Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 13: Meet Conflict Head On

I think most of us want to avoid conflict in our lives, right? I mean, life is so much easier without having arguments, hurt feelings, and inconvenient problems. You ever come home and you walk into a fight between two of your family members? Or ever go to work and there’s just a problem that is unresolved, and so the tension keeps building and building over days, weeks or months, and it makes going to work even harder?
Just before I came to Quartzsite over a decade ago, I was working on building the Elephant Bar restaurant in Stockton, California. It was an interesting job, with soffits, hanging ceilings, full height and short walls. Nothing that our company hadn’t done a thousand times before. But there was two parts of the job that was really hard. First, they wanted a dome ceiling, but the plans didn’t describe how that ceiling was to be built, so my dad and I took the whole course of the job to figure it out. The second part that made the job hard, was the superintendent. He was the stereotypical loud mouth, construction worker, that knew everything, but couldn’t explain to you how to do it, so he just walked off after telling you to get it right.
It was also on this job that I got my first taste of leadership on a job site. At the time, our company only employed four metal stud framers. My and and me, his friend and his friend’s son. Towards the end of the job, my dad and his friend took their wives on vacation, and left me, and my dad’s friend’s son for two weeks.
Growing up I had worked summers in construction, and at the time, I had worked for almost two years full-time. The friend’s son had been working about a year, but this was the first time we had been partnered up and left alone. And those two weeks felt like they would never end. Everyday the superintendent would come in and complain that the company left two apprentices on his job without supervision. He’d yell for a bit and then we wouldn’t see him for the rest of the day. It got to the point where I didn’t even answer him when he talked to me, because I thought I’d just lose it. And it made going to work even more of a chore than it had been.
But I didn’t lose my temper and my dad came back from his vacation. In those two weeks we had done enough work to finally bring us to our dreaded ceiling. Then one day I lost my cool. It happened while I was on the scissor lift tying to wire the metal “c” channel to make the round. The superintendent came in and and started telling my dad how it was unprofessional that the company left apprentices on the job site, and now they were letting one of the apprentices work on the hardest part of job.
That’s when I lost it, and from my perch, I slammed down the lifts down button and started berating the superintendent. All the man did was stop talking and walk away. The next day I approached him and apologized for my words and actions. But after that, the job site was a lot quieter, and the superintendent was a lot nicer to our company.
After I moved down here, my dad told me that he saw that same superintendent on another job site and the man asked about how I was doing. And to top it all off, when I was dealing with this whole situation, I was leading a small group about being a peacemaker.
The problem was, instead of addressing the conflict in a way that showed Christ to this man, I allowed my anger to build up and the conflict to get worse. Peace eventually came out of it, but only after I allowed myself to blow up. The truth is I don’t like to be in conflict, and so I have always try to avoid it. But I have found that the early I face conflict, the earlier peace comes into my life.

And it’s this idea of being willing to engage conflict early that brings us back to the book of Joshua, where we’ll be picking it up in chapter 14 verse 6. 

And as we return to the book of Joshua and get into chapter 14, let’s talk about where we’re at. Last week we talked about how God spoke to Joshua at the end of his life. God addressed concerns that Joshua might have had about being old, and about what would happen to the people of Israel after he died. God reminded Joshua that he would be with the people of Israel and wouldn’t leave him in the future. But on top of that, God had one last thing for Joshua to do. God instructed Joshua to divide up the land between the nine and a half tribes. And after Joshua did just that, Joshua looked on everything God had done, and proclaimed that God had fulfilled all that he had promised the nation of Israel.
And we noticed that even though the nation still had some work to do in clearing out the land, Joshua realized that God had been with them this time fulling what he said he would do, and Joshua now trusted that God would continue to fulfill his promise. So in Joshua’s mind, God had already accomplished all of his promises because God had been so faithful up to that point. And it’s that type of trust that we said we need, trust that keeps working even when our prayers haven’t been answered yet.

Now this week and in the weeks to come, we’re going to revisit three situations within the eight chapters we covered last week. And we’re going to see three different responses to Joshua’s dividing up of the land. 

So if you have your Bibles, let’s read the first response to Joshua dividing up the land of Canaan in chapter 14 verse 6 of the book of Joshua.

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’
10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)
Then the land had rest from war.

