Summary: Recognize that when you step out on faith, follow God, and try to make a difference, you will be criticized. Expect it and deal with it through prayer, keeping the proper perspective, and being persistent.
DISTRUCTIVE CRITICS Nehemiah 4:1-23
Introduction: In a Charlie Brown comic, Linus is seated with a troubled look on his face, his security blanket over his shoulder, his thumb in his mouth. Turning to Lucy, he asks, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?” Her response: “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.” “What about your own faults?” Linus asks.
Without hesitation, Lucy replied, “I have a knack of overlooking them.”
Do you have a “Lucy” in your life? Are you a “Lucy” in someone’s life?
As Nehemiah led the Israelite people to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem they faced many obstacles.
They faced challenges and obstacles as a group.
(2:19---laughter and ridicule) (2:19---slander) (4:1-6---mockery)
(4:7-9---plots) (4:10---tired workers) (4:11-23---fear) (5:1-10---strife)
Nehemiah faced attacks personally as well.
(6:1-4---They tried to get him to compromise)
(6:5-9---They tried to slander him)
(6:10-19---They tried to trick him)
(6:15-19---They tried to threaten him)
Nehemiah teaches us that motion always causes friction.
In other words, the only sure way to escape criticism is to do nothing.
Nehemiah had five critics:
Sabballat (4:1) — Governor of Samaria, His chief political opponent.
Tobiah (4:3) — Governor of the Transjordan under Persia.
Geshem (2:19) — An Arab politician.
The Ammonites (4:7) — long time enemies of the Jews.
The “men of Ashdod” (4:1) — Western neighbors of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was opposed from all sides:
Sanballat to the North; Tobiah to the East; the Arabs to the South; the men of Ammon and Ashdod” to the West.
Has there ever been a time where you felt surrounded by opposition? Nehemiah has words of counsel about such times. His experience teaches us the characteristics of a destructive critic and how to handle such people.
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF A DESTRUCTIVE CRITIC
A. Their attacks are personal (2:19; 6:2). Nehemiah’s enemies were cruel and angry. A person who has your best interest at heart will correct you, but you will know they are doing it out of love.
B. They question your motives (2:19; 6:6). Thirteen years before Nehemiah’s efforts, the king had squashed plans to rebuild the wall. If word got back to him that Nehemiah was disloyal, hopes of rebuilding the wall would end. When you try to do something good, people may question your motives. The harder you try to keep your motives pure, the more others will call them into question.
C. They spread rumors (6:6–8). When you’re trying to make a difference, don’t be surprised when others spread rumors. You may be the last one to hear the rumor (1 Pet. 3:15–16).
D. They run with other critics (4:1–2). An honest critic will love you enough to speak to you in private and try to resolve the problem.
E. They resist change. Sanballat and Tobiah both held important positions and stood to lose their standing if the wall was rebuilt.
F. They have a human perspective (4:2 and 4:4). What Nehemiah was undertaking was humanly impossible. But Nehemiah’s perspective convinced him that he had better things to do then fight with Sanballet.
G. They are sarcastic (4:3). Nehemiah’s wall was over 9 feet wide, too big for a fox to destroy. Sarcasm is a ploy to belittle you and what you are doing.
H. They use intimidation (6:9, 10–13). People use intimidation to get you to compromise what you believe. Remember this: God is bigger than your critics.
I. They try to discourage those around you (4:10, 12, 16–23). Destructive critics will try to turn your friends against you. To keep everyone encouraged, Nehemiah provided for their safety and kept them focused on the big picture.
II. How to Handle Destructive Critics and Criticisms
A. Prayer. Prayer is a major theme throughout Nehemiah. When criticized, ask God if the criticism is just. Pray for courage to change. Pray for those who are doing the criticizing. Pray for humility and the ability not to take things personal. Pray for wisdom, strength, and discernment to keep doing what you know is right.
B. Perspective. Nehemiah knew his critics’ problems were not problems with him, but with God. When you remind yourself God is in control, you recognize criticism for what it is and don’t allow it to side-track you.
C. Persistence. The best way to prove a critic wrong is to outlast him, doing what you know God has called you to do. Many times the race doesn’t go to the swift, but to the one who endures.
Conclusion: Are you going through a time when it seems everything you try is being met with opposition? Recognize that when you step out on faith, follow God, and try to make a difference, you will be criticized. Expect it and deal with it through prayer, keeping the proper perspective, and being persistent.