It’s not easy to accept criticism, but it happens to all of us. The old saying goes, “You can’t please everyone.” And some people will never be pleased. But what about us? Are we overly critical of others? Do we dwell on the negatives? And when we receive it, how do we handle it in the most godly fashion? This week, Robert give us a fresh look at what the Bible says about criticism.
ROBERT >> Have you ever been critical of others, and have others criticized you? Is criticism helpful or destructive? Let’s talk about it, another problem of the heart, criticism.
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking The Truth in Love.
ROBERT >> There are two things that I’d like for us to do today: First of all, to think about how we can deal with the criticism of others. People are going to criticize us, and so what do we do with that? But I also want us to think about how can we use criticism in a constructive and a positive way? So let’s think first of all, what do we do when people criticize us?
Do we just get angry and mad and speak evil of them and try to get back at them?
What does the Bible tell us, and how can we deal with this in a way that will not destroy us, but that might be able to be helpful to us?
Well, first of all, let’s remember to expect it. It’s going to happen. Don’t be surprised when somebody criticizes you. Knowing that it’s going to come will help you to deal with it when it does come.
Listen to these words from Jesus in Matthew 5:11-12. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Yes, if we stand with Jesus, if we walk with him, there will be those that will persecute us, they’re going to speak against us, they’ll try and criticize us just like they did Jesus.
He warned in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you; for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”
You see, if we’re not standing with Jesus, if we refuse to speak the truth, if we just tell people what they want to hear, then yeah, everybody’s going to like us and speak well of us. We must have the faith to follow Jesus even when people will criticize us.
In 2 Timothy 3:12, I want you to notice what the apostle Paul said about this. This he said to all Christians. He says here, ”Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. So let us learn as Christians to expect it.”
Just as they crucified Jesus on the cross because of who he was and what he stood for, so if we follow Jesus, there will be those who are going to criticize us, persecute us. We, too, may have to suffer for the cause of Jesus Christ. But now there’s a second thing I want you to think about today, and that is in the face of criticism, don’t shift into neutral and try to avoid it by doing nothing. I’m afraid this is what too many Christians have done. They see that people are going to criticize them, they’re afraid of that criticism, they don’t want to have to deal with it, and so they just shut down; and they decide, well, I just won’t do anything, I won’t get involved in the work of the Lord, I’m not going to follow Jesus. But that’s the wrong way to approach criticism. God doesn’t want us to shut down just because somebody’s going to criticize us.
Jesus, he showed us how to deal with it in his own life. When he came to this earth, of course he knew the things that were going to happen to him, but still he was committed to do the work of God.
Listen to these words of Jesus in John 4:34. “Jesus said to them, My food is to do with will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”
You see, this is why Jesus came to the earth, this is what he lived for: To do the will of his Father, to finish the work that God gave him to do. Even if that meant going to the cross, he was willing to go all the way to the cross to do what God had sent him to do. We need to have that same kind of commitment to do whatever it takes, in spite of whatever criticism or difficulty might come our way.
1 Peter 3:17, Peter warned us about this, and he tried to encourage us when he wrote these words:”For it is better if it is the will of God to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Of course we don’t want to do evil.”
Sometimes we may fall into sin and be criticized for that. But it’s better if we’re striving to do what’s right and are criticized for doing what is right than suffering for doing what is evil. So let’s stand with Jesus. Let’s be strong in the face of criticism. Never shut down, never just put it into neutral and say I’m going to quit. No, let’s don’t let criticism do that to us. There’s a third thing I want you to think about today. When it comes to criticism, don’t let it blight your life. Don’t let it snuff out the light in your heart. You pray about it. You take it to God. There are some great words that will help us with our criticism from the apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 4. And I want you to notice a number of things that he tells us here. And of course you remember when Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi that he himself was a prisoner under guard in Rome for the preaching of the gospel. The apostle Paul, though was in prison, still found reason to rejoice. He still found a reason to continue on in the ways of God. And the church the at Philippi too suffered persecution and difficulty, and he wants to encourage them not to let that criticism and persecution keep the joy that God wants us to have in our hearts, keep that out of their hearts.
Look what he said, Philippians 4:4. “ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”
Paul said it doesn’t matter what your circumstances, doesn’t matter your situation, doesn’t matter what people might be saying about you. He says in the Lord there’s always listen to rejoice. So let’s rejoice in the blessings and in the joy that we have in Jesus Christ. He says here’s what you need to do with it.
In verse 6, “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
You see, instead of worrying about these things that people may be saying about you, you take it to God. You talk to God about it. You turn it over to him. You be thankful for what you have in him. And then his peace will protect your heart from that kind of criticism. Oh, the apostle Paul had some very difficult times as a servant of Jesus Christ. But he did not let that get him down.
Look what he goes on to say in Philippians 4:11. “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am in to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Yes, you see, the apostle Paul had a different perspective than many do in life. He wasn’t looking at his situation and circumstances and letting that take the joy out of his Christianity, letting that keep him from calling upon God and knowing his peace. No, he gained strength from Jesus Christ in whatever situation and circumstance to do the will of God, to keep on keeping on. Let’s say with the apostle Paul, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even when criticism comes our way. Now there’s another thing for us to think about. Don’t fall victim to self-pity. So many times when we become criticized we begin to feel like a victim. A victim of others. And it’s all poor me, woe is me. And so many times we let that self-pity keep us from serving the Lord. Jesus taught us how to deal with this kind of problem.
In Luke 9:23 he offered a challenge to all of those who would follow after him. This is what he says. Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
You see, Jesus encourages us to put self to death, to not be walking by the desires of our own hearts and what we want or what we think, but he says you surrender yourself. You surrender yourself to me. You take up your cross daily.
And what was the cross?
An instrument of execution, an instrument of persecution in his case. They put him to death for the life that he was living because of who he was, the Son of God. And we need to recognize that as we follow Jesus, we must take up our own cross. Every day we’re going to face the trials, the temptations, the persecutions, the criticisms of those who refuse to accept us as followers of Jesus Christ, who refuse to accept the truth; but he says put self aside, be willing to give your life for me, and keep on following me, keep on walking after me. This idea of denying self and following him is spoken of in Philippians 2:3-8. It helps us to learn to have the kind of mindset that will follow Jesus Christ to the very end.
Philippians chapter 2, beginning in verse 3, the Bible says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
You notice in these two verses that the apostle Paul was trying to help us to take our minds off of ourself and put them on others. And isn’t that what Jesus did when he came to this earth?
He didn’t come here for himself, but to glorify his Father and for the sake of all of us so that we might be saved through him.
And so Paul goes on to say in this same chapter in verse 5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became by obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
No, criticism was not going to keep Jesus from fulfilling his mission; and it must not keep us from fulfilling ours to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to all about us, to glorify our Father. Here’s something else for you to think about today. When you’re criticized, don’t fight it. I mean don’t criticize back, don’t think that you’re going to win that kind of an argument; but rather Jesus tells us how to deal best with our enemies.
Look in Matthew 5:43-44. Matthew chapter 5, beginning verse 43. “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; but I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
So let’s learn to love even those who would criticize us. Let’s pronounce blessing from God on those who would curse us. Let’s see what good we can do to help those who would hate us. And never forget to pray for those who would spitefully use you and persecute you. Don’t fight it. Love the criticizer. Do what you can to help him. And then let’s try to profit from it. You know, it could be that the criticism is valid, and we really need to hear what’s being said.
There’s an old proverb, Proverbs 15:32, given to us by the inspired man. It says,” He who disdains instruction despises his own soul; but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.”
If nobody can tell us anything, we’re never going to learn anything, and we’re just hurting ourself. But if we’ll listen to the rebukes of others, perhaps we can learn something about ourself that needs to be changed, that needs to be corrected, that’ll make us a better people. Perhaps others see things in us that we don’t see in ourself, that we may never understand about ourself except they would bring it out for us. So when criticism comes your way, try to profit from it.
Remember these words from the apostle Paul in Galatians 4:16. He says, Have “I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
Those who teach us and rebuke us and try to correct us, who truly love us and care for us, they’re not our enemy; they’re just trying to tell us the truth, because it’s the truth that will help us to see ourselves as we really are and make the changes that need to be made. But then also, determine if there has actually been any criticism. It could be that maybe you’ve just misunderstood somebody, and so you need to work it out.
Matthew 18:15, Jesus teaches us what to do when someone offends us. And notice what he says here; “Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone; if he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
Perhaps our brother didn’t mean to hurt us, he didn’t mean to put us down. It was a misunderstanding. Perhaps it’s something that could just be worked out between you and him, and that’s as far as it needs to go. So try to fix it before you go any further with that person. And then finally here, try to please God above all. You know, what matters most is not what others think about us or even what we think about ourself, but what God thinks.
