When you work with people, you will be criticized. We have all been there. I remember a panel in which Adrian Rogers asked Ron Dunn, “How do you deal with criticism?” He responded, “Not too well!” Criticism is hard to take. People can be mean. Here are a few tips from Nehemiah 4 on how to deal with criticism:
If you are going to live for God and serve Him, you need to be prepared for criticism and opposition. It is inevitable. I heard Jerry Falwell say, “If you do not want people to criticize you, just say nothing, have nothing and do nothing. People will leave you alone.” If you try to make a difference and do a great work for God, expect criticism.
In the service of the Lord, there is no place for wimps and weaklings. You must be secure in who you are and in what God has called you to do. There is no greater joy than to know that you are in the will of God, doing what He has called you to do. Nehemiah was called to the work. You have to make up your mind, regardless of what comes your way, you are going to be faithful.
Why is it that a servant of God is surprised when there is opposition and criticism? Jesus said in John 15, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”
When Nehemiah faced criticism, he prayed. “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity” (v. 4). This is an imprecatory prayer. He is praying the judgment of God down on his enemies. The psalmists sometimes prayed this way. The worst thing you could wish on another person is that they would get what they deserve. Nehemiah prayed that God would give them what they deserved.
Nehemiah realized that the criticism was not against him alone, but ultimately against God. He prayed in accordance to the will of God. He did not allow himself to be distracted or to reply to their words. He just talked to God about it. Nehemiah did not take the law into his own hands. He put it in God’s hands. I have prayed, “Lord, you hear what is being said, so in your balance of justice and mercy do what is right.”
Take every compliment people give you and give it to Jesus. Then, you can take every criticism people give you and give it to Jesus as well. Remember, the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19).
Nehemiah kept praying and building! You can’t answer every critic. Abraham Lincoln said if he tried to answer his critics, there would not be time to do anything else. The worst thing you can do is try to answer every critic. Every hill is not worth dying on. Some things do not deserve a response. Nehemiah didn’t give them a piece of his mind. He didn’t tell them off. He didn’t seek unanimous support. It takes two to fight. The way to stop a fight or argument is to close your mouth. Commit the criticism to God in prayer and get back to work!
In verse 6, they were at the half-way mark. It is exciting when you start and finish, but it is easy to be discouraged halfway through the project. No matter the criticism you may face, don’t stop serving the Lord! Be prepared, be prayerful, be persistent, and finish what God called you to do!