The central figure of this passage is Caleb. Let’s take a quick look at him, because like Joshua, he was an interesting man of God. First, listen to what God says of Caleb in Numbers 14:24, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
Did you catch that, Caleb had a different spirit than that of the other Israelites. Caleb had been one of twelve spies sent in by Moses to investigate the land of Canaan. He was about 40 years old at the time. When he came back, only two of the spies said that the people of Israel could defeat the people in the land. The other spy was Joshua. Whereas the other ten said it couldn’t be done, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones that believed God would lead them into victory. Therefore God allowed these two men to enter the promise land, when all the rest had died off.
So God specifically calls out Caleb from among the Israelites and says he has a different spirit and follows God wholeheartedly, because he trusts God more than others.
This is the man that we just read about. And what I find interesting is that when his name is brought up in the previous books, it’s always in connection with God bringing him into the promise land someday based on his trust of God. We don’t get much about him. We are not told of great battles he fights in. We are not told of his experiences with God. All we’re told is that he had this one moment of trust in God, and from that one moment, God saw fit to bring him into the promise land. And if we didn’t know anything else about Caleb, that could probably be enough. But what we just read about him in verses 6 through 15 gives us an insight into what God calls a different spirit.

Listen again to how he speaks to Joshua starting in verse 10, "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Here’s a guy that, like Joshua, is getting to the end of his life, but he won’t let that stop him. Here’s a guy that knows about the Anakites with their large fortified cities, but he won’t let that stop him either. And the reason why he won’t let it stop him, is because he understands that God will be the one driving the enemies out. Caleb trusts God.

I see Caleb as one of those solid godly men that we look for when we’re looking for elders in this church. Not perfect men, but men who have a quiet and unflinching trust in what God is doing and going to do. Caleb is that quiet, solid, unflinching trusting man who follows God. We don’t hear much about him, but everything we know of him tells us that he was willing go where God would send him, and face down any conflict that was there.
And when I think what he could have said here, his words astound me even more. Caleb could have said, “Joshua bring the whole nation of Israel down to defeat these Anakites. They have big fortified cities and we’ll need every last man to run them out.”
But he didn’t, he knew the task that was before him, and he trusted that God would give his tribe the ability to overcome the mountainous odds that were against them.

Caleb saw the conflict, and instead of cowering in front of it, he stepped out in full faith to face it. And this is what seals the deal for me, the last seven words speak about the end results of Caleb’s trust, “Then the land had rest from war.”

Why did it have rest? Because Caleb trusted God with his age, Caleb trusted God with his people, and Caleb trusted God with the victory. And so Caleb faced the conflict, came away victorious, and there was peace.

This is what I’ve learned from Caleb, to have unwavering faith means when God calls us into conflict, we need to face it rather than try to avoid it.

I look back on that blow up I had with that superintendent. After I asked for forgiveness, the relationship I had with him changed, with him even asking how I was later on. As I read through Caleb’s story, the thought came to my mind, “Jeremiah, what if you had confronted the conflict before it blew up? Could you have shared the Gospel with that man who obviously needed it?”
It’s possible, but even when we mess up, God can still use it, because he works through our weakness. Just because a conflict is not handled well at the beginning, doesn’t mean the battle is lost, but rather we have an opportunity to bring it before God, and have his peace fill the conflict. 

So, as we walk away from Caleb’s story, let us learn to not be afraid of conflict, let us instead face it with the purpose of accomplishing God’s work through it. And when we do that, we can see the peace that God has in store for not only us, but the people, and land around us.
Even when we fail in dealing with conflict or allow it to go on longer than it should, let’s not get into this pit of beating ourselves up, but rather go to God, for his strength in dealing with it. As Caleb himself said, “…but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
God is the peace bringer, and when we rely on him to deal with our conflict that peace can come sooner.

So how do we confront conflict early, and overcome our desire to avoid it. 
First of course we need to go to God in prayer. Communication with God is always the cornerstone of forward movement in our lives. 
Second, we need to develop unwavering trust in God. We do this by doing as Caleb shows us in the passage. Caleb brought up what God had done in the past, and it made him confident for the future conflict. We need to do the same. We need to write down how God has helped us overcome other conflicts, and rejoice in those, because God can do it again. 
Finally, we need to go do it. The Anakites didn’t just walk away, but rather Caleb had to go fight them. We need to confront that person, we need to put up boundaries, or we need to walk whatever path to peace God shows us, confronting conflict on God’s time. Caleb waited until God allowed him to confront the conflict, and at the earliest moment he did just that.

This week I want to challenge you in one of two directions. First, if you have a conflict that you are dealing with right now in your life, stop running from it. Go to God in prayer, ask for the strength, words, and actions needed for you to confront the conflict. Ask that God would be moving to bring people closer to him in the conflict, and seek peace through it.
Second if you’re not dealing with conflict right now, you soon will be. Begin to prepare for that conflict by going to God and being of a different spirit like Caleb was. That means asking God to give you the pure focus on him so that you will not shy away from conflict when it comes.

And let us use conflict as a way to point others towards Jesus. Because the cross itself was the point of conflict, to which Jesus went willingly to bring us peace. Let us be carriers of the cross to people, so that they too can have the peace of Jesus in their lives. Amen.

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