Joel Osteen — Keep Strife Out of Your Life
I want to talk to you today about keeping strife out of your life. One of the biggest challenges we all face is getting along with people, because everyone is different. We have different personalities, different temperaments, we come from different backgrounds, and when somebody doesn't agree with us, or they do something we don't like, it's easy to get in conflict with them, and argue, and try to straighten them out, prove our point. Mad at each other, living offended. There's stress, tension in the home.
What's happened? We've allowed strife in. Strife is a spirit just like peace is a spirit. You've walked into a place before, you don't know anybody, you've never been there, but you can feel the tension in the room. In the atmosphere, there's stress, discord. Nobody said anything, but you know something is not right. That's the spirit of strife, and if we would see it as the destructive force that it is, we would be more careful about allowing it in our lives. After all, it's easy to argue, especially with those closest to you. Let's be real, your spouse can get on your nerves. You love the man, you can't live without him. Sometimes you feel like choking him.
A reporter asked Billy Graham if he'd ever thought about divorce. He said, "Divorce no, but murder yes". Well, when we let our guard down and say things that are hurtful, that's not only damaging the relationship, that's opening the door to strife. That's inviting that destructive spirit into our life. That's why the scripture says give no place to the enemy.
Strife can't just come in when it wants, bring division, disharmony, tear relationships apart. We have to open the door, and I'm not saying that we should never have an argument, never say a wrong word. That's not reality. But when it comes a part of who we are, it becomes common, we're constantly arguing, fighting, being disrespectful, that Jesus said in Mark chapter 3, "A home filled with strife and division destroys itself". If you allow the spirit of relationships, tear apart your marriage, your family. I've seen lifelong friendships destroyed over one disagreement. That's strife doing what it does best.
Well, you say, "Joel, my co-worker wouldn't be disrespectful to me. I wouldn't argue if my spouse wouldn't push my buttons. That's why we fight all the time". No, you have to be the bigger person. Just because somebody is doing wrong doesn't mean that's the spirit of strife baiting you, saying, "Come on, let me in. Argue, fight, be disrespectful". Don't take the bait. It takes a mature person to overlook an offense and say, "No, I'm not taking that bait. I'm staying in peace". It takes maturity to apologize even when it wasn't your fault.
If you're going to keep strife out, you have to get good at walking away when everything in you says to let them have it. There will be times when you know you're right, the other person is being disrespectful, they're not telling the truth. But for the sake of peace, you let it go. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers". He didn't say, "Blessed are the people who are right". Sometimes you have to let the other person think they're right even when you know they're wrong. We think, "Well, if I'm right, I'm not going to back down. I'm going to prove to them that I'm right. I'm going to win this battle". Can I tell you being right is overrated? You can be right and be miserable. You can be right and sleep on the couch. You can be right your whole life and have nobody at your funeral. You can prove your point, always win the battle, but you don't realize it's damaging your relationships.
Victoria and I don't always agree. One of my strengths is I won't argue. Things start to get a little heated, I walk away. It takes two people to fight. You don't have to engage. I would rather have peace than have my way. I would rather have a loving, kind, fun atmosphere in my home than to win the battle, but be so miserable I don't want to be there.
I've learned if you'll let God do it his way, he'll change what needs to be changed. God is the potter. We can't change people, only God can. These are tests that we must pass. Will you stay on the high road and bite your tongue, even when you feel like telling somebody off? Will you put your ego down and let somebody else be right, even when you know they're wrong?
The scripture says, "One can chase 1,000, but two can put 10,000 to flight". When you're in unity, the favor on your life is increased. You are ten times more powerful when this means you have ten times the strength to withstand attacks, to overcome obstacles. You can accomplish dreams ten times bigger, ten times more rewarding. You will go so much further if you will keep unity in your home, and some of the obstacles you can't seem to overcome, the doors that are not opening, it may be because you're operating with the strength of one, there's strife and division. You need the ten times power to reach the fullness of your destiny, and that person God put in your life is not just there for companionship. There is a spiritual force released when you live in peace and harmony.
