Be “Quick To Hear” – 15 Things To Recall Next Time You’re Criticized

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Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

Are  you “quick to hear”?  Though this verse can be applied to many situations, I’m going to apply it to times when others criticize, point out a sin, failure or weakness in us. We should be quick to hear when others reprove us in love (or not in love).

Why are we often slow to hear? We can be slow to hear because we are proud. Because we think we are right, or that we have the most accurate assessment of ourselves. Another reason we can be slow to hear can be because we view others’ corrections as attacks on us.

Another reason we can be slow to hear is because, even though we’re saved, we have an inadequate view of our ongoing battle with sin. Though believers are no longer “in sin” or slaves of sin, we still must put it to death on a regular basis. We need to be constantly aware of the temptation to be prideful or unteachable.

We may also be slow to listen when we have an inadequate view of how God accepts us in Christ. Insecure, we can always be looking to people for a sense of acceptance. We can interpret people’s correction as a lack of acceptance. But when we come to realize that God accepts us and is pleased with us in Christ, we can then receive criticism, for we are secure in knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and that he accepts us completely.

Sometimes we’re slow to hear because we have prejudged someone. We assume we know their motives. We assume we know why they are bringing something to us and we write it off.

So how can we become more quick to hear? Next time someone corrects, criticizes or points out a failure or sin to you:

  • View correction as a good thing: Ps 141:5 says: “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” That’s how we should view the correction of a believer – as a blessing.
  • Remember the danger of being wise in your own eyes. As Pr 26:12 says, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
  • Consider that it may be really hard for this person to bring a negative comment to you – try to make it easy for them. Consider that if they didn’t love you they might not say anything.
  • Determine that you really want to hear and understand their concern, even if it hurts, or even if in the end you don’t agree.
  • Remind yourself that God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud. You don’t want God resisting you.
  • Remember we all have blind spots. We all have logs in our eyes at times. We can’t know ourselves perfectly and can’t see ourselves as others see us. Maybe this is something we’re blind to.
  • Don’t be quick to defend yourself. God is perfectly able to defend you.
  • Don’t be formulating your rebuff while the other person is still speaking.
  • Ask questions. Draw them out. Seek clarification. Depending on the situation, take notes.
  • Don’t write off their concern because they don’t deliver it perfectly. Even if they share in anger, the content could still be accurate.
  • Even if most of what they share is inaccurate, there’s usually at least a grain of truth worth looking for in any criticism.
  • Believe God can and will speak to you through others to sanctify you.
  • If you don’t see it, tell them you really want to and that you will definitely consider it and pray about it.
  • Thank them for bringing this to you.
  • Ask them to point it out again any time they see you do it in the future.

If we are humble and are quick to hear, God will give us grace and we’ll grow.  If we’re proud and quick to reject correction, God may have to humble us.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather humble myself than have God have to do it.

Illustration by Bill Shapard

I Want To Be The Biblical Version of Joel Osteen

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Joel Osteen has acquired a bad reputation in some circles. He is known for teaching a prosperity gospel, for avoiding the wrath of God, and for being squishy on key subjects, like homosexuality. Nevertheless, there is one aspect of Joel Osteen’s ministry that I want to emulate: his constant emphasis on encouragement.

Life is really, really hard. Parents grow old, kids get sick, friends get cancer, sons get addicted to drugs, and daughters get pregnant out of wedlock. Our bodies get older and weaker and fatter. We struggle to raise our kids in an increasingly post-modern world. We are constantly aware of our shortcomings as Christians. We need to pray more, read our Bibles more, and evangelize more. We need to do better, try harder, be more productive, get more done. Every day we are reminded that we fall short on pretty much every account.

Because life is so hard and exhausting, every day is a battle. Every day I must fight to believe in the goodness and kindess of God. Everyday I must fight to believe that God is working all things for my good and his glory. Every day I must fight to believe that I serve a God who turns mourning into dancing. What I, and everyone else, desperately need every day, is encouragement. I need fresh hope, fresh faith, fresh strength.

