Steven Furtick, pastor and founder of Elevation Church and New York Times best-selling author, recently did a sermon on why we must stop praying away conflict.
Furtick said, “When God really gets a hold of your life in a surrendered way that He will change the way you see conflict.” He uses the example of when Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the chief priest to betray Jesus. He said, “Isn’t it interesting that most of us would see Judas Iscariot (the one who handed Jesus over to be crucified at the hands of Romans) as an enemy, but Jesus choose him as an employee.”
“Why is that?” Furtick asked the crowd.
“Why would Jesus choose an enemy as an employee?”
He then shared, “It took me back to something Moses said to the Israelites when they were coming into the land that God promised them. He said you are going to drive out all of the nations that live here so that you can possess the land. But it won’t all happen in the first year because if all of your enemies went away suddenly the land would be overgrown because you don’t know what to do with it yet.”
Furtick made the connection for the audience, “When God brings you into a place or a promise, He will often leave enemies in the very land where He is settling you because you are not ready yet for the full extent of freedom…if He removed your enemies, your heart would be filled with pride. The Scripture teaches that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
“God will use your enemies to create humility so that He can be for you what you can’t be for yourself. [Scripture] says Judas was looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over and at the same time, Jesus was looking for an opportunity to die. It was [the] purpose He came for. Peter could not understand why Jesus, at the height of His ministry, would go to Jerusalem—the place they wanted to kill him. In Peter’s mind, this would be the end of all of the miracles—in the mind of Jesus this was the beginning of the very mission He came to accomplish.”
Furtick then explained, “God has a different way of categorizing conflict than you do. So often in my life, I associate God with comfort and the devil with conflict, but sometimes it is the devil who will make your life comfortable so you come to the point that you don’t think you need God. And it is God who allows a conflict that will make you fall down on your knees and ask God for the very grace that enables you to rise.”
“We run from conflict and pray for blessings,” said Furtick. “Sometimes we run from relationship to relationship because once it gets past chemistry we don’t know what to do with the conflict. Chemistry can make a baby, but in order to raise a child, you better know what to do with conflict. If you don’t learn what to do with conflict, it will follow you and wear a different costume into the next relationship that you ruin because you never learned how to deal with the real conflict, which is within.”
Let’s pause and take note that in the above story Furtick refers to the real conflict as the conflict within. We often think of conflict as having to do with other people, but conflict with other people usually points to a conflict within ourselves and something God may be wanting to show us.
I recently had this exact situation, where I was in a conflict, but the conflict within was wanting to run and escape, but God very clearly said to me, “You will stay in this conflict and learn what I have to show you.” It felt scary at first, but after it was resolved I saw what freedom He brought to me by staying in it and working through it.
God will often use other people to bring up those internal conflicts which can be hard, but they can also bring such freedom that can’t be found anywhere else. Because without other people, the internal conflict would ever be exposed.
Furtick concluded, “I need discomfort or else I will become despondent. I see you going home and relabeling conflict as opportunity.”