2018.01.13 | What's Your Story? | Pt. 3, Conflict
What’s Your Story | Pt. III, Conflict
So we started a series of Write Your Story. We’ve been talking about the author of our stories and the beginnings of our stories. And we’ve all read enough books and watched enough movies to know the main parts of the narrative. There’s a beginning, middle, and an end. The middle of the book is where we spend most of our time and is often known as the main conflict. If you take out that section in a 200 page book, you would literally have page 1 and page 200.
It’s as if we were all watching Avengers: Infinity Wars. Let’s pretend that all of a sudden we were watching this movie at the beginning starting with the scene where Thanos is destroying Thor’s ship and then skip to the part where everyone is turning into dust. I think most of us would have this reaction where we’re so confused about what is going on. See the ending leaves an impact and the beginning sets up the story, but none of those things do anything without the middle. So when we’re talking about “Write Your Story,” let’s talk about our lives in the middle.
1. For the Mind: Conflict Creates Character Development
Everybody turn to the right and left of you and say, “Life is hard.” It really is! We all know that life can be very difficult, but it’s difficult to us in very different ways. So it sounds like man if the middle is the biggest portion of our lives, I wonder if many of us have felt like, then this is going to really suck. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Life is difficult, but it doesn’t mean that it’s meaningless. There is a real reason behind what we’re doing here.
One day, I was at a picnic for church, and it was an awesome time. Pretty soon we got to be playing t-ball with the kids. One of the pastors has three sons, which I think some of you guys know. I was pitching and one of the pastor’s sons was on third base ready to score a run. In my head I had this planned out. I’m going to pitch, I’m going to head straight to home plate, catch the ball and get the son out at home. This kid was about to earn the run if he’s going to get it out. So out comes the pitch, the batter hits the ball, it goes sailing past my head and I run straight to home. One of the kids in the outfield throws the ball straight at me and in my head, I knew this kid was out. I catch the ball and in that instant BAM! The kid runs straight into my bony hip. Now before I continue on, I have to tell you that this pastor is a great mother to these sons. She’s seriously one of the kindest people I know. But this kid kind of ran into me really hard that I felt it. She comes running in and says, “You’re out!” But the kid wasn’t even paying attention. He was crumpled on the ground crying. In my head I thought the proper parenting move would be to hug him, console him, and to comfort him through the pain. I thought maybe we could just even let him score, because he did earn it. The mother comes and says, “Stop crying. We talked about this.” She checks on him and sees that he’s okay but the kid is still crying. So she picks him up like a duffel bag, plops him to the side and says, “Play ball.”
I had the chance to ask her about this later after I apologized, “She said, he was okay but he needs to learn just crying about things is not going to get him things. This is a good learning opportunity to toughen up and to care about the enjoyment of the game for other people.” I realized man no matter what I thought about how to handle the situation, this pastor was the kids’ mother. She knows his heart, his motives, the lessons he needs to learn. She uses and allows the opportunity in order to continue to grow him and prepare him to enjoy life better. As a parent she can’t just spoil him and cry at every hardship. A parent doesn’t just shelter the kid from every bad thing but disciplines them to grow and mature them.
Let’s read Hebrews 12:
“3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
God is a good father. The conflicts that he allows will not destroy you, but it is there for you to endure because in that enduring you will see growth. If you’re seeing hardships and conflicts in your life, it’s not because God hates you, but because he cares for you. He allows conflicts to see you grow because as a father you are his responsibility. Then we should adopt an attitude where when hardships come our way, the question isn’t “God why do you hate me?” but instead ask, “God what are you doing and teaching me?” Our conflict isn’t meaningless because God allows these things to happen and uses our conflict to repurpose it for our good. The goal of our conflict is discipline and disciple leads to growth. And the growth of the character is the most interesting part of any story. I know Pastor Dan doesn’t necessarily agree with me on this but it’s true.
Some of your guys know, but I love movies. I really do. But there’s one movie director that I absolutely despise his style. This director is Zack Snyder. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he can’t do anything. I think his action scenes and such are actually quite good at times, but as a film director, the primary objective is to tell a story. And the one thing Zack Snyder really doesn’t understand is that story is told through characters. That means that stories serve the characters not characters serving the story. Zack Snyder constantly does the latter. Let me give you an example.
In the movie Man of Steel, we follow the journey of shops at Hot Topic going through puberty Superman. I can summarize the gist of the movie in three points.
1. Clark Kent is sent to earth and grows up there.
2. Clark Kent finds ship he grew up on and gets the suit and suddenly everything is okay
3. Superman saves the day
Sadly this seems to be the bullet points that Zack Snyder uses too. There are many interesting things about the character that you can dive into. The fact that he’s dealing with an identity crisis between two worlds. The fact that he’s mourning his father’s death. The fact that one world of his identity is literally destroying another word of his identity. His conflict with saving the humanity that almost rejects him. There is so much potential, but all of that is meaningless, because Superman gets the suit and then flies. He is suddenly perfect. The problem with all of this is that it’s obvious that Zack Snyder wants to tell a good story but he doesn’t understand the concept that the characters are the story. So what you end up with a character growth that feels unearned because he’s just trying to rush to the next plot point. The characters are just puppets and any conflict that they might have had feels genuinely pointless. It’s the reason why Batman vs Superman was trying to solved with Superman saying, “Save Martha.” It’s the reason why Justice League was just bleh. A good director tells the story through the character’s conflicts and the choices they make through it. (This is also the reason why Rogue One sucks. They don’t make any choices. Things just happen to them.)
