UNDERSTANDING, AVOIDING AND OVERCOMING STRIFE
What is strife?
God gave me this definition in 1982.
Strife is contentious and argumentative words and attitudes. You always want to have the last word. You want to make your point. You always want to win an argument. That’s strife! This is not only happening in the church but also in the home, between husbands and wives; in the workplace. One of the places where Satan operates through strife the most however, is in the home. Once you get into strife, Satan can walk in and out and take you captive at his will!
James 3:16 KJV: For where envying and strife [is], there [is] confusion and every evil work.
What would make a strong church like Ephesus, one of the most powerful churches in the New Testament, lose the light of the Word? One major reason is strife in the church.
Why is it that in Nigeria, the Word of God has grown as far as horizontal outreach is concerned, but has not prevailed upward to enable the church impact the society? A major reason is strife within the church.
However, rest assured that the hour is coming and now is, when even presidents will come to our meetings not for political show to get votes; they will come trembling out of the fear of God and say, ‘What must I do to repent? This is the evil of my hands!’ That is what happened in Ephesus where the Word of God grew and prevailed!
One thing about strife is that it is so innocuous that we don’t take notice of it; we think it is just the person’s opinion.
Strife spiritually kills more Christians than adultery, fornication, lying, stealing and such like: the so called ‘big sins’, the stigma sins, which all agree are bad. The truth however, is that, it is strife that opens the door for all the other sins to enter and because there is no stigma attached to strife, Satan uses it to gain entrance into our souls, bodies and circumstances to cause the ‘big sins’!
According to statistics someone sent me through social media, every year approximately 1000 people are killed by lions, 100 people are killed by buffalos, 10,000 more are killed by snakes, but 2,000,000 human beings are killed by malaria-carrying mosquitoes! Imagine! Tiny mosquitoes kill more people than lions, buffalos and snakes. The tiny mosquito can be likened to strife; other big animals are like the “big” sins of stealing, fornication, adultery, lying, etc. Thank God for the white men, who realised after many years of coming to Africa, that it is the tiny mosquito that causes the malaria that was killing them! What they thought was just an irritation was killing them, and then they found solution to it.
Strife is as small and seemingly insignificant as the mosquito; so you don’t pay particular attention to it. But its effects upon the body of Christ can incapacitate or kill spiritually!
The root of strife is pride:
Proverbs 13:10 KJV: Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised [is] wisdom.
We define strife as contentious and argumentative words and attitudes. You may keep silent and be still, but be in strife in your heart! In your mind you retain a grudge: ‘Don’t mind them, I will deal with them!’ We must get rid of all such thoughts and attitudes before it incapacitates or kills one!
Strife was one of the biggest problems in the leadership of the early church and Paul identified the problem when he said:
Acts 20:29-31 KJV: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (31) Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Those who were seeking to draw away the disciples of the early church did so because they wanted to be pre-eminent and have the crowd, to look good in the eyes of men. They must have given Timothy, the divinely appointed leader of the then church, great problems! Consequently, that powerful church at Ephesus where the Word of God grew and prevailed, took a downward spiral and faded into obscurity and oblivion!
We must avoid strife like the plague! Do not underestimate strife; it is Satan’s trap! Once you allow yourself to become trapped, it could take the intervention of somebody else to bring you out of that trap, otherwise you may remain entrapped till the strife kills!
Song of Solomon 2:15 KJV: Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines [have] tender grapes.
Strife, arguments, contention: ‘I must have my way and make my point or else I am going to quarrel!’ This happens especially in husband and wife relationships; That is why the bible says:
1 Peter 3:7 KJV: Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
Once your prayer is hindered, you become easy prey for Satan! You may pray to bind the devil, but you are, in actuality, “shooting the breeze!” Very little life is flowing because your prayer has been hindered by strife! Your speaking in tongues is just noise, so the devil can take you captive at his will!
The Lord Jesus said:
Matthew 5:25 KJV: Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
It is better to lose an argument and win your brother, or sister or, your wife and be strong to be able to resist the devil than to win the argument and let Satan take you captive at his will! I want to win my brethren and not an argument!
