Study Guide: The Great Contenders

Sunday February 26, 2012 | Shawna Boren

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

From the very beginning of Christianity, there has been contention and a battle with the kingdom of darkness. Where there is no light, we are supposed to bring light through self-sacrificial love. In this sermon, Shawna explores why we contend and offers encouragement in our spreading of the light in our dark world.

Extended Summary:

Christians have an uphill battle in this life. From the very beginning, we see stories of contending in this world. Whether it was Jesus dying on the cross or someone put in a prison for their faith, we see struggle through the ages. And while we live in a culture that doesn’t persecute us to these extents, we still face an uphill battle to spread the gospel.

In this passage of Colossians, Paul was agonizing on behalf of the believers in his time. The Greek word for contending was a very aggressive word. It was not a passive word describing a Paul who sat back and wrote from an ivory tower. Rather, it was a word about moving forward in spite of resistance. It was a word that described a man’s motives who was accustomed to danger because of his belief in Jesus. And he agonized and contended because he wanted to see the faith in others increased.

We are in a battle today. We are drowning in a culture that says we should take care of ourselves first. We should all have the house, the white picket fence, and 2.2 children. We live in a culture where mental assent to the gospel is deemed “good enough”. But God called for light to shine in the darkness. He wasn’t asking for shades of gray. He was asking for His people to shine in such a way that all darkness is driven out, and every time we live in a self-sacrificial way, the world becomes a brighter place.

We live out the righteousness of the Kingdom where there is no Kingdom. Paul bit and clawed his way through spreading the gospel. He was not content to let adversity or danger stop the spreading of Jesus’ light. And he wasn’t changing the world through his own efforts. He let God change the world through him, and we can let God change the world through us. There is a light dwelling within us that wants to be let out and pierce the darkness around us. We work in conjunction with God in spreading this light.

We don’t do this for the accolades or for some sort of fame. We strive and fight in this world so that other believers are encouraged in heart in this dark world. Paul was courageous and kept striving when he was weary so that God’s people would have hope in the dark times. He struggled so that other’s struggles didn’t overwhelm. He fought the darkness so others would have courage when fighting their darkness.

When people contend for others, they show that they are united in love. Our unity in love is a message to people in this world. When people see us contending for one another, they see acts of great love. And these acts don’t even have to be large. We fight with small acts of great love—a phone call when someone is lonely or babysitting for free. All it requires is a little sacrifice and contention for one another.

Sacrificial love brings victory like nothing else. When geese fly in a V-formation, they help each other fight against the wind and drag of gravity. Alone, they may arrive at their destination. However, when they fly together, they decrease the strain of flying by 71%. By working together, and sacrificing for each other, they help lighten the load for the entire flock. The community of God should be like flying geese, where each person’s movements help the other members of that community.

Whether in your highest of highs or lowest of lows, God is not done with you. There is no place of not contending and fighting the darkness. Wherever you are in life, the Kingdom still needs advancing. And you’re not alone. There is a community of believers around you that is seeking to contend with the darkness that pervades this world. When we work together and love one another sacrificially, we bring a tangible light to this dark world. We work alongside God and are energized by his Spirit. We become “The Great Contenders” in this world.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Our Western culture puts a premium on the individual. How does the description of the geese confront our individualistic tendencies?
  3. What do you think stops us from being united in love?
  4. What types of encouragement do you think are needed in your community? How can you or your small group help encourage those in your neighborhood or group?
  5. What fears do you have about being a “great contender”?