When Criticism Comes

We will all be criticized at one time or another. Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Sometimes others’ criticism of us is harsh and undeserved. Sometimes we may need it. How do we respond to criticism? I haven’t always done well and I’m still learning, but here are a few things I try to think of when others criticize me.

Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)

This can be hard to do because our emotions rise up and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person. To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.

Be slow to speak (James 1:19).

Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.

Be slow to become angry.

Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger won’t make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend him. How much more should we be.

Don’t rail back.

“When (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Talk about being unjustly accused – Jesus was, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.

Give a gentle response.

“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.

Don’t defend yourself too quickly.

Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.

Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way.

Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.

Remember the Cross.

Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us. Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures. We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.

Consider the fact that you have blind spots

We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person is seeing something you can’t see about yourself.

Pray about the criticism

Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

Ask others for their opinion

Your critic could be right or completely off-the-wall. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.

Consider the source.

Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.

by Mark Altrogge

A Prayer from Ephesians 1:15-21

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

Lord, thank you for all the amazing people you have brought into my life: My precious family who love me more than I deserve, my church family who are a constant model of your grace and for dear friends who remain faithful companions in the good times and in the bad. Thank you also for enemies and critics who keep me from falling headlong into pride and arrogance and drive me to remain near to the cross of Christ.

 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

Oh God, I want to see you Word in a fresh way today. Allow me to have uninterrupted time communing with you. Sharpen me with the Truth. Give me keen insight into how this message is to change my heart.

 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,

Thank you Lord that you have opened my spiritual eyes to see you. I would never have sought you, never have loved you, never have known you unless you did not first wipe the spiritual scales from my eyes. Please open the eyes of my loved ones who do not know you. There are so many without knowledge of the Gospel. Please allow your word to go out in power to awaken their souls.

that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you

On days when circumstances overwhelm me, may I be reminded of the great hope you have laid up for me. One day I will be with you for all eternity – may I remain faithful until that time.

what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

You have given me greater spiritual resources that I ever dared imagine. Forgive me for not availing myself to them. Forgive my lack of faith in your provision and your divine help in times of need. My dear Father, give me a greater vision for what you want to do. May I see the great power that raised Christ from the dead active in my life. Thank you that you have exalted your Son above all and that I can rest in your sovereign control.

Ephesians 1:15–21

The Surprising Results of a Good Attitude

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2:14–15, ESV)

No one likes a whiner. I recently saw an old SNL clip in which the Whiner family boarded an airplane. Just four minutes of their obnoxious voices and their nitpicky complaints and every other passenger was ready to board another flight.

Few of us would equate ourselves with the Whiner family and few of us would come close their annoying, nasally grievances. But can we honestly say such an attitude is absent from our lives?

The word “grumbler” literally means “behind-the-scenes-talk.” This is the complainer, someone who mutters under their breath. There’s always something wrong with this guy’s situation and he is certain to make it known. The word “disputing” refers to an argumentative and quarrelsome person. This person is not only dissatisfied with his lot, but needs to convince others that he’s right for feeling that way!

These traits, while annoying, may seem harmless. But the Bible says that they can have damaging results in the world around us. Verses 14-15 tell us that by living our lives without these traits, we can retain a purity of lifestyle which will shine out into the “crooked and twisted” world around us. How can a good attitude have such a far-reaching result? The converse of complaining is being content. When my heart reflects a gratitude for what God has done for me (even if my situation is not ideal), other will begin to notice. Whether I’m at home, at work, at church or somewhere in between, attitude will say to those around me that I am satisfied and grateful for the many ways in which God has blessed me.

So are you content or do you find yourself airing out perceived injustices with regularity? Do you rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16) or always mutter complaints? Are you thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:17) or frequently feel slighted? The right attitude goes a long way.

The Most Excellent of All Beings

“The worth and excellency of a soul is measured by the object of its love” – Henry Scougal

If Henry Scougal is right – that the worth and excellency of a soul is measured by the object and intensity of its love – then God is the most excellent and worthy of all beings. For he has loved his Son, the image of his own glory, with infinite and perfect energy from all eternity How glorious and happy have been the Father and the Son and the Spirit of love flowing between them from all eternity! Let us then stand in awe of this great God! And let us turn from all the trivial resentments and fleeting pleasures and petty pursuits of materialism and merely human “spirituality.” And let us be caught up into the gladness that God has in the glory of his son, who is the radiance and image of his Father. There is coming a day when the very pleasure that the Father has in the Son will be in us and will be our own pleasure. May God’s enjoyment of God – unbounded and everlasting – flow into us even now by the Holy Spirit! This is our glory and our joy.

