Conflict Week 4: From Why to What
Conflict: From Why to What
Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.
What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.
Well, good morning to everybody and also to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. We're in a series called "Conflict." For those of you all who are regular attenders, you know at the beginning of every message that I'm doing in a series I try to bring everybody back up to speed. And I think that's important because if this is your first time here and you're sort of coming in in the middle of a series, you don't want to feel left out. It's tough enough to get here if this is your first time. It's tough enough to just go to church. And then to feel like, "What's going on?"
So, I try to make sure that you feel up to speed. And then, for those of you all, it's summertime. People take breaks here and there and vacations and do the things that they do. And I want to make sure that you feel like you remember what's going on. Even for those of us who have maybe been here every single message of every part of the series, sometimes we just have tough weeks and it's good to just remember what we're doing.
So, we're in a series called "Conflict." Exactly what the series title is is what we're dealing with. Conflict. I think that whether you're here today for the first time and maybe you've never, ever, ever even stepped foot in a church, or maybe you're watching via the internet and you're trying to figure this thing out with God and all that stuff or maybe you've been walking with God for 50 years – I think all of us can agree that, first of all, we all have conflict from time to time in our lives and, secondly, we can all get better at dealing with conflict. So, what we're trying to do over this series is to equip our toolbox with some tools so that we can handle conflict better.
Because, traditionally, when we talk to people and when you look at life and look at your experience, usually we tend to look at conflict in two ways. We either don't want to deal with it and we try to run and try to escape – you know, we go in the back entrance to work when we're fighting with somebody at work or, you know, that kind of stuff. Or, we escalate it and we figure, "I'm going to win. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get after this thing and I'm going to win and I'm going to get this thing the way it needs to be."
Neither one of those really foster relationship. What we're looking at is how do we take conflict and not look at it as a bad thing? And look at it as it's neither good nor bad, it's how I respond to it, and does this allow me a potential opportunity to really work in a relationship and transform it? And I think that's what God really wants for you and me. And I think whether you're a believer or not, everybody could agree that if we could take conflict in our lives and we could take it and learn to use it in a way to make relationships better. I think everybody would be in for that.
So, that's what we're looking at and that's what we're trying to do. And over the last few weeks, if you remember, I told you we were going to move from "why" to "what." I started off saying that many of you all just want to go, "Chip, tell me what to do. Tell me what to do. I want to know what to do."
And I said that if I do that, what you're going to do is you're going to say, "Well, why should I do that?"
So, we talked about why for a couple of weeks. We looked at 1 Corinthians 6 and how Paul told the church at Corinth what to do. But, we sort of drilled down and asked why he was telling them what to do. Then we looked at Matthew 18 and we saw what Jesus had told the Church to do and we drilled down and found the whys. So, we're moving from why to what.
Much like, you know, a lot of times when we were first getting going here in Lakewood Ranch and we were doing this thing called "First Friday." People would ask the question "why do we do this?" When we were able to say, "Well, the reason we do it is because we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ," it made the "what" we do make sense because everybody understood why.
So, when we pass out water bottles at a 5K or we do book bags or we do whatever we do, when that's our "what," the "why" is because we want to reach unchurched people by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. So, what we did is when we said, "Well, what should we do as Christians when conflict arises," we looked at the why. We looked at the fact that, hey, you know what? We're kingdom people. We're not just citizens of this world. We're citizens of heaven. And conflict really does effect the way our witness is in the church and on the outside. So, those whys sort of were foundational for the next step of, "Well, Chip, what do I do when I've got conflict in my life?"
And we're going to get there and we're going to do it in two stages and I really want you to listen to how we're going to do this. Today, I'm going to deal with some real general truths of conflict. Things that I hope that you'll take some notes. I hope you'll write them down. I hope you'll allow God to speak to you because these are some really good "whats" to take home and they apply to everything that goes on in our lives.
However, next weekend what I'm going to do is I'm going to do is I'm going to take stories of conflict. I've never seen anybody do this. I've never done this. I'm going to take stories of conflict and I'm going to put them up on the screen and read you a little bit of a story of a conflict and then I'm going to show how we should work through that conflict as Christians to transform that particular problem. And I think it's going to be fantastic. In fact, I'd bring friends, neighbors and everybody because I think anybody, whether you believe or don't believe, these are going to be things that will help all of us out.
