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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
One of the first things I want to say is you have to get over this naïve, unbiblical notion that conflict is wrong and abnormal. Okay?
There’s many of you that you were brought up in households – don’t argue. Stop arguing. Don’t do that. You believe – it’s so subtle. Conflict is wrong. Conflict is bad.
An argument, a discussion, a disagreement, having feelings that don’t line up with the other person. Automatically you think, “[gasp] we have this big problem.”
I want to tell you that conflict is normal. Conflict is biblical. Conflict is actually the key to growth.
On the front of your notes, here’s what I’ve learned. One, conflict is normal. Two, conflict is an opportunity for growth. Three, conflict must be diffused or it’ll destroy.
Now, as you turn the page, I want to talk to you about God’s perspective on conflict.
Conflict is inevitable in a fallen world. This is from the lips of Jesus. John 16:33. “I’ve told you these things so that you may have peace in Me. In this world, you’ll have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.”
Now does this sound like Jesus is setting up His followers and disciples for a, “If you really live life right and if you really love Me. If you read your Bible, if you pray if you give off the top, if you go on a short-term missions trip, if you try to be a good woman, be a good man, be a great dad, be a great mom. If you do all that then everything’s going to be smooth.” Does that sound like what He said?
In the world we’re good at claiming promises, aren’t we? “Jesus said this, I can, I can, I can claim this for my life.”
Well here’s a promise. In the world, you will have conflict. But be of good cheer. I’m going to give you peace.
Now, if you accept that, it changes your perspective. Because a lot of us we spend all of our energy trying to cover up conflict, trying to push down conflict, trying to say it’s not really conflict. Or feeling guilty about conflict.
What you’ve got to do is accept it’s normal and realize there’s tools and ways to grow through it.
The second thing the Scripture would say is the sources of conflict. Conflict grows from our differences and our selfishness. In other words, not all conflict is even from sin.
What I want to do is, I want to give you the summary of about three or four passages that will help you see among the most godly, committed people to God, some sources of conflict. And I’ve put them in your notes.
Source number one is our differences. Differences in belief produce conflict. Sometimes we, the question is, what’s true? What’s right? Sometimes we disagree.
Good people who love God disagree. Is this right or is this right? And some good people say this is right. And some other good people say, no, this is right. That produces conflict.
And we had that in the Jerusalem Council. The apostle Paul was preaching that you could come directly to the Father by the work of Christ and you didn’t have to go through Judaism. And the whole Early Church was all Jews who came to Christ, apart from those at Pentecost.
In fact, the first twenty, twenty-five years, probably ninety-five more percent of the Church, it was all converted Jews.
And so they’re saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. You’re messing with our traditions. It’s Jesus plus circumcision and plus doing this and plus keeping part of the law.”
And the apostle Paul said no, no, no, no, no. And so they have this big council. And in that council, they resolved the conflict and James pulls out an Old Testament passage and Paul shares an experience that affirms and Peter looks at it all.
And then they come to a conclusion and they take those differences and they align them with the truth.
You need to understand that in the world that we live in, even in the Church, good, godly people are going to disagree and so what you do is, you do exactly what they did at the Jerusalem Council.
You go to the source of truth, you sit down together, you dialogue, you ask God to show you, and sometimes you even agree to disagree.
The second source of conflict is differences in perspective. In the same chapter, Acts 15, you have two of the closest friends. It says, “a great schism.”
A great conflict. A friendship is broken in Acts 15, beginning in verse 36 to 41. It’s Paul and Barnabas. They’re both good men. They’re both godly men. But they go on a mission trip together.
And Paul is very task oriented. You know what? We’ve got to get the job done. Barnabas, his name, it means “son of encouragement” He cares about people, he wants to develop people.
He gives people the second chance, the third chance, the fifty-fourth chance. Paul gives you the first chance, the second chance, “Buddy, do something else. I’ve got to have people who can make it happen.” All right?
You know, Paul is high-D. Barnabas is high-I on those scales, right? And so they go on a missionary trip and John Mark comes. And we don’t know all the story but at some point in time, it gets hard, it gets difficult, and he flakes out.
And they’re getting ready to go on the next missionary trip, and Barnabas, I’m reading into the text. Read Acts 15, you’ll think, boy Chip got a lot out of this.
Well, I’m kind of I’m kind of making it up a little bit, give you a feel. But, basically here we’re going to go again. And Barnabas goes, “You know what? John Mark, he has grown so much. I’ve been spending time with him. He’s in my Bible study with some other guys and you know what? He had a few struggles but I really think he’s going to do a great job this time.”
