Friday, February 24, 2017

Matthew 13:24-30 – Dealing with Difficult People

Matthew 13:24-30 – Dealing with Difficult People

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.

So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’

He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Anywhere you go, whether work, school, or church, you will encounter “Difficult People.”  You know the type – Demanding…hard to please… unpleasant …people who, for one reason or another – push your buttons.  

We understand it’s part of life to be put in situations with people we may not like, but knowing that ahead of time doesn’t make it easier.  And nowhere is it more difficult than in Church… or when a person you work with claims to be a Christian… and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t make yourself like them.  

Be honest… you know it’s true!?!?

When you find yourself in that situation, you want to do right by the Lord… you want to be the bigger person and show kindness in the face of hostility.  But it’s hard... because something in us just wants to ‘give that person a peace of our mind.’  

We come to church and feel guilty that there is something between us and a fellow Christian that we just can’t seem to get passed.  

We go to work with people who profess to know the Lord, but their attitudes stink and they are often unethical and unChristlike.  It’s a very hard thing to act lovingly in the face of such blatant hypocrisy.

WHAT are we supposed to DO?  Avoid them?  Share our feelings?  How do we handle this thing in a way that is pleasing to the Lord? And WHY would God put us in this position anyway??

Jesus provides insight in our text.  

At some point in His public ministry, Jesus’ sermons took on a different flavor.  He used parables: stories from everyday life to communicate important principles.  Many of these stories were hard for the average man to understand, and often the disciples would come to Jesus privately for clarification and He would explain Himself so they would not be kept in the dark.  Such is the case with our story today.

What we will learn this morning is the “who, where, what, and why” of difficult people.  Notice…

1. First: the Who – WHO is Jesus talking about in this parable?  We already know they are difficult people.  But who are they really?  Notice v. 24, “He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,  but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.”

An enemy planted weeds in the farmer’s wheat field.  They were the product of someone’s hatred for the farmer.  The weeds would vie for the same nutrients, they would occupy the same spaces, but in the end, they were NOT wheat.  They would not … they COULD NOT produce the fruit the farmer required.

Darnel weeds give the appearance of authenticity… especially when they are not yet mature.  When they are small plants, they look very much LIKE wheat.  But the problem is… they never produce fruit… just more weeds.

Why would the enemy DO such a thing?  

Isn’t it obvious??? Because he wants to inflict harm upon the farmer's work!

  • Maybe he thought the farmer’s reputation would be damaged in the community when word got out that his wheat was inferior.
  • Maybe he thought the weeds would actually HINDER the good wheat… choking it out… preventing it from yielding a good harvest.

Whatever he thought, Jesus is introducing MORE than some imaginary thing in some make-believe place.  He is describing the activity of Satan as he attempts to hinder the Church of Jesus Christ.

Satan has his 'darnel weeds’ in every church.  People who LOOK authentic.  They SAY all the right things and can turn their “Christian testimony” on and off like a light-switch.  But they are NOT fruitful.  Though they have the same opportunities as the wheat, they are made of something fundamentally DIFFERENT.

They are competing for the time and ministry that should be devoted to the GENUINE, and they hinder the Lord’s reputation in the community as people outside the church talk about ‘all the hypocrites at that church.’  

Everywhere, Satan has his weeds.

They are in the Church at-large, as we see whole denominations twisting the doctrines of God for their own gain. A Church more interested in being LIKED by the world than REACHING it.  There are weeds in our community who call themselves “Witnesses” and “Latter Day Saints," appearing to be sincere and hard-working, but they are actually hurting the Lord’s work by creating confusion.  They LOOK like the real thing - but they are made of something fundamentally different than the real thing.

AND we see his weeds in the LOCAL church – people who profess to know the Lord, who go to church, who sing the songs and may even GIVE MONEY or SERVE in various capacities, but their lives outside of the church give no evidence whatsoever of a relationship with the Lord Jesus.  No fruit.

Satan has his weeds ⇒ everywhere.  They can’t remain hidden among the genuine forever.  Circumstances, time, and the light of the Holy Spirit have a way of revealing the truth.

This is the WHO of this text.

2.  We also see the ‘WHERE.’  It wouldn’t be treachery if the enemy had planted his own weeds in his OWN field.  Stupid - but not treacherous.  It wouldn’t accomplish anything if he kept his little group of counterfeits in one specific place or even planted them in a corner of the farmer’s field.  No… it would be too easy for the farmer to just uproot the weeds… it would be too simple for the community to ignore them.  
  • So they are intermingled WITH the wheat… dispersed everywhere there is GOOD seed.  

That’s the only way the enemy can be successful in his efforts to hurt the Farmer's work.

Which explains your frustration with certain types of folks, no matter WHERE you go to church or what name is on the sign.  This explains why there is disharmony, church splits, hypocrisy, and infighting.

The weeds aren’t just OUT THERE where they can be easily identified and recognized for what they are.  No.  They occupy pews and pulpits – they sit on committees and count money – they teach classes and sing specials.  Even here …in this place, among people we know and love – there are counterfeits of the enemy, intended to disrupt, hinder, and even destroy the crop of God.  I know that sounds harsh - maybe even a bit paranoid – but it’s fact.

The “Where.’  ⇒ They are IN the church.

