This is the last post in our series on conflict with Robert Jones, author of Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling our Conflicts. If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here: 3 Ways We Must Handle Conflict and Conflict: When Desires Become Demands
1. Recognize the Ascending Desire
The first step is to recognize which specific desire tends to ascend to your throne, become a demand, and control you—and to catch it when it starts this ascent. Our goal is to become increasingly “heart smart”—to seize the first occasion of a rising desire and to call it what it is. The three tests mentioned previously may help you: (1) Does it consume my thoughts? (2) Do I sin to get it? (3) Do I sin when I don’t get it?
2. Repent of Letting the Desire Rule
As we have seen in various passages above, repentance is the frequent call from the Lord to those who struggle with sins in the heart. Here we must be keenly specific: For what do we repent? For our desires? No, the desires are not the problem. In fact, having desires is good—they remind us to pray, to submit ourselves to God, to seek godly directions, and so forth. We must not try to deaden, neuter, or deny our legitimate desires. Instead, we must repent not of the desire but of the “rulingness” of the desire, that is, the way it has begun to ascend the throne and become a demand. The desire itself is not the evil in view; it is the propensity for it to climb and take over that we must resist.
Whenever we consider repentance, we must keep one vital truth uppermost in our thinking. God always calls for repentance in response to grace already given.
3. Refocus on God and His Grace, Provisions, and Promises
Third, we should refocus our hearts by resubmitting our desires under the throne of Jesus’s lordship and fastening our eyes on God’s presence and promises in our life. This includes a recommitment to please, adore, trust, and obey him. In a short, condensed insertion, James 4:6 puts it this way: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
4. Replace Sinful Responses with Christlike Graces
The final step is continual and ongoing. God calls us in progressive ways to replace the previously ascending but now resubmitted desires with fresh, ongoing replacements: relational graces (we’ll consider Eph. 4:1–3 and Col. 3:12–14 in chap. 7), good works (Eph. 2:10; Titus 3:14), and Spirit-generated fruit (Gal. 5:22–23; Col. 1:9–12). While the specifics must be tailored to each individual, they often include learning contentment, self-control, prayer, biblical peacemaking, forgiveness, godly listening, godly speaking, and the ninefold fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Robert Jones serves as a biblical counseling professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a certified biblical counselor, a Christian conciliator, an adjunct instructor, and a church reconciliation trainer with Peacemaker Ministries. Jones is the author of Pursuing Peace, Uprooting Anger, and has written numerous ministry booklets and articles.