Summary: Job learned how to handle criticism and with God’s help turned his critics into friends.
The Challenge of Turning Critics into Friends
How do you handle criticism? Job had his share of critics. He learned to handle his critics with class. God helped Job turn his critics into friends. In fact God encouraged his critics to become prayer partners with Job.
Job demonstrated that it is possible to live under pressure and have courage and endurance.
Ernest Hemingway, author of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” boiled down the definition of courage to three words, “Grace Under Pressure.” Job is an excellent example of how to live and practice a life of grace lived under pressure.
Charles Swindoll, in his book, A Man of Heroic Endurance, Job, tells that history records how one of our presidents, Abraham Lincoln lived with grace under pressure. Lincoln was slandered, libeled, and hated by many people. He was publicly called about every name imaginable by the press of his day, namely such as: grotesque baboon, a third-rate country lawyer who once split rails and now splits the Union, a coarse vulgar joker, a dictator, an ape, and many other names.
As President Lincoln learned, no matter what he did, there were going to be people who would not be pleased. Lincoln handled all this criticism with patience, forbearance, and determination uncommon to most men. (Page 182)
From the life of Job we can learn how to handle our critics with class and turn our critics into friends.
I. Job Endured Many Heartaches and Pressures
On a scale of one to ten, where would you put yourself on the scale according to your level of endurance?
Compared to Job, most of us would have to confess that our level of endurance is very low.
Job suffered the destruction of family and all possessions, the heartbreaking deaths of all his children, and finally, the loss of health and happiness. On top of all this came the discouraging presence of his friends. His friends were determined to use their discomforting words to wrench out a confession of guilt from him. In their view he must be guilty of sin to undergo such suffering. From Job chapters 3 through 37, Job listens to his friends rant and rave about his lack of righteousness and his sinful ways.
Eliphaz sums up Job’s problem in chapter 22:
• You are suffering because you have sinned (Job 22:1-11).
• You’re a hypocrite because you’ve hidden your sins (Job 22:12-20).
• You need to repent because your sins are obvious to everyone (Job 22:21-30).
Job believed in his heart that his so called “comforters” were wrong and did not have their facts straight. Even though Job was being criticized unjustly, he demonstrated grace under pressure.
I would confess that early on in my ministry my endurance level for criticism was low. In my first church in Kansas City, Kansas where I began my pastoral ministry, we relocated from 20th and Quindaro ten miles west to a growing area of the city. We built a new parsonage and a new church at 7303 Yecker, KCK. When the church was being built I experienced some challenging times as a new pastor.
When the parsonage was nearly completed we needed to order a telephone so I ordered a white telephone to match white walls. I reported the order along with other items to the church board. The church treasurer spoke up and said, “Why didn’t you order a black telephone? It’s cheaper that a white telephone!”
In my lack of experience and immaturity I responded with comments that did not help the situation. My endurance level was way too low.
A debate followed in the church board, some for the white phone and other for a black phone. Eventually the majority went for the white phone.
What was the problem? We were so involved in the building project we lost sight of our primary mission – to carry on the work and ministry that Jesus started. When our primary mission is forgotten the most insignificant things can cause polarization.
There are several things we can do to experience endurance when confronted with criticism.
1. Before you respond, think how important the issue is in the light of eternity. What significance will this issue have fifty years from now?
2. Take a break from the issue. Suggest the group calmly look at the pros and cons of the issue.
3. Postpone discussing the issue until a later time when people’s brain have a time to catch up with their emotions.
4. You can love your critics, but that doesn’t mean you have to hang out with them. Spend most of your time with positive, encouraging people who practice the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
5. One of the keys to having endurance and grace when under pressure is to keep and maintain balance in your life.