Loving “Difficult” People So That…
If you are visiting from my Proverbs 31 Devotion, welcome! We are so thankful you stopped by for a visit. For my on-line study girls, I am posting our lesson a day early since I have a Proverbs 31 Devotion running today.
I am especially excited you stopped by today because I have exciting news!
I am praising God for His faithfulness and overjoyed to announce our “Living So That” study will be available in published form! I can’t quite share all the details yet as they are in the works, but I am so excited for what the future holds!!
We are forming a new group called Wendy’s Street Team. I would love for you to team up with me for this “Living So That” project and future Bible study projects. To become a member, e-mail me at email@example.com and put “Wendy’s Street Team” in the subject heading and include your name, e-mail address, cell phone, city and state. My dear friend and assistant, Lisa Sheltra, will be helping me coordinate this effort. We will have many fun ways for the Street Team to participate and help promote new projects, including sneak peaks at new studies and special perks as the time for publication draws near.
Also, next Tuesday we will have a fun Christmas Giveaway. Please stop by next week for a chance to enter!
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God’s timing is always perfect. Proverbs 31 Ministries schedules our devotionals months in advance, yet my devotion today coincides perfectly with our “Living So That” lesson. Our theme this week addresses relationships, more specifically, how to love “difficult” people so that people will see and meet Jesus in us. Be sure to listen to the video to discover why “difficult” is in quotation marks!
Now let’s move on to Lesson Four of Living So That: Our Call to Action.
God calls us to live a life of love in John 13:34-35,
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
What is at stake is the way the world sees God. We are God’s people, His ambassadors. When we demonstrate love in this world, we give the world a compelling picture of God…one that draw them to Him and not away. This week’s lesson shares truths that enable us to live out this life of love to which God calls each and every one of us.
The video below goes a bit deeper into the nuggets of truth shared in my Proverbs 31 devotional and in our homework.
Let’s get started!
This Week’s Memory verse
You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, [so] that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
This Week’s Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness to walk with me through these lessons. You have poured Truth into my heart and mind. You have given me a Spirit of Knowledge and Revelation to understand Your Word and apply it in my life. You have convicted and refined me. I am so thankful for this precious time in Your word. Now that my study is nearing the end, lead me to my next steps with You. give me a hunger and thirst for more of You and more of Your Word. Open doors for me to live out what I have learned. I want to live a “so that” life. Give me the courage to obey my “Calls to Action.” Use me, Lord, to make a difference in Your Kingdom. Instruct me daily in the way I should go. Keep my eyes fixed on You. Give me opportunities to share the Hope I have in You and to share the truths and promises found in Your living and active Word. I love you, Lord, and ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jesus says, “I am the Light of the World.” (John 8:12). Why does He call Himself “Light?” Remember Jesus came to earth not only to redeem us but also to reveal God to man. He often used the physical to speak of the spiritual. Just before this declaration, Jesus had exposed the sin of the scribes and Pharisees who brought the woman guilty of adultery before Him to see how she should be punished. When He pointed out their sin and showed them they were just as guilty as she, they fled. They thought their sin was hidden. But nothing is hidden from the eyes of God.
We do not have Jesus physically in our midst, so how do we experience the “Light of the World” today?
A. Read the following passages to answer the above question and share what you find:
1. Psalm 19:7-11
2. Psalm 119:105
3. Psalm 119:130
4. Proverbs 2:1-8
5. Proverbs 6:23
6. Has the Word of God been a source of light in your life? Have you noticed a connection between times of darkness/sin and your time in the Word?
To live in the light means being real with God. It requires surrender, confession, repentance and obedience. We must continually expose our hearts and minds to His Word. While there, we must allow Him to teach us new ways to think and act.
Letting our light shine before men requires a new way of thinking and acting. It means bringing our thoughts and actions in line with God’s Word. Romans 12:2, another “so that” verse, says,
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
The Voice Bible says it this way:
Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by the renewing
of your mind. As a result you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and
B. What is the world’s image?
1. List some ways the world “molds” us into its image?
2. What are some ways you are being molded into the world’s image?
Conform, as used here, means “to fashion or shape one thing like another.” Paul warns us not to conform our lives to the lifestyle of the present age in which we live. We go along with our friends so we will not miss out or be left out. We say “yes” to things when we know we should say “no.” We engage in conversations that tear others down rather than build them up. We watch television shows and movies that we know are displeasing to the Lord. Eventually, we become so accustomed to the ways of the world that we think they’re normal.
Paul states that rather than conform, we are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds. The Greek verb translated “transformed” (metamorphoo) is seen in the English word “metamorphosis,” a biological change whereby a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. One creature enters the cocoon and a totally different creature emerges. Metamorphosis results in a total change from the inside out, and for believers, the key to this transformation is our minds.
“Mind” here is the Greek word nous. It denotes the control center of our attitudes, thoughts, perceptions, judgments, emotions and actions. If the Holy Spirit is to have control over us, He must control our minds as well as our hearts. This is why Paul calls us to continually renew our minds.
