The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. 25 They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NLT)
Reading Jonah’s story and then coming across Paul’s admonition to Timothy about being patient and gentle with difficult people hits me as all one message—God really loves people! He loved the cruel, violent people of Nineveh who were threatening the very existence of Israel and Judah in Jonah’s day. He loves the difficult people who cause so much trouble in our world.
In fact, I need to be more specific. God loves the difficult people who cause trouble in MY world. Whether they are ungodly and pagan people who oppose everything I believe and stand for or they are fellow Christ-followers I come into conflict with, God’s love for them is steady and unchanging and every bit as strong as his love for me.
God wants to change people’s hearts. He wants to change the hearts of difficult people so that they can believe the truth and be free from Satan’s trap. He wants to change my heart so that I can be gentle and patient with my difficult people just as he is gentle and patient with me.
And what if I’m one of someone else’s “Difficult People?” It’s pretty eye-opening to think that you or I may be one of someone else’s “Difficult People!” They need God’s help to be patient with me and I need God’s help to become less difficult for them!
Jim Stephens is the founder of Resource Ministries. Resource Ministries is dedicated to serving the Body of Christ through providing resources for establishing believers on a and equipping God’s people for supportive ministry in and through the local church.