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Discovering God's Calling on Your Life
The word purpose is defined as 'the reason for which something is done.' So what is your life's purpose? The fact is we all long to know why am I here? Join guest teacher Ryan Ingram for this new series “Purpose FULL – Discovering God’s Calling on Your Life.” Ryan unpacks how we can not only discover our God-given purpose, but live it out even when difficulty, hardship, and conflict come. You’re not gonna wanna miss a single message!More from this series
Disagreeing Well. Listen, how you and I go about conflict or disagreement will either make or break a purpose full life. It will either make or break. And here’s the reason why. It will either build or it will burn bridges, won’t it?
It will either strengthen or sabotage friendships. It will either develop or diminish your own character or influence. In this last year, I have watched close friends who have been friends for a long time no longer be friends. I have watched families strain under the struggle of disagreement. Marriages that are on the brink of collapsing, because we do not know how to disagree anymore, do we?
In fact, today, if you, the kind of mantra, if you will, is if you disagree with me, isn’t it true, you’re basically dead to me. It’s just, “Hey, I’m done with you.” If you disagree, if we disagree, we can’t disagree. If you disagree, you’re dead to me.
Here’s what we do, we either, we have been texting a disagreement deal and we ghost them. Or they ghost us. We block them on social media. We avoid them in person. We do this in the Church world, by the way, especially when you have multiple services. “Oh, they go to the first service, I’m going to go to the second service.” Or, you know what? “We are disagreeing, so I’m going to go to a new church.”
We are losing the ability to disagree well. And how we go about it, how we go about disagreement and conflict will either make or break us in a purpose filled life. And so, how do you navigate? How do we navigate disagreement as a follower of Jesus?
How do you navigate it in a healthy, productive, God-honoring way? Today, we are going to look at one of the most famous, if not the most famous disagreements in the New Testament. I want to take you through just three observations about conflict after that.
And then a biblical framework or lens of how to navigate disagreement well. If you’ve got your Bibles, would you open up, Acts chapter 15, verse 36. It begins this way, “Some time later, Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let’s go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the Word of Lord and see how they are doing.’” They had gone on this missionary journey, they have gone to Cyprus and then parts of Asia Minor, the Galatia area. God used them powerfully.
And they then returned, reported back, and then they are spending time in Antioch and just processing. And Paul says, “Let’s go back! Wouldn’t it be so great? We love these people. We haven’t seen them for a long time. Let’s go back and see how they are doing.” And here’s where the plot thickens. “Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him,” why? “because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work.”
They traveled from Antioch to the island of Cyprus, John Mark was with them through this journey. And then when they traveled to Cyprus up to Pamphylia, then John Mark couldn’t handle the intensity and the opposition and he deserts them there and goes back to Jerusalem. And Barnabas, I mean, his name is Son of Encouragement.
He always sees somebody as, you know, God has such good potential and longs to see their lives be used. He’s going to come alongside, put his arm around you, and give you a second chance.
And Paul, well Paul is so driven, he feels called. He’s called to reach the unreached and go to places that even more hazardous and dangerous and they are at this crossroads.
Barnabas says, “I want to take John Mark. I want to give him a second chance. I know he didn’t measure up in that moment, but I believe he has it in him.” And Paul is going, “Listen, where we are headed, it’s going to get even harder. I don’t think it’s wise. Listen, I love John Mark. He’s wonderful, but take him on, like, an introductory mission trip. This is like for the not the faint of heart.”
Well, “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” Barnabas, everybody likes Barnabas! It’s hard not to like Barnabas. Paul, the apostle, who wrote chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, all about love, had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. “And Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas,” a leader, “and left and commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
Two observations before we dive into about conflict here is how Barnabas and Paul disagreed. Notice this, how they disagreed expanded their impact, it didn’t diminish their impact.
Notice that Barnabas took John Mark and he went to the island of Cyprus. That’s his hometown, his home nation there. And where John Mark had begun the journey with them. And Paul then travels up through inland and he takes Silas with him. And now there are two teams multiplying their impact.
The second thing I want you to notice is how they disagree and how they went about this did not undermine future partnership and relationship. In fact, later on, the apostle Paul would write this in his letter to Timothy, “Send John Mark to me, for he is useful to me.”
You would see later different writings of Paul where he would then speak highly of John Mark and positively of Barnabas. And so, how do you navigate disagreement as a follower of Jesus? There are some things in this text that are important for us.
First observation about conflict is this: Conflict is unavoidable. Conflict is unavoidable. Every relationship, no matter how good or godly will experience conflict, disagreement.
Listen, if Barnabas and Paul got into it, we are going to get into it. If these two had a sharp dispute, there’s going to be times where people that you love, people that are godly, people that you go, like, “Man, I just never would have imagined…” you’re going to experience conflict. It’s unavoidable.