And here's what I want to offer to you as a church: If you have something particular in your life or something that you would like to have some sort of answers on, if you'll send an email to "Grace@GraceSarasota.com" – that's our general email; you can find it on the website. If you have something that you want to hear about, send those emails in. I can't promise you that I'll get to every one of them, but I am going to read every single one of them and if there's something that I can use in the sermon, I'm going to do it. Here's my promise: If I get so much material, we'll go longer than one week next week. We'll go two weeks. Because I'm committed, as a pastor, to one thing, and that is to equipping you all to be able to walk out the life that God has called you to lead. And I believe in being practical and real and that we can get some information to help us out. So, I'm committed to that.
So, that's what we're going to do over the next two weeks or maybe three weeks. But, before I get to what, I've got one more little thing I've got to talk about, because this is sort of where the rub comes in. Let me explain how this works.
Every single one of us is raised in some sort of environment or culture. And the culture that we get raised in gives us a perspective on the world. For instance, if I was raised in Texas, I probably would have a little different perspective – because my culture would've been Texas – than someone who was raised on the beaches of California. So, their culture and perspective is a little different. I don't want to overgeneralize. I'm sure there's people that have been raised in both of those places that have turned out the same way. But, the reality is we all know that. We know that if you're born in Tennessee, you're probably going to see the world a little bit differently than if you were born in New Jersey. You're going to see the world differently if you were born in America, Russia, Korea or wherever you were born. We know that our cultures shape our perspectives.
And to sort of make it even more real here: The teams that we have in our lives shape our perspective. We all have teams. We have teams that we go to denominationally. We have teams that we go to politically. We have teams that we go to theologically. We have teams that we go to the way we eat, right? You know.
"You've got to eat this way. You've got to eat this way."
We all have these teams and those teams that we're on shape our perspective. And there's no way around that. Every single one of us has a team or multiples teams in our lives. For me – I'll just be honest here with me. Chip Bennett's team – there's more than this, but these are like three things that make up my team: I was born in Kentucky. That's just who I am. I was born in a town of 6,500 people. A very small town. And I was raised on a farm. So, some of that is my team. Some of that is my culture and that shapes my perspective in life. I have a certain education that I've gone through and done a lot of studying. That shapes who I am. My family, who my mom and dad were and my extended family and all of that, all of that shapes me to who I am.
Every single one of us have those teams. Those teams that we're on, when information comes to us that doesn't jive with whatever team we're on, we tend to dismiss it. That's called confirmation bias. We want to deal with the things that we want to deal with.
Let me give you a great example of how this works. I grew up in Kentucky. If you know anything about Kentucky, I'll tell you what goes on in Kentucky. There's basketball, there's basketball, there's basketball, there's an occasional horse race, there's basketball and there's bourbon. That's what you get in Kentucky. Okay? That's what you get. But, growing up in Kentucky, you learn about basketball and you learn about the ins and outs and everybody knows about basketball. In fact, most people don't know this, but the largest dedicated basketball arena in the United States is Rupp Arena. 23,500 people. Larger than the NBA facilities. I mean, it's a really big deal in Kentucky. So, you grow up learning about basketball.
So, what was interesting if you know this – and most of y'all probably know this whether you like sports or not – is there was a finals just played in the NBA. I'm not a big NBA watcher, but I watched a little bit of the finals because of the narrative. You had the Golden State Warriors – that's a team. Hey, now. This is church. We're supposed to be Team Jesus here. You know? And UK basketball. I'm just kidding. Just kidding. Those watching on the internet are like, "This guy's a pagan."
I've been called worse. Anyway, the reality is that with the Golden State Warriors, most people said, "This is one of the greatest teams that's ever been assembled ever in the NBA."
And some people said it was the greatest team that's ever been. But, the bottom line was: Really good team. Then you had the Cleveland Cavaliers. And there was this guy – I don't know, maybe you've heard of him or whatever. It's just sort of a guy. It's LeBron or something James. Anyway, people say LeBron is one of the greats of all time, if not the greatest of all time. And everybody argues about all of that stuff.