-John Piper, The Pleasures of God, p. 30-31

A Monday Morning Prayer

A Prayer About the Orphan in Us…in Me

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Gal. 4:4-7

“Dear Lord Jesus, I praise, worship and adore you for a promise made, and a promised kept. You promised not to leave us in an orphan-like state—you promised to send the Spirit of adoption into our hearts and you did. You love us with a filial affection far beyond all imaging. Great is your faithfulness. Great is your generosity. Great is your grace and glory!

But there are moments, days, even much longer stretches when I begin to think, feel, and live as though I am still very much orphan—as though I don’t really have a heavenly Father who loves me deeply and is involved in every detail of my life—as though you never actually send you Spirit of adoption into my heart, by which I cry, “Abba, Father!”
When I get sucked back into this temporary state of unbelief and gospel-forgetfulness, my spirit shrinks and my fears enlarge. My peace says, “Goodbye,” and my control issues return with a vengeance. I get defensive and I go on the offensive. Instead of having a love for the lost, I get lost in my fretting and plotting. In short, I’m no fun to be around.
I wish there was a button I could push or a switch I could throw and all of a sudden “snap out of it.” There’s no such shortcut, but there is gospel and repentant faith, which is better by far. So I begin today by preaching the gospel to my heart—the gospel that we believers need as much as non-believers—the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation, at every stage in our journey to the new heaven and new earth.

Jesus, you haven’t left us as orphans. You fulfilled the all demands of the law for me that I might know the full delights of the children of God. You’ve made this rebellious enemy of God a beloved son of the Father. The saints in heaven are more happy than me, but they are not more secure; they know the Father better than me but they aren’t known by the Father any better than me. Not a hair can fall from my head nor can a breath be taken from my lungs apart from his sovereign purposes. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Lord Jesus, you never have and never will abandon me. Right now, I abandon myself to you and to the resources of the gospel, the Spirit of adoption and the hope of my inheritance. I take my eyes off myself and set my gaze, heart and affections on you. Free me to love others today as you so lavishly love me. So very Amen I pray in your gracious and glorious name.”

Setting God Straight

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:31–33, ESV)

Did you ever find yourself thinking that God had a bad idea? That somehow he didn’t get the memo? That he doesn’t have his facts straight?

Peter did.

When Jesus broached the idea that he would be cast aside by the Jewish leaders, tried unjustly and murdered, Peter  was certain that Jesus was confused. So certain was he that he took God aside and rebuked him. Yes, you read that correctly. Peter attempted to set Jesus straight. The Greek word used means “to express strong disapproval of someone, rebuke, reprove, censure, speak seriously, warn.” Basically Peter gave Jesus a good talking to.

But try to understand where Peter was coming from (because we all have a little bit of Peter in us). The one who he came to believe was the Messiah, the one who was supposed to rule and reign and crush the enemies of God and bring in everlasting peace and righteousness (see Isaiah) — that same Messiah had just plainly told his followers that he was going to die. Peter was having none of that. How could Jesus do all the things he was supposed to do if he was dead?

Peter went off track because he was thinking like a man and not like God (v. 33). He saw through a non-supernatural lens. He took a “God is not sovereign” point of view. He forgot that God’s ways are not our ways. It reminds me of John 11 when Mary and Martha were (rightly) devastated in the death of their brother and accused Jesus of not intervening when the opportunity presented itself. But Jesus had something better in mind that a “simple” healing. He was thinking resurrection.

When Jesus interacted with Peter, he wanted Peter to understand that something far greater was going to happen than avoiding death. Jesus was about to make atonement for sin. He was going to shed his blood so that Peter and all who believe could be brought into the family of God. Never forget that you and I will always default to the “thinking like a man” position. When we set our mind on the things of God (Romans 8:5, Colossians 3:2), we enjoy far more peace because we begin to realize that he’s up to something bigger and (always) better that what we could imagine. Doing so doesn’t mean that we’ll figure out what he’s up to (Peter still hadn’t gotten the whole death and resurrection thing) but it will cause us to rest in his loving arms knowing that he’s always working on what is wisest and what is best.

