Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words – 2 Timothy 4:14-15 (NKJV)
It has taken me many years to voice it out but one lesson I have learnt is that only a friend can betray a friend, a stranger has nothing to gain. The closest person inflicts the sharpest pain. Through it all, I learnt a lot from The Apostle Paul. Almost from the time the apostle Paul came to faith in Christ, he faced opposition. From his dramatic conversion, all the way to the finish line of his execution and home going, the hurdles of opposition placed in Paul’s path were both constant and cruel. Paul was constantly heckled, rejected, cursed, hunted like prey, abandoned, beaten with rods, whipped, stoned, lied about, ridiculed, hounded, arrested, and imprisoned. Yet, despite all these, he finished faithfully. He endured to the end.
It was near the finish line, in view of his beheading, that the apostle penned his second and final letter to Timothy. In the closing of that letter and his life, we get a glimpse of two men who opposed him, two who made his difficult endurance race, even harder.
I’m sure that you have heard the old saying that there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. A third certainty is that sooner or later we will be hurt by someone else. Unless we choose to become a hermit and live alone in a cave, we will always be vulnerable to being hurt. Sometimes people hurt us accidentally, other times it is intentional. Sometimes they hurt us by their actions, other times it is by their words. At times, the wounds are superficial and heal quickly and at other times they are deep and scar us for the rest of our lives. However you want to say it, you can just be assured at sometime in your life, you are going to be hurt by another person. What in the world should you do when it happens? What can you do in response to such pain?
Paul gives us a hint in 2 Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:14-15 (NKJV) Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
These are the words of a person who was greatly hurt by a man named Alexander. These personal comments are shared in the last recorded words by the apostle Paul. As he gives final instructions to his son in the faith, Timothy, he reminds him that being hurt by other people is one of the hazards of being in the human race.
What exactly did Alexander do to Paul? We have absolutely no idea — Paul never tells Timothy or the readers of his letter. The word translated “harm” is the Greek word kakos which means: “something which is depraved or evil.” The word translated “much” can mean: “a large amount or something which occurs many times.” Whatever Alexander did to Paul, it was no small thing. It was deeply hurtful and must have either been done repeatedly or it was something that had a long lasting effect.
Here we learn an important principle, Paul refused to dwell on what had happened to him. If he had been like most of us, he would have gone into all the gory details of how bad he had been hurt. Paul was different. He refused to throw himself a pity party to gain sympathy from others. He also refused to allow bitterness and hatred to crawl into his brain. Paul had developed the ability to remember the best and to forget the rest of the bad which happened in life. His mentioning of it was simply told to be of a warning to Timothy. And yet, in the manner in which Paul tells this story, we discover some valuable lessons of how to respond to the hurts which others will inflict upon us in the span of your lives.
I want you to understand that what happened to Paul will happen to you. People will slander you. They will exclude you from their group. You will be criticized unjustly. Another worker might block you from a promotion. The one person you think would never disappoint you might someday betray you. A fellow Christian whom you love and respect may hurt you very badly. The person who promised to love you until death may walk out on you for someone else. What in the world can we do when other people hurt us with their words and their actions?
- YOU CAN EXPECT TO BE HURT BY OTHERS
It would be wonderful to be able to be vaccinated from being hurt by others. I wish there was a spiritual ointment which could be rubbed on the wounds which others inflict that would take the pain away. Unfortunately, no such cure exists. Paul mentions this painful relationship so matter-of-factually that it seems that he had learned to prepare himself for the reality of such actions and responses from others. Paul had been hurt many times from those he loved. So get it right. The Godly will be opposed. Sometimes it is your very own brethren who will accuse you.
In the third chapter of his letter Paul told Timothy that anyone who desired to live a godly life, anyone who wanted to live the kind of a life that pleased God would face opposition from time to time. He could count on it! But, Paul went on to tell Timothy that he could train himself to overcome it.
Count on It!
By the way, you and I can count on the same thing as well. If you are growing in godliness, growing in your relationship to living the kind of life that God has for you, you can count on facing opposition every now and then. But, the other certainty we can count on is God’s help to overcome the conflict. What can we do about it? Listen to what Paul had to say in 2 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV) This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The word Paul uses here for “turned away” is often used by Paul to speak of turning away from truth.
Because Paul was preaching the truth, many were turning away from him. The truth causes divisions. When you stand up for the truth, those in sin or those who have a different theology will turn away from you.
2 Timothy 4:10 (NKJV) for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica; Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.
I can imagine that if you weren’t right with God, Paul was the last person you would want to be around. Because Demas was in sin, he turned away from Paul. Demas loved the “present world,” which is a reference to Judaism. The word “world” is aion and means: “age.” Demas couldn’t give up his religious traditions so he stayed away from Paul.
2 Timothy 4:16 (NKJV) At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
Being rejected by friends, even Christian friends, because of your stand for the truth is a hurtful thing. I think we all know the pain of being rejected by friends because of our stand for the truth.
- REFUSE TO BECOME ANGRY AND BITTER.
The fastest way to become embittered is to dwell on the wrong others have done to you. Paul learned to forgive and forget and go on down the road of life. We know this is what Paul must have done for he never dwells on the injury Alexander brought to him. You know that you are on the road to bitterness when you continually review and rehearse the video tape in your brain of what was done to you. It is watched, and then rewound, and watched again and again.