But, the reality was it was a great narrative: Could the team beat the individual? I mean, LeBron had a team, but it was really LeBron versus Golden State. What made it great was last year they came back from 3-1 and won the championship. So, it was like it was on. And people ask me. They're like, "What do you think?"
I said, "I think Golden State's going to win pretty handily because it's really tough for somebody – I don't care how great they are – to beat a team."
Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Boston Celtics and lost in an NBA playoff game. So, it's hard to do that. Much to what I thought, it went sort of the way that I thought it went. But, what I had so much fun watching – because I was just an innocent bystander. I like Kentucky basketball. I just was watching it for the fun of watching it. What I enjoyed was if Golden State was your team or if Cleveland was your team, it changed your perspective on the way they called the games. And I didn't agree with anybody because I was watching it as a bystander. I was going, "No, no, no, no. You've got glasses on."
Just so you don't feel like I'm being snarky, I'm sure that I have glasses on when I watch Kentucky basketball. It's just that my glasses are right. No. I'm just kidding. I'm just playing. But, we all have that.
Now, I've said all of that to say this: When we come to following Jesus, all of us have these teams. They're deep. They're multifaceted. We have all these things that we align with. The temptation for all of us will be to try to find passages in Scripture or things in Scripture that we can pull Jesus over to our team to support what we want to believe. Jesus says to us, though, if we're really going to follow him, "You have to lay down all of your teams and you have to join my team."
And that is difficult for all of us because we all hold on to things in our lives and it's part of life. It's part of who we are. So, when we start talking about, "Hey, what do I do when conflict comes about? How do I handle this? What do I do when I'm in a fight or whatever?"
Sometimes the "what" is going to be a little bit of a recoil to us because it hits us where we're at. You know, like oftentimes when you're reading Scripture and Jesus says, "Hey, if somebody smacks you on the cheek, give them the other also."
We're like, "No, no, no. I saw Dirty Harry and that's not what he did. He introduced them to Smith & Wesson. That's not what we did. You know? I saw Rambo. Rambo didn't turn the other cheek."
So, oftentimes when we hear what Team Jesus looks like, it's different from our teams and perspectives and culture that we have, and sometimes we recoil at it. But, if we're committed to Jesus and we really want to do the Jesus thing and we really want to be like Jesus, then the "whats" of conflict are going to be a little challenging for all of us and we're going to really have to ask God to help us, by His grace and through His Spirit, to do the things that He's asked us to do.
So what I want you to do is this. These are the general truths of conflict. If you've got a sheet of paper or if you like your notepad or if you like a phone note or an iPad or whatever you have – an Android pad. Whatever you have, I would just ask sincerely, and I ask humbly, take these down because I think that you will be able to go back and look at these over the week and allow God to sort of speak to you and work with you on these particular things.
So, when conflict arises in whatever form it comes, the first "what do I do" is this. Write down "Jesus first." This is revolutionary for you and me, because when conflict arises in our life, let's be honest, all that matters is me. Right? If we're being honest. Or our team, our issue or whatever it is that's important. It's all about, "No, no, no. This is wrong. This is an injustice."
It becomes about me. It becomes about what I feel and how I feel like I've been robbed or whatever else. Or how someone's done me wrong. And if we're going to really do the "what" of Scripture, if we're going to do the "what" of what it means to follow Jesus, Jesus then has to be first. And that's why Paul told the Corinthian church. They were in a conflict. They were arguing about, "What do we eat? What do we not eat? How do we do this? How do we not do this?"
And Paul says, "Listen, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you guys are in conflict and you're arguing about all this stuff. You should be doing everything for the glory of God. You're not there to try to convince somebody that the meat that you ate is better than the meat that they ate. It's not about an issue. This is about showing God's glory in the midst of conflict."
So, the questions that we ask ourselves are fundamentally different than the questions that we would normally asks ourselves if we were just looking at the way our perspective and our culture has shaped us. The questions become, in conflict, "How do I draw attention to Jesus in this?"
And see, that's a big difference. Because, if Mindy and I have gotten into something at home or I've got into something with somebody at work or I've gotten into something with somebody or they've gotten into it with me, typically all I'm thinking about is, "Okay, how does this effect me? What can I do? How can I get away from this or how can I make sure that I solve this problem?"
