I had to be up early this morning to make an appointment, and was able to listen to my favorite pastors’ and their teachings while driving into the heart of our city during rush hour traffic. It’s been almost 2 years since I did this every day while working, and hearing their voices was like being embraced by old friends. Hearing God’s truths, the encouragement from Scripture,being reminded of the love God has for His children, and hearing practical ways to deal with tricky situations are things that I miss from these daily doses of Truth.
This morning, Chuck Swindoll spoke on 2 Timothy, a book where Paul is writing from prison and giving advice and admonishment to his understudy, Timothy. Paul talks about Timothy’s childhood, his faith development, and Chuck pointed out an interesting passage that takes most Christians by surprise.
Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)
Paul is talking here about a man that he met on his spiritual and physical journey while doing God’s work that did him great harm. We don’t know exactly what the harm was, but it is clear it is much more than mere physical violence as Paul endured so much of that from the hands of so many others that by this point, you can almost be sure that Paul is talking about a wound of the spirit, an emotional harm.
He warns Timothy about this man, possibly this man would seek Timothy out, either to verbally assail him or by quietly pretending to be a friend (as people often do) in order to get close to him. For some reason, Paul decided it was very necessary to warn Timothy about this man. Not only did Paul tell Timothy to watch out for him, he then goes on to tell him to “guard against him.” It is very common that the man and women like this are involved somehow in spreading God’s word, a fellow Christian even that will engage in spiritual abuse in harming you. Chuck talked extensively about men and women in the church who use their power and influence to manipulate, shame, or control their members to get them to comply out of condemnation. For whatever reason, Paul is very adamant that Timothy should be wary of ever trusting this person. This implies that the man would try to get close to Timothy -close enough to harm him, to allow him to enter his life… Paul loves Timothy, desires his ultimate good and spiritual growth, and does not want him to endure the pain and “great harm” that he endured at this man’s pursuit of him.
Guard against him.
I love that Paul doesn’t say something moderate like, “Well, he did me great harm, but you know… people are entitled to their own opinions and convictions, and we should all just accept him even though he attacked me ruthlessly.”
He doesn’t say, “Well, he did do me great harm, but you know, Timothy, if I had only been stronger, I would have responded better and could have made a relationship work with this kind of person.”
He doesn’t say, “Well, he is a fellow Christian, and even though he did do me great harm, we should keep him in the fellowship and try to view him as a good neighbor.”
No. He doesn’t say any of that. Paul does not excuse someone who does “great harm” to another, especially if that person claims to be a brother or sister in Christ.
It is extremely important to note people who are supposedly “in Christ” with you, who feel right and justified in doing others (or you) “great harm.” We should allow ourselves to “be wary” of them.
If you are like me, you’ve failed at this in the past and because of being sweet or kind – thinking you were being a good Christian, and have allowed the malicious gossip, the envious shrew, or the backstabbing brother to stay in your life to your own detriment.
Sweet Christian, you do not have to just embrace everyone who comes to you disguised as a friend or brother or sister in Christ. There are many that watch you, haunt your footsteps, or purposefully seek you out for motivations other than building you up or encouraging you in your journey of growth. It was clear that Paul must have been worried that Timothy would somehow come in contact with this man, otherwise the warning would not be included in the Bible. Perhaps the man, knowing Paul was passing on the baton of spiritual advancement of the gospel, knew that Timothy would be next, and would be inclined to pursue Timothy to distract and spiritually attack him (like he did to Paul).
The Lord will repay him for his deeds
I love how Paul is so confident that it is out of his hands, that he does not have to worry at all if this man will ever get his due punishment for harming him spiritually or emotionally. God takes care of it. He is the ultimate “avenger” talked about in Isaiah. And He is a righteous judge who looks not on the outside, but on the inside to see the heart of a person. He can tell the difference between someone with a pure or ugly diseased heart, and He will punish accordingly, and according to their deeds. You don’t have to worry about them at all.
In another sermon I once heard Chuck do, he talked about this passage again, and claimed that the ONLY way to live your life after being harmed by someone like this is to try to live your life as if they don’t exist. I was shocked to hear him say this, he is so wise and mature, I thought that Christians just had to “suck it up” and endure whatever abuse others felt like they were allowed to pour out on us.
No, sweet Christian, you don’t have allow someone to harm you. God will take care of them, and you can go on living a beautiful life, carrying the torch in your sphere of influence without any fear or hindrance from the evil one who seeks to emotionally and spiritually destroy you.
1) Guard your heart and your treasure. Guard against people like this. They will try to shame or guilt you into accepting them – because you are a sweet Christian, they will undoubtedly try to take advantage of your good character. Just like Satan, they will try to use your good-heartedness against you so that you allow them into your circle or life. Guard your heart carefully, if you know someone is a malicious gossip, a two-faced Christian, do not embrace them regardless of how they may try to ruin your reputation for rejecting them.
2) Understand there will be hardship to endure. Sometimes a person like this will go to a higher authority in order to try to force you to allow them to be in your life. Disregarding your personal boundaries, they will try to find loop holes, or ways to further ruin your reputation to get revenge because of your wise decision not to engage with them. Understand that when Satan brings someone like this into your life, there will be hardship in dealing with them, either emotionally or spiritually.
3) Endure it Patiently. It will pass, be patient and eventually they will leave you alone. People like this are never happy, are not fulfilling their God given tasks and duties, are bored or looking for strife and conflict, and eventually, they will fade away from your life like the grass. You will look for them and won’t be able to find them someday, as God will snuff them out and cause them to be ineffective (because they pursue things He doesn’t want them to pursue). Its merely a contention of keeping the big picture (a greater perspective) in mind, visualizing how you will respond to someone like this: with firm clear and honest boundaries. You can tell them exactly what you think of them, what they have done wrong (to others or to you in the past), in order to help them understand why you are rejecting them. Telling them clearly and firmly is a last ditch effort to help them stop continuing in a direction that is bad for them, for others, and for their future.
4) Stand firm in your journey. Stand firm in setting boundaries with these kinds of two-faced people. Do not allow them to trample on your soul or make a mess in the place that God’s given you to witness to others in. There is hope in enduring these kinds of trials, it makes us stronger and more effective Christians. We are more compassionate when we’ve faced suffering and harsh treatment, less likely to shame or try to punish others (glorifying ourselves in the process). Use it to find the strength God’s given you.
5) Take the torch and pass it on. There is still Truth to proclaim. Keep doing God’s work, helping others who want to be helped. Chuck talked about how we as Christians have become so soft. At the first sign of dealing with someone evil or spiritually attacking us, we fold up and cower under them.
There is still truth to proclaim in your own unique sphere of influence. You cannot allow one person to harm you so that you are rendered too emotional or ineffective in proclaiming God’s truths anymore. We must be emotionally and spiritually stronger than that! Have iron in our bones. And stand firm.
“God wants us to be on our feet, engaged in the battle, standing firm and guarding against any kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing that would do us great harm in our spiritual tasks and journey. Run hard, run well. May we be found faithful and passionate in our service to Him.” Chuck Swindoll