Day 148

How to Respond to Conflict

Wisdom Proverbs 13:10-19
New Testament John 18:1-24
Old Testament 1 Samuel 21:1-23:29


A springbok is a gazelle-like antelope. Normally they are very alert to predators. However, I remember watching a BBC wildlife programme that filmed two springboks fighting each other in the Kalahari Desert. As they became absorbed in the fight, they did not notice the lion prowling around them, waiting for his opportunity to attack.

As I watched, it struck me as a warning especially for the church. When, in the church, we fight one another, we become very vulnerable to attack. ‘The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).

When God calls you to follow him, he does not call you to a life of ease. Life on earth involves many battles, in all of which God promises you victory through Jesus Christ. There is never going to be a moment in your earthly life when everything is perfect. There are always going to be challenges, difficulties and problems to solve. However, there are times when these intensify and we seem to be coming under attack.

Martin Luther King said that the ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in ‘moments of convenience’, but where they stand in ‘moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy’.


Proverbs 13:10-19

10 Where there is strife, there is pride,
   but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

11 Dishonest money dwindles away,
   but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
   but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

13 Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it,
   but whoever respects a command is rewarded.

14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
   turning a person from the snares of death.

15 Good judgment wins favour,
   but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.

16 All who are prudent act with knowledge,
   but fools expose their folly.

17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
   but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

18 Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame,
   but whoever heeds correction is honoured.

19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
   but fools detest turning from evil.


Avoid unnecessarily quarrelling

The writer of Proverbs contrasts the wise (‘wisdom is found in those who take advice’, v.10b) and fools (‘fools detest turning from evil’, v.19b). It is not surprising that we experience conflict. In particular, in this passage we see two examples:

  1. Quarrels
    ‘Pride only breeds quarrels’ (v.10a). One of the most draining experiences of life is quarrelling – whether in a marriage, among friends, with colleagues or in the church. Here we see that one of the causes of quarrels can be pride. If you are willing to admit your mistakes and wrongs with humility, you can avoid a lot of quarrels.

    Another key is listening carefully to one another: ‘Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel’ (v.10, MSG).

  2. Disappointments
    ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick’ (v.12a). Or as The Message puts it, ‘unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick’.

    This is another kind of attack that is sickening. When a vision we have had for something is held up or our plans are delayed because of some attack or let down, disappointment makes the heart sick. We do battle with our own plans and our circumstances.

    On the other hand, there is nothing more satisfying than persevering and seeing some part of your vision fulfilled. ‘A longing fulfilled is a tree of life’ (v.12a). ‘A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul’ (v.19a).

    In the midst of all the conflicts of life there are moments of great joy, fulfilment and satisfaction.


Lord, in the midst of the challenges, help me to run the race with perseverance with my eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–3).

New Testament

John 18:1-24

Jesus Arrested

18 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Peter’s First Denial

15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

The High Priest Questions Jesus

19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.


Trust that God will bring good out of evil

Sometimes, when conflict comes in our lives, we only have ourselves to blame. However, this is not necessarily always the case. The attacks on Jesus did not come about as a result of his own sin or failure. Rather, they were the result of wrongdoing by other people. Yet God used it for good (v.14).

Having prayed for unity, Jesus now enters the world of conflict. Alone and vulnerable, filled with love and kindness, Jesus is arrested and condemned to death. He lays down his life in order to give life.

  1. Betrayal
    This was a terrible moment in the life of Jesus. His friend and disciple Judas, with whom he had spent three years, led a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Jesus (vv.1–3).

    There is nothing more painful than when an attack comes from a friend or colleague. Jesus’ dignified response is exemplary. He stayed calm, refused violence and exercised extraordinary self-restraint (vv.4–12).

    In order to protect his disciples, Jesus confronts the group of powerful armed men, brought by Judas. He restrains Peter’s attempt to resort to violence to defend Jesus. He does not want to engage in conflict using the ways of the world.

  2. Ill-treatment
    The very authorities that should have been protecting the innocent joined in the attack on Jesus. They arrested Jesus. ‘They bound him’ (v.12). They took him first to Annas and then to Caiaphas. Standing before the high priest, still bound, Jesus is struck in the face (vv.12–14,19–24).

    If Jesus was treated in this way we should not be surprised if, from time to time, we come under attack from those in authority – whether religious or secular.

  3. Denial
    Peter’s denial did not come from an evil heart but simply from human weakness. When asked whether he was one of Jesus’ disciples he replied, ‘I am not’ (v.17).

    I totally understand how Peter could have got himself into a position of denying Jesus in spite of all his best intentions. I have sometimes said or done things that, in hindsight, were sheer cowardice.

