Following in the Footsteps of Faith (Part 5): The Great Confidence of a Renewed Faith in Handling Conflict (Genesis 13)

Abram had messed up. Okay, that’s putting it mildly. He had sinned, and he had dragged his wife into it. Not only had he sinned and dragged his wife into it, he had placed his wife at great risk. So, what happens next? Abram’s faith is going to be tested again. We will see quickly that the same truths apply to our own lives. Our faith gets stretched, pushed, molded, and tested in every way, shape, and form. When we fail in one area, we must make it right, learn from it, and strengthen those spiritual areas, because another wave is coming! Such is the nature of living the Christian life in a sin-cursed world. The next wave in Abram’s life is going to be conflict within his own family. When conflict arises, it is so easy to make a decision in resolving the conflict that is based strictly on our natural senses rather than seeing the issue through eyes of faith.

There is a big thought that comes from Genesis 13. Very simply, those who believe the promises of God can be gracious in resolving conflicts and faith-based in their decision-making. Conflict is inevitable. Barring moving to a remote island and living with me, myself, and I, we will experience conflict in this life. We don’t have a choice in that. However, we have a huge part in how we respond and work our way through that conflict

  1. The prosperity of God’s people can bring conflict (1-7). Think about what a long, quiet trip home from Egypt this must have been. But at least Abram is home, and he emerges from Egypt much wealthier than he went in. But that is going to create some problems. In verses 3-4, Abram worships. This marks a renewal period, and serves as a great encouragement to all of God’s people. When we blow it (even when we blow it big-time), a renewed connection with God is available to us! So right away, this account is different from the previous one. This one begins with Abram’s worship of Yahweh, marking a right mindset and preparation for the challenge ahead. And the challenge comes. Abram is wealthy, Lot is wealthy, and they are trying to occupy the same geographic area. This newfound wealth generates a familial conflict between Abram and Lot.
  2. Conflict must be dealt with through gracious actions by those living by faith (8-13). Look at how differently Abram responds in this situation. He takes the initiative, just as he did in chapter 12, but this time he is looking at the problem with a “God-centered” worldview. He appeals to Lot based on their relationship (8). Christians should note this. There is a familial basis for those who are in Christ for dealing with conflicts. But then the account progresses. In verse 9, Abram makes a shockingly gracious and generous offer. He does not appeal to his position. He does not insist on his way based on God’s promise to him. Instead, he makes a gracious offer based on the fact that he can rest in the promise God has made to him. Lot serves as a foil to Abram. Lot’s focus is strictly a “sight based” one (10-11). He makes his decision based on only what he sees. Verse 10 sounds an ominous note…Sodom and Gomorrah are still there. This is NOT a positive thing. Lot should have taken this into consideration, but the text doesn’t reveal that he even thought about it. I have heard Lot described as one “who would choose heaven over hell, but not heaven over earth. I think this aptly describes this tragic character. But the focus is on Abram. Why isn’t he fighting to hold on to every inch of land? His mindset is one of promise. God has promised him the land- he can be gracious in his dealings because God is going to fulfill His Word!
  3. The gracious actions of the faithful receive the approval of our gracious Lord (14-18). Abram has handled the situation. Lot has left. Now Yahweh speaks. He tells Abram to open his eyes and look. Just as Lot had surveyed the land earlier, the Lord tells Abram to look. But rather than having sight that moves him towards a place like Sodom, this direction from God is designed to reinforce a two-fold promise. All the land will be Abram’s, and he will have descendants who will inhabit it (15). This is a forever promise. The word “offspring” is used three times in this section, giving a gentle reminder that even with a barren wife, God will keep His promise. It’s pretty cool how the account ends. It ends much like it begins. With worship. Abram moves his camp to Mamre and builds an altar. The chapter opens with a worship of renewal and ends with a worship of response to the promises of God.

There is much that can be applied in this portion of scripture. We can begin where Abram began. If we are going to be able to handle conflict wisely, we must maintain a walk with the God of the universe. We blow it, we sin, we fall. We must find renewal in confession, forgiveness, and restored communion with Christ. We then must learn to trust in the promises of God. God hasn’t promised any of us a specific piece of land. He has made us a lot of other more general promises however. Walk in light of those promises, not strictly based on what you “see.” It is through this surrender to the promises and will of God that we can then experience genuine peace as a result of the decisions we make in resolving conflict. More than anything, I want to receive the approval of my Lord in how I have handled conflict. I think if more churches (and Christians) had that mentality, the amount of bickering with the body of Christ would probably drop dramatically!