Greetings. The two articles this month deal with criticism and doing the right thing. We will face both situations constantly over our lifetime. What do we do and how do we handle these situations? How do I consistently follow Jesus in these ways? Thanks for reading through these articles. Mike
Nehemiah’s Reaction to Criticism
When you are being led by and truly working at following the Holy Spirit to accomplish some task or responsibility, and then you receive mounting criticism, perhaps ridicule, or people telling you that what you are attempting to do is not from God, what do you do? It is easy to give up at that point, to throw in the “towel”, especially when the criticism becomes relentless and possibly from some you felt where on your side.
Nehemiah faced a situation similar to what was described as he was leading the Judeans to rebuild the Jerusalem wall. From the story in Nehemiah 4, Nehemiah was getting insults, criticism and ridicule plus potentially trouble stirring up from Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arab (Nehemiah 4:1-8). Judeans were getting discouraged by all that negative communication.
Recall that God laid on Nehemiah’s heart the vision to rebuild the Jerusalem walls when he heard of that need and was given moral and financial support from the heathen foreign king who had Nehemiah serving as a slave cupbearer to him (Nehemiah 1&2). Nehemiah traveled a long distance to return to his homeland with this fresh vision from God. He knew he was doing what God was leading him to do.
So, what did Nehemiah do when faced with criticism and mocking? Give up because it was getting tough? Following God’s will in any aspect of life is not a popularity contest. In fact, living out God’s will tends to place believers in the minority and sometimes, in the extreme minority.
First, Nehemiah prayed privately and corporately. His prayer in Nehemiah 4:4 was a strong petition to turn the insults and mocking back on their accusers. Rather than complain and get people to come to your side, lay out the situation before the Lord. Tell Him how you feel, seek wisdom and spiritual insight. Get others to pray for guidance and sensitivity to God’s leading. Too often prayer ends up to be the last thing we do. Make it the first thing.
Second, Nehemiah said something profound in verse 14, “remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…” Remember what the Lord has done in your life. How has He worked, what is He doing in and through you today? Write down what He has done and is doing. This can get you refocused and thinking through your interactions with Him.
Tough times come when you are laboring to be faithful to the Lord. For some people, your life is full of difficulty. This does not necessarily mean you are being disobedient or rebellious. It means you are living on this side of heaven and hardships in life are not equally distributed. Realize too, as you remember what the Lord has done in your life, you may discover that you may be during this time, are being disobedient. Make things right with the Lord (repent) and start being faithful to Him again.
Keep what you write down about how God has and is working in your life. Place those writings somewhere handy that you can locate to keep adding to and also to read over when you are going through difficult times.
The third thing is to consider the truth of the criticism (as you take out the sting of the criticism) and see if you need to change your method or approach. Know that vision is from God and plans are man-made. The plan, how we carry out the vision and ideas the Lord gives us, comes from us. Our plan has our bias (our background, experiences, education level, knowledge of the situation, personality, spiritual giftings and so many other aspects of our lives up to this point) as a part of how we carry out vision from God that it can be subject to change or adjusted.
Nehemiah was a faithful, godly, sensitive to God’s leading, man of God but he realized halfway through rebuilding the wall that his team of workers had to somewhat change their method of how they were working on the wall (4:16-23). The vision never changed but the process, method and plan were altered to make sure the wall actually did get rebuilt, which it did in 52 days. What an accomplishment!
Keep the vision your team’s focus but have the willingness to be flexible to make adjustments along the way to become more efficient. Involving key points from Nehemiah’s experience can offer us guidance when we face negativity living out God’s will. We learn from each other and become stronger for the Lord as a result.
Youth Ministry – Do The Right Thing
Doing the right thing. It is different than doing things right. Doing the things right involves means doing something the proper way, that you are following instructions and the rules. That may mean you follow the rules so that you do not create waves, in that you follow the way things are done in a group or organization. Following the rules and doing things the proper way may not follow your value system or what you believe. But you do things the way your boss, teacher or the leaders want you to follow.
When making the decision to do the right thing that may go against doing things right because doing the right thing involves your value system. You conduct yourself in an ethical or moral behavior, acting in good faith. You are being guided by a set of ethical values, a standard that is outside of you. For Christians it should be the Bible.
God shared what He want us to pursue in Micah 6:8, “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Biblically doing what is right involves God’s justice. His justice means loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and is rooted in His character and nature. Just as God is loving and just, we are to do the same. Christians look into the Bible to define what is right.
Pursuing doing the right things means we follow God’s way to make right that which is wrong. When making decisions, we follow how Jesus would make that decision even if it is unpopular or goes against the culture or set of circumstances, we are in. Jesus is our standard for the way we need to live our lives. Doing the right thing is very often much harder than doing things right.
Integrity is in the heart of doing the right thing, that you are the same on the outside as you are on the inside. It is who you are is the same in your private life and your public life. There are no secrets, no masks we put on when we are around others.
It is treating people with respect even when we do not agree with them or when we are not treated with respect by them. That is the Jesus way. It is not gossiping, bullying others in any form, it is not laughing at jokes that degrade people to include color, race, gender viewpoint or ethnicity.
It means to forgive, to love, to not tear down someone, to attempt to destroy someone’s character, to be generous with time, money, talents, time to make someone just as important as you. To build up Christians from other churches, pursuing unity, tearing down racism, working together to bring God glory, combining our unique strengths and skills as we pursue a common goal, that is doing the right thing. All these things are harder than doing the opposite of not doing right things.
If you want to be someone who is willing to serve as a leader, then following to do the right thing is essential. Spend time getting to know what is in the Bible and then obey what you are learning. Being like Jesus is obeying Jesus. Following through on obeying develops you value system will guide you to do right things. You have a moral standard that is not man-made or that you personally derived.
Serve Jesus and make an impact for His glory. Be the difference maker that will draw people to Jesus, rather than repel them from Jesus. Become accountable to older Christians who will challenge you to grow in your faith in Him. Do the right thing.