There are enough critics, watch bloggers, angry prophets, protesters, and trolls in the church and in the world. We need more encouragers. We need more people like Barnabas. Acts 4:36 gives us a description of Barnabas:

Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)…

His real name was Joseph, but the apostles called him “Barnabas”. Why? Because he was a constant encourager! Encouragement was so woven into his DNA that the apostles gave him a nickname which meant encouragement. Barnabas was constantly encouraging and building up and strengthening those around him. Encouragement oozed out of his pores.

Encouragement is a wonderful, healthy, biblical thing. Romans 15:4  says:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The scriptures are written for our encouragement, that we might have hope for the daily grind of life. In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Paul told the Thessalonians to, “…encourage one another with these words.” The Thessalonians were to encourage one another with the truths about the second coming of Christ and the final resurrection of our bodies.

Paul concluded his first letter to the Thessalonians by saying, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

We need encouragement every day. There are so many times when life is hard and awful and depressing and sad. Every day I need to be reminded of the rock-solid, unshakable truths about God’s ways and works. And every day, I need to encourage others with the wonderful truths found in God’s word.

Let’s not let Joel Osteen hijack the biblical practice of encouragement. Let’s be biblical versions of Joel Osteen. Let’s be sons of encouragement, like Barnabas. Is there a place for criticism and correction? Sure. But there are enough critics out there.

Grace Frees You From Trying To Please Everybody

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photo credit: eccampbell via photopin cc

The simple fact is, you will NEVER be good enough for people. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much effort you put in, you won’t be good enough to meet the expectations and desires of other people.

  • You won’t be spiritual enough.
  • Your kids won’t be respectful enough.
  • You won’t be thin enough.
  • Your preaching will be too intellectual.
  • Your preaching won’t be intellectual enough.
  • You won’t have enough kids.
  • You’ll have too many kids.
  • You won’t serve on enough comittees at church or school.
  • You’ll serve on too many committees.
  • You won’t choose the right method of schooling for your kids.
  • Your kids will eat too much junk food.
  • You won’t go on enough dates with your spouse.
  • You won’t do enough devotional times with your kids.
  • You won’t have enough of the Holy Spirit.
  • You’ll have too much of the Holy Spirit.
  • And on and on and on.

Because you are sinful and you are human, people will always have a reason to criticize and judge you. Trying to constantly meet the expactations and desires of others is exhausting and miserable and futile. The harder you try, the more miserable you’ll be. Even if you get to a place where you have the respect of everyone, you then have to stay there, which is even harder than getting there in the first place.

The gospel allows you to stop striving and fighting for the respect and acceptance of other people.

Romans 8:33-34 says:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

There is only one person who can legitimately condemn you or bring charges against you, and that is God. After all, God is the one who knows your every thought, desire, and motive. If anyone could condemn you, it is God.

But if you are in Christ, God absolutely does not condemn you or bring any charges against you! He accepts you, delights in you, treasures you, loves you, and cares for you. It doesn’t matter what others say about you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t live up to the expectations of other people. It doesn’t matter if people criticize you. You have the full, unfettered, unhinged, unqualified love of God, and that’s all you need.

You can stop trying to be everything to everybody. You can get off the exhausting treadmill of people pleasing. You can let criticisms roll off our backs. Why? Because your worth and identity and security doesn’t come from other people; it comes from God through Christ. Your security and identity is not tied to your weight, parenting style, social group, diet, family size, or anything else.

The Judge of all the earth has already given his opinion of you, and it is decidedly in your favor!

Quit Your Online Quibbling!

