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The thesis of this series is that good relationships are possible, but not probable. In other words, you’re more likely to have bad relationships than good relationships, especially if you follow the world’s way.
The thing is, the world’s way for relationships is so common that many of us fall into it without even thinking.
Let’s take a look at our theme verse for this series one more time:
Romans 12:2 NLT – Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
So apparently some of us are copying the world’s behaviors. And I’d venture to say that one of the most dangerous places to copy the world’s behaviors is in relationships.
But, thank God, He gives us the way out in the same verse. To save ourselves from the world’s behavior, we let God transform us. But, we have to let Him. We have to lay down our own way and trust and follow God’s way.
Can we all give God permission to transform us before we go on today? Say this after me, “God, I choose today to let you transform me. I lay down my own way and I pick up yours.”
The way He transforms us is by changing the way that we think. I hope you’ve picked up some new thinking through this series from the Word of God.
This is why we come to church y’all. God has called and anointed me to bring you His Word every Sunday. And every time you hear it, He’s changing the way that you think, which transforms you into a brand new person.
Here’s why this is so powerful:
Romans 12:2 NLT – Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
I mean, how awesome would it be to know God’s will for your marriage, your job, your business, and your life? Well, you can be confident in all of these things. All you have to do is let God transform you.
This is what God wants for your relationships. He wants them to be good and pleasing and perfect. And everything we’ve talked about in this series is going to lead you to those kinds of relationships. The good kind. The best kind.
You may remember last week’s message titled, “Uncommon Commitment”. It was probably the hardest to hear out of this entire series. So I was hoping to bring you a message today that felt more like a nice, warm hug. But we have one more thing cover:
When relationships are fresh and new, you get this idea that conflict will never arise. This is especially true for couples who are about to get married. They think their marriage will be different. They won’t have any conflict.
I can remember thinking that. And boy, was I lying to myself. All the married people in the room say a good, “Amen.”
Someone once said that marriage is like a deck of cards. It starts off with two hearts and one diamond. And by the end you wish you had a club and a spade.
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship: with your spouse, your best friend, your pastor, your small group leader. So you can either live in this fantasy that conflict is going away, or you can learn how to deal with it effectively.
God actually has some very clear ways for us to handle conflict His way. They all seem really counterintuitive because they are very uncommon. But how many of you believe that God’s way is the best way?
Before we get into that, let’s start at the beginning by looking at what causes conflict in the first place.
4 Causes of Conflict
I’m going to give you the top four. Here’s the first:
1. Poor communication
Most conflict starts off very small, but we just pile it on with the words we say. We try to win the conflict with our words and end up just making things worse. Anybody?
Darla Bell did an entire message on communication two weeks ago, so I’m not going to get into it too much today. If you missed it, I definitely encourage you to go listen on our website.
But when emotions are high, we tend to be too loose with our tongues and say things that we’d never say otherwise. And our relationships will never thrive if we don’t figure out how to communicate effectively.
I actually heard of this guy who said to his wife (I can’t believe he said this), “I can’t believe you can be so beautiful and so stupid at the same time.” She said, “Well, allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you’d be attracted to me and God made me stupid so I’d be attracted to you.”
Here’s a prayer we should all say every day:
Psalms 141:3 NKJV – Set a guard, O Lord , over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.
I want you to notice that the first response to conflict should not be to go to the person to resolve the conflict. No, your first response should be to go to God. “Hey, God, I need that guard over my mouth. Hurry, it’s about to get out of control.”
We’re talking about four causes of conflict. Here’s the next one:
2. Unfulfilled expectations
Have you ever noticed that all anger starts here? You’ve never been angry unless you expected something to happen that didn’t happen. You wanted something, didn’t get it, and now you’re mad.
The Bible actually speaks to this problem very directly:
James 4:1-2 NLT – What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.
There it is. A solid definition of unfulfilled expectations if I’ve ever seen one.