C. List some ways we can renew our minds. Look up the following passages and share what they speak to this issue.
1. Psalm 119:9-11
2. Philippians 2:5-7
3. Philippians 2:14-16
4. Philippians 4:6-8
5. Colossians 3:1-2
With the renewal of our minds comes life transformation. We trade our old patterns of selfishness and self-centeredness for the Kingdom values we studied above. We no longer consider ourselves first. We begin to put others’ needs before our own. We want to please Christ and not ourselves.
Life transformation prompts “so that” living.
D. Is there someone to whom God is asking you to reach out and shine His Light? If you are hesitating, ask God to help you step out in faith and begin a conversation. This will look different for each of us, depending upon our situation. Pray for opportunity. Pray for that person’s heart to be prepared. I will be praying this week for God to be faithful as you step out in obedience to shine your light.
God loves us unconditionally and calls us to love others in the very same way. Of course, our fallen nature makes it impossible for us to do this on our own. I love this quote I found while researching this topic:
“Walk in the power of the Truth that the name of the Lord God may be glorified among you, his renown may be seen in you and among you, and all the world may be astonished.” George Fox, leader of the Quakers.
The key to loving the unlovable, difficult people in our lives…those who hurt, betray, and disappoint us…is God’s Word. Whatever our calling, wherever God has placed us, He calls us to live a life set apart…to let our lights shine so that God maybe seen and glorified. Can you think of a more powerful way to bring God glory than to love the unlovable, difficult, frustrating people in our lives.
E. Share what the following verses teach you about love: Philippians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 3:12, Ephesians 3:17b-19, John 13:34-35.
F. Read Galatians 5:22. From where does love come?
Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we declare our love for God; confess our sin; repent of our sin, and turn our lives over to Christ, He seals us with His Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 1:22) He indwells our hearts. The old is gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) God begins to produce His fruit in us. God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, deposits His love in our hearts. (Galatians 5:22)
When His love comes alive in us, faith takes root. That faith expresses itself in love. And the deeper our faith, the deeper our ability to love.
How does our faith and, in turn, our love grow deeper? Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Consequently, the more we expose our hearts to His Word (the message), the more our faith grows. As faith deepens, the Holy Spirit gives us confidence and enables us to take the message we hear and live it out in love.
Friend, if we want more of God’s love, we must pray for it. We must also dig deeper in His Word, inviting Him to teach us how to love others. We must then meditate on what He reveals and tuck it in our hearts. Exercising these spiritual disciplines will enable us to love others the way God and Jesus love us.
G. Read the following passages and share what they teach about loving others:
1. Ephesians 4:29
2. Ephesians 4:31
3. Ephesians 4:32
4. Ephesians 5:1
5. Colossians 4:6
6. Hebrews 3:13
7. James 4:11-12
8. 1 Peter 2:1
But the truth is, loving people this way is just plain hard, especially when it comes to difficult people. But are they really difficult people? Beth Moore defines them a bit differently. She wrote in her book, The Beloved Disciple: Following John to the Heart of Jesus, such people are not really “difficult people;” rather they are people we find difficult. Meaning, just because we find them difficult to love does not mean they’re difficult. It could be the problem is with us and not them.
Loving others requires humility. We will spend more time on this subject next week. But for today we will examine humility as it relates to love. If we find ourselves angry with or hurt by another, before we let loose with our tongue, we should examine our own heart. It may be God is working on our heart, not theirs. God will always deal with us first. His plan is to transform us into the image of His Son, and that requires getting rid of that in us which does not reflect His image. When we submit to that refining and allow God to change our hearts, we will be able to love the unlovely.
But there will be times where the one with whom we are struggling may really be difficult. It is then that we must pull from the truths we studied above. We must love with a love beyond ourselves. We must draw from God’s love. God’s love is agapao. This kind of love is a deliberate choice. The other love is phileo. It is a preference and based more on feelings. It develops as we get to know someone.
To love the unlovable, means making a deliberate choice to love someone despite how we feel about her. This cannot be done in our own strength. It can only be done by drawing from the agapao love within us. It necessitates will over emotion. It helps to remember that we too were at one time unlovely and difficult, enemies of God. Yet He loved us and gave His only Son for us. Romans 5:5 says,
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.
Loving someone that is unlovable or difficult challenges us to live beyond what we can do in and through our own strength. It requires that we press into God. It requires a conscious decision to rid our hearts and minds of all toxic thoughts regarding the person and replace them with the truths of Scripture. When we empty ourselves this way, we are available to be filled with more of His Spirit and thus, able to choose words and actions that reflect love not hate.
H. The New Testament contains over 50 commands to love. Read Romans 12:9-18. Paul defines love for us. Identify the various facets of the kind of love to which God calls us. Share some ways you can practically live out these directives in your own life.
My Call to Action:
Based on how God has spoken to your heart today, complete the thought below:
Love the unlovable, difficult person so that….
Commit now to take the first steps in obedience to what you have heard.
It’s hard to believe we only have one week left! You have been faithful to share from your heart. Your past comments reveal God is faithfully answering our prayers and doing a mighty work in and through our time together. Please continue to share this week. Be vulnerable. Share how you have struggled with loving the unlovable…loving those who frustrate you…loving those who disappoint you….loving those who swoop in and take your parking place or cut you off in traffic! Share and let’s celebrate success stories of how God has helped you truly love people that in your own strength you know you never could.
I will be praying for you throughout the week.