The Power of Overlooking an Offense

From Trevin Wax

A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)

In her masterful biography of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet,Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,Doris Kearns Goodwin records an interesting story in the mid-185o’s, when Lincoln was in the middle of his career in law. The story shines light on Lincoln’s ability to overlook major personal offenses.

Snubbing the Future President

An important patent case was coming to Chicago, and George Harding, a patent specialist for a distinguished law firm in Philadelphia, considered Lincoln for the position. After receiving an initial sum of money from the firm, Lincoln got to work preparing the legal arguments for the case.

Shortly thereafter, the case was transferred to Cincinnati. The law firm decided to utilize Edwin Stanton instead, but never communicated the change to Lincoln. For months, Lincoln continued working on the case. In late September, he set out for Cincinnati with his legal brief in hand.  Kearns describes his encounter with Stanton and Harding:

Arriving at the Burnet House where all the lawyers were lodged, he encountered Harding and Stanton as they left for the court… Lincoln introduced himself and proposed, “Let’s go up in a gang.”

At this point, Stanton drew Harding aside and whispered, “Why did you bring that d____d long armed Ape here… he does not know any thing and can do you no good.” With that, Stanton and Harding turned from Lincoln and continued to court their own.

The snubbing went beyond the initial insult. Kearns continues:

In the days that followed, Stanton “managed to make it plain to Lincoln” that he was expected to remove himself from the case. Lincoln did withdraw, though he remained in Cincinnati to hear the arguments. Harding never opened Lincoln’s manuscript, “so sure that it would be only trash.” Throughout that week, though Lincoln ate at the same hotel, Harding and Stanton never asked him to join them for a meal, or accompany them to or from court. When Judge John McLean hosted a dinner for the lawyers on both sides, Lincoln was not invited.

It’s no wonder that Lincoln took the humiliating circumstances personally. Upon leaving Ohio, he wrote a friend:

“In reply to your request for me to come again I must say to you I never expect to be in Cincinnati again. I have nothing against the city, but things have so happened here as to make it undesirable for me ever to return here.”

Overlooking an Offense

Fast forward six years later. The next time Lincoln and Stanton shook hands, Lincoln was president. But instead of holding Stanton’s egregious offense against him, Lincoln offered Stanton the post of secretary of war. Disregarding any resentment at being humiliated by Stanton, Lincoln recognized his gifts and talents, chose to overlook the offense, and made one of the best choices possible for his cabinet.

Over the years, Stanton and Lincoln proved to be an excellent team. They grew to love each other as dear friends, and it was Stanton who stood by Lincoln’s bedside at his death and uttered the famous words, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Putting Personal Offenses in Context

Why was Lincoln so quick to forgive and forget? Doubtless, there are many reasons, not least the humility of the future president.

But perhaps one of the primary reasons Lincoln overlooked personal offenses was his understanding nature. He didn’t write people off for their mistakes because he was wise enough to understand that mistakes are often made during difficult circumstances.

Edwin Stanton’s insulting behavior didn’t take place in a vacuum. In the years before he met Lincoln, Stanton’s family life was shattered when his daughter Lucy died after an attack of scarlet fever, and then his beloved wife died at the age of 29. Brokenhearted, Stanton buried his wife in her wedding dress and, for months, roamed the house sobbing and calling her name. To keep her memory alive for his son, he wrote hundreds of pages describing their romance.

Not long after, Stanton’s younger brother developed a high fever that impaired his brain and led to a gruesome suicide in front of his children.

Professionally, the patent case in Cincinnati was the biggest of Stanton’s career. When Harding got sick, Stanton stayed up all night in preparation.

Years of sadness, illness, tragedy, and a couple of sleepless nights contributed to Stanton’s hostile demeanor toward Lincoln on that day in Ohio.

The Power of Overlooking an Offense

A lesser man than Lincoln would have written off Stanton and never given him the opportunity to rise to prominence in his administration. No one would have blamed Lincoln for holding a grudge.

But had Lincoln returned evil for evil, the United States would have never benefited from the brilliant military strategies of Stanton. Who knows? Without the magnanimous spirit of Lincoln toward Stanton, the outcome of the Civil War may have been different.

One humiliating offense. One act of forgiveness. One powerful team that helped restore the Union.

Now… who do you need to forgive?

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