    The reality is that Jesus is in full control of the situation. He knew ‘all that was going to happen to him’ (v.4). He acted to fulfil his own prayer in the previous chapter (v.9, see 17:12). Jesus went to his death ‘to drink the cup the Father has given’ him, paying the penalty for our sin and wrongdoing (18:11).

    He paid the penalty for us: ‘It would be good if one person died for the people’ (v.14). Jesus’ death is on behalf of Peter and each one of us. He faces the attack of death and judgment so that you do not have to. Jesus allows himself to be bound (vv.12,24) so that you can be unbound and set free.


Father, give me courage and wisdom to know how to respond with dignity and grace when I come under attack. Help me to trust that in everything you work together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose (Romans 8:28).

Old Testament

1 Samuel 21:1-23:29

David at Nob

21 David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”

2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.”

5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

7 Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.

8 David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.”

9 The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”

David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

David at Gath

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:

  “‘Saul has slain his thousands,
   and David his tens of thousands’?”

12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”

David at Adullam and Mizpah

22 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” 4 So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.

5 But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

Saul Kills the Priests of Nob

6 Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul was seated, spear in hand, under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing at his side. 7 He said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? 8 Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.”

9 But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, said, “I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelek son of Ahitub at Nob. 10 Ahimelek inquired of the Lord for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

11 Then the king sent for the priest Ahimelek son of Ahitub and all the men of his family, who were the priests at Nob, and they all came to the king. 12 Saul said, “Listen now, son of Ahitub.”

“Yes, my lord,” he answered.

13 Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and inquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?”

14 Ahimelek answered the king, “Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? 15 Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.”

16 But the king said, “You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family. ”

17 Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.”

But the king’s officials were unwilling to raise a hand to strike the priests of the Lord.

18 The king then ordered Doeg, “You turn and strike down the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19 He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.

20 But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David. 21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. 23 Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”

David Saves Keilah

23 When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” 2 he inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

3 But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”

4 Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand. ” 5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 6 (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)

Saul Pursues David

7 Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.” 8 And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.

9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod. ” 10 David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”

And the Lord said, “He will.”

12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”

And the Lord said, “They will.”

13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.

14 David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.

15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

19 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.”

21 Saul replied, “The Lord bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. 23 Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.”

24 So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.

26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.


Strengthen one another

This was a period of intense conflict for David.

Jealousy, as we see here with Saul, never seems to ease off once it gets a grip of a person. It drove Saul to more and more cold-blooded evil acts. He thought nothing of destroying a town full of priests (22:19).

David had to resort to every ruse in order to avoid the attacks. He ate the holy Bread of the Presence (21:1–9, MSG); he pretended to go crazy (v.13) and gathered an assorted crew of ‘losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts’ (22:1, MSG). Yet we see in this passage the qualities of David that emerged even when he was under attack.

  1. Loyalty
    David had a reputation for loyalty (v.14) and was highly respected. David and Jonathan were utterly loyal to each other: ‘Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him to find strength in God’ (23:16).

    Considering that he could have seen himself as heir to the throne, Jonathan’s attitude to David was extraordinary: ‘You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you’ (v.17). They were utterly committed to each other: ‘The two of them made a covenant before the Lord’ (v.18).

    There is nothing that helps more in times of conflict than the loyalty of our friends and family. They can help you in difficult times. And, when they are under attack, you can help them by your loyalty and support to find strength in God.

  2. Prayer
    What is your first port of call when conflict comes in your life? As Joyce Meyer puts it, when trouble comes do you ‘run to the phone’ or do you ‘run to the throne’? David had learnt at this stage of his life the vital importance of enquiring of the Lord before making decisions. When he was under attack again and again ‘David went in prayer to God’ (vv.2,4, MSG). In this way, attacks can actually draw you closer to God.

    One of the tragedies of this story is that instead of fighting the real enemy (v.27), God’s people, like those two springboks, were fighting one another. This gave the Philistines the opportunity to attack. Still today the church is in danger of doing this.

    God can take something Satan means for evil and division and turn it into something good. God used the attack by the Philistines to rescue David: ‘Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines’ (v.28). It would be wonderful if the church would break off its infighting and in unity face the real enemies that threaten to destroy our world, such as climate change, injustice, disease and poverty.


Father, help us to be loyal to one another, to stop the infighting in the church and to unite to face the real attacks from outside.

Pippa adds

Proverbs 13:12

‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.’

Disappointment really can make you ill. If you let it, it festers; it will eat away at you. I am not sure what the answer is except to take it to God and to try to let go and trust in the sovereignty of God – it’s not always easy.

Verse of the Day

Proverbs 13:12,19

‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is... … sweet to the soul...’



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Joyce Meyer, New Day, New You (Faithwords, 2007), p.365

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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