All truth is God’s truth. But not all truth needs to be crammed into every communication. Think about those tweets you post with clever or thoughtful quotes. Or the reflective little blog post you wrote. Or maybe it was a brief conversation with a friend at church. You shared a little bit of truth.  Inevitably, though, you get those responses with the “well, actually. . .” or “what you really should have said was. . .” or the always helpful “I think what he really meant. . .” It’s the army of conscientious nuancers. They correct, edit, adjust, supplement, complete, addend, and amend. Your truth wasn’t quite true enough for their liking. Sometimes truth just needs the chance to stand by itself, even if it’s small. Just because it’s not all of the truth doesn’t make it untrue. Many of those blanks are there for a reason. Often a bite of truth is better than a year’s supply. Sometimes a taste is what whets the appetite instead of force-feeding someone a meal.  Nuance and accuracy are good. Caveats and alternatives are necessary. But just as often a single true statement set by itself is good too.  When you see them, let them be what they are. Assume the best. Take them at face value. Not all truths need to be all the truth.

All truth is God’s truth. But not all truth needs to be crammed into every communication. Think about those tweets you post with clever or thoughtful quotes. Or the reflective little blog post you wrote. Or maybe it was a brief conversation with a friend at church. You shared a little bit of truth.

Inevitably, though, you get those responses with the “well, actually. . .” or “what you really should have said was. . .” or the always helpful “I think what he really meant. . .” It’s the army of conscientious nuancers. They correct, edit, adjust, supplement, complete, addend, and amend. Your truth wasn’t quite true enough for their liking.

Sometimes truth just needs the chance to stand by itself, even if it’s small. Just because it’s not all of the truth doesn’t make it untrue. Many of those blanks are there for a reason. Often a bite of truth is better than a year’s supply. Sometimes a taste is what whets the appetite instead of force-feeding someone a meal.

Nuance and accuracy are good. Caveats and alternatives are necessary. But just as often a single true statement set by itself is good too.

When you see them, let them be what they are. Assume the best. Take them at face value. Not all truths need to be all the truth.

photo credit: Daveography.ca via photopin cc

Seeing A Million Specks In A Million Eyes

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The Internet is a wonderful tool. Thanks to the Internet we can reach people with the gospel we never would have been able to reach before. We can stay in touch with friends from college. We can listen to podcasts from our favorite preachers. We can fill our minds with wonderful, essentially free worship music (thanks Pandora). We can watch silly cat videos and try to figure out what the fox said and be encouraged that Jesus is always greater than man-made religion. We can download Bible apps and Candy Crush apps and productivity apps. The Internet is great.

But the Internet has also made it possible to be an obssessive speck detector. In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus said:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

One of our great, constant, incessant temptations is to always see the small sinful speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the colossal sinful log in our own eye. The Internet has increased this temptation exponentially. Every time we log on to Facebook or scroll through our Twitter feed we will see a million sinful specks. Someone complaining about their job. A prominent pastor saying something we strongly disagree with. A blogger ranting and raving about the failings of the church as a whole. A friend saying making an inappropriate joke. A million people, a million specks.

When we see these specks our immediate temptation is to point out the speck. We post a long reply about why we disagree with this pastor or this blogger. We get involved in a heated digital argument with a friend about the appropriateness of their complaining. We write an open letter (why is everyone always writing open letters?) to everyone who disagrees with us. We post a string of scathing scriptures in a comment thread, all of which condemn the speck we’re seeing.

Is it always wrong or inappropriate to engage in digital disagreement? Of course not. But it seems to me that we would be wise to heed Jesus’ advice when it comes to our online behavior. Before we judge someone else we should ask the following questions:

  • Where do I see this sinful behavior in my own life? Do I need to repent first before I address their behavior?
  • Where do I see God at work in that person’s life? How can I give thanks to God for them?
  • Do I want the Lord judging me by the same standard I am judging this person?
  • Do I really need to post this correction or rebuke or open letter? Will this really accomplish anything good?
  • Is my speech giving grace to those who hear? (Ephesians 4:29)

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it can also turn us into speck detectors. Being a speck detector is a miserable way to live. It’s no fun. To bear the weight of always trying to correct others is…well, unbearable. By God’s grace, let’s pull the digital logs out of our eyes before we point out the specks in the eyes of others.