Contender Ministries


The other night, while our two Labrador retrievers (Lindsey and Petra) napped in the living room, Jen and I stepped out into our exercise room.  It used to be a garage at some point in time, but there’s no way we could fit a car in there now.  We chose this location to sit cross-legged, facing each other, and confront our fears.  We were both going through some feelings of inadequacy.  We felt unqualified, unworthy, and completely incapable of ministering to others through Contenders.  Then it dawned on us.  These feelings of inadequacy arose shortly after our list of newsletter subscribers jumped.  We were under spiritual attack by Satan.  Our ministry was taking off, and the evil one was feeling threatened.  We immediately went into prayer mode.  And I’m not talking about a lofty, elegant King James type of prayer, either (“Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy many blessing, and beseech Thee that Thou mayest…”).  No, our prayer was a wee bit more direct (“GOD!!!  HEEEEEEELP!!!!!).  Then God, in His wise and loving way, thumped me on the back of my head and said, “Hey!  Remember Paul?” 

OF COURSE!  I’d been working my way through the New Testament, in no particular order.  Having gone through some of Paul’s letters to the various churches, I had then decided to start at the beginning.  So I read the book of Acts.  For those who haven’t done a lot of Bible reading, this is where Paul got his start in missionary work.  It really is an incredible story, and I encourage you to read it.  For those of you who HAVE read it, I encourage you to re-read it.  In any case, I learned a great many lessons from Paul – not only in his words of wisdom to the believers – but also in the way he was, and the way he lived.  You see, Paul had the same feelings of inadequacy.  Yet his work changed the lives of billions of people!  Let’s take a quick look at Paul’s story.

Paul had a checkered past, at least concerning his regard for Christianity.  His parents were Pharisees, so adherence to Jewish law was absolute!  As he was a Jew, his parents gave him the Jewish name Saul.  Yet he was also a Roman citizen, so his parents also gave him the Latin name Paul.  For the purposes of this article, we’ll just call him Paul.  Anyway, Paul grew up to be a very legalistic Jew.  Consequently, he came to hate the Christians, whom he felt were perverting the scriptures.  He sat in on the stoning of Stephen, a devout Christian, even giving his approval!  His hatred of Christians became such a powerful force in his life, he devoted himself to tracking down the Christians to imprison them or put them to death.  One day, he heard about a group of Christians causing problems up in Damascus.  So Paul picked some guards to accompany him to Damascus, where he would teach a lesson to these Christians.  On the way there, something happened that forever changed his life.

As they were approaching Damascus, Paul and the guards were suddenly surrounded by a brilliant light.  Jesus spoke to him, and asked Paul why he was persecuting Him.  The experience left Paul a bit shaken, and not just a little blind.  Jesus had told him to go into the city and wait for further instructions, and Paul complied, with the help of his guards.  While in Damascus, Paul remained blind, and didn’t eat for three days.  On the flip-side, there was a Christian disciple living in Damascus named Ananias.  The Lord appeared to him in a vision, and told him to go to Paul.  He told Ananias to lay hands on Paul and restore his vision.  Having heard of Paul’s vendetta against the Christians, Ananias did as we Christians often do – he questioned the Lord’s instructions.   “God, do you know who this man is?!  Do you know what he’s been doing to the Christians?!”

Then the Lord did as He often does when we question His callings on us.  He gave him a verbal love-tap upside the head and said, “Just do as your told.  I’ve chosen Paul to do great things in carrying my name to the gentiles and the Jews.  Don’t worry, he’ll suffer a bit.”

At this point, I should confess that I’ve taken a little literary license with the dialogue.  It won’t be the last time, either, so I encourage you to read the story for yourself in Acts chapter 9. 

Anyway, Ananias (now sufficiently chastised, but not feeling any better about what he was doing) went to Paul.  He told him “Jesus, who appeared to you on your way to Damascus, told me to come restore your vision.”  Ananias laid hands on Paul and prayed over him.  Something that looked like scales fell from Paul’s eyes, and he could see again.  Faced with irrefutable evidence of the divinity of Jesus Christ, Paul became a Christian, and was baptized by Ananias.  Now I’ve heard some powerful testimonies from people, but Paul’s story takes the cake!

