Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, "Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?" Then they scoffed, "He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us." They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. -- Mark 6: 1-3 (NLT)
It seems these days that everyone is a critic. Everyone has their own opinion about seemingly every subject and you will not be exempt either. One of the most popular pastimes we have as people is to tear each other down. The spirit of negativity is pervasive in nearly everything we do and the church remains equally affected as well. In fact, some of the most critical people you will ever meet will be found inside the church walls. The Bible is filled with stories of people challenged by the negative murmuring of others and how they had to overcome it. Realize that one of the greatest weapons the devil uses against us is discouragement. That is why the Bible instructs us to speak only in ways that edify and build each other up. There will no shortage of complainers and naysayers -- especially as we seek to advance in our walk with God. Let's take a look at some of the critics of the Bible and how we are to respond.
The first example comes from the end of the period of Judges. Israel turned on God and demanded that they have a mortal king like all of their neighbors. God turned to Saul. Now Saul gets a lot of bad press and rightfully so. He eventually would become full of himself and blatantly disobey God which would result in God pursuing David -- a man after the heart of God. At the beginning however, Saul was actually a humble man who followed God. He would become a victim of his own success, which we fall prey to as well if we are not careful. But when he was first named as king, not everyone was happy:
But there were some scoundrels who complained, "How can this man save us?" And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them. -- 1Samuel 10: 27 (NLT)
Beloved, we need to realize that we cannot please everyone all the time. It simply is not possible. A critical spirit looks for something to complain about -- anything to complain about. Saul shows us the first thing we need to do is pay them no mind. The spirit of criticism feeds off of others. It needs willing participants. Gossip only succeeds when people are willing to entertain it. We must not. Saul goes even further though than merely ignoring them. A month later the new king leads Israel to a great victory over the Ammonites and here is what followed:
Then the people exclaimed to Samuel, "Now where are those men who said, "Why should Saul rule over us?' Bring them here, and we will kill them!" But Saul replied, "No one will be executed today, for today the Lord has rescued Israel!" -- 1Samuel 11: 12-13 (NLT)
Lesson number two beloved is we are to show the mercy that our critics refuse to. It would have been easy in his flesh for Saul to demand the heads of the men who grumbled against him but he recognized that only God deserves the glory for our victories in life and if we focus on Him we will find ourselves not needing to get even. God sees all things and everyone will be held to account for every careless word. Remember, we serve a just God.
The second example is the following King of Israel -- David. When we first meet David we see a more subtle method of criticism in place in his life. David was marginalized. He was the last of eight brothers made to tend to the sheep and goats. He was an afterthought. One day the Prophet Samuel comes to the house of Jesse, David's father to anoint the future king of Israel. Jesse presents the first seven sons to Samuel, but God rejects them all. Then this happens:
Then Samuel asked, "Are these all the sons you have?" "There is still the youngest," Jesse replied. "But he's out in the fields watching the sheep and goats." -- 1Samuel 16: 11 (NLT)
David was so unconsidered that when the Prophet of the Lord came to his house he could not even imagine that David would be the one the Lord wanted! Many of us as well have been marginalized our whole lives. Our siblings were always considered before us. We were the last one picked to play sports in gym class. We were never considered the smartest, the prettiest, or the most skilled. We were probably voted most likely to just exist. Just tend the sheep and hope that you can provide a better chance for your children than you feel you had yourself. NONSENSE! God can use anyone beloved, anyone! Moses was a stutterer and a murderer. Gideon was the weakest in his clan and his clan the least as well. The disciples were mostly fishermen and from all accounts, not particularly good at it either. How did the young shepherd boy take the news:
So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah. -- 1Samuel 16: 13 (NLT)
He accepted that God had a different opinion then those who marginalized him. That may seem simple but it can be so difficult for the marginalized because you are talking about breaking through years if not decades of being told you are mediocre. In some cases it can even be a generational curse that has marginalized your family for generations. But God can take that which has been discarded by this world and turn it into something beautiful for His glory.
Even later on David still would face the critics again. They never really go away. As he walked into the Valley of Elah he saw all of the fighting men of Israel cowering in fear from the threat of the 10 foot tall Goliath. The Giant was taunting them; mocking them -- just like the enemy does to us in our lives. David however tells King Saul that he will fight the giant and remove this disgrace from Israel. Saul was less than enthusiastic about his chances:
"Don't be ridiculous!" Saul replied. "There's no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You're only a boy, and he's been a man of war since his youth." -- 1Samuel 17: 33 (NLT)
God does not judge by appearance but by the heart beloved. If we would give God a slingshot filled with faith in who He is -- then we will see our critics be humbled before us. Look at this response from Saul. How often do we face similar criticisms, often from people in perceived positions of power or expertise? You can't possibly go back to school -- you're too old! You can't lead that ministry -- you aren't a leader! You can't possibly -- don't be ridiculous! What can we learn from the reaction of David here: