When Criticism Comes

In your speaking, writing, and just everyday life you will be criticized if you’re a faithful witness for Jesus and His teaching. The following article by Pastor Bob Russell provides sound advice on dealing with criticism when it comes. The article appeared at www.bobrussell.org as: Coping with Criticism. Oh, I’ve followed Pastor Russell’s ministry for many years as a result of my friendship with New Life Christian Church pastor Brett Andrews.  Brett served an internship under Pastor Russell at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville (Home of the Slugger), Kentucky prior to migrating to Virginia. Currently, in his Bob Russell Ministries capacity Pastor Russell works with Don “Duck” Waddell, one of my personal heroes.  Trust me –  Bob Russell is the real deal. RMF

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Coping with Criticism

by Bob Russell

Bob Russell

Bob Russell

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog titled, “An Open Letter to Bruce Jenner.” I received a number of positive responses from Christians who appreciated my attempt to speak the truth of God’s Word in a spirit of love. As expected, I also received a handful of critical tweets and negative emails. Self-appointed pundits suggested the blog was a waste of time and the same old legalistic principles that haven’t worked. I was called insensitive, hypocritical, arrogant and judgmental. One writer chirped, “What God-fearing person would spend all his time judging others and tweeting his loony opinions?”

Social media provides an easy vehicle for the venting of negativity and anger. Anyone who dares to speak against today’s secular- progressive agenda has to anticipate venomous attacks. Ironically those who are the most vocal in pleading for tolerance are themselves thuggishly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. Those who insist no one has a right to judge others don’t hesitate to judge anyone who verbalizes Biblical truth. 

But it’s nothing new. Over 2500 years ago the Prophet Nehemiah was doing an effective job of rebuilding the broken down walls of Jerusalem. His determined team was on schedule to complete the task in less time than expected. He had enthusiastic support from the vast majority of his people.

But Nehemiah was also the target of vicious criticism. Two local residents, Sanballat and Tobiah, despised the Jews and made fun of the wall. “Even a fox could knock it over,” they scoffed. When Nehemiah refused to be intimidated or distracted by their ridicule, Sanballat and Tobiah wrote him a letter expressing their displeasure and requested a meeting to discuss their objections.

Nehemiah’s response was classic. He basically said, “I’m doing an important work and I don’t have time to hear your gripes.” That wasn’t cocky – it was smart. It wasn’t flippant – it was the wisest use of his time.

As my ministry expanded over the years, I had to learn to cope with criticism. In my younger years any disagreement really discouraged me. Friends and family spent considerable energy nursing my wounded ego. But eventually experience and Scripture helped me cope with criticism more effectively.

Perhaps some younger Christian leaders can benefit from some of the lessons I learned.

All effective leaders are criticized. If you are on the front lines of battle you’re probably going to get shot at. It’s that simple. We are involved in an intensifying spiritual war and the enemy is becoming increasingly malicious and mean-spirited.

The Duggar family controversy is a recent case in point. The Duggars have made mistakes, but the vicious attacks against their Christian testimony are way out of proportion to their offenses. One gets the impression that if the world can just prove enough Christians are phony then they’ll feel vindicated in their unbelief.

If you dare to speak God’s truth or attempt to lead God’s people you are going to be attacked as a hate-monger, hypocrite or a fool. Expect it and toughen up.

Consider the source. Is it a petty, small-minded person who is griping or someone you respect? If it’s from someone you hold in high regard evaluate it carefully. Maybe the Lord is using them to point out a blind spot in your life or your work. However, if the criticism comes from a puny-minded Sanballat or Tobiah, then it’s not worth the time and effort to answer it.

Evaluate the objection. If the criticism has some validity, then receive it with grace and make the necessary adjustment. If it isn’t, then ignore it and move on. I almost never answer a mean-spirited criticism. I conclude the critic is too angry to listen to reason. They just want to vent. It’s a waste of time to answer grossly untrue criticisms and it usually gives more validity to the objection than it merits.

Keep your focus on the ultimate goal. Don’t mumble and grumble about the critics. That takes your mind off your primary responsibility. Don’t let Satan distract you from what needs to get done. Your assignment is to please Christ, not men. His is the only opinion that ultimately matters. People are so fickle. The same people who criticize you today may be singing your praises tomorrow.

If I can’t get a criticism off my mind and it’s affecting my mood or distracting me, I will type out exactly what I’d like to say without any concern about being kind. However, I don’t mail that unguarded communication immediately. I wait a day or two and never wind up mailing it in its original form – and seldom mail it at all. But by venting my feelings I get them out of my mind and onto the computer screen. Then it’s easier to forget it and refocus on the task at hand.

Get bolder. The temptation is to become timid and avoid controversy altogether. That’s what the enemy wants! But Jesus warned, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory…” (Luke 9:26). Don’t let the enemy’s bullying tactics intimidate you. Speak the truth in love, but speak the truth. King David urged, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

The First Century Christians were threatened with imprisonment and death if they continued to speak about the resurrected Jesus in public. They didn’t retreat or get more cautious. They prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:29 &31).

Give God thanks for persecution. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

Years ago I complained to a friend about a nasty anonymous letter I’d received. I read it to him hoping he would feel sorry for me and lash out verbally against the writer. Instead he quipped, “Well, now you’ve got that woe off your back!”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked. He replied, “Well, Jesus said, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you.’” You’ve got that woe off your back and you don’t have to worry about that anymore!”

When we can praise God and be thankful for criticism then we know we are growing in spiritual maturity and following in the footsteps of prophets like Nehemiah. That’s pretty good company.


About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church (www.newlife4me.com). Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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