Don’t push me too hard

Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas

Joke: A wife was making breakfast of fried eggs for her husband. Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen. “Careful,” he said, “CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOD! You’re cooking too many at once. We need more butter. Oh my GOD! Put some more butter? Oh! That’s too much, it is going to STICK! CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking! Don’t forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT!” The wife stared at him. “What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?” The husband calmly replied, “I just wanted to show you how you behave when I’m driving.”

INTRODUCTION

There’s always going to be someone around to tell us how to do our job, how to live our life, or how to raise our kids. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s always going to be someone out who thinks they know more than you do. How do you respond when people push you left and right?

This morning we are going to see how to handle criticisms in life that come along our way.

When we left Nehemiah at the close of the 2nd chapter, the darts of criticism were flying thick & fast. God had called Nehemiah for the task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. He was organizing to rebuild the walls and the work was ready to begin that he faced opposition.

Nehemiah 2:19 “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official & Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked & ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing?’ they asked. ‘Are you rebelling against the king?’”

Now who are Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gershem? Sanballat and Tobiah are both practicing Jews. They were Nehemiah’s own people. Both of them were having good position in the Persian Empire. Geshem was an Arab who was also in power in the Persian Empire. The restoration of Jerusalem would have been of great threat to their power, which motivated them to seek out allies to oppose rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Listen, Nehemiah’s own people, Sanballat and Tobiah are teaming with the others to oppose and criticize him. Many of you may be facing opposition and criticism from your near and dear ones. The ones whom you love maybe be turning back and accusing you. There is nothing worse than having your people suddenly criticizing you and destroying you.

Illustration: Tim was falsely accused by his friend in school of stealing money. The parents were called and they were waiting for a chance to catch Tim. One day as the father was driving home with Tim after school he grew suspicious as his jacket was hanging behind his seat, and Tim was at the back seat. The father checked to see if his wallet was safe in the pocket of his coat, but it wasn’t there! So he slammed on the brakes, ordered Tim out, and said, “Hand over the wallet immediately!” The frightened Tim handed over Rs. 500 and both came home. When they arrived home, the father told his wife about the experience, but she interrupted him, saying, “You left your wallet at home this morning.” The father turned to Tim, “Where did you give me Rs. 500 from?” “Mom gave it for the school picnic,” said Tim.

There is nothing worse than have your own people suddenly criticizing you and putting you down, but understand every dreamer, every achiever, every visionary, and every leader face criticism.

Nehemiah 4:1-2 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. 2 He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

See Sanballat became angry. He does not want Nehemiah to succeed. See what he is doing? He is criticizing the work of Nehemiah and the people of God to others. Critics are never comfortable alone. When they begin to criticize they eagerly seek someone else to agree with them. A critic will search for someone to listen to his criticism. Then that person will add their criticism. They egg each other on, and the first thing you know there will be a whole circle of critics – because critics love other critics.

That is exactly what happens here. Sanballat voices his criticism, and then Tobiah joins in. Nehemiah 4:3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”

I believe that pretty well portrays the philosophy and spirit of most critics. Tobiah is saying, “We may not be able to stop them from building, but don’t worry, they’ll never succeed.” When critics can’t stop something, almost invariably their reaction is “Well, they may do it, but it will never work. It will never last.” And if by chance they prove to be right then they will be the first to say, “I told you so!”

But did you notice the key word in Tobiah’s criticism? “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” He said, “their” wall will fall down. Now that was a serious mistake for it was not their wall it was God’s wall. God had commissioned Nehemiah to rebuild it. God had changed the mind of the King. God had instructed Nehemiah on how to rebuild it. It was God’s wall and God’s wall was going to be rebuilt no matter how many critics opposed it.

Remember this when you face criticism: It is God who has called you. It is God who has led you thus far. If God has called you for something and you are facing criticism when you stand up for it understand God will give you success and God will complete the good work in you.

THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU FACE CRITICISM

Now there are a few things about criticism that we need to keep in mind. Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword. It hurts when people say critical things about us. Maybe your loved ones are criticizing you. They would have called you mean or ungrateful. And you say, “I love that person and how could he/she hurt me so bad?”

Some people take criticism too seriously. They say, “Oh my goodness. I can’t believe that people are saying those things about me. If that’s what those people really think, then I’m not going back to that job ever again! I quit!” The danger of taking criticism too seriously is that we overreact. We allow the criticism to eat us away. Then we get so discouraged that we want to quit. Remember Jesus took criticism from people all the time but he never allowed it to keep him from doing what God wanted Him to do. He followed God anyway. And that’s what you should do. Take criticism with an open mind.