After spending just a matter of days with the disciples, Paul started preaching in the synagogues.  Everyone that had ever heard of Paul was blown away – especially the Christians.  They had learned to fear this man, and weren’t quick to trust him.  They came around, but the Jews didn’t.  The Jews planned to kill him for preaching that Jesus was the Messiah.  Fortunately, Paul found out about the plot, and scooted out while he could. 

I could detail Paul’s missionary journeys, but that would take up more space than necessary right now.  You can read the book of Acts to catch up on the details.  For now I’m going to paraphrase (here I go with that literary license again).  Paul spent several years traveling around the Mediterranean area preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Barnabas accompanied Paul for a bit, but they had a little disagreement, so Silas took Barnabas’s place at Paul’s side.  The story in each town was eerily similar.  Paul and Barnabas (or Silas) would ride into town.  Paul preaches in the synagogues.  Paul preaches in the streets.  Many people are moved and accept Christ as their savior.  The Jews get jealous and angry, and run Paul and Barnabas (or Silas) out of town.  Sometimes it wasn’t as simple as being run out of town, though.  Often, they would be stoned, flogged, whipped, or beaten with sticks instead.  Then they’d move on to the next town and repeat the whole process.  Now when I get ridiculed for wearing a cross around my neck, I try to remember that it’s a far sight better than getting stoned or flogged. 

That’s the way things went for Paul, though.  Year after year, town after town, he shared the news of Jesus before barely escaping with his life.  It didn’t take him long to realize that most of the Jews did NOT want to hear what he had to say, so he focused his ministry on the gentiles.  In so doing, he changed the lives of billions of people – from hundreds or thousands at the time, to the billions that have read his letters in the New Testament.

“What a great man he was,” you say.  Well, I’d have to agree with you.  But the only thing Paul really boasted about was the fact that he had been beaten, stoned, flogged, and whipped in more towns than most people have ever visited.  I can see him wearing a shirt that says, “I was stoned in Lystra, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!”  If he had a shirt like that for every city he’d been run out of, he wouldn’t have to do his laundry very often!

Departing from that tangent though, Paul didn’t feel that he WAS a great man.  On the contrary, Paul described himself as being timid and not a very good speaker.  Don’t think that he wasn’t inclined to boast.  He was, and he had every reason to be.  But God kept him humble.  Paul described a messenger of Satan as a thorn in his flesh that kept him from being conceited.  He asked God three times to relieve him of his “thorn”, but the Lord said something to Paul that is VERY IMPORTANT for us all to remember.  This is really the crux of this whole article.  Are you ready for it?  Okay.  The Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

WOW!  What a tremendous passage!  Paul was not inherently a great man – he was great because God made him that way.  If you take only one thing away from this article, make sure it’s the last line of the previous paragraph.  Yes, the one that kind of stands out.  I hope you will all write that down on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet.  For that matter, make it your screensaver.  Carve those words into a plaque for your wall, or do it in a cross-stitch for a pillow or something.  Surround yourself with that reminder.  Because God didn’t just call Paul to spread the gospel, he’s called all of us.

Yep.  You and I have all been called to be Christ’s ambassadors on earth.  The path to salvation is too important to keep to yourselves.  It’s too precious to withhold from people you care about.  It’s too momentous to be kept in the confines of a church service or a Bible study.  The Lord wants us to contend for the faith.  He wants us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us.  He wants us to reach out to our non-Christian friends, associates, partners, or enemies, be they atheist, agnostic, Mormon, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Scientologist.  It doesn’t matter who they are, or what they believe.  God wants EVERYONE to know the true path to salvation.  You won’t be greeted with enthusiasm every time, and you sure won’t have a 100% conversion rate, but you must try.  WE must try.  Oh, we may suffer a little ridicule or embarrassment, but we’re not likely to be flogged or stoned, so realize it could be worse!  And when you feel like you are such a small, insignificant person; when you feel that evangelism is best left to the “experts”; when you find yourself saying, “I’m not a great apologist like C.S. Lewis or Josh McDowell or Dr. Walter Martin!”;  just remember the words of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, My faith is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

May God bless and strengthen you as you contend for the faith!


Contender Ministries