Summary: This sermon is based on how to deal with criticism as a child of God based on the life of Nehemiah.
See this sermon on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwJXYHspfSQ
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Criticism is something that we all face from time to time in life. Despite this, we often unknowingly get into the mode of criticizing others, yet at other times we become victims of criticism.
We all face criticism at some time or the other and it isn’t easy to be criticized. Furthermore, if the criticism isn’t handled well it tears a person apart, discourages us and demoralizes us.
A few points I want to go through with you :
What does the Scripture say about criticism?
When we criticize others what are the measures we can use scripturally?
How to deal with criticism?
In this case, Nehemiah got burdened to go and rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. So when Nehemiah finally gets the chance to go to Jerusalem from Persia, he envisions the people coming together to build the walls. By Nehemiah chapter 3, everyone left behind their jobs and was involved in building the walls but all of a sudden they face a lot of criticism.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
Now Sanballat was the ruler over Samaria. Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It fell and was conquered first by the Assyrians. Now as Sanballat knows that the Jews are rebuilding the other capital Jerusalem, he criticizes them. So how does it affect Sanballat? He indeed knows that the Jews are getting stronger, he will not have control over Jerusalem, and what if they come and take control over his territory?
MSG 1-2 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he exploded in anger, vilifying the Jews. In the company of his Samaritan cronies and military he let loose: “What are these miserable Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe?”3 At his side, Tobiah the Ammonite jumped in and said, “That’s right! What do they think they’re building? Why, if a fox climbed that wall, it would fall to pieces under his weight.”
Whenever you face criticism, you need to take it through some filters before you react or respond. Here is the first filter:
Questions to ask when you are criticized:
1. What is the target of the criticism?
What are they criticizing? Is it a personal criticism against you or is it a criticism against the mission for which God has called you?
If you face criticism against yourself at the workplace, figure out whether the criticism is personally directed at you or your Christian ethics.
For example, you may be a stumbling block for someone else’s promotion and due to that reason, that person might build up some unfriendly feelings for you and will ultimately criticize you. That is personal criticism.
Then there are people who criticize you for holding on to your scriptural ethics. Maybe they want you to participate in the wrong and you cannot be a part of it. Your family may criticize you for your faith in Jesus Christ. Such criticism is directed against your faith and is against your godly mission at the workplace.
In Nehemiah’s case, it was external critics. The aim of their opposition was to dismiss the work of God. The actual reason for their criticism was the work of God for which God set Nehemiah aside. Nehemiah knew it is God’s mission and the criticism is against it. Therefore, he knows he needs to overcome this and go on. So he never gives in to their strategies.
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
Nehemiah was part of a mission and the mission was given by God. The mission was criticized by the enemy.
Presently, God’s mission today is fulfilled through the church. We have no mission of our own, we have God’s mission and it will be challenged and criticized by the enemy. God’s mission is to transform people with the Word of God, make them a disciple, connect them to the body of Christ, in our case in the local church here and enable them to have a fellowship with God which brings transformation in their lives. When we do that as a church, each of us makes a difference in the world. The goal of the mission is to transform people and the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.