Listen to these words from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4. “But with me, it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court; in fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I’m not justified by this, but He who judges me is the Lord.”
Let’s trust God with these things and not get so upset about the criticism of others. Let him be the judge, and know that he’s going to do what’s right.
In Galatians 1:10 the apostle Paul said, “For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”
Whatever criticism you might hear out there, remember that your number-one goal is to please God, to do the things of God, to accomplish the will of God for your life. Don’t listen so much to the criticism of others as you do to the truth of God’s word, and keep in that truth that you might be pleasing to him above all things. Now for just a few moments before we leave today, I want us to think about how to criticize others. Yes, we need sometimes to bring things out to other people; but we need to do it in a constructive and a positive way.
The Bible teaches us to love them. That’s the most important thing when it comes to being critical of others. If it’s not done in love, a true concern for their soul, then it’s not going to be profitable.
In Matthew chapter 5 we read a while ago about how to love our enemies in verse 44, how to pray for them, how to do good to them, and how to bless them. I want you to notice what Jesus goes on to say. Matthew 5, beginning in verse 44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven.”
For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you should be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. A mature Christian like the Father will love those, even those who criticize us. And certainly if we ever try to point out something in the life of others, we will do it only motivated by love and concern.
In Galatians 6:1 the apostle Paul reminds us of how to correct our brother in the Lord. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”
Don’t try to restore somebody else until you are certain that you can do it in a spirit of gentleness, that you’re truly concerned about their soul. This is for those who are spiritual, who are walking in the Spirit, those who desire the things of God. Do it in a spirit of gentleness, with kindness, with love, with forgiveness, with understanding, trying to help that soul. Speaking truth in love, Ephesians 4:15.
In Colossians 4:6 the Bible says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
Gracious speech is what people need, especially those that need to be corrected. And so we need to make sure that we’re trying to speak as God would speak, with love in our hearts and a concern for their soul. A couple others things. Consider your own faults first. You remember in Matthew the 7th chapter where Jesus reminded us not to judge others lest we be judged. He said we need to first at ourselves and see if there’s something wrong with our attitude, with our heart, and get rid of that first before we ever try to help somebody else.
In Romans 2:1 the Bible says, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
So let’s be sure that we first examine ourself before we ever try to help somebody else. Let’s also be sure we know the facts. In 1 Samuel chapter 1 we read about Eli the priest who saw Hannah praying. And her lips were moving, but he didn’t hear anything coming out of her mouth. He assumed that she was drunk, but the fact is she was overcome with sorrow and grief because God had not blessed her with any children. We need to be careful that we don’t assume things that really aren’t true and find out the facts before we try to criticize others.
Another point, don’t be blind to the things that are good about others. You know, we may see a lot of problems in their life, but let’s remember the good things.
In Mark 14:3-9, a woman broke a very expensive bottle of oil to anoint Jesus before he went to the cross. It was an act of love, a way that she could honor him. But there were those who all they could see is how wasteful she was of that oil. And finally, don’t let criticism destroy you.
Luke 6:37, the Bible says, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged; condemn not, and you shall not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
God help us to realize what’s wrong in our own lives, and turn that over to him and come to him for forgiveness, for help. And then knowing the salvation that Christ gives us, let us do what we can to help others to come to him. And let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven today.
SINGING>> Rock of ages cleft for me
let me hide myself in thee.
Let the water and the blood from thy riven side which flowed
be of sin the double cure.
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Nothing in my hand I bring.
Simply to thy cross I cling.
Naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace.
Vile I to the fountain fly.
Wash me, savior, or I die.
SINGING>> All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.
Oh, that with yonder sacred throng we at his feet may fall.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.
ROBERT >> I hope that you found today’s lesson helpful. And to help you in your continued study, we’d like to offer you a free copy of today’s lesson. Thankfully, members of churches of Christ make these materials available to our viewers absolutely free of charge. All you have to do is contact us and let us know the name of the program that you’d like to have a copy of. You can see the title of today’s program on your screen. Let us know the format in which you’d like to have it. You can have the program in the form of an audio CD or a DVD or a written transcript. And you can have any of those formats again free of charge. It won’t cost you a thing. You can contact us in a number of ways. We have an 800 number that’s a voice mail system where you can leave the pertinent information.
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SINGING>> Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes.
Oh, whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
from God the Lord whom heaven and earth hath made.
From every evil shall he keep thy soul, from every sin.
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, thy coming in.
Above thee watching,
he whom we adore shall keep thee henceforth,
yea for evermore.