When I start to say, "Okay, the first thing I want to do is how can I demonstrate Jesus in this area of conflict," that's a total revolutionary way to deal with conflict. Or, "How do I show the power of the Gospel in this? How do I allow God to be a part of this? How do I show God to my wife?"
Rather than, "How do I get my wife to do what I want her to do or to agree with me or see where she's wrong," what if I take on the tact of, "Hey, I want to make sure that she sees Jesus in this?"
And see, Ephesians 5 says that I'm supposed to love my wife like Christ loved the Church. So, it becomes different. Love God. Love people. Those are the two things that we're told to do. So, when conflict arises, it's Jesus first. And that's going to be a little bit of a shift for all of us.
The second thing that we need to do – the second "what" when conflict arises – is we need to adopt the log removal prayer life. This is really important for us to understand. Jesus is so ahead of His time in these Gospels, because psychology has learned in the last 100 years some of these things. But, listen to what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, "Hypocrite. First, take the beam, the log, the telephone pole out of your eye and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother's eye."
Notice something here: Both of these are wood. They're the same type of substance. What Jesus says is, "If you can get the log out of your eye, that thing that's bugging you about your brother or sister, you'll realize it's just a toothpick. It's not that big. But, you've got a beam in your eye."
And what happens – and this is so difficult for you and me to get – is oftentimes the conflict or the tension that just drives us crazy about someone else is not them; it's us. We've got stuff in our lives that we're seeing in them that's irritating us and we've got to learn to adopt the prayer life of getting the log out of our eyes. I want to be honest with you and transparent. I want to take you back to a time in Chip Bennett's life. I was 27 years old. So, it would've been 20 years ago. I was the youngest general manager for the Land Rover franchise that they had ever had. I was like, "That's awesome. I'm 27. I'm general manager."
So, I became a general manager and it was my job to run the store and all of that stuff. And one thing that just really got under my skin – not like in a healthy way, but in a really unhealthy way – is I had some salespeople that were really good at what they did. And what they would do is they'd just come and go as they wanted to come and go. And it wasn't like a, "Hey, let's sit down and talk."
I was frustrated. I mean, it was just really getting under my skin. One day, the owner of the dealership called me in. At the time, this was a multi, multi, multi-franchised owner and I was just one of many different stores. He called me in and said, "Hey, I need to talk to you."
And I'm like, "Okay, great."
And they're like, "You're doing a good job. We just have one thing that we really would like for you to work on."
I'm like, "Sure. What do you want me to work on?"
"You're the only general manager that we have that comes and goes as they please."
Yeah. I had the same feeling that you all are having right now. Like, "Oh. No wonder I'm so mad at the other people, because I'm the one that's guilty."
So, what if we adopted in our life, "Lord, there's really a good chance that whatever's bugging me about someone is something I need to work on in my own life."
Hold on, now. What if that were all the teams? What about those teams that you're on? Theologically, politically, the way you raise children, all of that stuff. What if the things that bugged you about everybody else were things that really you were guilty of?
You say, "No, that's not me. It's everybody else that's that way, but me."
No, no, no. Psychologists have coined a phrase that's the greatest phrase I think I've heard in a long time and you're going to laugh when you hear it. I love it.
"If you spot it, you've probably got it."
Yeah. Uh huh.
You say, "Eh, I don't know if I want to really deal with this conflict stuff."
See, this is where we get to be honest. Are we Team Jesus or are we team all of the other things that we want to be doing? We need to be Team Jesus in the things that we do. It's got to be Jesus first.
Third "what" of conflict: How about learning the value of waiting? You know, 10 years ago the phrase was "I want it now." Today, the phrase is "I want it yesterday." Probably in 10 years it's going to be, "I want it 3 weeks ago."
You know? And the reality is none of us like to wait at all. But, look at the value of waiting when it comes to conflict. How about waiting until we're cool and calm? Has anybody ever done the Chip Bennett? You fly off the handle or whatever and you realize I've never, ever, ever, flown off the handle and scored a touchdown that looked like Jesus. Never. Ever. Ever. I'm sure you all probably have, but I've not. Okay?
And listen to what Solomon says. He says, "A quick tempered person acts foolishly."