And Paul says something like, “I don’t think he is.” “What do you mean?” “Because he’s not going.” “What do you mean he’s not going?”
“I said he’s not going. Hey, you know what? I can’t tolerate flakes. God gave us a mission. He had a chance. He blew it. We’re going to get out and God’s mission is going to be right on the bubble. And I can’t look over my shoulder and wonder whether this guy’s going to show up or not.”
“Oh, Paul, you don’t understand. Come on, get a life, man. God was gracious to you. Don’t you care about people?”
“Yeah, I care about people and I’m going to care about by the most people by doing what God called me to do and not do it with a bunch of flaky people like John Mark.”
Boom, boom, boom. You get it?
And it says a great schism arose and Paul went this way and Barnabas went this way. That can happen to people that both really love God.
See, are you getting to see how our differences bring about conflict? We’re going to talk about solving it, in a second.
But our theological differences. Is there a wrong or a right? It’s philosophical, isn’t it? One philosophically is charged with a task, the other thinks more about relationships.
In the big picture, what do we need? The task and the relationships. There’s not a wrong or a right. In fact, what we find later is Barnabas gets John Mark and develops him so near the end of Paul’s ministry, Paul says, “Send Mark because he has my parchments and he’s been very profitable.”
It’s a good thing Barnabas didn’t give up on him. But it’s probably a good thing Paul didn’t give in and he was the guy that led the mission and the missionary journeys.
And so, differences in beliefs, differences in perspective. Sometimes, it’s differences in style. You know, in Philippians chapter 4. I love, I love that God puts these things in the Bible.
There are two ladies. Euodia and Syntyche. And Paul says, these are sisters in the gospel. And basically, he kind of pleads with the Philippian church. Can you help these ladies get it together? I love them both. They both help me. But there’s a rub.
You can love everyone and be committed to them. That doesn’t mean you have chemistry with everybody.
And here’s a couple ladies that need to learn to get along that probably they shouldn’t be in the small group together.
There’s probably some people that would say, “You know what? I just like the way Euodia does it.” And others, “Syntyche, now she’s my kind of gal.” Do you see what I’m trying to get at?
There are theological differences, there are philosophical differences, and there are personality differences that are going to bring conflict in your world and in a fallen world, Jesus promised, on top of that, just sin in itself is going to bring about conflict.
And so all I want you to hear is this. The conflict in your marriage and the conflict in your family is normal. Quit trying to act like it’s going to go away and think that when it’s smooth, life is right.
And secondly, quit thinking that somehow you’ve done something wrong or there’s a bad person in the room when there’s some conflict. It might be, in fact, a great opportunity for growth.
The fourth reason, we learn from Scripture, where there’s conflict is probably the one that we can deal with. And this is called, selfish desires produce conflict. This is the old, my way versus her way. Right?
James touches on it in James 4:1 to 3. He raises the question, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” Rhetorical question. Then he answers it. “Well, don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”
Circle the word “desires” in your notes. It’s the idea of lust. And it’s used in this context as a powerful passion to get your way.
Doesn’t it come from that deep down inside that it needs to be my way? This is how we should spend the money. This is what we should do with the kids. This is what we should do on vacation.
And then he goes on to say: you want something but you don’t get it. So you have a blocked goal. Frustrated. That ever happen to you in your marriage? Has to us, hasn’t it?
And then he goes, “You kill and you covet but you cannot have what you want.” In other words, you don’t get what you want and so you go to extremes. You murder with your words, you covet, you lust for, you’re envious, you have internal struggles.
You quarrel and you fight, you don’t have it because you don’t ask God. So he says, some of the things that God wants to solve is you don’t have it because you don’t ask. And then he expands it and he says, “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend it on what you get for your pleasure.”
Circle the word “pleasure.” It’s the exact same word as “lusts” above. They just translate it two different words. It’s this selfish, I want my way, attitude.
And I would suggest that, in your marriages, you’re going to have philosophical, occasional theological differences. You’re going to have personality differences.
But the one thing that you’re going to have, as long as you’re on this planet, in this body, is you’re going to have selfish desires and you’re going to want your way and your mate’s going to want her way and you better figure out how to deal with that conflict.
And part of it is just plain old, can I say this, like, really out loud, right here in the twenty-first century? It’s called sin. It’s just sin. I mean, it’s just like, I’ve missed the mark.