The effect of wrath and bitterness can be deadly. Most of us have seen the signs placed on trucks and other vessels carrying hazardous materials. The acid we carry around when we are bitter will invariably spill as much on us as it will be poured on the one who has harmed us. Anger and bitterness and stress will physically increase your blood pressure, emotionally lead you into depression, spiritually sour your worship and prayer. Socially, it will cause you to be so unpleasant that no one will want to be around you.
Carrying a grudge is a loser’s game. I like what I read about one US President Richard Nixon when he was forced to resign the Presidency of the United States in 1974. He said to his staff in his farewell address, “Never hate your enemies because when you hate them, they have gotten you” The grudge you carry will end up causing more pain and frustration than the original pain inflicted on you.
Is this not what Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4 (NKJV) “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
Jesus knew that if we will not forgive those who hurt us, we allow them to continue to hurt us. I know this sounds impossible to some people, but the only way to heal the pain of the past is to forgive the one who hurt you. It is imperative because forgiveness not only heals your memory but it also changes your perspective about life. It is like cutting a malignant tumor out of your inner body. It is like being a prisoner and then being set free for life. It is also the only way to break the cycle of blame and pain in a relationship in life. Without forgiveness, the cycle will go on and on.
Forgiveness of other people is the first and foremost step of regaining healing and wholeness in your life when others have hurt you. The way we can forgive others is by remembering that God is working through their actions, even their evil actions, for our good.
Genesis 50:20 (NKJV) “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
- LEAVE THE REVENGE TO THE LORD.
Did you see the secret to Paul being able to let go of the wrong brought upon him by Alexander? He said, 2 Timothy 4:14 (NKJV) Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.
I am afraid that we sometimes have given people the impression that if you love God enough, you will just forgive the person and go on as if nothing really happened. What we have failed to state is that, yes, often what that person did to you was indeed terrible and should be punished. That is the reason we hurt so badly. We know that an injustice has been done and that it should be punished. I think that is only human nature and it is a lie if someone tries to tell you such feelings are wrong and are sinful. That proves you are a human being! But, be very careful at this point. It is one thing to acknowledge that God ought to punish that person, and a far different thing to decide to become God and do the punishing for him. Forgiveness does not mean that the injustice did not occur or that it should not be punished. But it is coming to the place and point of trusting that God is much better at administering justice than we are. Forgiveness means deferring the scales of justice to him.
That may be the most difficult thing in life to do. Romans 12:19-20 (NKJV) “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
The word “avenge” is the Greek ekdikeo which means: “to vindicate one’s rights, to punish a person.” We are not to try to punish someone who has wronged us even though that is the natural response. Rejecting vengeance is not natural; we can only live like this supernaturally as we walk in dependance upon God. In our flesh, we all take joy in someone who gets even. There is a story about a truck driver who dropped in at an all-night restaurant where he had gone to take some food. The waitress had just served him when three swaggering, leather-jacketed motorcyclists–of the Hell’s Angels type–entered and rushed up to him, apparently looking for a fight. One grabbed his plate of food off his table; another took a handful of his Ugali (Nsima); and the third picked up his fanta and began to drink it.
The truck driver did not respond as they probably expected. Instead, he calmly rose, got into his pocket, walked to the front of the room, took some money and paid his bill and went out the door. The waitress followed him to persuade him to take another portion of food but she could only stand and watch him out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.
When she returned, one of the cyclists said to her, “Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?”
She replied, “I can’t answer as to that, but he’s not much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles out in the parking lot.”
We laugh at a story like that. We love stories like that, don’t we? That’s because we’re sinful and in our flesh we love revenge! May God help us to be more like Him.
Vengeance is God’s job, not ours. The effects of holding a grudge are very serious. Modern medicine has shown that emotions like bitterness and anger can cause physical problems such as headaches, backaches, allergic disorders, ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart attacks, to name just a few. When we do not love our enemies but strike back at them, we are usurping Gods’s prerogative to mete out justice. God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” By seeking revenge, we really inflict great harm on ourselves. Let’s trust Him to make things right and be willing to suffer the wrong.
The person who is able to take the wrong without bitter resentment or slandering is reflecting one of the most beautiful characteristics of Jesus Christ that you will ever see. That is exactly what our Lord was like– He gave up his rights (Philippians 2:5-11). He took wrongs and he was defrauded; he did it patiently and without reacting. Peter said of Christ,
1 Peter 2:23 (NKJV) “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;”
Jesus committed himself to God knowing that God was in control and His will and purpose were at work both in what He gained and what He lost. Forgiveness and non-retaliation are beautiful traits of Christ likeness that a believer can display.
Mark it down, whenever a Christian sets out on a course to exact revenge and repay evil for evil and wrong for wrong, that person has begun to play God. Perhaps, you are thinking, “Austin, you don’t have any idea what it feels like to be really wronged”. Oh, yes I do! And I’m sure that all of you know what it feels like also. Nearly everybody in that knows me can testify of my wounds. But God’s word speaks to us in a timely fashion. The scripture says:
Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
To forgive means: “to give up a claim; to cease bearing resentment”. The most important nine words in that verse are these: “Just as God, For Christ’s Sake, has forgiven you”. Never forget that no one will ever wrong you like you wronged God. And yet, for the sake of what Christ did for us at Calvary, God has chosen to forgive each and every one of us. As recipients of his marvelous grace, how can we do any less to those who may have wronged