Summary: How to deal witn conflict in our relationships
How the Life of Faith Deals with Conflict
It has been my experience that a great deal of friction and conflict experienced within the family of faith takes place among staff members. One such occasion took place between the pastor and his music director. The friction was so great that it spilled out into the worship service.
One Sunday the pastor preached on total commitment to the Lord, and the music minister followed with the congregation singing, “I shall not be moved.” The next Sunday the pastor preached on giving and how God’s people should give generously to the Lord. The disgruntled music leader followed with the congregation singing “Jesus Paid it All.” The following Sunday the pastor preached on gossiping and the need to control the tongue, and the music leader followed with “I Love to Tell the Story.”
At this point the pastor was frustrated and he told the church that he was considering resigning next Sunday. The music leader then led the song “Oh, Why not Tonight.” The next Sunday the pastor stood in the pulpit and said, “Jesus led me to this church and it is Jesus who is leading me away.” The song leader led the song, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”
Our study of the life of Abraham will teach God’s people how to deal with conflict when it comes our way. The lessons concerning conflict that we learn today from Abraham’s journey of faith are in stark contrast to the lessons that we learned from Abraham last week. The lessons that we learned from Abraham last week were lessons learned from Abraham’s failure to trust the Lord. The lessons that we learn this week are going to be learned from Abraham’s ability to trust in the Lord in the midst of friction and conflict. Why such a stark contrast between the two narratives? What was the source of Abraham’s failure and success in the two narratives?
Abraham’s success in the life of faith as well as his failure hinged on one crucial ingredient: fellowship with the Lord. As we noticed in the previous verses the key ingredient mission in Abraham’s failure as the altar of the Lord. Worship, fellowship, and communication with the Lord were non-existent in verses ten through twenty of chapter twelve. But that is not the case for chapter thirteen.
The Lord, who was faithful to discipline Abraham’s faltering faith and deliver him from the situation that his faltering faith put him in was also faithful to direct him back to where he needed to be, this we see in verses three and four of chapter thirteen, “He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.” God brought Abraham back to where he needed to be in the first place: the altar of the Lord. If Abraham was going to have success and keep his faith from faltering he would need to maintain constant worship of the Lord, fellowship with the Lord, and communication with the Lord. This is exactly what happens in chapter thirteen.
This chapter begins with Abraham at the altar and it ends in verse eighteen with him at the altar, “Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.” This is the key to success in the life of faith, constant communion with the Lord.
It is Abraham’s constant communion to the Lord that will give him success as he faces friction within the family. And it will be Abraham’s success in dealing with friction within the family that will teach the family of faith how to deal with conflict when it shows up. In dealing with conflict, God’s people must realize that conflict will be experienced within the family of faith.
I. Conflict will be Experienced within the Family of Faith
“Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsman of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the Land.”
These verses set the scene, as we understand the nature of the conflict that is experienced between uncle and nephew. Verses five and six reveal the source of the conflict.
A. The Source of the Conflict (vv. 5-6)
We are told in verse five that Lot was with Abram when he went into Egypt. Some have argued that the phrase, “who went with Abram” is artificial and was placed there only to make it appear that Lot was in Abram. They argue this on the basis that Lot is not mentioned in verses ten through twenty. The reason that Lot is not mentioned in the previous narrative is that he was not a central figure of the situation that took place in the previous narrative. The main characters of the previous verses are Abram, Sarai, and Pharaoh.