Grace for Difficult People

Text: 2 Timothy 2:14-26

There’s a difference between healthy debates and endless quarrels. What I call a healthy debate is when two people can share opposing views, but do so with respect, with love, with humility, and with the motivation to serve one another.

But to quarrel is to repeatedly argue out of a selfish motivation. It doesn’t come from love, but from fear. Not from humility, but of pride. It is not to serve another, but to serve self. To prove that I’m right. A quarrel provokes, it ambushes people into a debate they didn’t sign up for.

We all know people like that, and we likely have all been people like that. The good news is God knows this, and He wants to help us. God can change our hearts. And in changing us, God also wants to use us – our words and our lives – as reflections of His grace to others.

From our text, we’re going to see seven reminders for us in how to deal with difficult people:

1. Avoid quarrels.  (v. 14)

This word quarrel literally means “word battles”. Don’t get into an endless debate with someone over words and phrases or into pointless arguments with those who disagree with you. It only “ruins” the hearer. That’s the Greek word “katastrophē”, where we get the word “catastrophic”. Total destruction. That’s the opposite of edifying. Quarrels tear down. So avoid them. Don’t take part in them. Because there is a better way.

2. Give them God’s Word.  (v. 15)

When someone needs encouragement, or even correction, that we approach that person – not in judgment, but in love. And we don’t just give them our experience or cute sayings, but we give them the truth of God’s word. And we do so in love.

3. Realize the stakes are high.  (v. 16-18)

When our physical bodies suffer a wound that isn’t cleaned or tended to, an infection sets up in the blood, resulting in the death of those cells. Eventually, if the affected limb isn’t removed, it will spread to the whole body and cause death. Quarreling and conflict can do the same thing in the church.  Division spreads. Suspicion spreads. And eventually, the whole body is affected. This is no light matter. The stakes are high.

4. Remember God keeps His word and His people.  (v. 19)

God’s firm foundation will stand. No heresy will overtake the gospel. No doctrinal debate can defeat the power of the cross. The gospel will go forth. Every person God has chosen, every person that God has called to be His own, their eyes will be opened, they will hear the truth, and they will be saved.

5. God wants to use you as His vessel.  (v. 20-21)

It doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside, what education we have or don’t have, it doesn’t matter where we came from, or what we’ve done. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, you’ve been forgiven and cleansed, and the Master wants to use you as His vessel. Instead of being filled with anger and strife and quarrels, God wants His people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be filled with His word, to be His instruments of love and grace and reconciliation.

6. Know what to flee and what to pursue.  (v. 22-23)

Not only are we to avoid endless quarrels and run from things that oppose God, but we need to pursue those things that reflect God’s nature.

-We pursue righteousness (right living).

-We pursue faith (a deep, abiding trust in God).

-We pursue love (preferring the good of others over ourselves).

-We pursue peace (prioritizing the unity between one another based in the unity we have in Christ.)

And this pursuit is a daily one, in prayer, in reading the Bible. And yet, we are not called to do this in isolation. We pursue God and grow in Christ “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”. That’s the church!

7. Remember God has a redemptive purpose.  (v. 24-25)

If we share the truth with kindness and patience, the end goal is that God would grant those in error the gift of repentance, that they would “come to their senses”, which means they would wake up and be freed from their deception. That God would open their eyes to the truth, rescue them from the trap of the devil, rescue them from doing the devil’s will, and be freed to do God’s will.

Just as God did that for us, may He do that for others, through us, not by quarreling, but by sharing the truth in love. And be assured – He will turn hearts to Himself. He will open more blinded eyes. And we will continue to see the power of His gospel go forth.

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