They got the promotion I wanted, so now I’m mad. They have this perfect life and mine sucks, so now I’m mad. I wanted the highway to myself, but now I’m in the middle of rush hour, so now I’m mad.
I watched the Democratic Debate a few days ago and everyone was ripping on Bloomberg for being rich. Can you guess why everyone was so upset about this? Because they were jealous of what he has, and they can’t get it, so they fight to take it away from him.
And this kind of stuff is what causes us to fight? Wow. I always thought it was the other person’s fault. But, here’s the answer.
James 4:1-2 NLT – Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
Ah… Another indicator that when we have conflict our first response shouldn’t be to go resolve the conflict with the other person. Our first response should be to spend time with God and ask Him for what we need.
Y’all are starting to get this. Can you sense it? You’re thinking is being updated right now, which means that God is transforming you and your relationships.
You see, the only reason you have unfulfilled expectations is because you’re expecting from people something that only God can give you.
And this can get really extreme in a marriage where you find yourself looking to your spouse for fulfillment instead of looking to God. Your spouse will never meet all of your needs, but God can.
Here’s the next one:
3. Despising differences
Alright, I’ve got to get this off my chest. I spent at least the first year of our marriage trying to make Beth more like me. I’m a tidy person, she enjoys a little bit of clutter. Obviously my way is better.
I have my way of loading the dishwasher, she has her’s. But, my way is the right way. You guys are laughing because you have the same type of problems.
Then one day, and I remember it like it was yesterday, I was watching Joyce Meyer on TV and she said, “If your spouse’s clothes on the floor are bothering you, pick them up! They don’t bother your spouse, so why should they have to pick them up?”
I’m pretty sure I sat in a trance for a while after I heard that. But I was smart enough to realize that Joyce had a lot more wisdom in relationships than I did, so I let God transform me in that area.
Now I’m free, mostly. I can pick up Beth’s clothes without even a negative thought about the situation. But, I know she is thinking about this, so I better just come clean now.
She takes off her shoes near the living room and just leaves them there. One pair after the other, they pile up. Guess who has taken notice? Our kiddos. Now they are adding to the pile.
Well, I’m the parent in this situation, not the spouse. So I’ve been training those girls to put their shoes in their closet when they take them off. And I pick up Beth’s shoes and while I’m taking them to the closet I say, “Girls, we always put our shoes in the closet. Isn’t that right, mom?”
Our differences were cute when we were dating. But when we got married, we just wanted to change each other. Thankfully, a few years in, we both realized that God didn’t put us together to change each other.
We’ve got to learn this skill in every relationship. When we notice that someone is different than us, it shouldn’t make us upset. Instead we should celebrate because it means they have something we don’t have.
And when we bring our differences together in the church, God turns it into wholeness. He brings all these different pieces together so that we complete each other and become a limitless force for the Kingdom of God.
Let’s learn to celebrate where we are different instead of despising those differences. This is exactly why we have this core value:
The comparison trap stops with me.
And here’s why Jesus says this is so important:
Mark 3:25 NKJV – If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
Alright, here’s the fourth cause of conflict:
4. Sin nature
We could really just sum everything else up into this one. Because the truth is, we are all in this process of overcoming our sin nature.
We get that about ourselves. That’s why we’re so thankful for God’s never-ending grace and forgiveness. We know we aren’t perfect. So thank God, He’s always there to forgive us and restore us.
But then we hold everyone else to a higher standard. “I can’t believe they said that. I can’t believe they did that. If they think I’m going to forgive them, they’re fooling themselves. Because, they knew better.”
Just a few days later, we’re crying out to God, “I can’t believe I did that again. I knew better and yet here you are forgiving me and restoring me back to wholeness. Your love is never-ending.”
It’s funny how we’ll cut ourselves some slack but we won’t do the same for other people, just because their problem was different, or seems more severe, or whatever.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but here’s the truth:
Romans 3:23 NLT – For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
I know you aren’t going to be perfect. You’re going to mess up, just like me. So, I’m not going to get mad or upset at you for messing up. I’m going to be there to help you. We’re in this together.
