Dealing With Criticism

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, NLT

Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ—though I realize you think I am timid in person and bold only when I write from far away.
2 Well, I am begging you now so that when I come I won’t have to be bold with those who think we act from human motives.
3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.
5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.

INTRODUCTION

Warren Wiersbe says that Paul was dealing with a [1] divided church, [2] one resisting his authority and [3] one being seduced by false teachers. Paul does not hesitate to label the Judaizers as ministers of Satan who want to destroy the church….

[2 Corinthians 11:12-15]

12 But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours.
13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.
14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.


Eventually, in Chapters 10-12, we are going to get into the criticism that Paul’s enemies were leveling against him. We are not talking about minor offenses, the Corinthians are brutal in their critism and though Paul does not admit it, you can tell by his tone and words that he was hurt deeply. It is a part of ministry that cannot be avoided.


In ministry, the question is not: will I be criticized? You will be; the question is–How do I respond to criticism? 


Paul gives us some good advice here in chapter 10 on dealing with criticism


I. FIRST OF ALL, OUR RESPONSE IS TO BE CHRIST LIKE


1 I Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ. I really like the way the NIrV reads…Christ is humble and free of pride, because of this, I make my appeal to you.


In a way, Paul is saying, our response should be like that of Christ who was kind and gentle. Two Greek words are used here…

[1] Praÿtēs….mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness. The picture is that of strenth under control such as a work horse or ox.

[2] Epieikeia…mildness, gentleness, fairness or clemency [fair but merciful judge] Used only twice, here and in Acts 24:4 where Paul is begging Felix to show kindness by listening to his defense.


My first question is: how do I respond to criticism? Not very well, not at first. I generally have to mull over the criticism and spend some time in private with the LORD. Actually, there are a lot of ways to respond to criticism…

  • We can pretend that it is not happening. We call this denial. Some people actually believe they are above criticism but no one is above criticism. The higher your profile, the more likely you are to be criticized. I wouldn’t want to be the Auburn football coach, would you? He is critized on talk radio, news papers, ESPN: I had much rather be a preacher. What about President of the United States?
  • We can react emotionally in the heat of the moment which is usually something we regret later. Warren Wiersbe made in a rule not to respond to criticism immediately but to think about it several days before responding.
  • We can respond prayerfully and carefully. People are watching our response. If we defend ourselves or go into the attack mode, it is unChristlike and there is no question, we damage our testimony. I am reactionary by nature and everyone knows it which is why a lot of people pull my chain intentionally. There was a man who enjoyed doing this: he worked for his son in law as a store clerk. He said things intentionally to get me to react. Someone told me to try ignoring him and sure enough, he quit doing it.

II. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF CRITICISM


2 Well, I am begging you now so that when I come I won’t have to be bold with those who think we act from human motives.
3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.


Satan is a terrorist and he attacks the mind. I am not advocating that he cannot assault the body but generally, he attacks the mind. Our mind is his battle field, any false belief that is established in our mind becomes a STRONGHOLD. Zig Ziggler calls it “Stinking Thinking.” If Satan can mess up your thinking and your beliefs–he has won the victory. This is exactly why he promotes religion. Nothing fouls man’s mind up more than religion. These religious cults brain wash people and get them believing things that are not true. This makes it hard to reach them with the gospel of Christ.


Criticism is both good and bad: it can be constructive but it can also be destructive. Christ has no intention of destroying us: His goal is to build us up, to transform us into His likeness but the devil motive to destroy. Satan is ruthless. His goal is to terrorize, paralyze and imobilize. He wants you out of the game. Criticism can have a stinging effect upon a believer. It is a cross wind that can set you in a tail spin. I was watching a baseball game on TV a few nights ago when an outfielder ran into the center field wall at full speed. He was stunned, dazed, addled and had to be helped off the field. Ruthless criticism is like hitting a wall at full speed, it can sting, hurt, stun and discourage. I have had the spiritual wind knocked out of me more than once. So how do you respond?


We have to respond the way Paul did: we have to realized that this is spiritual warfare and we have to employ spiritual weapons. You cannot win a spiritual war using flesh and blood methods. It will not work!

[1] Obviouly the number one tool in our spiritual warfare kit is prayer.

Ephesians 6:18–Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

[2] We also have to renew our minds–Romans 12:2… Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Job had a landslide of adverse things happen: he suffered sickness, grief, terror, doubt, discouragement and was on the verge of dispair until God changed the way Job thought, God changed his perspective and Job began to praise God although he had no idea what God was doing in his life. We want God to change the circumstances but generally, He wants to change our perspective, the way we view the circumstances. Job’s circumstances eventually changed but his perspective.

III. WE MUST SUBJECT OUR STUBBORN WILL TO THE WILL OF CHRIST

5 We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.

As long as we have assurance that we are being obedient to Christ, we can stand with confidence amidst the conflict. Our courage depends completely on our obedience to Christ and the good conscience that comes with obedience.

Once I lunch out on my own and get out from under Christ’s authority, I have no hope of victory. Everything depends on my willingness to obey and submit to Him.

We don’t always see immediate or visible results. It is a war that is spiritual in nature, therefore there may not be tangible or visible results. Go to chapter 11 and verse 15…So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.

Our first responsibility is to obey Christ not measure results. We may not see results for years but they will come if we obey. As the hymn says, “We trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

  1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
    What a glory He sheds on our way!
    While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
    And with all who will trust and obey.
  2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
    But His smile quickly drives it away;
    Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
    Can abide while we trust and obey.
  3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
    But our toil He doth richly repay;
    Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
    But is blessed if we trust and obey.
  4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
    Until all on the altar we lay;
    For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
    Are for them who will trust and obey.
  5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
    Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
    What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
    Never fear, only trust and obey.
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