Have you ever wondered why God is so patient with troublemakers? I have.
We all know at least one. We have differing labels for them like, malcontents, prideful, arrogant, curmudgeons and more. One thing they have in common is they are a consistent thorn in your side. You pray for them, forgive them, make attempts to bridge differences only to see them burn that bridge again, and again, and again and…
I dealt with one such man in my church for ten years. He was a lay leader who headed up our largest ministry. He was well-off, retired CEO; very entitled and arrogant. For years he had bullied, argued, controlled, and threatened people. And yet maintained a small influential group that remained loyal to him. He verbally attacked elders, pastors, and anyone who stood in his way. He knew that with a flash of anger he could silence most naysayers sending them scrambling for cover. Clever and careful to manipulate he succeeded in creating dissension pitting his ministry against the Elders and me their Pastor. He was intimidating. We considered firing him but knew that would cost us more than we were willing to pay. Over the decades he received unquestioned authority that he now exercised with joy. So, what do you do?
Confrontation only made him worse creating a scene in public and stirring more trouble up in the backrooms of the church. He was a master manipulator who successfully twisted the truth to make himself look like the righteous victim.
Finally, we as a leadership team took God at His Word and began to pray. For almost two years we prayed weekly and at times daily. We prayed God’s Word back to Him. Reminding Him that He said, “The battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15 NASB). And “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19 NASB). And so, we stopped using our arsenal and employed God’s (2 Corinthians 10:3,4). We prayed that God would change this man’s heart or move him out of the way. Nothing happened.
A godly friend challenged me when he said, “Don’t you owe it to your brother in Christ to go and make it plain to him?” I thought, we’ve done that. But the more I prayed, the more convicted I became. I remember thinking, “Oh God are you sure? I really don’t want to do this”. It was pretty clear that I had to confront the man one more time. I called, set up an appointment to visit him at home. With grace and truth, I explained to him from the Scripture how he was creating dissension and division in our church. After a lengthy conversation, his reply was “I follow the Lord”. The implication was clear; I don’t follow you. I left there knowing I acted in grace and truth and left it to the Lord. I wasn’t ready for what happened next.
Two months later he suffered a debilitating stroke. When the news hit, one member of our leadership team who had been praying faithfully was amazed at the timing. So much so that they asked, “Did we cause that to happen?” To which I answered with a question, “Were you praying for that?” We agreed none of us had been praying for that. And while we were distressed by the news, we were also sobered by God’s response. He knew exactly what this man needed to humble him. Well, he survived the stroke, but with his new disability he was forced to move out of state to be closer to family. To this day he has not stepped foot into the church. It was then it occurred to me that God was waiting on me to confront this man with truth in love. And when he rejected my plea, God stepped in and removed him from our church.
So let me encourage you. Do you have anyone like that in your church? You can fight with them. But chances are they are better than you at fighting dirty. Please excuse this analogy. One friend told me when you fight with a pig you both get dirty, and the pig loves it. You can pray for them to change, but don’t count on it. You can ask God to act but be prepared for him to use you. And while you’re waiting on God to do something, remember that He may be waiting on you to do your part – first!