Secondly, conflict is difficult, isn’t it? It’s just hard. It’s just hard. This was hard; this was difficult. It’s hard because it’s emotional, it’s hard because it gets personal really quick. It’s hard because we don’t really, I mean, in our day, we haven’t been modeled how to disagree well or how to have conflict well, or even given the tools to do it well.
It’s just uncomfortable, isn’t it? And so, we want to avoid it. Or some of our personalities, we go right after it. It’s unavoidable, it’s difficult, and yet, it is an opportunity to grow. Jot, write next to that Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Conflict, it doesn’t mean it always is, but it is an opportunity to grow. Just as iron sharpens iron. Now, what happens when you’re sharpening iron? Friction! Sparks!
And it is that friction and those sparks that rubs off the rough edges that sharpen and develop. See, could it be that the things that you have been avoiding are the…or maybe the ghosting or running away from or attacking are the very things God wants to use as an opportunity to grow and to develop you? To expand who you are; to shape your character?
And so, how do we navigate disagreement well? Let me just give you four steps, a biblical framework for navigating disagreements well. The first is: Define the problem on your own. Define the problem on your own.
Notice, not with your besties, not with your small group, not as a prayer request. “You know, I really have this issue with a coworker and I really shouldn’t say it, well, her name is Sally. And Sally is just awful. I mean, the way she goes about it.” Or, “My boss,” or, “You know that one guy at church? Oh my gosh, he’s an EGR, isn’t he?” “What’s an EGR?” “Extra grace required.” Oh my gosh. “Just pray for my heart. Pray for my responses.”
Define the problem on your own, not with a small group, not with your besties, not on a long social media post that is abstract and says all the things that you are emoting in the moment. How do we do this?
First, examine your heart and part. Jesus would say it this way in Matthew chapter 7. Before you dare take the speck out of someone else’s eye, take the log out of yours. And let’s be honest. We overestimate the clarity of our own thinking about other people’s problems and we underestimate the fog of our own issues.
It’s like there’s a log in our eyes. There are motive issues in my heart. No matter how flat a pancake, there are always two sides to it, and so, I might just be playing a part in this.
You begin to examine your heart and your part. And here’s what I encourage you to do: Write it down. Write it down. We live in our world, we keep the emotions right here, and then you begin to write it down and as you put pen to paper, it begins to give you perspective. And you begin to see part of your heart there and you’re like, Okay, you know what? That’s more emotion and that’s how I’m feeling, but those aren’t the facts. That’s not exactly all that is going on there.
See, when you examine your own heart, you take time, Holy Spirit, would You show me what is going on in me? We are quick to correct in our culture, but we are slow to confess. And where we would say, “We are going to take time and confess personally.”
Second, move from thinking about them to praying for them. We are going to examine our heart and then isn’t it true that the people that you have a disagreement with, that they just keep coming back to your mind? And you keep thinking about them and you maybe think about how you’re going to win that argument or what you would say if you had the guts to say it, or all those sort of things?
Move from thinking about them to praying for them. Jesus in Matthew chapter 5 says, listen, “Bless those who persecute you and pray for your enemies.” Every time, listen, make a commitment, every time that person comes to mind, I’m going to pray for them. Ooh! I wonder what would change in our hearts, I wonder what would change in the atmosphere, I wonder what God would want to do if every time they came to our mind, instead of moving into the mental dialogue of all the things we want to say and all the ways they have done x, y, and z, that we turned it to prayer for them. And then give the generous explanation for their behavior.
What is the most generous explanation for their behavior? See, I am going to write down and examine my heart, I’m going to move from thinking to praying. And instead of jumping to the very worst explanation, I’m going to give them the best explanation. Here’s what I am going to do for them: I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt that I want them to have given me. What is the most generous explanation for their behavior?
See, we have to be careful about the stories we are telling ourselves. And we jump to conclusions, we jump to judgements, we jump to motives immediately. Define the problem on your own, examine your heart, move from thinking to praying, give a generous explanation.
And then finally, if necessary, seek wise counsel. Well, Ryan, why would you say, “If necessary”? Well, because here’s what we do in our culture today. Much of our seeking wise counsel is trying to get people on our side, trying to get people to agree with us, see life from our frame, telling people how bad that person is.
Scripture speaks a ton about seeking wise counsel. And as you’re defining on your own and if you find yourself stuck, you go, Okay, who is someone that loves Jesus, that knows God’s Word, that knows both myself and this other individual who can speak into it and give me perspective?
When I try to bring something that is frustrating to my wife, the frustrating part is instead of her going, like, “Yeah!” Because that’s what we all want when we share something frustrating. “Ah, so-and-so, yeah, yeah.”
She gives me, “Well, maybe there’s another reason.” Or, “Have you thought about…?” I don’t want to think about that! I don’t want to wrestle with that. I don’t want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
And so, define the problem on your own, navigating disagreements well. First, we have to define it on our own. Secondly then, we have to set up a time to talk and do not put it off. Set up a time to talk. Go directly to the person.