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Friday, August 17, 2012

With Friends Like These . . .

Nehemiah had some friends named Sanballat and Tobiah. They were the same kind of friends that Job had in Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz. (Job said to them, “miserable comforters are ye all.”) That just about sums it up. These guys were self-appointed critics.

Nehemiah and Job are not alone. I think of the great missionaries of the past and how they were misunderstood (Hudson Taylor, when he adopted Chinese dress and customs), criticized by their peers (William Carey, the brilliant missionary to India, along with many more), opposed by their own families and their own mission agencies (more than could be listed here), and persecuted (all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, 2 Timothy 3:12).

The rumor mill turns. People talk badly about others, sometimes because of jealousy, but many times because of misunderstandings. Sometimes, I guess, it’s from just plain meanness. The old saying, “with friends like these, who needs enemies?” is too appropriate.

If you do something, you’ll get criticized for how you do it. People might say you shouldn’t have tried it at all. If you don’t do something, you’re accused of being lazy, or you should have done this—or that. There’s criticism, whatever you do!

So, when we’re in the fire ourselves—and we will be, no matter what—it is helpful to remember those heroes who have gone before.

I love Noah. Such faithfulness! His wife and sons and daughters-in-law were saved because they believed God’s message preached through him. His sons actually helped him build the ark—on dry land! To say he had opposition is putting it lightly.

How about Jeremiah, the weeping prophet? Was he a cry baby? Not exactly. He wept because the people wouldn’t repent. He faithfully preached for years and years, and the people went on sinning.

There are lots more, but the greatest hero of all is Jesus Himself. His own brothers didn’t accept him as the Messiah until after His death and resurrection, even though they witnessed his perfect actions and reactions at home. His perfection wasn’t enough proof for them? The people in Jesus’ hometown rejected Him. The country’s rulers were out to kill him—several times. The religious establishment didn’t approve. They were always trying to trip Him up verbally or catch Him disobeying the Law of Moses. Jesus was arrested and tried on trumped up charges, flogged, and crucified, even though He was sinless. Through all of this, Jesus was loving, caring, kind, healing, teaching, gracious, and best of all, forgiving.

In the face of unjust criticism, may we bear in mind our own Lord and Savior, the heroes of the faith, godly men and women of the past, and the persecuted saints of today, and may we depend wholly on the Lord.

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:14-18).


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