Responding To Criticism

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 11:5-15, NLT

5 But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things.
6 I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.
7 Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return?
8 I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost.
9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be.
10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece will ever stop me from boasting about this.
11 Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do.
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.

Introduction

All God’s servants suffer criticism. This is not a new thing: the Israelites were very critical of Moses and we know in retrospect that Moses was a phenomenal leader. A pastor can be p0litically correct, very careful, as soft as a butterfly’s landing but you will still be criticised and you cannot stop it. There are preacher haters in this world and they are going to be critical. I know pastors who were diplomatic and tactful and they got critized for being too soft and lacking boldness. I decided a long time ago, to be myself and to be honest. Have I come under criticism for my frankness? Sure, I am even despised by some but they are going to be critical one way or the other. I prefer to be criticised for being bold, direct and politically incorrect. A preacher has to pick his poison. You cannot stop criticism from happening.

Transition

Since it is impossible to stop criticism, the next question is: how do I respond to criticism? This will be our subject for tonight. Before we attempt to answer this question, let’s do a quick review of the criticisms against the Apostle Paul. Some of these criticisms are easy to spot and some are not.


  1. Paul’s authority [2 Cor. 10:7-8]

  2. Paul’s personal appearance [2 Cor. 10:9]

  3. Paul’s speaking ability [2 Cor. 11:6]

  4. Paul’s motive for service [2 Cor.11:7-11]

NOTE: All these criticisms are stinging, hurtful and severe.

I. WE SHOULD RESPOND CAREFULLY

Some criticism is face to face, person to person and this makes dealing with it much easier but most criticism is here say. The children of Israel murmured against Moses. This means they complained and grumbled in their tents. They didn’t confront Moses directly. Moses had a divine intuition that most of us don’t have and Jesus could read minds. I can’t read minds. I know intuitively when people are critical but I do not know the exact nature of their criticism.

Hearsay info is very unreliable. Sometimes the folks delivering the message give someone else credit for what they said or think. Plus there is the difficultly of getting the news right. When things are repeated, they get exxegarated most of the time. By the time the criticism gets to you, it may be much worse than it is so we learn over time not to jump to conclusion. Moses ignored a lot of criticism and sometimes, this is the best response.

Criticism can be distracting for a minister. We lose sight of what God has called us to do and spend all our time fighting brush fires. Like Nehemiah, we have to remain on track, focused and moving forward. Frieght trains do not stop for barking dogs.

This does not mean that we can ignore all criticism. There comes a time when it has to be dealt with but we deal with it caustiously and carefully. I have responded rashly before and I did more damage than good. We have to be careful.

II. WE SHOULD RESPOND PRAYERFULLY

Criticism can be both helpful and harmful. A lot depends on the nature of the criticism and a lot depends on our response. There is no way you are going to stop all criticism and it would be impossible to respond directly to all criticism but we have to be honest: there can come a point where it is hurting the ministry of the church. This is what takes place in Acts 6…

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Most translation read… a complaint…NLT reads…rumbling of discontent. The Apostles believed that he should be dealt with because if was effecting the fellowship of the church. If the fellowship get damaged, all parts will suffer.

Most Baptist churches put a lot of emphasis on fellowship and there is nothing wrong with making it a priority. The reason for this is simple: if you have a fractured fellowship, it will damage every ministry in the church. Wisely, the Apostles dealt with this complaint.

Personally, we I am criticised, I withdraw to a quiet place and spend some time with the LORD. I could not survive without a refuge, a hiding place and a divine counselor. I am like David in the sense that I pour out my heart to God. This includes my fears, frustrations and failure. It is during this process that the LORD works on me. There have been times when He revealed truths to me that changed my life and it would not have happened a part from criticism.

For me personally, criticism is always humiliating. The true is: I need to be more humble and the LORD uses criticism to humble me. Sometimes I feel as helpless as a baby. A lot of the time, I realize that I do not need to respond. I do not need to defend myself. Jesus didn’t defend Himself. Take the humiliation, it will not kill you.

The Romans 8:28 principle works in the area of criticism: sometimes people say hurtful, ugly things that are designed to discourage you. They want you to quit and their motive is not pure. God was not pleased with the murmuring of the Israelites. It was a complaint that did not come from Him but had a Satanic origin. However, God can take a bad situation and bring good out of it if we respond prayerfully.

III. WE RESPOND GRACFULLY

This is where Paul’s response is go glaringly wrong. His hurt is obvious. I don’t know how anyone could read chapters 11-12 and not see the hurt. Paul made a huge sacrifice to get the gospel to Corinth and a sacrifice to stay with them for 18 months. Obviously, this sacrifice was not fully appreciated. It hurts when we are not appreciated.

Paul does several things that are unadvisable…

  1. He commends himself…[2 Cor.10:18] Paul knows not to do it but does it anyway
    • I don’t consider myself inferior
    • I am not lacking in knowledge
    • I was wrong to preach to you without expecting anything in return
    • I robbed other churches to serve you
    • I was in need when I was with you and you didn’t help
    • I was never a financial burden to you
  2. Paul brags…[after stating that we are not to compare ourselves to others [2 Cor. 10:12, 11:16-17]
    • Paul boasted about his independence [2 Cor. 11:9-10]. I never became a burden to you and never will. I will boast about it all over Greece.
    • Paul boast about his credentials [2 Cor.11:21-22]
    • Paul boast about his suffering and sacrifice [2 Cor. 11:22-27]
    • Paul boast about his experience [2 Cor. 12:1-7]

Paul knew that boasting is fruitless, futile and vain [2 Cor. 12:1] but he does it anyway. I thank God that the bible is an honest book. Paul was not perfect, but he was perfectly human.

Conclusion

I have two question for you to ponder…

  1. What does football and Christianity have in common? [most prefer to be spectators] The most criticised are those on the field: the officials, the coaches, the players. We prefer to hide in the crowd and remain anonymous but even those who hide will be accused of being cowards. No one is above criticism.  NO ONE!
  2. Since criticism is so hurtful, how can we respond gracefully? Corrie ten Boom had the right idea. Corrie was in one of the Nazi death camps during WWII. Her sister died while incarserated and Corrie was mistreated horribly by the German guards. After the war, she was speaking in a church and made eye contact with a former guard. Instantly, anger rose up in her heart. When he started toward her after the service, she grimished, she did not want to shake his hand or hear what he had to say but the LORD prompted her to stick out her hand and she listened as he ask for forgiveness. She didn’t want to forgive him but the LORD urged her to do so. She did it by imagining that her pain and abuse was a rose and once she converted it into a rose, she was able to lay it at the LORD’s feet as an offering. Once she gave her suffering to the LORD, forgiveness was easy.

We are called to suffer. To think that we can skate through our eartly sojourn without any bumps and bruises is unrealistic. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

gods-love-corrie-ten-boom

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