And I want you to notice once again that the answer to conflict is not getting the other person to agree with you; it’s letting God do a work on the inside of you. You can’t change them, but you can let God change you.
We just talked about four causes of conflict. There are actually four ways we can deal with conflict.
4 Ways to Deal with Conflict
1. My way
I’m the parent. I’m the husband. I’m the boss. This is going to go my way. So, you best just sit down and submit.
Plus, my way is the right way. So it’s going to be better for you and for me if we just do this my way.
2. Your way
Okay, okay. We’ll just do it your way. For the sake of peace, I am just going to let you win this one.
Yet, there really isn’t peace because you are miserable on the inside. And they think they won, but the reality is, nobody won.
Most of us think the next one is the right one. It’s close, but not quite there:
3. Half way
Alright, we’re going to compromise. I’ll get my way half the time and you can have your way half the time.
So now, you’re only mad 50% of the time. That won’t even get you a passing grade in school, so obviously this isn’t the best way either.
But there is a way that’s a win-win for both sides of the conflict:
4. God’s way
This is going to contrast the world’s way. It’s not going to make sense. People are going to think you are crazy for following it. But, you know what? You’re going to have the best relationships around.
What is God’s way? It’s when you go to Him first. You resist the urge to confront and argue and prove your point and instead step back and allow God to work on the inside of you before you do anything else.
Even the most extreme marriage conflict can be solved if both the husband and the wife took some time to get closer to God before they tried to solve the problem.
Most of the time, after spending time with God, there isn’t even a problem to deal with any more.
It reminds me of an old saying about how you can use a brick to build something or you can use it to damage something.
So, when you’re holding conflict, you have a choice. You can use it to build a stronger relationship or you can use it to hurt the relationship.
Let me put it to you this way. If you go to God first, the brick of conflict will be used to build the relationship. If you do it your way, the brick of conflict will damage the relationship.
Some of you have trapped yourself in conflict because you’ve decided, “I cannot move on until they…” Fill in the blank. You have literally put them in charge of your own peace and happiness.
My hope for today is that you will set yourself free. Because here’s the deal:
Conflict cannot continue without my participation.
I don’t have to wait on you to decide, or do something, or apologize, because I’ve decided. Now, there’s no conflict. The conflict game has to have two people, and if I don’t play, now it’s over.
You guys want to jump into the deep end this morning? It’s more comfortable to wade around in the shallow end of Christianity, but strength comes when we dive into the deep. And here it is:
We tend to see God as someone who’s there to give us what we want and make our lives perfect. We imagine Him saying, “Hey kiddo, what do you want? Just tell me what you want and I’ll get it to you. You want me to change that person? Alright, well you just hold tight and I’ll take care of that for you.”
That’s not the Bible. Here’s the Bible for you:
Galatians 2:20 NLT – My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
So, this life isn’t about me. It’s not about winning the argument. It’s not about being right. I’ve killed my expectations. I’ve killed my desires. I don’t want people to see Kade or try to please Kade. No, I want people to experience Christ through me.
Have you ever noticed how a dead person doesn’t get mad? A dead person doesn’t get jealous. Why? Because they’re dead.
The Apostle Paul in Corinthians said, “I die every day.” So, every day he must have had these selfish desires trying to come back to life on the inside of him. But he chose every day to put himself to death and allow Christ to live inside of him.
I know this is probably not what you want to hear. You’ve probably been praying, “God, change them.” But, what God wants to hear is, “God, change me.”
So, let me wrap up today by giving you four uncommon responses to conflict. This is going to take everything that we talked about today and make it practical so you can take it home and apply it to your life.
1. I will act, not react.
Some things just push your buttons. You know what they are. And when it happens, you usually respond with an explosive reaction. But, what would happen if you took a minute to think so you could act instead of react?
