Summary: How to Overcome Contentiousness
How to Overcome Contention Acts 15:36-41
Illustration:Getting angry can sometimes be like leaping into a wonderfully responsive sports car, gunning the motor, taking off at high speed and then discovering the brakes are out of order.
Maggie Scarg in New York Times Magazine.
The contention between Paul and Barnabas grew so sharp that they had to part 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. 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 oneâs 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 Godâs 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 peoplesâ 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 Godâs word, Godâs power or Godâs 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)
7. Servants of God should be without contention (Titus 1:7); they should warn their people against contentious attitudes (Heb. 3:7-12); they should pray that their people may be forgiven for their argumentative attitudes (Ex 34:9); they should avoid those who are consistently contentious (Judges 2:19); they should teach of the punishments of the contentious (Deut. 21:21); they should give examples of contentious people as errors to avoid (Simeon and Levi ö Gen 49:6; Israelites ö Ex. 32:9; Saul I Sam 15:19-23; Josiah 2 chorn. 35:22; Zedekiah 2 Chron 36:13) Ask the Lord to help you to be gracious while speaking the truth in love. Help people learn how to grow in all aspects in Christ.
Conclusion:Jim Taylor in Currents tells the following story about his friend, Ralph Milton: One morning Ralph woke up at five o’clock to a noise that sounded like someone repairing boilers on his roof. Still in his pajamas, he went into the back yard to investigate. He found a woodpecker on the TV antenna, "pounding its little brains out on the metal pole." Angry at the little creature who ruined his sleep, Ralph picked up a rock and threw it. The rock sailed over the house, and he heard a distant crash as it hit the car. In utter disgust, Ralph took a vicious kick at a clod of dirt, only to remember -- too late -- that he was still in his bare feet. Uncontrolled anger, as Ralph leaned, can sometimes be its own reward.
Jim Taylor, Currents.