Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Participating in church leadership exposes you to an order of magnitude more criticism than normal. There are many encouraging resources for those enduring the hardship of excessive criticism.

C.J. Mahaney

John Newton

Whoever . . . has tasted of the love Christ, and has known, by his own experience, the need and the worth of redemption, is enabled, Yea, he is constrained, to love his fellow creatures. He loves them at first sight; and, if the providence of God commits a dispensation of the gospel, and care of souls to him, he will feel the warmest emotions of friendship and tenderness, while he beseeches them by the tender mercies of God, and even while he warns them by his terrors.

I have been thirty years forming my own views; and, in the course of this time, some of my hills have sunk, and some of my valleys have risen: but, how unreasonable within me to expect all this should take place in another person; and that, in the course of a year or two. (And Piper spoke to the men asking them if they expected people to change because "they attended my class" on that subject for two weeks)

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. . . . The Scriptural maximum, that "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service to the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. [And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24, rsv)]

As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. . . . [If he is a believer,] in a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. . . . [If he is an unconverted person,] he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! "He knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ.

C.H. Spurgeon

5. For Spurgeon a key to his perseverance in preaching through adversity was that he had settled who he was and would not be paralyzed with external criticism or internal second-guessing.
One of the great perils of living under continual criticism is that this is a constant call for you to be other than what you are. And, in fact, a humble saint always wants to be a better person than he is. But there is a great danger here of losing your bearings in sea of self-doubt. Not knowing who you are. Not being able to say with Paul, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). Spurgeon felt this danger keenly.
In comparing one ministerial identity with another he reminded other pastors that at the last supper there was a chalice for drinking the wine and there was a basin for washing feet. Then he said,
"I protest that I have no choice whether to be the chalice or the basin. Fain would I be whichever the Lord wills so long as He will but use me ... So you, my brother, you may be the cup, and I will be the basin; but let the cup be a cup, and the basin a basin, and each one of us just what he is fitted to be. Be yourself, dear brother, for, if you are not yourself, you cannot be anybody else; and so, you see, you must be nobody ... Do not be a mere copyist, a borrower, a spoiler of other men's notes. Say what God has said to you, and say it in your own way; and when it is so said, plead personally for the Lord's blessing upon it" (see note 69).
And I would add, plead personally the Lord's purifying blood upon it too, because none of our best labors is untainted. But the danger is to let the truth paralyze you with fear of man and doubt of self.
Eleven years later in 1886 he struck the same anvil again:
Friend, be true to your own destiny! One man would make a splendid preacher of downright hard-hitting Saxon; why must he ruin himself by cultivating an ornate style? ... Apollos has the gift of eloquence; why must he copy blunt Cephas? Every man in his own order" (see note 70).
Spurgeon illustrates with his own struggle to be responsive to criticism during the Downgrade controversy. For a season he tried to adapt his language to the critics. But there came a time when he had to be what he was.
"I have found it utterly impossible to please, let me say or do what I will. One becomes somewhat indifferent when dealing with those whom every word offends. I notice that, when I have measured my words, and weight my sentences most carefully, I have then offended most; while some of my stronger utterances have passed unnoticed. Therefore, I am comparatively careless as to how my expressions may be received, and only anxious that they may be in themselves just and true" (see note 71).
If we are to survive and go on preaching in an atmosphere of controversy, there comes a point where you have done your best to weight the claims of your critics and take them to heart and must now say, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." And bring an end to the deranging second-guessing that threatens to destroy the very soul.
C.S. Lewis

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." [From The Weight of Glory]

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