3.  But after the who and the where, Jesus proceeds to the WHAT.  What will the farmer do in response to this action of the enemy? There are three things I want you to notice:

First, the farmer doesn’t try to get rid of the weeds.  He leaves them there.  While it IS true that people will talk bad about the farmer’s abilities… while it is true that the weeds will be an aggravation and hindrance to the farmer AND the wheat, the farmer lets them stay.  He continues his business as usual.  He continues to feed and water and fertilize his wheat.  He continues to fight the crows and other pests.  He focuses his efforts on making his wheat top-notch and healthy.

There is a lesson to be learned here folks.  

It’s not your job to uproot the weeds.  It’s not my job to destroy those who disagree with me or create problems for me.  The Lord knows there are weeds among us and He wants us to go about our business – to stop focusing on THEM and the problems they cause.  We are to put our energies into producing the very best fruit we CAN for the glory of God.  

Focusing on THEM becomes an excuse… God wants you to quit blaming others for your lack of development.  He wants you to quit focusing on everyone else and what THEY are doing - and focus on YOUR OWN walk with the Lord.

Secondly, you will notice that not only does the farmer allow the weeds to stay, he has set a day in the future when the weeds and wheat WILL BE harvested.  A time when they will be separated.  A ‘day of reckoning.’

The Lord is going to work all of this out in HIS time.  He has a day set when He will separate the counterfeit Christians from the genuine.  

But not only does the farmer allow the weeds to grow side-by-side with the wheat, and not only has he set a time for harvest, when he gathers his wheat into his barn He will simultaneously BURN the weeds.  

That is a symbol of Judgment.  And that judgment will be worse than anything we could have ever done to the weeds ourselves!  “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord!”  SO, unless your name is “Jesus,” you probably ought to leave the deciding of these things to Him!

And to be frank - the reason I need to leave it in God’s hands is because

I can be wrong about people.

I might assume that some folks ARE saved because they are so nice and they treat me so well… and I might assume that OTHERS are NOT simply because there are parts of their personality I don’t likeAnd I might be wrong on both accounts.  God will work all of that out, my friend.  And HE won’t be wrong.

4.  And then finally, not only does Jesus teach us the Who, Where, and What of difficult people, He also shows us - WHY. That's the bottom line, isn't it??

WHY does the Lord allow difficult people to remain in your life? 2 Reasons:

First, the Lord allows these counterfeits to stay for their benefit.  After all, who knows but what the constant exposure to the word and prayer might open their hearts to faith and repentance?  Who knows but what your love, encouragement, and example might prick their conscience - may FINALLY GET THROUGH TO THEM and be used to make an eternal difference in their life!?!  

I know THIS, there is absolutely no hope of them ever coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord without them being exposed to God’s love and truth!

But even MORE importantly, Jesus allows these counterfeits to stay for YOUR benefit.  Notice what Jesus says half-way into verse 28 and in all of verse 29,  when His servants ask, “do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.”

God is concerned about YOU.  He has two basic concerns:

FIRST, He wants you to become more like Christ.  He wants you to be compassionate, zealous, and pure.  He wants you to have a dogged perseverance where you refuse to quit.  He wants to build your character and shape you into a weapon of the Gospel– so often He will allow difficult people to come into your life to drive you into the presence of God.

And SECOND, He knows that the wheat might be damaged if He removed the weeds.  He knows if He took the weeds out of the church now, He would be removing a lot of folks that we love… maybe even members of our own families.  And the “hole” that would be left might cause some of us such heartache that we wouldn’t survive it spiritually.  Heartbroken.  Defeated.

So, instead of praying that God would remove difficult people… instead of allowing your spirit to sour and your reactions to them to be judgmental and harsh,
  • ask God to use that person to make YOU more like Jesus.  
  • AND ask the Lord to use YOUR witness to make a difference in their lives.

Remember - We are taught repeatedly in the word of God to “return GOOD for evil,” to be “patient in the face of affliction,” and to “turn the other cheek” or “go the extra mile” for those who make demands of us.  

Why do you think those stories are THERE??  

Those stories and commandments are not just in the Bible to take up space.  God wants you to do the right thing, even when everything within you screams against it, because He has a plan to help you, strengthen you, to make you fruitful and effective for HIS glory.  

And to accomplish that, sometimes He must drive you to your knees… He must get you into His presence – even IF you are only coming as the result of someone else’s mistreatment.

BOOM!  <Mic drop>

No matter where you go… or what a person claims to be, regardless the positions they hold – there are weeds in the work of God.  And when you come across them you are going to get frustrated, hurt, and even angry.  They are a problem NOT just because of what they do to YOU, they are a problem to the Work of the Lord.  

But listen... Not all difficult people are weeds – some are just mean old Christian folk! (lol) that need to get their heart right… Amen?  

But that isn’t what Jesus is talking about here.

He is teaching us about counterfeits who make our job much more difficult - our lives miserable.

And the Lord expects more of us than to throw our hands up and walk away…He wants us to press on... to pray.  He wants us to live the life in front of them - IN SPITE OF THEM.  It is for our good and for HIS glory that He does this.

So with THAT understanding, maybe the Lord has brought to YOUR mind a difficult person… a person hard to like… who tries and often succeeds in making your life miserable.  

Why don’t you come, right now, and pray about that situation.  Pray that God would work in this thing ... that He would strengthen your character, your love, and your resolve and that God would use your example to bring conviction to that “weed.”

Will you?