The second thing to keep in mind is that some people don’t take criticism seriously enough. They say, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear anything negative that will drag me down. I only want people around who will love me and affirm me and accept me as I am.” The problem with this mentality is that we can miss out on something God wants to teach us. Aren’t you glad you listened to your parents when they reminded you to look both ways before you crossed the street?” Aren’t you glad you have close friends who are brave enough to point out a flaw in your life that needed improvement?

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. If we ignore criticism from trusted sources, we will always remain unteachable and uncorrectable. We will miss out on what God wants in us. Now we as a child of God must know which criticism needs to be taken seriously and which criticism need to be ignored. Do not totally ignore criticism; take criticism with an open mind.

“If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success.” Malcolm X (US Nationalist)

HOW TO HANDLE CRITICISM?

Let us see how Nehemiah handled criticism. Nehemiah 4:4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised.

The very first thing Nehemiah does is to go to God in prayer. Nehemiah doesn’t even think of facing Sanballat and Tobiah and all the others until first he has sought God’s direction and help.

1. Look to the Lord.

When people criticize us, learn to take the criticism to God. Nehemiah did not answer back a thing. By our very nature we want to fight back and keeping quiet is probably the toughest thing for us when we face criticism. Nehemiah probably wanted to punch Sanballat right in the nose. But he knew that would be a terrible mistake.

Notice his prayer: Nehemiah 4: 4-5 “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.”

Now that is a different kind of prayer. All through scripture we read prayers that say “Forgive them.” But in this prayer Nehemiah says, “Don’t forgive them. Don’t forget their sins. They have demoralized the people who are building the wall, they are criticizing me.” Listen, Nehemiah instead of shouting back at his critics is pouring out his frustrations to God. Do not try to convince everyone who criticizes you Do not get emotional and argue with the people who criticize you. Pour out your emotions to God.

This is exactly what Jesus did. The night He faced arrest and trials He went to the Garden of Gethsemane and poured out His heart in prayer. The next day He stood before His accusers, was taken to Golgotha and was crucified. Despite everything they did to Him, He didn’t say a word.

Friends, when critics come, the first thing we must do is go to God and seek His peace. Do not speak until you have looked to the Lord.

2. Back up criticism with appropriate action.

Understand we cannot keep quiet when people criticize us; there should an appropriate action from our part. Some people criticize us for our good. They want us to change and be a better person. This is called positive criticism. Then there is negative criticism, people who criticize us to destroy and de-motivate us. We need to act according to the type of criticism we face. Suppose someone is correcting you and criticizing you for your good you must reciprocate with change on your behalf. Example: Girl coming home late from tuitions, work etc.

In the case of Nehemiah it was negative criticism and we see Nehemiah also backed up criticism with action.Nehemiah 4:6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.

After Nehemiah prayed he went right back to work. He didn’t stop construction and say, “Folks, we have problems there are all kinds of critics out there so let’s just shut her down and forget about it.” No! Instead, he kept on doing what he knew God wanted him to do. He kept on building the wall, and all of Jerusalem was a beehive of activity.

Illustration: I heard about a man centuries ago who was business failure at the age of 22. That same year he ran for the legislature and was defeated. In 1833, he was a business failure once again. In 1836, he was said to have suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1838, he lost in an effort to become Speaker of the House in the State Legislature. Five years later, he ran for Congress — again it was in vain. In 1846, he ran for Congress and won — only to lose his re-election bid in 1848. He ran for the Senate in 1854, and lost. He ran for the Vice-presidential nomination in 1856, and lost that too. All the way he was criticized and mocked upon. He never gave up and in 1860, he became the 16th President of the United States, he is Abraham Lincoln.

Don’t quit when people criticize you and demoralize you. Continue to do what God has called you to do in spite of your circumstances. Don’t stop.

Nehemiah 4:6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart. Nehemiah had to build in such a way that the walls will not be broken or would not fall down; otherwise, he would have been ridiculed and made fun of. When we face criticism we need to be very careful. People are watching you. Check for loopholes where the devil can trap you in. Be careful of your ways. Many of you maybe facing criticism, be careful, evaluate yourself and your ways.

CONCLUSION

First of all I would like to ask you do you have a criticizing mentality. Don’t be like Sanballat or Tobiah’s. Don’t be quick to criticize. The world is full of those who will stand say, “Why, a fox could jump on it and it will fall down.” But it takes a special person to keep picking up one stone after another and keep putting it on the wall. Anybody can be a critic but let’s be a motivator.

Secondly, are there people in your life who are pushing you to the limit, criticizing you and tearing you apart? Many of you are facing severe criticism. Don’t quit, you have a big future ahead and dreams to be fulfilled. Remember none of us are perfect. Be open to criticism but do not quit. God is still working on you to make you what He intends you to be. Let’s pray.