How to Respond to Criticism

The late Robert A. Cook, former president of King’s College used to speak at Word of Life in New York. Once I heard him tell a story from the early years of his ministry. He had been receiving some rather pointed criticism, and he sought the counsel of a friend, pastor H … More

Criticism

The people refused to accept Jeremiah’s declaration of doom because it conflicted with the life they were enjoying (vv. 18-23). Proud sinners don’t enjoy hearing about God’s sovereignty or the threat of impending judgment. Their solution was to attack him with their tongues in an effort to slander and malign his message (v. 18). Just like people today, they thought that by silencing the messenger they would silence the Lord. Jeremiah told the Lord that they were even plotting to take his life (“they have dug a pit” v. 21). Jeremiah reacted to their threats by calling on God to listen to their accusations and to judge these plotters for their sin. He called on God to deal with them in His time of anger (vv. 21-23). Faithful servants of God don’t enjoy opposition but they learn to expect it. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

We need to realize that Jeremiah felt deep pain because the leaders of his day rejected the truth. How do you suppose you or I would react if we were attacked by hateful enemies who lied about us, set traps for us, and dug pits for us? Perhaps we would also get upset and ask God to deal with them. There is a righteous anger against sin that is acceptable to God, “Be angry, and sin not.” (Eph.4:26). If it doesn’t seem right to us that Jeremiah gets angry perhaps some of us don’t get angry enough about the sin in this present evil world. The media has exposed to us so much sin that we tend to accept it as a normal part of life and don’t want to do anything about it. We have compromised to the point that it isn’t “politically correct” to be critical of ideas that are definitely unbiblical.

Application

How do I respond to criticism when I speak up for the Lord? Am I more concerned about what people think or what God commands?

Jeremiah 18:18-23 (English Standard Version)

Then they said, "Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words." Hear me, O LORD, and listen to the voice of my adversaries. Should good be repaid with evil? Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them, to turn away your wrath from them. Therefore deliver up their children to famine; give them over to the power of the sword; let their wives become childless and widowed. May their men meet death by pestilence, their youths be struck down by the sword in battle. May a cry be heard from their houses, when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them! For they have dug a pit to take me and laid snares for my feet. Yet you, O LORD, know all their plotting to kill me. Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger.

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