By Pastor David Cox
What about the destruction of a Good Preacher? Let’s say for a moment that you preach the messages that God gives you, and that you do it in a very excellent manner. In other words, you “get through to” people with those messages. People’s lives change, but also very important, you are being effective for the Lord. Just suppose for a moment that this happens occasionally and then more often. How does Satan destroy you? Because he will not give up opposing what you are doing, so he will tempt you with temptation, but you resist. He will imply that you sin (which you do sin) but that doesn’t derail your ministry. What next?
Criticism, the weapon which is a sword with two edges.
The more you build up a constant edge of pointing out people’s failings, and how to fix them biblically, then more these people will be keen to “return the favor.”
People will bring out criticism about any and everything you do. They will delight in tearing these wonderful sermons you give apart piece by piece if they can. If you make a grammatical error or you use the wrong verse (even if it right in your notes and you are sure you gave the verse reference correctly, they may swear you cited the wrong verse). If you made a personal reference to someone nobody present knows, they will say that was inappropriate.
Wives. Your wife is your best ally, but in all of this, she can also be your hypercritic. She finds this and that and the other is morally wrong, and you should have prayed longer or shorter before your sermon, or maybe you forgot to pray before or after your sermon, just something constantly being brought up.
All of this builds until you feel a tremendous pressure trying to overwhelm you. What is happening?
You did make mistakes and are wrong.
We are all sinners, and we are all prone to make mistakes. But this is not about that. This is about discrediting your ministry of attacking error and faults in people. This is THEIR response to your hitting the target exactly, and hitting it too often, and hitting a nerve every time.
Wrong response. One wrong response is to give in and admit that you are always wrong. While most people understand that their humanity gets in the way regularly, what you are doing has merit and is not “always wrong.” That would be renouncing God’s message you are communicating.
Wrong response. Defend your position and always say you are right. Really we are not always right, and that is also a problem. Probably some of these observations from people are right, and most probably all of it is right. You did make mistakes left and right. But the point is that your incidental mistakes don’t take anything away from the message of God that you presented and defended correctly with Scripture and scriptural exposition.
Your Message was Right.
When you get messages from God, study them out, present them correctly and motivationally, and you defend them in your sermon with solid exposition, there is nothing to apologize for. The problem is that you just keep on doing that and that really irritates some people, and there is not much they can do about it except to complain about you, and if there are not valid things about you that they can grab (there always is a lot of valid things we do wrong) then they will make up stuff. That is when things get difficult.
Your Right Response.
First of all, you must not stop giving God’s messages. Keep doing that. But be aware of what is happening and why.
Second of all, you must not get discouraged about it. That is part of Satan’s plan to stop your giving God’s message. He will shut up the mouth of everybody in your circle from thanking you or giving credit that these messages are changing their lives. Continue doing what is right no matter what.
Thirdly, people need a breather every once in a while. So give some sermons that are not so pointedly hard to sins of the heart. In the end analysis, just like Israel, the work of God cannot happen with just a man of God. The people of God have to change their hearts, and when hardness, and that is what this is, when hardness sets in, God will stop sending messages eventually and abandon these people to their sin-hardened hearts. We pray for their response to God’s message, and we need to pray even harder that their hearts don’t stiffen up and become a stone.
I think sometimes this happens. Preachers need to work in waves. Preach hard, and then let people recover some. Constant rebuke causes callouses. And this is in the heart. The problem is not letting up for a few sermons, it is to return to that hard preaching after letting up some. Some pastors have never preached a hard sermon against some sin in their lives. This is sad.
Fourthly, you need this criticism, and you need to analyze it to see if you are wrong or going off the correct path. Never dismiss the criticism out of hand. Always analyze it “coldly”. By that, I mean without emotion. Detach it from people who want to destroy you, and analyze it coldly. Take each criticism as if Jesus himself was saying it. Is it true? Can you do things to prevent this criticism? Then you should do so.
Above all, never get discouraged even though that is exactly what happens. This is the price the man of God pays to do God’s work. Even his wife sometimes seems to go against him.