Strife, conflict, and contention destroy many marriages and relationships. They usually result from envy and competition, which stem from our attempts to meet our needs for significance through the flesh. The Bible provides an answer for this all-too-common problem. We find our model for overcoming strife and contention in the story of Gideon. Midian, the tribe of people who are the ancestors of today’s Arabs, literally means, “strife.”
1. When strife and contentions come, everyone wants to hide. They are usually the result of the evil that occurs when people attempt to get their needs met at the expense of others.
Jud 6:1. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: [and] because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which [are] in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
2. Strife and contention will destroy our increase and the sustenance of life.
Jud 6:3 And [so] it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites (Strife) came up, and the Amalekites (the flesh), and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
3. When strife comes, it multiplies and brings many other problems with it. It eventually impoverishes all that it touches.
Jud 6:5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; [for] both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. 6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
Jas 3:16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
4. Strife results from struggles for prominence and from disobeying God. The Israelites were worshipping the gods of the Amorites, which stand for prominence.
Jud 6:10 And I said unto you, I [am] the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
5. Many times we give up, blame God for not helping and just try to hide from the strife in our lives. Oak trees stand for bitterness of death. Ophrah means, “fawn.” Joash means, “given by God.” Abinezer means, “my father is help” or “will meet my needs.” Gideon means “feller, hewer or warrior.” Consequently, I believe this verse is trying to tell us that where there should have been new life (fawn) given by God to provide for his needs, even Gideon, the warrior, was hiding to avoid the destruction that strife brings.
Jud 6:11. And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which [was] in Ophrah, that [pertained] unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide [it] from the Midianites.
6. God sees us as capable of beating strife and contention in our lives with His help.
Jud 6:12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD [is] with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
7. God wants us to do something about it.
Jud 6:14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
8. Winning over strife will require a sacrifice on our part that is acceptable to God.
Jud 6:19 And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought [it] out unto him under the oak, and presented [it].
9. Trusting Jesus to meet our needs is the answer to peace in our lives.
Jud 6:23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace [be] unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom (God is my peace): unto this day it [is] yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
10. The first step to overcome strife is that we must tear down the idols in our lives that have been passed down to us. Most of us have fallen into the trap of competing with others to get our needs met. It is this whole set of premises concerning the “rat race” of life that must be thrown down.
Jud 6:25. And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that [is] by it: 26. And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
11. When we believe that everything we need is given by God, our idols lose their power.
Jud 6:31 And Joash (Gideon’s father) said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst [it is yet] morning: if he [be] a god, let him plead for himself, because [one] hath cast down his altar. 32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
12. Strife and the flesh are allies.
Jud 6:33. Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites (the flesh) and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.
13. We must declare, according to God’s Word, that we can overcome strife in our lives. When we decide to do God’s will and put an end to strife, we will find allies in all those who truly want peace.
Jud 6:34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet (usually stands for declaring God’s word); and Abiezer (my father is help –those who have faith) was gathered after him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh (causing to forget – those who want to put strife behind them); who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher (those who want to be happy), and unto Zebulun (those who want to be exalted of God), and unto Naphtali (those who are willing to wrestle things out and win); and they came up to meet them.
14. To win, we must be convinced that God will bless what He calls us to do with or without regard to what others do. God’s methods for overcoming strife require us to do what is right unilaterally. We must know that He will bless what we do to stop strife, with or without the cooperation of others. We must also know that even if we fail, God will still bring an end to strife through what other people do. Consequently, we are assured of victory because it is God Who will help us either way.
Jud 6:36 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, 37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool (God’s work through Gideon) in the floor (real world); [and] if the dew (grace) be on the fleece only, and [it be] dry upon all the earth (human efforts of others) [beside], then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. 38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water (life). 39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece (if his works for God failed), and upon all the ground (human efforts of others) let there be dew (grace). 40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
15. Fearful people cannot overcome strife. Fear is the opposite of faith.
Jud 7:3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever [is] fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
16. Those who desperately seek to meet their needs cannot overcome strife. We must believe that God will meet our needs in order to love others, in spite of what they do.
Jug 7:5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. 6 And the number of them that lapped, [putting] their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: (not desperate to drink water) but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. 7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the [other] people go every man unto his place.
17. We need to speak what God says—that He has and will meet all our needs in all circumstances. The sword stands for the Word of God. We need to declare to ourselves what God says about strife. Confession reflects and strengthens our faith.
Jud 7:16. And he divided the three hundred men [into] three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. 17 And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be [that], as I do, so shall ye do. 18 When I blow with a trumpet (speak God’s truth), I and all that [are] with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, [The sword] of the LORD, and of Gideon.
18. The best time for intervention is after a crisis, when things are darkest (the middle watch) and when circumstances are changing.
Jud 7:19 So Gideon, and the hundred men that [were] with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that [were] in their hands.
19. We must break our pattern of actions, not take what others do personally and let the light of the Spirit show forth.
Jud 7:20 And the three companies blew the trumpets (spoke God’s truth), and brake the pitchers (died to our way of doing things and taking things personally), and held the lamps in their left (a new way of doing things) hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow [withal]: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
20. We do not overcome strife by fighting, but only by doing what is right and standing our ground in faith.
Jud 7:20 And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. 21 And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, [and] to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath. 23. And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.
21. We can use our past failures and negative emotions to set our resolve to never again give in to the temptation to live in strife. Ephraim again stands for the emotions of shame from our past life of strife. This shame can be used to overcome the temptation to have strife even with evil people and the devil himself.
Jud 7:24 And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim (double ash heap or shame of the past), saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. 25 And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb (raven - evil people) upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb (wolf - the devil) they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.
Steps for Overcoming Strife
1. We need to tear down our idols—the things we depend on instead of God. It is our attempts to meet our own needs that lead to strife.
2. Be absolutely convinced God will meet every need.
3. We need to enlist a small number of dedicated, Christian people of courage to stand with us (a support group).
4. Decide to take a stand, even when others are fearful after a crisis.
5. Declare what God says—that He will meet all our needs and will give us peace.
6. Change how we act (break the vessel of the flesh). Use quiet, loving boundaries, not conflict.
7. Live it! (Show our light) Use love, kindness and assertiveness.
8. Stand our ground. If we do what is right without regard to what others do, God will give us peace.
9. We can use our past failures to strengthen our resolve to never again give into the temptation to live in strife.