Weekly Devotional | "Quarrels and Fights"
This devotional is based on C.J. Mahaney's sermon, Quarrels and Fights, given on June 5th, 2016.
Day 1: Relational conflict is worse than you think (4:1)
- “Instead of a climate and culture of peace that would reflect the “wisdom from above” that James referenced in 3:17, and the presence of peacemakers he referenced in 3:18, there is instead a climate and culture of antagonism toward each other and the apparent absence of wise peacemakers among them.” CJ Mahaney
- “It wasn’t all romance and righteousness; no it was not. They were quarreling and fighting.” John Stott
Questions and Reflections:
- CJ mentioned that our tendency is to minimize relational conflict rather than be honest about its seriousness. Why is this? How might you minimize conflict, especially with those in the church?
- Reflecting back on James 3, explain why James would use such strong language in describing conflict in the church?
- In John 13:34-35, after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he commands them to love one another, and by such love the world will know that they are his disciples. Christian unity is no small thing. Ask the Father to give you this same attitude by his Spirit. Ask him to give you a fresh appreciation for your relationships in the church and a desire to strengthen them.
Day 2: Discerning the cause of conflict is simpler than you think (4:1-2)
- “If you take a peek under an unresolved conflict you will find an unsatisfied sinful craving. Underneath every conflict is a craving.” CJ Mahaney
- “One of the joys of biblical ministry comes when you are able to turn on the lights in another person’s dark room. People usually don’t see their desires and lusts. Souls are cured as the ignorant and self-deceived are disturbed by the light of God’s analytic gaze and then comforted by the love that shed substitutionary blood to purchase the inexpressible gift. I have yet to meet a couple locked in hostility (and the accompanying fear, self-pity, hurt, self-righteousness) who really understood and reckoned with their motives.” David Powlison
Questions and Reflections:
- Think back on your last relational conflict. Why were you in that conflict to begin with? What were your motives for engaging in it? How do they compare with the causes of conflict James mentions in this section?
- As CJ mentioned, the Holy Spirit is very specific about the causes of conflict in this passage of Scripture. He puts his finger right on the issue and calls us out. While we can be tempted to feel this level of specificity as evidence of God’s anger or disappointment, CJ encouraged us to draw the very opposite conclusion. How can this be?
- Recall Hebrew 12:5-6. When God disciplines us or makes us aware of our sin, it is because of his deep Fatherly compassion towards us. There is nothing better than walking with God in obedience. Ask God to clearly expose the specific sinful cravings that are contributing to, and possibly even driving, current relational conflicts in your life.
Day 3: Resolving conflict is easier than you think
- “Their quarrels and fights reveal a deficiency in their knowledge of God and relationship with God that is evident in their prayer life, either not praying or praying wrongly.” CJ Mahaney
- “With penetrating insight James provides us with a powerful analysis of human conflict. Verbal argument, private violence, or national conflict – the cause of them all can be traced back to the wrongful lust to want more than we have, to be envious of and covet what others have, whether it be their position or their possessions.” Doug Moo
- “Resolving relational conflict is easier than you think. Here’s why. It means realizing that God is good and that God is generous and every true gift you truly and genuinely need comes from the Father above. All we have to do is humbly ask.” CJ Mahaney
Questions and Reflections:
- How can knowing that God himself is generous and eager to give us what we need, change the expectations we place upon others during conflict?
- What is one common craving that consistently characterizes your relational conflicts? Is it security, approval, respect, or another underlying sin? How could you approach a current or future conflict in a way that would reflect God’s generosity towards your ultimate needs?
- Take a fresh look at James 1:17-18. Take some time to meditate on God’s overwhelming generosity and consistent character. He is the God who always provides from the fullness of his love. He even gave us the eternal gift of salvation by bringing us forth by the Word of truth! Ask God to meet the deep cravings that underlie your present relational conflicts. Thank him for reconciling you to himself through the blood of Jesus.
Group Discussion Questions
- How does it both help and sober us to know that the early church quarreled?
- Where/how can you be tempted to minimize relational conflict? How can the use of biblical terms and a sober understanding of the seriousness of sin help us to make progress toward peace and conflict resolution?
- In this passage, God graciously helps us identify the cause of conflict as sinful cravings within us. Which specific cravings most often underlie your conflicts? What aspects of God’s character can satisfy those cravings?
- Our most serious conflict has been resolved by the death and resurrection of Jesus. How does the gospel give us hope for our everyday conflicts?