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Living Life With Difficult People

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I won’t be giving any statistics today, but I will make an educated guess this morning. My guess is we have all encountered them - the grumpy, the cantankerous, the complaining/grumbling, the glass is half empty people, they are always right people, the straight up mean people, the hurt people, the misunderstood people, the hopeless people, the mislead people - all characteristics of difficult individuals.
We’ve come into contact with these people within the family, at the work place, at school, even in the church. Sometimes the experiences we have with these troublesome individuals push us to the point we become so frustrated and the human part of us may be tempted to react like this
Sometimes obnoxious people can be so trying we simply want to say STOP IT!
These types of people are really not new to society - looking throughout Scripture we see many; for instance Nabal that David was dishonored by, the government leaders that Daniel had to deal with, Pharoah who Moses interacted with, Jezebel that Elijah contended with, and the list goes on. Even Jesus was surrounded by those that were not easy to get along with. Today I want to look at a passage of Scripture in which we see principles Jesus shows us on How To Live With Difficult People.
This passage is found in Luke 19; where we are introduced to a man by the name of Zacchaeus
Read Text:
Luke 19:1–10 ESV
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
This small portion of Scripture - 10 verses - is all we know about Zacchaeus, yet I find it overflowing with principles in living life with difficult people. The first principle I see is that

I. Believers should be Spirit led (vs 1)

Jesus was on a mission - His mission was the cross.
It was the Holy Spirit leading Jesus to the cross by way of Jericho.
He was intentionally passing through on His mission but not intending to stay or dwell there because He had very important business to tend to - the business of redeeming each of us through His death and resurrection that we talked about and celebrated last Sunday.
It was this leading of the Holy Spirit that brought Jesus in contact with a man by the name of Zacchaeus.
We see in
Galatians 5:25 ESV
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Paul says that we are called to keep in step with the Spirit or be Spirit led; and when we walk in this obedience God places us in the exact place we need to be at exactly the right time to come into contact with the individual(s) He is placing in our path.
We never know who that person will be but often times it is the difficult person. So often we try to avoid those people who are troublesome.
Walmart example/Hobby Lobby example - Susan
Although the situations and people God leads us to by His Holy Spirit may be trying, we must be Spirit led
A second principal I see here for living with difficult people is

II. Believers Need to Remember Even Difficult People are Drawn to Jesus (vs 3)

Each one of us has a story. Although the Bible does not give us great detail about Zacchaeus, we are given a small glimpse into his life.
Zaccheus was a Chief tax collector so he was probably in charge of the district or region and most likely had others working under him to help collect taxes - so he had power.
Zacchaeus was rich.
Tax collectors were known for collecting more than was necessary.
Luke 3:12–13 ESV
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
Luke 3:12,13 contains a conversation between John the Baptist and tax collectors who had come to him to be baptized and John told them to stop collecting more than was necessary. So this was a common practice among tax collectors at this time.
It appears this is how Zacchaeus became rich.
Although he had riches and power, something was still missing in his life - he was seeking for more.
In verse 3 we find that it is Jesus Zacchaeus is seeking.
Zacchaeus was a troublesome individual in the eyes of the people in his society because he stole money for them; and he was working for the unclean Gentiles - the Romans who happened to be Israel’s number one enemy at the time.
In their eyes Zacchaeus was probably the last person they could ever imagine wanting to connect with Jesus or Jesus wanting to have anything to do with Zacchaeus.
But in his desperation, he set aside his dignity and ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree just to see Him.
We need to Remember that Even Difficult People are Drawn to Jesus.
A third principle in the story of Zacchaeus is

III. Believers Should Focus on the Person and Not be Distracted by the Problem (vs 5a)

What would have caused Zacchaeus to choose this lifestyle?
We don’t know for certain but with what is said about him, imagine with me if you would what could have encouraged this decision.
Zacchaeus was short. The Bible makes it a point to reveal this trait about Zacchaeus to us.
Is it possible he was made fun of growing up?
Could it have been possible that he felt constantly overlooked by others because of his physical stature?
Is it possible that hurt after hurt lead him to be the difficult person willing to cohort with the enemy and show his own people he was somebody?
And in doing so he built his social stature based on this hurt? Now he is taking the money from the very ones who had looked down on him for so long and building his own empire with it and he had the backing of the Roman government and there was not a thing the people could do about it.
But we see in the first part of verse 5 that Jesus was not focused on the problem, he was focused on the person, He was focused on Zacchaeus
which leads me to the third principle

IV. Believers Should be Inclusive (vs 5b)

Jesus didn’t just SEE Zacchaeus, He spoke to him.
He invited Himself to be a guest at Zacchaeus’ home.
By this simple gesture, Jesus included him in fellowship, invited him into friendship with Him.
Zacchaeus immediately responded to the invitation and joyfully accepted Jesus as his guest.
A small act of inclusiveness can greatly affect a person’s life.
As followers of Christ we need to be inclusive - even of the difficult person.
The final principle I want to look at this morning is

V. Believers Should Stand for Righteousness (vs 7,8)

Because of the way society viewed Zacchaeus, they were not at all impressed with Jesus’ decision to accept him so they turned on Jesus.
The crowd began to dictate through grumbling/ murmuring how Zacchaeus should be treated by Jesus.
It is so easy to give in to pressure by the loud voices around us whether that be society, other friends , those who can be intimidating because of position, etc., and we fail to stand firmly in the decision the Holy Spirit has lead us to make.
Instead often times we tend to take the opposite stand and in a sense fight with the difficult person. But instead we should be more like the lion in The Lion story:
A lion was challenged to a fight by a skunk. The lion politely declined.
The skunk accused the lion of being a coward. "I am not afraid," said the lion.
"Then why won't you fight with me?" asked the skunk.
"Well," replied the lion. "If you must know. I will not fight you because if I do I will destroy you, but I will come out stinking of skunk. Your challenge changes nothing. You are still a skunk and I am still King of the Jungle."
On that occasion and many times since, I have looked at the lions in my office and chosen not to fight, not to defend my reputation.
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord"(Romans 12:17-19, NIV).
Jesus took a stand for righteousness and we need to do the same even if it doesn’t meet the approval of those around us.


In conclusion I want to tell you the story of the encounters I’ve had with a difficult person. Her name is Ruth
Story of Ruth
It is inevitable - we will live life with difficult people. And as we discovered today, we can learn from Jesus very practical principles in how to deal with these people We need to be Spirit led, We need to Remember Even Difficult People are Drawn to Jesus, We need to Focus on the Person and not be Distracted by the Problem, We need to be Inclusive, and we need to always Take a Stand for Righteousness
We all have the ability to become difficult people. We need to take inventory of our own hearts and lives and as the hard question
Question: Am I a difficult person?
and answer honestly.
As we live our life in the resurrection of Jesus we can experience life transformation that can help us to live a joyful life as we journey with others and come into contact with those difficult people.
Offered inclusivness or relationship with him Gave him time of day
Stood by Zaccheus even when the crowd gave Jesus a hard time for being with a sinner
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