In other words, you need to have a pre-conflict plan. What is your strategy to keep yourself from reacting to conflict?
As a kid, I can remember my mom’s plan. When we would make her upset, she would silently count to ten in her head. This was her pre-conflict plan to make sure she didn’t say or do something she’d later regret.
The Bible reveals why this is so important:
Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV – “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
This scripture reveals two things. First, being angry is not a sin. But apparently it’s pretty easy to sin because of your anger, which displays itself most commonly as an explosive reaction.
The second thing you can see is that if you choose to hold on to your anger, it gives the devil a foothold in your life. It gives him some authority to do some things in your life that, trust me, you don’t want.
So, when you have a conflict with your spouse, or your friend, or your parent, be intentional about settling the conflict before the day ends. At the same time, don’t hesitate to give things a few hours to cool off so you can act instead of react.
Is this making sense to everyone? You don’t have to settle conflict immediately. But you should settle it before the day is over. Most of the time this means that you choose to forgive, believe the best, and move forward.
Here are some pre-conflict strategies that you might want to try. This are not in your notes, but you might want to write them down:
Never put it off to the next day.
It’s common to say, “We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” And then you never talk about it and it just boils on the inside of you for days, weeks, months, or even years, until there’s an explosion.
Overcome conflict before the day ends. That’s your deadline. Let it motivate you.
Never call names.
You hear this a lot from parents these days, “You idiot! Why didn’t you study more for your test so you could get a better grade, dummy?” or “My kid must be the devil’s child. They drive me crazy!”
Your kids will become exactly what you say about them. I covered this at Freedom Night a few weeks ago, but something we have to remember as parents is that our kid’s bad behavior is not who they are.
In other words, we should never say things like, “You’re such a crazy kid. You’ll never learn how to listen. That’s a bad, bad girl.”
Yes, the behavior was wrong and there will be consequences. But I know that’s not who you are. You are a gift from God. He created you for a purpose and I have the privilege of helping you discover and fulfill your purpose.
That’s how we should talk to our kids. And this goes for every relationship.
Never raise your voice.
Did you know you can say what you need to say without being all loud and intimidating? And guess what? Your conversation will actually be more effective if you use your calm, normal speaking voice.
My mom is like the ultimate example of this one. I can’t recall one time that she raised her voice. She would discipline us with the calmest tone, yet it was still extremely effective. Actually, all she had to do was look at us with that look and we’d stop doing what we were doing.
If you are about to yell, walk away and take the time you need to calm down before proceeding with the conversation.
Never get historical.
This one’s for the women. Come on men, I’m helping you out. Women have a memory that is unbelievable. They can pull something out of the filing cabinet of their minds from 10 years ago like it was yesterday.
And most of the time we have no idea what you’re talking about. Yet you know what shirt we were wearing, what the weather was like that day, what we had for dinner. I don’t even remember what I was wearing yesterday!
Let’s leave the past behind. This conflict is bad enough. We don’t need to pile on past conflict to make this an effective fight. Let’s stay in this moment.
Never say never or always.
“You never do that for me. You always do that.”
No one always or never does anything. So, stop being so dramatic.
Here’s the most important one on the list:
Never threaten divorce.
Take it out of your vocabulary. It’s not an option, so why even threaten it. You made a commitment, “till death do us part” and you’re going to hold up your end of the deal by sticking it out regardless.
You ruin any chance of resolving conflict when you threaten divorce. How do you expect to reconcile with someone when you’re threatening to bail on them in the middle of it?
Your spouse needs to be confident that you can have a disagreement, but you aren’t going anywhere. You’re committed even when things are tough.
Here’s another uncommon response to conflict:
2. I will focus on the good in you.
We are all experts at focusing on the negative. Ten different people could tell us what they appreciate about us and one could tell us why they don’t like us and guess what we would remember? The one negative person.
We could accomplish five great things at work one day, but all we remember at the end of the day is the one thing we didn’t get done.