I, as much as I can appear righteous, loving, kind, sophisticated, there’s times where, when Theresa and I have something, I want my way. Now, I’ve learned to couch that, even put a verse around it, act sophisticated, but conflict is an opportunity to grow.
Open your Bibles now. Philippians chapter 2. This is the same letter written to the two ladies that are having some struggles.
Conflict provides specific opportunities to grow and every time you overcome some conflict, some good things happen.
Paul begins, in chapter 2 verses 1 and 2, with a, it sounds like a rhetorical question but grammatically, you could translate, instead of “if,” grammatically, he’s really saying, “since this is true, since this is true, since this is true.”
He’s not saying, “Well, if this would ever be true, someday, someway.” It’s a, what’s called a class condition, in Greek, that has the idea of certainty.
He says, “If, therefore, or since there’s any encouragement in Christ, if there’s any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any affection and compassion.”
And the answer to all those are yes, yes, yes, yes. You’re in Christ. Is there encouragement in Christ? Yes. Is there consolation in love? Yes. Is there fellowship in the Spirit? You’re both believers, right? Yes. Is there genuine love and affection?
Then notice what he says, verse 2. “Then make my joy complete.” How? “By being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
I would challenge you to look at that verse and ask yourself just a quick Bible study question. How many of those lines, in verse 2, have to do with unity? Same, one, unity. Do you get the idea?
He’s saying, if you have this resource of what God has done for you. If He has been loving, if the Spirit lives in both of you, you have koinonia fellowship before God, then make my joy complete.
He’s saying, work out relationships in such a way. We have the same mind, the same purpose, one heart. What he’s saying is, resolve the conflict out of the resources in Christ. And then in verses 3 and 4, he’s going to tell you how.
And it’s a command. This is not like an option for a better marriage. This is a command for how to do relationships, in general, but especially how to apply it in your own home.
“Do nothing.” Do a few things? Do sort of? No. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” That is the key to great relationships.
At the heart of the James passage, about those lustful pleasures, you know what’s behind that? Ego. It’s just pride. Our biggest conflicts in our marriage have been a Chip Ingram problem, ego, I want my way on my terms.
Theresa, I want you to fulfill my needs, Theresa I want you to take care of that, Theresa, make my life work out.
And the solution is to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but notice that phrase. With humility of mind. Humility of mind is saying the other person’s needs. I don’t, by the way, doesn’t mean I feel like it, the other person’s needs I choose to put ahead of my own.
In fact, the most loving time is when you don’t feel like it.
Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross, did He? But you glad He went? I am.
Love doesn’t have a whole lot to do with whether you feel like it. “With humility of mind consider,” and that word consider means reckon, think, ponder, evaluate, “the other person is more important than yourself.” Look at verse 4. “Do not merely look out for your own personal interest.” That, by the way, that phrase is the key to most marital conflict.
In my marriage, I can fake it and I can position it. But most of us want our own personal interests. And to break that, don’t look out for your own personal interest but also for the interests of others.
And then in verse 5, he begins to give us the how-to. Have this attitude in yourselves. Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. Have this attitude in yourselves that was in Christ Jesus.
“Who, although, existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of Christ, likeness of God.”
And then what’s he do? He serves. See, genuine humility isn’t a feeling about I think this way about the other person.
Genuine humility is an attitude of, I’m here to serve you. I want to help your life become what God’s wants you to be. I want to serve you. I want to help you. I want to come up, first of all in the day and think, what are the issues that you’re struggling with? How do I meet your needs?
Instead of saying, well, how do I meet my needs and where are you missing it? Because, most of us, when it comes to conflict, we go internal very quickly. And I just come up with all the reasons why Theresa ought to be doing things different and if she would, everything would be okay. Right?
Notice the conflict is an opportunity for growth in Christ. Not out of your own flesh but in Christ differences complement instead of compete. You realize, hey, she does look at it different or he does look at it different.
Because it’s not my way or her way, it’s our way. We’re one flesh.
Notice, in Christ, selfishness is transformed to servanthood. To become a servant of your mate is a powerful, powerful. Remember, remember the very first thing when we made the equilateral triangle? And I said your barrier with God and walking with God is the most important thing you can ever do in your marriage?
You know why? Because you can’t be a servant to your mate without the supernatural power of God’s spirit living in me through the power of His word and His spirit and being in community with people to be a giver instead of a taker. I can’t do that. It’s impossible. And so it really becomes a spiritual issue.
And then, finally, in Christ, we can fight fair and lovingly.