“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) (NIV)

Dealing with conflict biblically will never happen apart from heart-talk. What Jesus speaks about in Matthew 15:19 should give us pause as to where our evil desires and actions come from: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

The Progression of an Idol

I Desire

Every conflict has some kind of desire involved, whether good or bad. When one person does not meet your desires, there’s two roads you can take: trust God and ask for help in growing to be mature regardless of how the other person gets (James 1:2-4), as well as loving them and continue to pray for further opportunities to progress in your conflict resolution, or you can try and have your desire met, knowing that if it isn’t, you will start to become bitter towards that person which affects your relationship with them and dishonors God. The second option spirals down into what follows next.

I Demand

“Unmet desires have the potential of working themselves deeper and deeper into our hearts. This is especially true when we come to see a desire as something we need or deserve and therefore must have in order to be happy or fulfilled” (p.103). Easily, having an unmet desire (“I wish I had this”) could lead to an attitude of demand (“I must have this!”), which is the sign of idolatry.

I Judge

If we are not careful, our demands for what we want from others, if left unfulfilled, can draw us to become critical and condemning of others, with our words but primarily in our hearts.  “The closer we are to others, the more we expect of them, and the more likely we are to judge them when they fail to meet our expectations” (p.107). That is a scary thing to see about our human nature.

I Punish

Idols always demand sacrifices. When someone fails to satisfy our demands and expectations, our idol demands that he should suffer. Whether deliberately or unconsciously, we will find ways to hurt or punish people so that they will give in to our desires. (p.108)

We either express it outwardly in our verbal attacks on others, or we do it more subtly, in order to get others to do what we want them to, regardless of their interests. When we act in this way, this is a clear sign that we are not living under the lordship of Christ; an idol has become our lord.

The Cure for an Idolatrous Heart

“If we are not fulfilled and secure in God, we will inevitably seek other sources of happiness and security” (p.112). If you truly want to have the idols that control your heart completely removed, you need to pursue God more than anything else this world or your own heart may have to offer. To do that, we must:

  1. Repent before God
  2. Fear God
  3. Love God
  4. Trust God
  5. Delight in God

“God has designed a wonderful cycle for those who want to worship him above all things. As you love, praise, give thanks, and delight yourself in God, he will fulfill your desires with the best gift: more of himself. And as you learn to delight more and more in him, you will feel less need to find happiness, fulfillment, and security in things of this world” (p.114).

If your response to God’s best gift is, “That’s all?” the one you worship is not God, but yourself, and you are in dangerous territory. Your heart is bowing down before a lesser god, which is no god, but an idol, and the life you live will be one of utter sin and condemnation before a holy God. You will never find true peace in any of your conflicts until you have found the Prince of Peace. Look to Him today to deliver you and draw you to Himself.