When People Are a Challenge

“I knew I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was young. I still enjoy the medical aspect, but people are a challenge. I can tell what kind of day I’m going to have by the names on my appointment book.”

Do you understand my doctor’s words? I do, and so does Jesus. That is why His words to Peter are relevant today.

After His resurrection Jesus had a special exchange with Peter that supplies three lessons for those who deal with people.

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’

Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’” (Jn. 21:15, NIV).

  1. Jesus fed and served Peter and the disciples before He addressed the motivation to serve. Those who minister well are first fed by Jesus. Have you let Jesus feed you today? We’ve discussed this before, just a reminder.
  2. The motivation to care for others comes from my relationship with Christ, not my affection for people.

Jesus knew Peter loved Him and wanted to serve Him, but He also knew working with people can be a challenge. They are in your corner one moment and against you the next. Often they need our care the most when they are the least likable (think sick, grumpy, stressed, or insecure). If Peter was to represent Christ in the world he couldn’t draw his motivation from the people he shepherded. He had to draw it from his relationship with Christ.

The same is true for us. Fans who cheer when their team does well, boo and leave when they don’t. People who are quick to complain about problems are also slow to notice the effort it took to make things run smoothly. A woman who worked for a cable and internet server told me she hated to wear her shirt with her company logo into a store because total strangers would approach her to complain about their cable. Even friends and family hurt and disappoint us. Children sass and pout. Spouses criticize or withdraw. Why in the world would anyone keep loving, ministering, and tending such folks?

Look at Jesus’ words again. “Do you love Me?” He didn’t ask, “Do you love them?” If you love Jesus:

  • Instruct your child, even though she sulks
  • Prepare nutritious meals for your family, even though they balk
  • Lead your group at work, even though they grumble
  • Love your wife, even when she disappoints you
  • Respect your husband, even when he’s distracted
  • Give each client your best, even when they don’t notice

3. Jesus said, “Feed My sheep.” Treat people as sheep who belong to our Shepherd. They are His—not mine. I’m not responsible for their actions. I’m to love Jesus and tend them. Treating people well shows how much I love Jesus.

Who is your challenge? When your feelings vacillate, remember affection for them is not our motivator. Love the Shepherd. Tend His lambs.


Debbie Wilson

Deborah W. Wilson

Women’s Bible Study

Ladies, it is not too late to join me and Give Yourself a Break from unreasonable expectations, difficult people, worry, regret, pressure to perform, and more. God’s rest awaits you. Evening study is in Cary, and morning study in Zebulon. Click here for more information.

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  1. Keita Ikeda

    It is always easy to think of ourselves as the protagonists. One thing I’d do before calling others “challenging” would be to check to see if I am in the wrong. God’s laws are simple. Love God and love others as self. All the laws and all the prophets hang on these two. Therefore, all other traditions, rules, and protocols must yield to these two.

    • Debbie

      Keita, You are so right to say look at ourselves first. As you know, Jesus called that taking the log out of your own eye. But whether they or we are the source of our angst, Jesus wants us to continue to care for others. Good to hear from you.

      • Keita Ikeda

        Debbie, Loving God and loving others as ourselves – are you saying these two are not caring enough?

  2. Ann Musico

    Beautifully said, Deb. This is especially relevant to me as someone I’ve worked with for over 10 years and have always trusted and been loyal to recently betrayed my trust. I love how you distinguish the fact that we are to love Jesus and tend His sheep. That puts everything in a totally different perspective. When this person called me a week or two ago and acted as if he’d done nothing much – just offered a flippant – sorry – I accepted the apology and trusted that the Lord will make it all right. I am determined to continue to show him the love of God even though I will be more cautious in my dealings with him.

    • Debbie

      Ann, What a perfect but painful example. It helps to know they are His sheep and He will deal with them (Romans 14). That doesn’t mean not to be shrewd as a serpent. Joseph tested his brothers before he revealed himself to them. You are wise to consider his character in future dealings. Jesus treated people differently based on who they were, but loved them all. Thanks for sharing.

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