When Victoria and I first got married, like all couples, we had to work through some things. The scripture says the two shall become one. You don't become overnight. It takes some time. Twenty-eight years later, I'm still training her... I mean, she's still training me. But we made a decision early on in our relationship that we were going to keep it didn't happen automatically. We're two different people, have two different ways of doing things. We had to grow together, make allowances, and overlook some things. Had we not stayed on the offensive and work to keep strife out, not only would we not still be together, but we wouldn't be where we are.
When we were believing for this place, it was going to take more than just my faith. I needed that ten times power. This dream was so big, the only way it could be accomplished is for somebody else to come into agreement. Says in psalms, "Where there's unity, there is a commanded blessing on your life". That's when you'll accomplish things that you could not accomplish on your own. If we realized what we were giving up by allowing all these petty things to tear us apart, strife, discord, being at odds with each other, if we really saw how that was holding us back, we would work overtime to keep peace in our life.
God has big things in your future, but it's going to take more than just your faith. You're going to need the ten times power that comes from having unity in your home. Think about what your children can accomplish when you are in agreement with your spouse, ten times the influence, ten times creativity, ten times the power. This is one of the things that holds us back. It's not our lack of talent, education, the background we come from. It's the fact that we're operating on one-tenth the power.
What would happen if you would draw the line in the sand and say, "That's it, from this day forward, I'm keeping strife out of my life. No more arguing, no more saying disrespectful things. I'm staying on the high road. I'm not allowing division, discord, tension in my home. I'm going to be a peacemaker". Release the ten times power, favor, increase, blessing like you've never seen. "Well, Joel, if I don't stand up for myself, if I don't tell people what I think, that's going to make me look weak". It's just the opposite.
When you go the extra mile to keep strife out of your home, that's not being weak, that's a sign of strength. The most mature person is the one that walks away from the argument. The most mature person is not always the one that's right, you know what arguing and having to be right really boils down to? Pride. "I'm not going to let them get the best of me". You have to put your ego down and say, "I'd rather have peace in my life. I would rather have the ten times blessing than just being right".
This couple I know had been trying to have a baby for many years with no success, and the lady took the infertility treatments, and they were praying, believing, doing everything they could, but still no child. One day, the man was flying home from India. He's a minister, and he'd been over there teaching the people. He was very discouraged. Sitting on the flight all alone, he said under his breath, "God, it's not fair. I'm over here doing what you've asked me to do. Why won't you give us a baby? God, I don't understand why we can't have a child," and God said something back to him, not out loud, but in his spirit. He said, "Son, you're not going to have treating your wife better".
And he was a good man, he loved the Lord. When you'd see him out in public, they seemed as happy as can be. But deep down, he knew he wasn't treating his wife the way he should be. Wasn't anything big, just little things. He had become disrespectful, saying things that he knew he shouldn't say, become argumentative. Where he used to overlook things, let it go, now he'd become hard to get along with, unfriendly, not putting any effort into the relationship. The good news is he was willing to change. He took it to heart, he made the adjustments.
A couple of years later, his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter. Maybe, like my friend, your best in this area. You drifted down the wrong path. God is not here to condemn us, to make us feel bad about ourselves, but he will convict us and challenge us to come up higher. Condemnation pushes us down. Conviction is there to push us up. But we have to do like my friend and say, "Okay, I'm willing to change. I can make some adjustments".
Now, don't sit here and think, "Boy, I wish my husband would have come today. He really needs this". No, God has the right people here. Don't ask how God can change somebody else. Look inside and say, "God, how can I change? How can I get along better with people"? Or maybe, "God, what am I doing that's keeping my spouse and I from that ten times blessing? What am I doing that's going to make it harder on my children, passing down things that are going to hold them back"? What we're modeling in our homes is the way our children are going to treat people they get in relationship with.
Mothers, if you want your son to have a healthy, loving relationship with his wife, then you have to sow a seed by treating your husband in a loving, healthy way. Fathers, if you want your daughter to be treated with respect and honor like the queen that she is, then make sure you're treating your wife like the queen that she is, with respect and honor. That means not saying everything you feel like saying, not pushing the buttons, not allowing the spirit of strife in your home. If you don't do it for your children, do it to make it easier on those that come after you.
