Learning the Hard Way

What happened to Hymenaeus and Alexander? Do you remember these guys? Paul mentions them in his letters to Timothy.
Hymenaeus apparently was teaching a heresy that the bodily resurrection of the dead had already taken place which made everyone in the church a little upset. (See 2 Timothy 2:16-18). Alexander was a coppersmith who did a great deal of harm to Paul (See 2 Timothy 4:14-15). Paul says both fellows were “shipwrecked.” That’s not good. They were so far gone Paul writes, “I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” (I Timothy 1:18)
Would you ever say that about anyone? Seriously, would you ever hand someone “over to Satan”? I’ve just preached a whole series on helping those who feel like the “Odd Man Out” and said Jesus welcomes all. It’s “Odd Man (or Woman) In” with Jesus. Paul’s words don’t sound very “Odd-Man-In-ish.”
“Here, here, Mr. Satan, may I call you, Lucifer? Board member, Mr. Knows-It-All, has been giving me fits ever since I have arrived at this church. Since you are the expert, could you give them a lesson on the “why-nots” of blaspheme? I’m handing him over to you. He’s out.”
You would never ever say that. Me neither. So why did Paul?
Paul is speaking figuratively, not literally. No conversation between the Prince of Darkness and Paul took place. Instead, Paul, in effect, was saying, “These guys have decided to do life in their own strength, power and wisdom, so I guess they are gonna have to learn the hard way.” That’s how we’d put it: “They will learn the hard way.”
Learning the hard way is going at life alone; trying to push through tough times without seeking counsel from the Lord or anyone else; never picking up your Bible (or the danger for preachers: only picking up your Bible for sermon prep not for a “time with Jesus”). Learning things the hard way usually involves falling flat on your face. Learning the hard way is, well, hard.
Learning things the easy way is through listening to godly mentors, reading scripture, trusting the input of other believers, discerning the Holy Spirit’s voice. (Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean life is “easy.” We might learn the “easy way” that life is sometimes very hard. Disclaimer’s disclaimer: Learning the easy way during the hardships in life is a deep and blessed knowledge that Jesus is with us).
I don’t know if Hymenaeus and Alexander ever came around and saw their shipwrecked lives for what they were. I hope so. I also hope that none of us need to learn things the hard way. Instead be let’s open to God’s leading. Find a godly mentor and trust his/her wisdom. Read the Bible for your own nourishment, not to simply regurgitate scripture for someone else’s edification. Seek the Lord in all things.
The easy way to learn is the best way (duh!). I sure hope Hymenaeus and Alexander figured that out.