So true. How about this one? This is a huge one. How about waiting until we've gathered all the facts? We don't like to do that one. Because, see, we've already got confirmation bias. We've already got perspective on the way we've been raised and the teams that we're on. So, when information comes our way that doesn't gel with what we think, we just discard it and move forward.
Listen to what Solomon says. Solomon says, "The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross examines him."
Let me ask you a question – even those that are watching via the internet and mobile app. Let me ask you a question. What about if you decided and I decided in my life that I will not criticize, I will not say anything bad, I will not create any conflict about anybody that I don't know personally and I'm in community with? Boy, we wouldn't have anything to talk about, would we? It's amazing how many people know about people that they don't even know about. They don't even know what's going on in their lives. They don't even know what they're thinking. They don't even know the information that they've got. But, we make judgments on everything all the time.
Sometimes, we need to sit back and go, "You know what? I don't have all the information to really make a good judgment on this."
Let's be humble enough to do that and to be honest. Stephen Covey tells a great story. He sold millions of books. This story's been told millions of times. It's about a man that shows up on the subway with his kids. His kids are climbing all over the subway. I mean, just climbing all over everything. A lady is sitting next to him and she's just getting more and more upset. Finally, she looks at him and she says, "Can you get control of your kids?"
He's like, "Oh, I'm sorry. You're right. I need to. I just came from the hospital because my wife passed away."
Well, man, you talk about a totally different mood on that woman now. Because, see, she knew more than she knew before she judged, got mad and got into a conflict. Maybe sometimes we need to just take a little bit of time to gather a little bit more information before we run from it, escalate it or get all hot about it.
How about this one? How about we wait until we've listened well. You know, one of the things I've learned – I do communication for a living. That's what I do. So, I have to sit down in my office and I have to figure out the way that I say things to make sure that I don't say anything that would be misconstrued by someone who's come for the very first time who doesn't know anything about God and probably has a propensity to think that all churches are sort of not good or whatever. And they're here by whatever. I've got to make sure that I don't hit a filter that sends them up. But, I've also got to make sure that I don't hit a filter of someone who's been walking with God for 50 years.
So, I'll oftentimes have Dan, Tom and other people come in here and I will speak my sermon to them before I get up here and speak to make sure that the communication that I give is good in every type of way because I care about what I do. But, let me tell you something: Most of us don't communicate that way. Most of us assume when we talk to somebody that they already know what we sort of know. Oftentimes, we say things to people and they hear what they think they hear, but they really haven't heard what we thought we said. Oftentimes, we're not hearing what the person said that said it and we fly off at the handle. James says, "Listen, we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger."
God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Let me repeat that again. Two ears and one mouth for a reason. Oftentimes, we are slow to listen, but we're fast to speak and fast to anger. Maybe sometimes when it comes to conflict you say, "What do I do?"
Maybe we need to wait a minute and cool down and calm down and get a little bit more information and make sure that we've listened well enough to know what's going on.
Fourthly what do we do? Well, we need to embrace the usefulness of gentle. One of the virtues that's gone in American culture today is gentleness. Nobody's gentle anymore. Everybody's just all spun up. And listen, it may be more crazy in society today than it's ever been or it may just be that we get more information about all the crazy stuff that's going on. But, whatever it is, it feels to most people that life is crazy. I just was in a hotel lobby. All I wanted – I mean, I'm not a very big guy. I never walk in anywhere and I intimidate anybody. It's hard, when your forehead hits their belt buckle, to be like this real big guy or whatever.
So, all I want is a toothbrush and some toothpaste, because I forgot my toothbrush and my toothpaste. Well, nobody's paying attention to little Chip because the guy down at the other part of the lobby is yelling and screaming about something that he didn't get right in his coffee or something. And I'm sitting here going, "Really?"
This is the way we morphed into society. The person who yells the most and screams the most and does the most is the one that gets attention. I would submit to you – I would love for businesses all across America, when somebody starts yelling and screaming, say, "You know what? Go back to your room. You don't even have to be here. We're going to take care of the people that are nice and courteous."
And if we did that, we could change the way people do customer service and the way life goes on, right? It's like we've forgotten what Solomon says. "A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath."
