understanding declares something to be the will of God, as he matures he may be lead to do otherwise and will be seen to be lacking in integrity but the truth is, he declared what he knew to be true at that time. He now has better understanding. You can judge him to be unreliable or lacking in truthfulness and you will be wrong in the sight of God. Could this be one reason we are told not to judge others? A lot of navigation is required to maintain Godly relationships and still have respect in your heart that will position you for the flow of grace that comes to the humble at heart. We judge others by their actions but judge ourselves by our intentions. Our respect for those in authority over us demands that we have faith in God that He knows what He is doing in our lives and in the lives of those people, and we recognise the position He has given these people in our lives. It is the position God has put them and His purpose for their roles that informs our respect for them.
Sometimes we run into conflicts because of the influence of territorial spirits in an area. We need to understand that Satan is usually interested in keeping God’s truth and wisdom from being recognised, appreciated and applied in the lives of people. He generates a counter-kingdom to pervert, distract and completely nullify the influence of God in regions and in peoples’ lives if they let him. The Daniel fast in the book of Daniel when he fasted for twenty one days and the angel in charge of his answer had opposition in the realm of the spirit; the whole drama was to show how the enemy tried to hinder understanding from coming to Daniel. Conflicts have the tendency to get the steam out of our boats so we just coast through life instead of moving on in God.
Reviewing what we have covered so far; we see conflicts arise from our understanding of God and His will for our lives; it can arise from our relationships with others and it can be an internal conflict within us or a combination of all put together. There are possible conflicts between convictions and actions; between intentions and actions; roles and expectations and finally between gifting and temperaments.
CONFLICTS NEED NAVIGATION
You navigate because you do not want to lose the relationship and the knowledge from God for the particular phase you are going through in your walk with God. You want to be better not bitter. One of the most recent conflicts I have been through was when it was preached that perfect love casts out fear in 1 John 4. I realised that I was not yet perfect in love as I could not separate the fear of judgement from the healthy fear of God which should go with our love for God. When I read the fear of God, part of me believes that He should be feared because He can cast to hell anyone who lives and dies in sin. The fear of God helps me depart from sin. Now I am told that perfect love casts out fear, the fear of His wrath I now can see but can you see my conflict? How can I have His love in me so that I can confidently say I love Him and I am not afraid of His wrath because of the finished work of Calvary and at the same time have a healthy fear for Him? It took me settling down with God in His word to come to terms with the difference between a healthy fear of God and a casting away of the fear of His wrath. So I can truly develop a perfect love that casts out fear.
LESSONS GLEANED FROM NAVIGATION
Use your conflicts as stepping stones to greater heights. This is how you handle them:
1. There are life-lessons to learn in every conflict: Make your conflicts work for you. Learn the right lessons. The right lessons draw you closer to God. They enlarge your capacity to love and they do not condemn others. You leave judgement to God.
2. Internalise the lessons learn: Work out the solution from within your area of jurisdiction. You cannot change others but you influence them by how you operate. Do what you can to be positive.
3. Give others their space: Really what they do with their time, mind and self are basically not your business. Mind your own business. Let others be and where danger is involved you move out of the danger zone.
4. Commit yourself and the situation to God in prayers: He sees the big picture. You can learn to see that picture by dialogue with God. Get His perspective of the matter.
5. Learn to forgive yourself and others: Receive forgiveness from God and others.
6. Cultivate a principled lifestyle: Glean principles from this conflict and define a new approach to the matter to avoid conflicts in the future where possible.
7. Some conflicts are inevitable and you may need to learn to live with them: They may be signs of the fallen nature and world we are in.
We all need God and our relationship with Him is the secret of fulfilment in our lives. Be yourself and give your best in God. Some conflicts are there to grow us up.
Hope these help you develop the necessary navigational skills as you encounter conflicts in your life’s journey.