Summary: The critic will search for someone to listen to his criticism. Then that person adds their criticism. They egg each other on, & soon there will be a whole circle of critics - because critics love other critics. (Powerpoints available - #318)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(This is the fourth of a Leadership series featuring Nehemiah. Some ideas & illustrations in these messages were based on or benefited greatly from, to varying extents, the book “Hand Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll.)
(The Powerpoints used with this sermon are available free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request PP #318.)
The theme of the book of Nehemiah is "Leadership." And almost everyone who dares to assume the mantle of leadership soon finds himself facing darts of criticism.
But it isn't just "leaders" who are criticized. I am sure that every one of us, at one time or another, has been the target of criticism. Sometimes the criticism is deserved. At other times we are convinced that the criticism is absolutely wrong or unfair.
Now the important question this morning is, "How do we respond to criticism?" Especially, "How do we handle criticism that is destructive, & not constructive?"
When we left Nehemiah at the close of the 2nd chapter last week, the darts of criticism were flying thick & fast. Nehemiah was organizing the people to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. God had called him to that task, & now the work was ready to begin.
By the way, I’m skipping over the 3rd chapter. It is simply a listing of a lot of names along with the tasks they were assigned to accomplish. I’m not sure that I can pronounce all those names correctly, anyway. So, on to chapter 4, vs. 1.
I. OPPOSITION ARISES
“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry & was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews…”
A. That is an amazing reaction. Sanballat should have been pleased about the
rebuilding of the wall. After all, there is nothing attractive about a pile of rubble. You would think that Sanballat would say, "Nehemiah, I’m really glad you’ve come here to rebuild the wall & remove this eyesore.”
But Sanballat didn't react that way at all. As the construction started, Sanballat became very angry & mocked the Jews.
B. Why? Why was Sanballat so opposed to Nehemiah rebuilding the wall? I believe it was because he felt threatened by the changes that were going on. As long as the Jews were weak as long as Jerusalem was in ruins - as long as the wall was down - Sanballat felt secure. No one would be strong enough to defy his wishes & his plans.
But once the Jews were united - once the wall was rebuilt - once Jerusalem was strong & secure again - then Sanballat would lose his power over them. So the wall starting back up again was a threatening situation to Sanballat - & he couldn't deal with that threat.
So Sanballat became angry. "I don't want the wall up! I want it to stay the way it is!" There is something secure about the status quo, isn't there? Someone once said that "status quo" is Latin for "the mess we are in." That might be a pretty good definition.
In any organization, those who are most critical of change are those who are the most inflexible. They like the status quo because everything stays the same. And that is exactly what Sanballat wanted!
C. A poet wrote "Of all the words of tongue or pen - the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'" But may I suggest that in the church among the saddest words that you’ll ever hear are these, "We have always done it this way."
Have you ever heard anybody say that? Have you ever said it? Now, please don't misunderstand me. I’m not talking about changing anything that is taught clearly in God's Word. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, & forever - & that His Word & His will for the church has not changed.
But I am suggesting that God expects His church to grow. He expects His church to be winning people to Christ & helping them grow as Christians. The church must be reaching out & seeking to attract people to Jesus.
A congregation full of Sanballats will never transform the world. A congregation full of Sanballats will die - & sometimes they don't even know why it is happening.
Folks, we must never let that happen here. If it means doing some things differently than we have ever done them before - then do it! Don't ever be one who follows in the footsteps of Sanballat & his crowd.
II. THE CRITIC SEEKS REINFORCEMENTS
A. Sanballat & his crowd yes, that is right, for Sanballat did the same thing that all critics do. Once he became angry & started criticizing he went out looking for reinforcements.
Vs. 2 says that Sanballat, “. . .in the presence of his associates & the army of Samaria . . .said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are?’”