1 Cor 16:8,9 “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
How do you handle conflict? I realize that many smart people tell us that conflict is a positive thing: it pushes issues to the forefront that would otherwise remain stewing in our internal crock pots. Yes, I understand…but I still don’t like conflict. I am embarrassed to confess that I will often remain silent or even acquiesce in order to avoid conflict. Not good. So this post is an attempt at kicking myself in the appropriate spot in order to grow a backbone. “Joe…listen up!”
When Paul wrote the above verses, he was planning a trip to Corinth, but decided to stay in Ephesus because of the two polarities he was confronting: opportunity and adversaries. For Paul, they were one in the same; the gospel not only produces conflict but flourishes because of adversaries. Paul’s message created quite a stir in Ephesus; because the new believers could not in good conscience continue to support the purchase of silver idols, the silversmiths saw their profits nosedive and therefore organized an angry mob set on doing Paul in. (Acts 19:23-41)
Paul loved it. Was he a masochist? Of course not. He was literally a man on a mission…a mission which produced conflict.
How about you? Do you believe so strongly in anything that you will continue to stand even when standing alone? I am not talking about some martyr complex nor am I suggesting hard headedness for the sake of being hard headed. The opposition is not the issue; the belief is. I would assert that such conviction must be rooted in your very core values, and I would hope that those core values are for good and not evil.
Biographer William Manchester writes about Winston Churchill at a time during WW II when England was weak and ready to collapse, “If anyone is going to rally England, it must be someone who is ruthless for the good. If England is to survive, indeed if civilization is to survive, there must be a man who would rise to face Hitler with a voracity for freedom greater than Hitler’s voracity for evil.” Manchester pauses, then proceeds again with this single sentence, “In London there was such a man.”
Churchill himself said, “No other generation had the opportunity to fight for a foe quite like this. This is not a burden on us. It is a privilege if we understand it. It is our battle – not just ours to win or to lose – but to take. Surrender is not an option.”
I ask again, “How about you? Are you, like Churchill, ruthless for good? Do you have a voracity for good? Is conflict a privilege? Is surrender an option?”
I stated previously that this post is an intended self therapy. How did it go? Very well. I am inspired to be more like Paul and Churchill. These two men were so focused on their respective missions that their adversaries, no matter how powerful, were never deterrents. I am hereby resolving to focus on the mission God has given me, to stand for my convictions and to stay on task when conflicts arise. I want to be ruthless for good.