In 1978 Harry Haslam, then the manager of Sheffield United, went to Argentina on a scouting trip. On one occasion he saw a teenager in action whom he considered incredibly talented. His club were prepared to sell their precocious youngster for £200,000. Haslam was desperate to sign him. However, the deal fell through. Sheffield United were in the old English second division and could only find £160,000. No deal. So instead they used the money to purchase another talented player. And the other teenager? Well, by 1986, Diego Maradona was considered the greatest player in the world.
Just think what might have happened if Haslam had been able to find the extra forty thousand pounds. Think of how history could have been re-written: “Sheffield United, European Champions – again” or “Sheffield United double winners”.
Isaac, in Genesis 26 wasn’t in quite the same position as Harry Haslam. He wasn’t chasing the most talented player of his generation or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. He found himself having to re-dig his father’s wells just to ensure the survival of his family and his flocks and herds.
Eventually he seemed to find and dig wells without much trouble wherever he went. But it did not begin that way. He had a lot of grief in the early stages of his well digging career. One of the earliest “digs” ended in a very tense engagement with the resident Philistines. The very next one resulted in a dispute which drove him to search for water elsewhere.
The events made such an impact on Isaac that he named the wells dispute and opposition (Genesis 26.20-21).
People who are serious about seeing God at work in and through them usually have one or two “well stories” to tell. Some well stories, if you will excuse the unintentional pun, do not end well. To see lives changed, churches grow, the kingdom come with power, carries a price tag.
What is that price? Sometimes it is just the price that Isaac had to pay. Spiritual conflict is a given if you are after spiritual breakthrough and blessing. It’s just the way it is. It’s the way it was for Jesus. One moment He was basking in the sunshine of His Father’s love (Matthew 3.16) the next, He is being led into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4.1). Once you pull on the uniform of the kingdom of God, you are a target. If you are going to be a successful well digger, learn how to battle in the unseen realm.
And there are disputes. One of the biggest dangers of disputes is the potential for offence. People get offended for all sorts of things. And people give offence by being insensitive or just plain rude. The key to overcoming offence is to reduce our capacity for taking offence and raise our awareness level of what might give offence. Whether we can ever reach the place where we are “offence proof” – either in taking or giving – is hard to say, but we can at least keep ourselves steeped in grace.
Isaac pressed through his contention and his quarrelling and eventually breakthrough came. The price that he paid in those early escapades became a downpayment that secured his future.
Not for one moment should we downplay the demands of spiritual conflict or the emotional price of working through offence, but there are rewards at the other side. Perhaps, like Isaac, it is just a case of survival. Then on the other hand, it might just be the possibility of re-writing your future.