Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads . . . for they have demoralized the builders.
How do you survive and thrive with criticism? First of all, discern the cause of the criticism. It may be that it is meant to help you; if so, learn from it. It may be jealousy, insecurity, or even Satan that is inspiring the criticism. Dismiss it. Second, deliver your critic to God. Nehemiah did not attack his critics–he just kept on working. But later on we will see that he did answer some of the criticism. In Proverbs 26:4-5, Solomon said, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.” So which is it–are you supposed to answer your critics or not? Solomon said it depends. Sometimes you ought to answer unfair criticism, especially if it is based on misinformation. After a congressional defeat, Abraham Lincoln said, “I have found that it is not safe, when one is misrepresented under his very nose, to allow the misrepresentation to go uncontradicted.” There are times when you need to answer unfair criticism. But remember Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” If you answer your critic, make sure you speak more slowly and more softly than your accuser so you quench rather than fuel the flame of controversy.
There are other times you should not answer a critic and instead deliver him to God. That is what Nehemiah did in Nehemiah 4:4-5. He prayed, “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.” You cannot read this and help but think, “Nehemiah, didn’t you get the memo from Jesus that you are supposed to forgive your enemies?” Why would Nehemiah pray a prayer like this? Nehemiah understood the difference between his personal enemies and God’s enemies. If somebody wrongs you, there is only one right response, and that is to forgive. But Nehemiah recognized this was not a personal offense. These men were trying to stop the program and purpose of God, so he prayed, “God, sic ’em! Destroy ’em!” Today we have a hard time with prayers like this. J. I. Packer said it is because “the pure zeal for God’s glory that these prayers express is foreign to our spiritually sluggish hearts. . . . The nearer we come to this state of mind, which is a spinoff from the desire that God’s will be done, his kingdom come, and his name be hallowed and glorified, the less problem shall we have with vengeance prayers.” If somebody is criticizing you, just deliver them to God to deal with. “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Surviving And Thriving With Criticism” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Abraham Lincoln, “Speech At Columbus, Ohio” September 16, 1859, The Lehrman Institute, http://www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/pre-civil-war/1859-1860/speech-columbus-ohio-september-16-1859; J. I. Packer, “A Passion For Faithfulness: Wisdom From The Book Of Nehemiah” (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1995), 101-2.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org