Winning a dispute doesn’t add to us, but winning a human being does. Avoid contention as much as possible. Even when making a point, make it and then leave it in peace! Don’t insist on your own right, because it is the insisting that causes problems. Be as sweet as you were before, when your point is not accepted. It doesn’t make you a fool; you are just doing what God told you to do!
One of my favorite scriptures concerning the attitude of divine love says:
1 Corinthians 13:5 AMP: It (divine love) is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
The key word in this scripture is ‘insist!’ You can make your point but don’t insist because doing so will always lead to strife!
As you pray and walk in the Spirit, sometimes you will even see strife and contention coming from afar off and back off before it breaks out!
The Lord Jesus said:
and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
Matthew 5:41 KJV: And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
The Lord Jesus is saying here that we should avoid strife genuinely in meekness and lowliness of heart and not hypocritically, with grudging heart.
1 John 5:16 KJV: If any man see his brother sin a sin [which is] not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
In this context, especially for those in strife, we should ask life for the person by saying: ‘Father, I confess our sins, in Jesus name we have life’, and then pray in the Spirit with tongues for a while for the spiritual atmosphere to change.
The primary reason (though not the only reason) why God gave us tongues, is to release the forces of the fruit of the Spirit into our lives. The real power is in releasing the forces of the fruit of the Spirit! As we pray in tongues in the Spirit, we are releasing the healing power of the Balm of Gilead; we are releasing the power of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). It begins to flow out by the power of the Holy Spirit and affects our minds, wills, emotions and bodies and that of the person or persons involved.
As we pray in the Spirit, there are three targets in this context.
Firstly, the power of God that is coming out of your spirit attacks the power of the enemy working in your mind, your will and your emotions to bring down the pride, because, ‘Only by pride cometh contention’ (Proverbs 13:10)! It enforces humility, brings peace!
The next target is the air. Because the words spoken and the contention released have created a toxic atmosphere we must sanitize it by the power of God. That is what praying in the Spirit does!
The third target is the other person or groups of people depending on the situation. Look at the route: if it doesn’t come out of you, the power of the fruit of the Spirit cannot be released into the air, if it is not released into the air, the power of the Spirit cannot work in the person! You must first remove the log in your eye before you can see clearly to remove the speck in your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
Anytime you see strife, even if you are not involved, pray and say, “Lord, get them out of this mess!” so that Satan will not be able to take them captive at his will.
The major reason why so many Christians are dying prematurely, not fulfilling their destinies, the reason for outreach of the Word but not enough upreach; the main reason for quantity and very little quality in the discipleship of the church today is strife!
Nigeria is a case study. Nigeria probably has the most churches per unit area of any nation. Shall we call it ‘Churchi-density’? There is teledensity, which is the density of telephone numbers per unit area. With mobile telephones now, we have a high tele-density; there is nowhere you will go to in Nigeria that you won’t find mobile telephone! In like manner, in Nigeria now, if you throw a stone in any direction, you are likely to hit a church! This is both good and bad news. Good news because the Word of God is being preached (Philippians 1:18); sad news because of the quality of the product of that preaching! If we were to be judged in Nigeria by our ‘Churchi-density’, Nigeria should be the holiest nation in the world! We have much quantity in the number of churches, but little quality of discipleship, and the main reason is strife!
It is so innocuous! If I quarrel with somebody and I shout, nobody sees it as a big sin! Many times, strife is in our hearts but we don’t deal with it. There is no stigma attached to strife like there is to stealing, lying, adultery, fornication etc. We think strife is normal and a part of life, but, like that little mosquito, it kills the most. Get rid of strife!
2 Timothy 2:24: And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient,
If you have been involved in strife, repent today! Husband and wife, humble yourselves. Wives kneel down! Husbands, you too kneel down, when you are wrong and say, ‘Sorry’. When you are right, still say, ‘Sorry’, because you want to get the devil out! You don’t want to win the argument but lose the person and your life!
When we are in strife, we can bind the devil, speak in tongues, pour anointing oil, but it will not work. The devil walks in and out as he likes. It is the little foxes that spoil the vines (SOS 2:13) especially the fox of strife!
Get rid of strife now, before it breaks out in your heart and overflows into your circumstances!
Proverbs 17:14 KJV: The beginning of strife [is as] when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.