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Discover Your Critic’s Motive

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry.
–Nehemiah 4:1

If you are pursuing a God-given dream, you are going to face criticism. The first step for surviving and thriving with criticism is to discern the cause of that criticism. Nehemiah faced three critics in his project to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem: Sanballat, the governor of Samaria; Tobiah, the leader of the Ammonites; and the Arab named Geshem. Look at Nehemiah 4:1: “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews.” Why was Sanballat so worked up about this project? That leads to an important truth: if you are going to discern the cause of criticism, you need to discover your critic’s motive. Yes, only God can know motives for sure, but if somebody is really going after you, you ought to ask God for wisdom in determining the cause for that criticism. It may be that a person actually has a good motive. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” A true friend does not just tell us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear, even if it wounds us for a moment. There might also be some truth in criticism that comes from an enemy. Although it hurts, sometimes criticism can be helpful.

On the other hand, sometimes there is nothing good in your critic’s motive. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were motivated by insecurity. They knew if Nehemiah succeeded in rebuilding this wall, Israel would be able to protect itself against attacks and not need these guys any longer. I think they were also jealous. Nehemiah inspired the people to do something in fifty-two days that had not been done in a hundred years. Your critic might be motivated by insecurity or jealousy.

Sometimes a cause for criticism can be Satan himself. The Bible says since the beginning of Israel, Satan has tried to destroy it, because it was through Israel the Savior of the world would come. God inspired Nehemiah to build that wall around Jerusalem so that Israel would be protected against enemy invasion. If God inspired Nehemiah to build that wall, it was Satan who was inspiring Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem to do everything they could to thwart that purpose. What was happening was the result of an unseen but very real spiritual war that was going on between the forces of good and evil. The same principle is at work in your life right now. If God has given you a dream, Satan will do everything he can to thwart God’s dream for your life. The word “devil” literally means “slanderer.” And that is what Satan does. Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of our brethren . . . he who accuses them before our God day and night.” Right now, Satan is before the throne of God, accusing us day and night. Whenever you engage in criticizing or slandering another Christian, you are simply doing the devil’s work for him. When God gives you a vision, do not be surprised when attacks from other people come, because Satan wants to destroy that God-given dream. That is what Nehemiah understood. He understood that ultimately, this was the real enemy.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Surviving And Thriving With Criticism” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

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.


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