When your strengths become your weaknesses
Key Principle #8: conflict Resolution
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, (Grecians-KJV) because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
In anything, even in Christianity, there will be conflict. When there is a problem, go to the source and address it. Don’t gripe about it. Always remember, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Previous to Acts chapter 6, one of the greatest strengths of the church was its unity. However, here it is division that is causing the problem.
Hellenists were those who did not speak the Hebrew language as well or at all; in this case, they were Greek Christian converts. The widows were apparently being neglected in distribution of food. Maybe Meals on Wheels didn’t go by that part of the membership in the church’s distribution. Whatever was the problem, it apparently stemmed from racial or religious prejudices and an apparent lingering on of legalistic taboos from Judaism and not eating with the Gentiles.
Satan doesn’t always attack us in our weaknesses. Sometimes he attacks us in our strengths, and that was true in the early church and true today; just look at the proliferation of churches and denominations. Even after a church splits or a denomination is formed, it is not long before that congregation becomes involved in some turmoil.
Some people have left the church altogether because of conflict. But even that is not the solution to conflict, it is merely avoidance. In fact, avoidance of conflict and dropping out of the church is perhaps the worst type of response to conflict. One person humorously spoke about the old adage of conflict within marriage: “Don’t go to bed mad, stay up and fight—it’s much more fun!”
Having had my full share of conflict within marriage and within churches, I strongly disagree that it is more fun, but it is healthier to work through conflict. The resolution of conflict and not the absence of conflict is truly the mark of God’s presence in the church, and it is a key principle in church life and personal discipleship.
After Peter, we see the next leader in the church was James, the half-brother of Christ. The problem of conflict did not go away after Acts chapter 6, and as almost everyone who has been in churches over the last 2,000 years can attest; it still has not been vanquished from the body of believers.
James wrote this in chapter four of his epistle to all of the churches which were scattered abroad. “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” And you thought your church fight was bad!
The Holy Spirit through the apostle James essentially gives us three reasons why we have conflict:
1. Because we are different
2. Because we are the same
3. Because we are selfish.
There are undoubtedly more reasons than that, but in Acts 6, we see all three of those reasons evident in the first recorded major conflict. Suddenly the church’s major strength, unity, is about to become its major weakness, division. As you read this conflict today, ask God to reveal both your strengths and weaknesses and how both of these can become a source of attack from the enemy.
There was grumbling and complaints in the early church and when it came to the leadership, there was such a degree of trust between the leaders and those within the church that the apostles told the people to do the right thing. They said “seek out from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.”
If you experience conflict, it may mean that God is about to multiply your ministry, especially if you resolve it in a godly fashion. Notice that sandwiched on either side of the conflict is a multiplication of ministry (verses 1 & 7). Once the leadership prayed over conflict and the congregation worked together to solve the problem under the leadership of God, the ministry exploded.
1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists,* because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution… 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Read Acts 6:8-15. Because Stephen was faithful to serve in the waiting of tables, God used him in a powerful way. However, again a conflict erupted, this time outside of the church. List a description of what Stephen’s face and countenance was when he faced conflict (verse 15):
If conflicts are inevitable, the key question is not if but when, and when it comes, how will you handle it? When faced with conflict or opposition, ask God to allow your face and countenance to appear as the face of an angel.
Pray now over your strengths and weaknesses and ask God to protect you from conflict in both areas.