Summary: Paul teaches us how to overcome contentious people as well as our our self-destructive tendency to argue
Illustration:Advice from Dr. Mitchell’s life: Someone in his congregation pointed out several faults in him and his preaching. Instead of retaliating, or trying to defend himself, he looked at the woman and said, "If what you say is true, would you mind praying for me?"
1. The contention between Paul and Barnabas grew so sharp that they parted company. Even among godly leaders a quarrelsome spirit can make fellowship nearly impossible.
Arguing over whether or not to take John Mark along with them, the two Godly leaders decided it was better that they split up rather than forge an amicable compromise.
Illustration:English evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) learned that it was more important to please God than to please men. Knowing that he was doing what was honoring to the Lord kept him from discouragement when he was falsely accused by his enemies. At one point in his ministry, Whitefield received a vicious letter accusing him of wrongdoing. His reply was brief and courteous: "I thank you heartily for your letter. As for what you and my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will ever say about me. With love in Christ, George Whitefield." He didn’t try to defend himself. He was much more concerned about pleasing the Lord.
Daily Bread, August 18, 1992.
Contention that is rancorous is often unhealthy and self-destructive. When contention reaches a level of ugly strife in a competition or a controversy, it is time to examine one’s motives.
Belligerence in a contentious debate is often caused by stubborn self-willed perspectives, pride and selfish ambitions.
Trust the Lord to help you to surrender your will to God’s desires so that He can bring resolution to any and every contentious encounter.
2. Paul and Barnabas needed to be reminded that self-willed stubbornness is forbidden in 2 Chronicles 30:8 where Samuel wrote,
“Do not stiffen your neck like your fathers, but yield to the Lord and enter His sanctuary which He has consecrated forever and serve the Lord your God, that His burning anger may turn away from you.”
God knows that most contentious people are prideful believing it is either their way or the highway.
Deep divisions often result from stubborn pride and self-will because contentious people are seen to be a law unto themselves.
Trust the Lord to give you the ability to cooperate with people as far as it is possible. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor. (Romans 12:10)
3. Pride is the number one source of a contentious spirit. Solomon wrote, “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” (Prov. 13:10)
Strife often results when two people engage in a fight, competition or struggle for power. Solomon also warned those who are prone to be contentious, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18)
Perhaps, the single biggest reason why contentious people fail to live up to their potential is their refusal to give control of their will over to the Sovereign Lord.
Prideful people have an exaggerated sense of their own importance.
Arrogant people fail to show respect for other peoples’ ideas, worth or opinions. These individuals are over-bearing, haughty and high-minded.
Contention often occurs when several people have an unwarranted sense of their own self-importance.
Ask the Lord to help you to consistently humble yourself under the mighty hand of God while heeding the advise of Peter, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” (I Pet. 5:5,6)
4. Contentious attitudes can also spring from unbelief in God’s word, God’s power or God’s ability to work all things together for good. 2 Kings 17:14 teaches us, “They stiffened their necks because they did not believe in the Lord their God.”
Ask God for greater faith.
5. Contentious people refuse to listen to God (Prov. 1:24);
they often refuse to listen to the messengers of God (I Sam 8:19; Jer. 44:16, Zech 7:11);
they usually refuse to walk in all the ways of God (Neh. 9:17; Psa 78:10);
they refuse to listen to their Godly parents (Deut 21:18,19);
they refuse to receive correction (Deut. 21:18; Jer 5:3);
they rebel against God (Psa 78:8; Deut 31:27);
they walk in the counsel of their own evil heart (Jer. 7:24);
they vacillate in their choices between good and evil (Jer. 7:24);
ask God for His deliverance from all of these self-destructive tendencies.
6. Contentious people do not realize how heinous they are to God (I Sam 15:23)