Proverbs 26:21 – “As coals are to burning coals, and wood is to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”
Contentious – Apt to contend; given to angry debate; quarrelsome; perverse. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
Our weekend revival is nearly here! We have been continuously encouraged by our Pastor, for over a month, to prepare our hearts for the coming meeting. When this verse is read in the context of revival, the burning coals and fire are a picture of revival. The unlit coals and wood can be seen as the preparing of one’s self in an effort to continue the spirit of revival. So long as we keep fresh coals and wood onto of the existing flame, the flame will continue to burn. The fire of revival provides: warmth, a place to prepare spiritual food, a refuge for where the saints can congregate, a beacon for those that are lost, and a deterrent to the predators of the dark.
Yet, there is another fire that is the subject of today’s devotion. This fire undermines all that revival can bring. The two cannot burn simultaneously in the heart of a saint, because the saint will decide to add fuel to only one fire (as Jesus said, a man cannot serve two masters). The fire that we must not light if we seek to see revival continue is that of strife.
Strife is very easy to kindle, for Satan always keeps a vast supply of dry tinder. The smallest spark will cause an inferno that wreaks havoc of the church like an unquenchable wildfire. Thus, the question becomes, “Who sparks the fire of strife?” Any saint is capable of lighting strife aflame, all it takes is a contentious spirit. So, what is contention, and how does it present? Instead of earnestly contending for the faith, a contentious man will exhaust all his energy to contend against God’s will being done. Where a saint would offer a word fitly spoken for the betterment of another, a contentious man offers argument and debate to tear down someone that thinks contrary to them. While a saint strives to live peaceably among men for the Lord’s namesake, the contentious are irritable, easily provoked, swift to wrath and always apt to cause struggle. Whilst a saint derives satisfaction from the Lord’s edification of themselves and others, the contentious have been perverted into taking pleasure in the destruction of those around them.
The transformation into a contentious believer is not an instantaneous event. Instead, like all the tools of Satan, the catalyst is subtle and the transformation is gradual. A stray thought that causes us to dispute the words of the Bible or the Preacher that delivers it. The desire to question and debate with the church, or other believers, over what should/shouldn’t be done or how we believe something should be done. That sensation to lash out at others for being concerned with your life or trying to cultivate a Godly friendship. The list of example could be endless if every possible scenario was accounted for but the underlying principle is the same, manifesting a resistance to the things of God by acting upon the flesh’s desire abstain from God’s will.
We all are apt to experience a contentious desire of the flesh, but the key to avoiding the fire of strife is to suppress this unholy lust to oppose God. The Israelites were contentious with Moses nearly every time he returned the Word of the Lord to them. It was because of their contention that they had to spend 40 years in the wilderness until the contentious generation passed. Our flesh hates the things of God, but we are able to reign over the flesh as kings. Any saint can develop a contentious spirit by dwelling upon the flesh’s urging to resist the things of God. Having the thought doesn’t make you contentious. Rather, we should possess enough spiritual awareness to recognize such an impulse and immediately ask the Lord for forgiveness for having the thought and then for the strength to overcome that desire. Where contentious thought become problematic is where someone dwells upon such urges. We are instructed to avoid giving place to the Devil, but giving Satan a place in your life is exactly what occurs when you dwell upon contention. After establishing a foothold in your life, Satan will continue to present ideas and opportunities for you to act with contention. By doing so, you have just sparked the fire of strife and it will burn in your heart until it consumes you.
Where revival provides a comfortable warmth, strife will burn the scorch and bring forth carnal appetites. While revival will bring out the fullest flavor from the meat of God’s Word, strife will burn the Word and provide no nourishment. While revival sends out an invitation for both saint and sinner to spend time with the Lord, strife will burn all those that come near with the flames of conflict and contention. Revival will deter predators, strife is a tool of the predator and will destroy any that venture towards it.
I am not ignorant enough to believe that this week leading up to our meeting will be without opposition from Satan. So, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ and know that such contention and temptation are evidence that you are closer to God than Satan, and maybe even your flesh, is comfortable with.
Your fellowservant in Christ,
Bro. Jordan Foster