A lot of times, we think, "I'll change when they change. When he starts treating me better, then I'll be nice to him. Joel, when she stops nagging me, then I'll be friendly again". No, here's the key. That makes the first move. God will reward you in a greater way if you'll take the first step. Pride will tell you, "Don't do it, they don't deserve it. I'm not going to treat them right when they're treating me wrong". You're not just doing it for them, you're doing it unto God. You're not just saying, "I approve your behavior. It's okay to treat me this way".
You're saying, "God, I know the importance of keeping strife out of my life, and even though I don't like this, I'm going to stay on the high road and be a peacemaker, knowing that you will make it up to me". But human nature says they treat us. You want to be disrespectful, two people can play at that game. You want to be argumentative, unfriendly, sarcastic? You've met your match, let's go. All that's going to do is make matters worse.
God brought the people it's not an accident. It's a part of his divine plan. No person is perfect. We all have flaws and weaknesses. If you blow that person off because of their issues, the problem is the next person you get in relationship with will have some kind of issues as well, something to get on your nerves.
You have to learn this principle to rise above it and keep strife out of your home. You can be the difference-maker. When you honor your spouse, when you treat them with respect even when they don't deserve it, that's what causes them to come up higher, not arguing, being disrespectful, pushing them down. It's like you're pouring water into a jar with a small cork in it. The more water you pour, the higher that cork will rise. Your spouse is the cork. Your honor is the water. The more honor you pour in, the higher your spouse will rise.
Jesus said, "A house divided is continually being brought to destruction and will not stand". When we allow strife in our life, something is happening. We're continually going down, our relationships, our dreams, our attitudes, our energy. You will make better decisions if you'll get rid of the discord. You will be more creative, more productive, more successful if you'll take these steps to keep peace in your home. Where there's unity, God's blessing, his favor, his anointing is on your life, your marriage, your career, your finances.
There is power in agreement. There's power when you rise up and say, "I'm going to do everything I can to keep unity in my home. My spouse may be argumentative, my children may be hard to get along with, but as for me, I'm going to be a peacemaker". Let me tell you, one peacemaker is more powerful than a dozen troublemakers. Have such an anointing on it, it will break the forces that are trying to tear your family apart.
Years ago, Victoria and I went on a bike ride with our two children. Jonathan was 8 years old, and he was riding his own bike, and Alexandra was 5, behind me on my bike. Now, I'd had a long day, and I was kind of irritated at something Victoria had done. Was no big deal, just a small thing, but I chose to hold onto it, magnify it, and let it sour me. You know how sometimes it feels good to be ticked off, and I knew it wasn't right, but the flesh loves to have its way, and I remember thinking, "I'm not in a good mood. You aggravated me. I'm miserable. I'm going to make your life miserable".
You know what I was doing? Opening the door to trouble. I was inviting that destructive strife into our life. James 3 says where there's strife, there will be discord, confusion, and trouble. So, we were out riding on this bike trail, but the tension was so think, you could cut it with a knife. I was giving Victoria the cold shoulder treatment, not friendly, not talkative, just she said, "How was your day"? "Fine". "Something wrong"? "Nothing's wrong". "Why you being unfriendly"? "I'm not being unfriendly".
I was just being hard to get along with. Now, don't look at me like I'm the only one that's ever done this. Going to let you confess your sins next. Jonathan wasn't real sure of riding his bike, he'd just been doing it for a little while, and we were on this 5-foot wide bike trail. I looked up, about 100 yards in front of me, there was this biker coming toward us full speed. He looked like a professional, like he was in training, and I said, "Jonathan, buddy, stay over to the side. This man is coming really, really fast," and Jonathan got over, and he was doing fine.
