In an ever-increasingly hostile environment, contentiousness seems to be a default posture. It really doesn’t matter what we’re talking about; we come ready to argue. And we come intending to win.
One of the most piercing aspects of those gripped by the gospel of grace is contentment that contrasts contentiousness. In a cancel culture, one of the ways Christians, “shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15).
Sinclair Ferguson defines Christian contentment, “Christian contentment is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord and to be totally at His disposal in the place He appoints, at the time He chooses, with the provision He is pleased to make.”
Contentious people don’t lay down their lives, or their rights, for their neighbors. They don’t bear one another’s burdens in love. They don’t seek to live at peace with another. Christians do. Content Christians do.
In contrast to our contentious culture, Christians have reasons to be content. Here are four:
- God provides for you.
God provides for you. Jesus teaches his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matt 6:25-26). The apostle Paul proclaims, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19).
When we recall that God provides for us, we are free from the worrying spirit that leads so many to be contentious. Instead of having to prove yourself, you can rest in the reminder that God is providing for you and reigning over this world with providential care. Instead of having to argue yourself into a position of exaltation, you can, as Peter calls us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:6).
2. Christ died for you.
The cross shatters much of our contentiousness. Our disagreements about politics, masks, virus statistics, governmental shutdowns, and more all fade as we are confronted with the “spectacle that confronts us in the vicarious sin-bearing of the Lord of glory.” Christ crucified for our sins slows us from angrily crucifying our neighbor for their opposing opinion.
Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that this gospel was “of first importance.” (1 Cor 15:1-3). This gospel, of this sacrificial Savior, satisfied the wrath of God. Remember that Christ died for you and be content. You need not argue your way into better position. As though Christ’s death for us was not enough to make us content, he is currently praying for you.
3. The Spirit empowers you.
Jesus has given believers the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). This Spirit is with you always. He empowers you to abound in hope (Rom 15:13). He has intentionally and sufficiently gifted you for ministry (1 Cor 12:4-11). All of this disarms our contentiousness.
The Holy Spirit does not empower you to be argumentative for arguments’ sake. The Spirit equips you to make much of Christ. Believer, when you feel unrighteous anger rising up, recall the Spirit’s empowering work in you.
J.I. Packer compels us to pursue the Spirit of God in obedience to the mission of God, ‘What is the most effective and telling way to share the message of Christ? How may we get it across?’ And it can safely be said that only the believer and the community that are constantly exercised over this question, so that they may spread the gospel as widely and fruitfully as they can, will ever know the full power of the Spirit.” Contentiousness over non-essential issues in the Christian life derails the Great Commission focus, which is to compel the Christian life.
4. God is good to you.
David, the psalmist, concludes Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps 23:6). There is a settled joy in the goodness of God towards his children.
Where a contentious spirit seems to focus on the badness of the world, which leads to grumbling, the contented Christian focuses on the goodness of God, which leads to glorying. Yes, ours is a story that ends with us dwelling with our God in the fullness of Joy. The world may find a need to be contentious now, for they have no hope after death. But that is not our story. Yes, this is the promise of God to his people, “I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness.” (Jer. 31:14).
So, believer, is the gospel of first importance to you these days? Are you meditating on the goodness of God displayed in the slaughtered Son in your place? When you are surrounded by the complaining voices of contentious people, are you finding strength in the empowering work of the Holy Spirit as you seek to make much of Christ? And are you satisfied in the goodness of God?
 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), Preface to the First Edition.
 JI Packer, Keeping In Step With the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 202.
Jeff is the glad husband of Lauren and the proud dad of Aiden and Carter. He pastors Catalyst Church in Newport News, VA and works as a Church Planting Strategist with the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia. Jeff is the author of Called to Cooperate: A Biblical Survey and Application of Teamwork.