We forward this same thought process into how we see people. There could be one hundred things they do right, but all you can think about is the one thing they did wrong.
You could love everything about your spouse except that one thing that gets under your skin and all you can think about is that one thing.
Let’s intentionally flip this around. Anytime you have a negative thought, replace it with something positive. Instead of thinking about that thing you don’t like about your spouse, think about something you do like.
Instead of focusing on that one thing you did wrong at work yesterday, focus on all the good things you’ve accomplished. Let this scripture hit you right between the eyes:
Philippians 4:8 NLT – And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
If you allow yourself to dwell on negative thoughts, you are being disobedient to the Word of God. So every time those negative thoughts come up, kick them out by thinking something positive. It works every time.
You’ll probably find that you have to do this about every 10 seconds at first. But the more you focus on the positive, the less power the negative has over your mind. Before you know it, those negative thoughts will be far and few between and you’ll be able to kick them out like they’re nothing.
Hear me on this. There is never a good reason to think negative thoughts. You think it’s honorable to dwell on your mistakes, but it’s sin. You think that they’ll get away with it if you forget about it, but it’s sin for you to think about it.
Set yourself free. The only thoughts you should have are those that are of God, honorable, right, purse, lovely and admirable.
Here’s the next one:
3. I will extend God’s grace to you.
We all want to receive grace, yet we all struggle to give grace. When we mess up at work, we hope our boss will cut us some slack. But if our coworker messes up, they should be fired.
We go to God in prayer and bathe in His never ending grace, “Thank you God for forgiving me.” But then we ask Him to punish those who have done us wrong.
It’s time to extend God’s grace to others. That’s why the Bible says this:
Romans 12:20-21 NLT – Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink…” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Let me translate. If your husband messes up and hurts you deeply, don’t give him the silent treatment. Don’t come to bed with your turtleneck pajamas on. No, love him like you’ve never loved him before.
Fellas, don’t think you’re getting out of this. When your wife says something that disrespects you or makes you feel like she doesn’t appreciate you, don’t punish her by disappearing. Instead, spend more time with her. Love her like you’ve never loved her before.
And I get it. This seems impossible. And it really is impossible without the fourth thing on this list.
This last thing, when you do it, gives you the power to be somebody that you don’t even recognize. You won’t be able to believe how much peace and love you have in the middle of conflict.
God is offering us a transformation this morning. And this is the thing that gives it to us:
4. I will remember God’s grace to me.
Every time I remember what God has done for me, it gives me the capacity to do it for others. This isn’t something that I can come up with on my own. It’s an overflow of what God is pouring into me.
1 John 4:9-11 MSG – This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other.
You might feel overwhelmed right now because I’ve asked you to do something today that you can’t do. You want these kinds of relationships, but there’s no way you can handle conflict with such grace and love.
And you’re right. You can’t do it. And the reason you can’t is because you haven’t allowed God to come inside of you. Maybe you’re new to all of this, or maybe you’ve been going to church for years but you’ve never really received the love of God in a way that clears away your sins and restores relationship with Him.
Actually, you feel right now that there’s a conflict between you and God. And there’s only one thing that can settle it, Jesus. God sent His son Jesus as a sacrifice to settle the conflict once and for all.
All you have to do is believe that Jesus did what needed to be done so you could have a relationship with God.
If that’s you, if you are ready to receive this forgiveness, this love, that Jesus provided for you, say this prayer out loud:
“Jesus, I surrender my life to you. It’s obvious my way isn’t working. I want you to live on the inside of me. Transform me. Make me who you want me to be. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for clearing away my sin. Thank you for repairing my life. I confess you as Lord of my life. I give you my life.”
If you just prayed that prayer, we want to support you along the journey that’s ahead. But we can’t support you if we don’t know. So we set up an easy way for you to tell us. Simply text the word Jesus to 918-373-9883.
We’re not going to bug you. We’re not going to spam you. We are just going to help guide you through your next step. We’re here for you. So please, go ahead and send that text.