But when the man got close to us, Jonathan looked at him and veered right into his path. They had this huge head-on collision. Jonathan went flying off his bike, and the other man tumbling over in the grass, and I jumped off my bike as fast as I could, and I thought for sure he had broken arms, broken legs. His whole bike frame was bent. Thankfully, all he had were scrapes and bruises. Both he and the other man were fine.
As I was walking back to the car, carrying his bike, I felt this impression in here saying, "Joel, you opened the door to his trouble. It could have been avoided if you would have kept the strife out". That's what the scripture says. When we allow strife, it opens the door to unnecessary trouble. There will be conflicts, disappointments, setbacks that we didn't have to encounter.
Don't be stubborn like I was. We have enough battles to fight in life where we don't have a choice. Don't make it harder on yourself by opening the door to trouble. Matthew 5 in the amplified says, "Blessed are the makers and maintainers of peace". We know what it means to make peace. We make up after an argument. We apologize, forgive, move forward, that's important. But we need to be more aware about maintaining our peace. That means you stay on the high road, you bite your tongue, you let things go, I've found it's much easier to maintain your peace than to have to always try to make peace. Victoria aggravated me that day, big deal, she's human.
There's not another person alive that you're in relationship will not irritate you, offend you, hurt you, or get on your nerves. Instead of being upset every time things don't go your way, being argumentative, giving them the cold shoulder, why don't you try this new approach and start maintaining your peace? Don't open the door to strife. When you go the extra mile to keep unity in your home, you will not only have God's blessing and favor because of the power of agreement, but you will have his protection. He'll keep you from unnecessary trouble. This can save a marriage today. It can save a relationship. It's not always big things, sometimes just a small thing. If you will make they can make major improvements.
Proverbs 20 says, "Avoiding a fight is a Mark of honor". Sometimes we think winning a fight is a mark of honor. We come back after an argument, give ourselves a high five, and think, "Boy, I let them have it. I showed her who was boss". That's not really winning. You fed your ego, you made yourself feel good, but it didn't strengthen the relationship. You may have won in one sense, but what did it cost you? How much damage was done? When we say hurtful words, when we're disrespectful, the way to really win is to avoid it, to stay on the high road, to walk away. That's a mark of honor. This takes humility.
Pride will tell you, "Have the last word. Stay at it, let them have it". That verse goes on to say, "Only a fool loves to argue," and instead of thinking about how you can win the argument, strategizing what you're going to say, spend that same time thinking about how you're going to avoid the argument, and I'm not saying to not address issues, but there's a right way and there's a right time. You should do it calmly, express your concerns, and then leave it there.
If it starts to get heated, disrespectful, that's the time to walk away. If you'll do it God's way, he'll fight your battles. He'll change what needs to be changed. Plus, we need to ask ourselves, what am I arguing over? Is it worth it? Sometimes we argue over petty things that, in the big picture, they don't really matter.
You may have seen on the news a professional football player punched his teammate, the quarterback, and broke his jaw. He was upset because he had purchased a $600 ticket for the quarterback to come to his event, and the quarterback wasn't able to make it. Instead of handing it the right way, he let his emotions take over, led to this fight. When the coaches found out, he was immediately dismissed from the team. He lost his multi-million dollar contract. He led a $600 offense cost him several million dollars.
While we may not lose millions from an argument, we can lose something even more valuable: the people God has put in our lives. Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, it's easy to get at odds, let little things build up, say hurtful things here, argue there, disrespectful. One day you look up and they're not there anymore. Don't take the people in your life for granted. Are you treating them with respect and honor? Do they feel treasured, valued, loved? Or are you hard to get along with, unfriendly, argumentative?
Friends, life is too short to live that way. Where there's disharmony, you're weakened. You won't reach your highest potential, and I'm asking you today to be a maker and a maintainer of peace. Do what you can to keep the atmosphere in your home loving, friendly, kind. Be a person of honor and avoid the fight. Remember, one can chase 1,000, two can put 10, 000 if you'll keep strife out, because there's unity in your home, I believe and declare you're going to see that ten times blessing. God is going to increase you with more wisdom, more favor. You will accomplish dreams and reach the fullness of your destiny. In Jesus' name.