You turn on TV today and everybody's yelling at everybody. You turn on the radio and everybody's yelling at everybody. So, what happens? Well, if there's harsh words, it stirs up wrath. Well, what's going on in society? A bunch of wrath. But, let me tell you something: We can all clap and applaud like, "Yeah, that's right, man. Those people are yelling and screaming..."
But, let me tell you something. Do you know where that starts? It starts with you and me. It's so easy to look at everybody else and tell them what to do. And the church is guilty of this. We're so good at telling everybody what to do, but we have no solutions. Jesus didn't come to picket. He came to fix. As Christians, if we don't have a solution, we need to zip it. Until we can come with a solution, zip it. And what happens is we've learned, just like the culture of our day, that we're going to yell and scream over everybody else and yell and scream over everybody else. But, it's the gentle answer that turns away anger.
In fact, people that are gentle, they are looked at as weak. And let me tell you something: You can look at me as weak all you want, because I'm going to tell you right now I can tell you where my God works. He works in weakness. He doesn't work in strength. It's in my weakness that His strength and His grace and His power is perfected and manifested.
You can clap. That's good stuff. It's true. We pray as a band every Saturday night. We pray. We come and have a little devotion and we pray before we start off the weekend. And one of the things I say often is that God, through the cracks and fissures of our lives, through the brokenness of us, Your people, shines. Because, that's where He shines. And, oftentimes, we forget this. We don't think about a gentle answer. We don't think about the way that we respond.
And here's the truth: The less weight our words carry, the more volume we usually put behind them. Let me get real and raw again. This is 21-year-old Chip. That's 26 years ago. I used to argue theology. I don't know that anybody could've argued theology more than I argued theology. I'm sure there's people that did it as much, but I was all over it. I mean, I was always fighting and challenging everything, because I thought I knew everything and I didn't know nothing.
I look back now and I'm like, "Man, what an idiot I was."
I mean, I'm 47 now and I've done a lot more education since 21 and it's like I don't know nothing now. I thought I knew everything back then. I'm going to just try to be real and honest with you. I wasn't really trying to teach somebody theology. I was trying to convince myself and those that were listening to me that I knew more than I did. That's what I was really doing. My words carried no weight. That's why I got loud. Oftentimes, in our lives, we find ourselves getting loud. And if we really were honest, you don't know those issues as well as you think you do. You really haven't researched the way you should've researched. You haven't spent hours reading all the different ideas of different things. You might've read a bunch of hours of the same thing that you already believe.
But, the reality is that so often we get loud because our words don't carry weight. The masters, the ones that truly get it, don't yell and scream. They're the ones that just say, "Here it is," and people go, "Wow," because they know those words carry weight. And, oftentimes, we just get loud. The gentle way is the way to be.
In fact, don't let yelling, intimidation and control mask the fact that, oftentimes, we're not dealing with the actual situation. We're dealing with other things rather than the situation. You know, Solomon says it best. He's like, "A fool is the one who gives full vent to his anger, but it's the wise person that can hold it in check. It's the wise person that is gentle."
Fifthly, what do I do when conflict arises? I need to realize the power of focus. That the things that I see – like, when I look at somebody and I'm mad at them and there's tension in my life and the more I think about that the more negative I get and the more I don't like them. But, when I look at them and say, "This is a person that has a mom and a dad that loves them. This is a person that God cares about. This is a person that has dignity and value," my focus changes.
Because, here's the reality: What we see is what we want to see. And none of us really want to admit that, but that's the truth. You know, we used to sit around. My family, as one time, owned several assisted living facilities. My brother still does. He owns multiple ones. One of the things that you'd always hear CNAs and LPNs and ARNPs say is, "Well, sometimes the elderly just want to hear what they want to hear."
That's not the elderly. That's all of us. We want to hear what we want to hear. We want to see what we want to see. Let me show you how this is so effective to understand this truth of the way we focus is the way we can sort of see the way things go.
There was an online professor. It was a lady. She taught a class. It was the first online class she ever taught. And it didn't go very well. There were all kinds of problem with the class. So, she got her class together in person and said, "I want to go over some things and ask you some questions."
She brought in some friends that were professors as well. The first question she asked them was, "Give me some feedback about the ways that the online learning experience could be improved."
