ship of hope

October 7, 2015

balance

Paul said perseverance produces character and character hope (Rom 5:3-4). James said that we should “let perseverance finish its work so that we can become mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4, NIV 2011). In marital conflict, we must develop perseverance so we can produce the fruits God wants to cultivate in our marriage.

 

This is difficult because the natural response to trials and conflict is to bail or quit. And that’s what many couples do. At some point they say, “That’s enough; I can’t live like this” and they quit. Some do this by divorcing, others by distancing themselves emotionally and physically, as they stop working to fix the marriage. However, Scripture teaches us to persevere in trials, which includes conflict. The word means to “bear up under a heavy weight.” God matures us individually and corporately as we bear up under the heavy weight. He teaches us to trust him more. He helps us develop peace, patience, and joy, regardless of our circumstances. He helps us grow in character as we “let perseverance finish its work.”

 

In order to resolve conflict, we must develop perseverance. That’s essentially what we promised to do in our wedding vows. We committed to love our spouse in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. We should be thankful when it is “better” and persevere when it is “worse”. For those who do, there is fruit. Paul said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

 

Do you feel like quitting? Hold on, because God has a harvest for you if you don’t quit.

In Conflict, We Must Sow Good Seeds

 

Not only must we have the right attitude when encountering conflict, but we also must sow the right seeds to resolve it. Paul said that whatever we sow, we will also reap (Gal 6:7). Sowing and reaping is a principle God set throughout the earth, and it is at work within every marriage as well. If we sow negative seeds, we will reap negative fruit. It we sow positive seeds, we will reap positive fruit.

 

Sadly, even though we all want a positive harvest in our marriage, we typically respond in ways that are counter to that. A wife wants her husband to spend more time with her, but in order to get that, she criticizes him. The fruit she desires is opposite of the seed she is sowing. The seed of criticism will only produce a negative fruit in her husband. Similarly, a husband, who wants intimacy with his wife, actually begins to withdraw from her. He withdraws hoping that this will draw her closer, but it actually does the opposite. The negative seed of withdrawing cannot produce the positive fruit of intimacy.

 

In conflict, we must do the opposite of what our nature desires. We may have a desire to raise our voice, and/or to hurt the other person, but these seeds will only produce negative fruits and potentially destruction in the marriage. To resolve conflict, we must always sow the right seeds.

 

Similarly, consider what Paul taught about how we should respond to an enemy. He said:

 

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:19-21

 

Paul taught that in response to an enemy, we must overcome evil with good. Instead of responding with anger or seeking revenge, we should sow kindness and generosity. If he is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Instead of being overcome by evil, we must overcome evil by continually sowing good.

 

What good seeds can we sow while we are in conflict? Maybe, it could be the good seed of a listening ear. It could be the seed of affirmation. It could be the seed of service. Certainly, it must be the seed of unconditional love. In conflict, we must sow good seeds to reap a good harvest.

 

With that said, we must always remember that conflict resolution is very much like farming. Sometimes, it may take months or years to get the harvest we desire. Many become discouraged while waiting for their spouse to change or for the conflict to be resolved. Typically, in that discouragement, people start to sow negative seeds that only hinder the harvest they seek. A verse worth repeating while considering conflict resolution is, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). We must not only sow good seeds, but we must faithfully do it until God brings the harvest. We plant and water, but only God makes the seed grow in his time (cf. 1 Cor 3:6-7).

 

What type of negative seeds do you have a tendency to sow when in conflict? How is God calling you to sow positive seeds to reap a positive harvest?

In Conflict, We Must Talk to Our Spouse First Before Others

 

Another important principle to apply in conflict is talking to our spouse first before talking to anybody else. This is a principle that Christ taught about dealing with sin in general. In Matthew 18:15 he said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

 

This is important for several reasons. First, it shows respect for our spouse. It is disrespectful to discuss a problem with our mom, our friend, or anybody else not first discussed with our spouse. If our spouse finds out, it may actually cause more conflict. Secondly, every story has two sides, and those who are closest to us (such as family and friends) may not have the ability to give us unbiased counsel. Even for myself, as a pastoral counselor, I have to work really hard to not jump to conclusions after hearing only one side of the story. This does not mean that we shouldn’t talk to those closest to us, we should, but only after trying to resolve it with our spouse first. And when we do talk to others, we should still respect and honor our spouse.