In the grand scheme of things in our life God is choosing to let the great story of his grace and love be told through the characters in the story. He takes his time to allow these conflicts in order for us to learn lessons about himself. Through these conflicts we are able to see the sinfulness of ourselves and the damage it does, so that moving forward we would choose the way of the lord. It’s in these opportunities, we see wow we are growing. Wow God is actually maturing us to be more like him, but this doesn’t happen without conflict in our story. The conflict of our lives and the decisions we write your story.
2. For the Heart: Conflict Refines Our Dependence on God
But it can’t be that God allows these things just so our lives would be interesting. That’s not good enough. Like what’s the point of growing and the point of just telling a good and interesting story. Like honestly, that sucks. That’s not good enough of a reason for all the hardships that we have to endure. And it’s not. There’s benefit for us as well: Maturity allows us to appreciate the one who matures.
Godly maturity allows us for greater appreciation of God.
C.S. Lewis highlights this in his book, The Weight of Glory, by saying:
“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
For us to say that we are content with our lives despite the conflict, not wanting to go through the nitty gritty toughness of it all because it’s just easier not to deal with it are like that child playing in the mud. Ask the neighbor next to you, what do you prefer? Chicken nuggets or steak? Do you prefer spam or Korean BBQ? Would you choose owning a billion skittles or a billion dollars? We all know that if there is something better offered to us, we will choose the better thing, but unless we mature and grow up we won’t know what the better thing is.
Main Heart Issue here.
Now lets address the heart issue. You know it will mature you in the end. But it’s discouraging.
Sometimes, I hold on to things, and these are good things, but I hold on to them so tightly thinking that they are right. And God wants me to grow deeper in Him, but I refuse because I want to keep holding on to this good thing. And because of that, God sometimes brings trials and conflict, even taking away the good thing.
And it hurts deeply. It really hurts. And you know its from God.
And in that moment all I want is for Him to give me back the good thing. But instead He keeps offering me Himself. To hold on to Him even deeper. And God wants me to hold on to Him even tighter than I hold on to anything else.
And this type of real growth only happens through conflict. There were more opportunities to grow in Christ, opportunities that I wasn’t taking because I was comfortable and complacent. Conflict takes away the comfort and complacency and forces us to embrace what is better.
Example: Move to CA
That is why, in a sense, Trials are not the enemy of faith but the opportunity for faith. Without conflict and trials we are too complacent and comfortable to even want to discern what is better. And that is why God loves us enough to bring trials and conflict. Because God loves us so much that sometimes He has to force us to let go of good things to hold on to better things.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Our Hebrews passage reminds us to endure the discipline and the hardship because it’ll bear fruit of righteousness. It’ll increase our ability to see God in our lives and our enjoyment of him. Demand more out your lives.
Example: Holding Tightly to a good thing
God sometimes has to take good things out of our lives so that we can receive better things.
3. For the World: Conflict is Our Testimony
How we deal with conflict is actually the story of our walk with God. Like we said earlier, you don’t have a story without conflict. And in fact, if God wants to display Himself to the world through you, it seems to be that the way we respond to conflict displays Christ to this world.
Example: Jeemyn verse Yoon in the storm
House built on a rock example.
What’s the difference between the two houses?
But what is similar is the storm.
Whether you believe or not, life is full of conflicts and trials. Life is hard for all people. You will have conflict whether you believe or not. For most, conflict will just be a bad moment in their lives.
But what sets us apart is that conflict is actually part of our testimony.
In the story of Job, we see the story of a man full of wealth. He is extremely blessed, and one day satan approaches him and this happens:
8 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
What is God doing here? He’s boasting about Job! He’s a proud father, bragging about his great child Job. Then Satan lays up a challenge to him saying, “He only praises you because you bless him.” So God allows Job to be tested but is still protecting his life. Then we get the story of how Satan takes all of those things away. The friends that come through and tells him he needs to repent. They even try to tempt him by saying you should curse God’s name, but Job never does. He’s not at peace. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but he never curses God’s name. Then God teaches Job an important lesson about who God is and so on. The real loser of the story is Satan because he lost in every way and Job and God are glorified. But imagine if the book ended at the beginning. Imagine if we saw God saying, “Look how great Job is.” And it ends there. That will leave no impact on us as the reader, why? Because it’s the decisions and the actions that Job takes that prove what God is saying is true. If the story ended there, we will not have learened about God’s sovereignty and greatness through the conflict. We would not know the character of Job or the qualities God is talking about without the conflict. Your testimony is the story of how you responded to conflict.
We don’t have a story without conflict, we don’t have a testimony without conflict. So be encouraged that your conflict is not meaningless. It’s not a detour to the main story. It’s not setback. Your conflict is a testimony waiting to be written.
1. In what area of conflict was God growing you? (Perhaps you realized later)
2. In what area of conflict now is God challenging you to grow in righteousness?
3. What happened when you failed in an area of conflict?
a. What was God revealing about his heart to you after the failure?
4. In what areas are you ignoring walking into possible areas of growth?
5. What are some conflicts that God may be building your testimony right now?