From Conflict to Conqueror
“Jesus said to Peter, 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."- Matthew 26:41
Conflict. This has become a word that has seemed to both dominate and plague our nation and world in recent months. We know all too well and have witnessed far too much division amongst various people groups, destruction of lands from recent hurricanes and earthquakes, and devastation of lives lost through cowardly and callous acts of violence (we painfully grieve the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas). In the midst of so much trial, we are reminded again that our only place of comfort, victory, and hope is in Jesus. In the ruckus, rubble, and relentless evil, Jesus life-giving word continually reminds us in John 16:33 not to lose heart, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
I could take the next month to write a weekly article on the crisis in our culture (and we will definitely be looking to have a special prayer time to confess our need for the Lord and cover our nation), but today I would like to address a different type of conflict, one that is close to the heart, that reaches our doorstep, and looks us in the mirror every day. I want to address the inner/personal conflicts each of experience on a regular basis. The Apostle Paul said it this way of our wrestling match in Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want." Each of us must endure varying levels of conflict from the downright petty to the painfully awful: a morning conflict to get a child ready for school; an online conflict to fend off the temptation of visiting an unwholesome website or responding harshly to a Facebook post; a neighborhood conflict of angrily addressing someone who makes too much noise and leaves a mess;
an office conflict of keeping record of anyone who has burned us in the past.
In the scripture at the beginning of this article, Jesus finds Himself in quite a fight and at a point of great conflict and anguish. We find Him fervently praying in the Garden of Gethsemane for grace and His Father's will, as He is just moments from being betrayed and hours from being brutally murdered on the cross. We see this conflict graphically displayed in Luke 22:42-44, "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.' An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." Jesus, who had never known sin and never experienced death, was about to bear the weight of the world's transgressions by becoming a sacrifice. As much as He recognized the reality before Him, which brought the anguish, He battled through it knowing the reward before Him, which brought atonement, abundant life, and absolute joy. In this same account, after Jesus had finished praying, He approached the disciples to find them asleep. It was at this point that Jesus was calling them to be watchful in prayer and to understand the conflict that each person wrestles with. Our spirits, which have been redeemed by Christ and are now under the rule of the Holy Spirit, still reside in this temporal being with the residue of the old nature. In Romans 7:21-25 Paul recites, "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
I want to encourage you to contend for God's grace and strength to meet you and move you from a place of battle to a place of victory! From a place of surrender to a place of strength! From a place of temptation to a place of triumph! From a place of conflict to a place of conquering power! In the midst of the conflict you feel when someone hurts or betrays you, choose to forgive them; In the midst of the conflict when you are feeling alone and tired, choose to persevere; In the midst of the conflict when you want to satisfy your lustful flesh, choose to stay pure; In the midst of the conflict when you feel doubtful or fearful to share your faith, choose to step out in boldness; In the midst of the conflict as it relates to your physical health or finances, choose to believe; and in the midst of the conflict between right and wrong, life and death, choose to obey. Romans 8:37 tells us, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." May the conflict never move us and yet always remind you of the victory we have in Him!