All of a sudden, everybody started saying, "This isn't right and this isn't right. You didn't have this, this and this."
They were putting all this stuff up on sticky notes all across the room. It was just getting deeper and people were getting more mad, more mad, more mad and frustrated and everything. One of the professors leaned over to this lady and was like, "Look, I would strangle some of these kids if they were my kids," because it just got really nasty.
Well, after they got done with that gripe session, she asked the second question: How could the online learning experience build on what worked best? Based on the things that happened that were good, what could we do to make that better? And, all of a sudden, the whole tenure of the room changed. Everybody started coming up with great ideas and really being passionate about helping learn and everything else. So, we went from one to another as that went on.
The professor asked, "What did you learn with the two lists?"
A young lady in the back, these were her exact words, "The first list has important feedback for the college, but it took all of our power away and made it your problem to fix. It grew into a gripe session that didn't feel very good."
Listen to this though:
"The second list reminds me that we have a lot of control over our own learning and our own experience, and it feels terrific to take some of the responsibility and power back."
See, the focus changed. The focus wasn't "it's all your problem and it's all you" because, see, when that happens, when it's all on your spouse, your boss, the person at work that you don't like or whatever issue it is, what happens is you just continue to focus and that becomes more negative and you dislike them more and more and more and more and more. But, when you turn around and say, "Hey, this is an opportunity to work here. This is an opportunity for God to do something great. This is an opportunity for me to look within. This is an opportunity for me to grow. This is an opportunity for a relationship to be changed."
All of a sudden, the focus changes everything. And Paul tells us this in 2 Corinthians. He says, "We don't give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory."
Now, look up here and listen to what Paul says:
"We do not focus on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Can you imagine in the areas of conflict in our life if rather than looking at what we see, we decided to see it as an opportunity for eternity? As an opportunity to really see something godly happen? You say, "What do I do in conflict?"
Jesus first. He's got to be first. I've got to get the log out of my own eye, because some of this conflict may be really my own stuff. Maybe I need to wait a little bit and be a little bit more patient. Maybe I really need to be gentle in some of the things that I do. Maybe I really do need to look at what I focus at. And I believe with all of my heart if we would adopt those "whats" in our lives, we would see so much more transformation in everything. And do you know who is the one that would ultimately get transformed the most? You and me. We become something different. We become more like Jesus. And the more we become like Jesus, man, the more people are going to want what you have.
And I would challenge all of us to do what my dad did. I was probably 14 years old and I was really mad this day out in the driveway. My dad saw how mad I was. He said, "Chip, come here. Let's take a walk. The thing you're mad at, what do you think that's going to be like in a week? How about a month from now? How about five years from now? How about thirty-three years from now?"
I don't even remember what I was mad at. I don't even remember who I was mad at. All I remember was the conversation my dad had with me. And I really believe, with all of my heart, if we would say, "Jesus, I just want to look like You. I want to follow You. Lord, You've given me all the things that pertain to life and godliness. I want to cling to You. I want to live out the things that You have birthed in me. I want to look like You in everything that I do."
I think that you and I would see such a change in the areas in conflict in our life that it would be revolutionary for us and for other people around us, for our church and for our community.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the wonderful people here at Grace. I say it often, Lord, and You know that I mean it: I feel like the most fortunate person in the world to get to do what I do. I love this church and I love these people.
Lord, I pray that You would take the stumbling and bumbling of a young man that was born in Kentucky and somehow use my words for Your glory so that Your people could be equipped. Lord, I believe that we live in a world today that is ripe for people to look like Jesus. I believe we live in a world, Lord, where there's conflict that could be defused and lives could be changed and transformed.
Help us, Lord, to be those people as we draw closer to You and trust in Your grace and Your Spirit to lead us in all that we do. And Lord, lastly, I pray for every father that's in here today. I pray that they would have a great day. I pray that they would know that they are loved. And Lord, I pray that they would walk out of here and just, for the rest of the day, it'd be a great day for them.
Lord, as we leave here today, watch over us and protect us, lead and guide us. Bring us back safety to when we meet again and help us to bring a few people along with us and help us, Lord, to continue to be a church that's doing our best to be Your presence in Lakewood Ranch for Your glory. In Jesus' name we pray, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Happy Father's Day.