Seeking God First
As people living in 2016, conflict is part of our daily lives. We may not be a part of all it, but it is always present. We can see through wars, divorce, politics, deceitfulness, daily news programs –especially being an election year -- that conflict is everywhere. There are some who seem to find it wherever they go. There are some who seem to seek it out. There are others who want to be rid of conflict but cannot seem to free themselves of it. It can become tiresome to constantly be surrounded with conflict and negativity. Sometimes you may even want throw your hands in the air and give up. Before we do that, let’s seek out some guidance from the scriptures.
Focus on what I can do. The first thing we need to establish is that we can only change the way WE deal with conflict. Since sin is in the world, we are not able to escape conflict that is bred by sin (Romans 5:12-14). We may look to individuals who create this discord in our lives to change, but we can only control ourselves. Being the fallible beings that we are, we have to recognize we have enough of our own issues to fix. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how [a]can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Once we shift our minds to focus on improving ourselves, then we can begin the transformation to rise above the conflict around us.
What is the heart of the matter? Secondly, I must look at my heart as Matthew 15:18 says, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” The heart is where we must begin. Being introspective is not always an easy thing to do. To truly look inward, take inventory, and purge out things that are unholy takes a lot of time, focus, and sacrifice. Even the apostle Paul had to exercise discipline daily in order that he could remain unspotted from the world (I Corinthians 9:27).
In our lives, there were a lot of factors to date that helped shape the way we interpret the world around us now: our parents, our tragedies, our successes, and influential people. Many of those we have no control over; however, we have control over present influences on our hearts. If we look internally, more often than not, we will see that we need to make changes with those influences. Making those changes can be very difficult, because this could mean that we have to do something different than what we have always done or been taught. This may result in a change of our recreational activities, our friendships, our actions and reactions, or even our jobs. We must guard the influences that affect the development of our hearts.
Bridle your tongue. In our culture, “being right” often trumps all other things including feelings, facts, and common sense. In our dealings with others, we seem to have this “I will win” attitude. Sometimes we take the competitiveness a bit farther and say “I will win at all costs.” This is counterintuitive to what the bible says. James 3:5-12 talks about how destructive our tongue/speech can be. Since the tongue can cause so much damage, James begins his book with instructions for us to be “quick to hear and slow to speak” (1:19). In the proverbs (21:23), it says, “Those who guard their mouths keep themselves out of trouble.” Though it is counter to our culture, God (who is our Creator and knows us) encourages us to hold our speech and reactions for “it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” (Proverbs 17:28).
Look through Godly lenses. Perhaps the greatest tool in battling the conflict around us is in having Godly perspective. When we are able to see this short-term world with its small problems in view of an eternity in Heaven, the problems can seem a lot smaller. In Isaiah, God tells His children in the midst of captivity to “wait upon the Lord” and He would renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). We are promised over and over again that if we walk in His ways and keep to His paths, He will work good for our souls and salvation (Romans 8:28). Even in prison, Paul was able to say the words, “Rejoice, and again I say, ‘Rejoice!’” (Phillippians 4:4) He was able to say this, because, in spite of the circumstances surrounding him, he delighted in the Lord and knew God is good and loves His children. God’s promises are true and will come to pass (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Application of these principles is easier said than done. Like Paul said, it takes a daily discipline and self-reflection in order to gain a heart that loves the Lord and is pure. In the end, if we will seek this mindset and walk in the ways of the Lord, we are promised that “when a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7).”
Teenage years can be one of the most trying times of your life. Not knowing what career you want to go into, or who your spouse is going to be can be daunting. Sometimes, you are deciding whether you want to do right or wrong. Just know that your decisions in this period will impact you for a lifetime: what spouse you choose, what career you pick or how your life will end up, whether good or bad.
One such decision is how we treat our parents. We all love our parents and don't intend to hurt them, but what you do can affect your mother and father. Proverbs 17:25 talks about “a foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to his mother.” It is wise to honor your father and mother. Ephesians 6:1-3 says “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Our choices will impact our parents.
Some decisions will be about what activities you get involved in. A lot of teens experiment with alcoholism, but Proverbs 23:19-21 explains that being a drunkard can cause you to become poor. Only following God can make your life good on earth and even better in heaven.
We have to surround ourselves with the right kind of people. In I Corinthians 15:33 it says, “Evil companions corrupt good morals.” Even though it may seem like it is not a big deal to be around someone who isn’t living right, they are influencing you and corrupting you though you may not be aware of it. On the other hand, if you choose friends who are seeking God and living right, they can encourage you when you are weak. “Two are better than one for they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow,” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
One of my favorite scriptures is James 4:7. “Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The devil only affects you when you let him in your life. Try to use the power of God to get you through the devil’s obstacles. You will make mistakes but you can recover from those mistakes. Trust, believe and obey God and you will become stronger in things you never thought you would overcome. Just remember that whatever obstacles you come across, God will always be there to pick you up if you're ready to do what's right. Pray and believe in your prayer, and God WILL deliver.