Beware of the Spirit of Strife

By Francis Frangipane

One does not have to do an exhaustive search to become aware of the spirit of strife that is rampant in our world. Whether we look at the strife between Iraq and the U.S. or look at the conflicts between Israel and the Arab world, our world is churning with strife. Consider the ranting of North Korea or the unrest in South America, Columbia, Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela. Not since WW2 has Europe been more deeply divided: Germany, France, Belgium and Russia on one side and England, Spain, Italy and the Balkans on the other. Pakistan and India are ready to duel to the nuclear death. There are terror uprisings, civil wars and rebellion in the Philippines, Chechen, North and Central Africa, and many other places. Our world is just as Jesus forewarned, "nation [has risen] against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Matt. 24:7).

Yet we need not be familiar with world events to be personally affected with this invasion of strife. The church itself has had so much conflict that many now identify the ability to create division as a courageous and honorable virtue. Even the home is not safe, as we see divorce rates in the Western World have skyrocketed over the past 40 years. And who is unfamiliar with the phenomenal breakdown of families?

Strife has had a way of touching us all. Beloved, we must recognize that there is a war raging against relationships. It is hitting on all levels, and the sooner we deal with this fact, the quicker we can win our war against it.

Origin of Strife
There are many sources that contribute to strife: personal ambitions, jealousies and fear, to name a few. In fact, James tells us that, "where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16). To look with jealousy upon a role that belongs to someone else creates a world of "disorder and every evil thing." David, though anointed as king twice by Samuel, never sought the place of King Saul; John the Baptist, though greatest of the prophets, never was jealous for the ministry of Jesus.

James tells us that the strife engendered by jealousy and selfish ambition is "earthly, natural, and demonic" (Jam 3:15). To overcome strife, we must therefore recognize the two primary fronts upon which strife advances: our flesh nature and the demonic realm, and the demonic will manipulate the flesh in every way it can.

To repel this attack, it is vital we seek humility. We are all vulnerable to deception. The ability of the enemy to deceive, frankly, is astonishing. Remember that Lucifer deceived one third of the angels, convincing them they could win a war against their Creator! These very angels had seen galaxies roll out from the mouth of God, yet they were seduced into deep deception. To assume we cannot be deceived is itself deception. So we must learn to be "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" (James 1:19). Indeed, to maintain a humble heart before the Lord is the best weapon we can have before our enemy.

Job 41:15 reveals that the "scale" that protect Satan (called Leviathan in this chapter) are made of pride. Pride is what "protects" Lucifer and keeps him from repenting, and it is pride in us that protects us from repenting as well. What if Adam had just admitted he was wrong instead of blaming Eve? What if Eve simply said, "I'm sorry," instead of blaming the devil? So much of the separation of relationships in our world comes because we simply are too proud to admit we were wrong. To be able to say, "I was wrong, please forgive me," is to eliminate much strife.

Additionally, many quarrels occur because we misunderstand each another or falsely judge based on insufficient information. Pride paralyzes our wrong perceptions. Instead of the peace of Christ guiding and protecting us, we react in the flesh to our environment. A quarrel is often nothing more than a misunderstanding manipulated by the devil until two reactions harden into walls around our hearts.

" The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out" (Prov. 17:14). Strife is like the "letting out of water." Once water pours onto the soil, it is impossible to retrieve or undo. Thus Solomon warns, "abandon the quarrel." There may be another time when things are calm, when you can sit down in peace and discuss what happened, but nothing positive is accomplished in a heated argument.

Yet, there is still another component to deception and strife. Isaiah 27:1 speaks of the serpent, again calling him "Leviathan." But here he is identified as "the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent" (English Standard Version). Isaiah calls the devil the "twisting serpent." I have personally been amazed how words spoken can somehow get twisted between my mouth and someone's ears. Sometimes people are certain of something I've said and I am just as positive something totally different left my mouth. Has that ever happened to you? Satan is a "twisting serpent." We should be aware that both the speaker and hearer may be accurately representing what was said and heard, but that a twisting spirit has stood between two (or more) people to divide them.

If this is the case, stay calm and simply repeat what you just said. Pray with your companions and take authority over the enemies" involvement. Whatever you do, do not react wrongly to one another. Leonard Ravenhill once said, "If your enemy has a social security number, you have the wrong enemy." We often think that the fruit of the Spirit, "self-control," refers to not eating two gallons of chocolate ice cream, but it is more than that. The Spirit can control our mind and emotions, our reactions and insecurities. The Holy Spirit's fruit is called "self-control." Indeed, the Bible tells us the "God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet"(Rom. 16:20).

As we stand on the brink of war, which is strife taken to the extreme, let us purpose to do spiritual war against strife on all levels. After 9-11, considering all the responses available, the USA has shown remarkable restraint in executing justice against terrorism. The rebuilding works in Afghanistan, the efforts to establish an open government and justice, and the billions of dollars poured in to rebuild a nation that had been instrumental in the attack against the U.S. was, in my opinion, divine guided justice.

Therefore, let us pray against strife on all levels, especially as tensions mount. Remember also, Satan rages when he knows his time is short (Rev. 12). If we can keep ourselves from reacting wrongly at the increase of conflict, we will find greater breakthroughs awaiting us on all levels.