 

Christ taught that when somebody sins against us, we should go to that person first (Matt 18:15). Many couples increase their conflict by bringing others in without first seeking to resolve it with their spouse alone.

In Conflict, We Must Seek Wise Counselors

 

Though this point may seem like it contradicts the previous one, it doesn’t. Christ taught that we should confront a person in sin one on one, and if they don’t respond, then invite others into the process, including the church. Matthew 18:16-17 says this:

 

But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

 

Though this was originally spoken about a brother in sin, it certainly applies to sin or conflict within marriage. God made us part of the body of Christ, which includes our marriage. When a natural body is sick, it often results in fever. In a fever, the body simply recruits itself to bring healing. In the same way, a Christian marriage needs the body’s help to stay healthy. Marriages should always operate as a part of the body of Christ, but in times of difficulty, they need the body’s help even more.

 

For many, this is countercultural. While in serious conflict, many couples hesitate to invite anybody into their marriage to help. Pride keeps them from exposing themselves and getting the help they need. This is actually another result of the Fall. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, they looked at one another, saw their nakedness, and hid. They then put on fig leaves. At the Fall, humanity lost its intended transparency. We hide from one another; we put on a fake smile even when things are bad. We hide behind our clothes, our houses, our jobs, and our hobbies. We are deathly afraid of people knowing us: our insecurities and our problems. We even hide from God, as Adam and Eve did.

 

However, in order to build the healthy marriage God meant for us, we must be willing to expose ourselves and seek help. In Matthew 18, Christ said that if approaching the person in sin does not work, we should bring one or two others for accountability. If that doesn’t help, invite the church. And if that doesn’t help, the church should lovingly discipline the erring mate. This is difficult, but if we are followers of Christ, we must trust he knows best. God wants to use other godly people to speak into our marriage and sharpen it as iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17).

 

Who would you invite to help your marriage? They should be wise people who can understand you, and who are walking with Christ—preferably a married couple. Solomon said: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Prov 11:14).

 

Every president or king selects a cabinet with many advisers. The cabinet advises the president on foreign policy, educational reform, health care, etc., and this multitude of counselors helps bring victory. In the same way, a marriage needs a multitude of counselors, especially when in conflict. Yes, a couple should try to resolve the problem together first, but after that, they should seek help.

 

This should be considered even before getting married. Who will be your “many advisers” that make victory sure? It could be your parents, a wise couple in the church, your pastor, your small group leader, etc. The selection of these wise counselors takes great wisdom because all counselors are not created equal. These counselors should primarily use the Bible, as Scripture is sufficient to train us in all righteousness. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says this:

 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

God’s Word is useful to train and equip us for every good work, which includes marriage. Those who disregard Scripture, do it to their own peril and that of their marriage.

 

In finding counselors, ideally, the couple would agree on whom to approach. But at times when one mate doesn’t want help, the other mate may still need to seek help in obedience to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18. This is how Christ intended his church to function. Not only should we depend on God, but we should depend on one another. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you” (1 Cor 12:21). By not using the body, we spiritually impoverish ourselves. Independent couples may spend their entire marriage spiritually sick, or even worse, the marriage may end in divorce.

 

Who are your wise counselors who help you achieve victory? Have you and your mate considered this question? Are you willing to allow the church to be involved in your marriage as Christ desires?

After being a pastor and marriage counselor for over 40 years I can tell you that finding the right marriage counselor is like trying to find water in the desert, tough, but not impossible. First bit of advice is always visit the counselor together right from the start, the worst way to start is to say; “honey, I found this great counselor, we already met once and …..” trust me that never works out. Second, before seeing the counselor ask them what their marriage is like, I’ve found the majority of counselors to be divorced and spend way to much time convincing you that divorce is an option and the second or third time is the charm. Why didn’t their marriage work out?

Last, see what their degree is in, a masters in social work is a degree in liberal, secular, non-biblical, demonic crap. If you don’t see a bible on their desk and that isn’t the first thing they introduce to you as the guide to their counseling, leave, run, get out of there.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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