Welcome to week 2 of My Big Fat Mouth. Last week we talked about complaining. In this series we’ll talk also about lying and gossipping, but today we are going to focus on criticizing.
How many of you have ever had someone criticize them? It can truly take the life out of you.
The first church I served I was working solely with youth. The church had previously had a very large youth ministry that had significantly shrunk prior to my arrival. I was brought on with the hopes that I could bring back the youth ministry to it's former glory. I worked very hard and was able to bring in about 150 kids, but this was only about half of what the program had been. So one day the senior pastor called me into his office and said… Tim… I don’t think you are cut out to be a pastor. I think you ought to cut your losses and go find a different job.
I walked out of that meeting and truly the life had left me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. So I called my district superintendent and bishop and said… I guess I shouldn’t be a pastor anymore. My senior pastor doesn’t think I’m fit for it. I started taking classes to renew my teaching license and I started to canvas for a new job.
The bishop called me into his office. I’ll never forget that day. It's not every day that a pastor gets called into the bishop’s office. In fact, that is the only time it has happened up until today. The bishop sat me down and said, Tim… you can’t believe what everyone says about you. He said, “Where do you believe God is calling you to be?” I said, “I thought he was calling me to ministry.” The bishop said, “Well Tim, you have been interviewed no less than 8 times by two different committees on ministry and every time it was a unanimous vote that everyone else agreed you were called to ministry. Why doubt it now just because one other person says something negative to you? Be who God has called you to be!” So that day I went back out into ministry and from that moment on I decided to always pursue my call wherever God leads me.
Criticism can be a real problem. We think we are just helping or coaching someone along, but the words that come out of our mouths are destructive, belittling or nagging.
I know some of you are thinking… Thank God! It’s about time. My wife or my husband really needs to hear this. Maybe for you it's your parent or your mother-in-law that you think really had the problem. However today… Today is not about them. Today is about you and the words that you speak.
You see it's really hard to see a critical spirit in the mirror. We hate it when others criticize us, but when we criticize others we think we are justified. We think that they deserve what we are saying or we think we are being helpful to them so they can improve. We criticize how they dress, what they post on instagram, we criticize how others drive, how others spend $, and how they raise kids.
Let’s just stop for a moment and jump into the word and see what scripture has to say about it:
14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. Gal 5:14-15 NLT
What if your mouth was destroying intimacy in your marriage? What if your words were building a wall between you and your kids? What if your words are distancing you from friends because they don’t want to constantly be criticized? What if your words are damaging your ability to be a witness to Christ and are actually turning people away from God and the church.
Let’s look at a few other pieces of scripture...
Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
Prov 12:18 NLT
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph 4:29 NIV
No idea how much criticism can hurt someone’s heart. That pastor cut me to the core. I carry around the words from that day with me as a wound that Satan likes to use against me constantly.
However, You have no idea how God might use a single word of encouragement! There was a woman who worked with me as a youth counselor in that youth ministry at my first church. When she found out I was leaving she came and sat down with me in my office. She said, Tim, I want you to know the difference that you have made in the lives of these kids. They will forever be changed because of your ministry here. I was thankful for her words and I took them to heart that day. It helped to heal. But what was incredible was that in the last few months I have had several of those youth who were in that youth group contact me through facebook and tell me how much those two years with me have impacted their lives and how they are raising their kids now. Now those words made an impact on me. And every time satan tries to use those words against me I know have the words of these youth to say right back to him.
You see the pastor that I worked with was a life taker. Your words can give life or take life. His words took life. However the words of that counselor and the words of those youth have given life to me, they built confidence within me and have given me fuel to go forward in my ministry.
WHICH DO YOU WANT TO BE?
A FAULT FINDER
You know these people… Their spouse doesn’t chew right, walk right, drive right, breathe right. People at work who are always commenting on others and how they run meeting or about the shows others watch or what hat they eat or where they go on vacation.
This is what the devil is called in Rev 12. He is called the accuser. This is also what they Pharisees were. They were constantly looking to point out the flaws in others.
You might think it makes us look smart, funny, better. But in reality it makes you look insecure and mean spirited. We tend to criticize because we are insecure. But here’s the thing… I’ve never met a critical person and thought… Gee I’d like to be just like them.
It's better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining
wife. Prov 21:19 NLT
But if I ever got the chance to write a piece of scripture… you know 3 Timothy 23:12… It would say A man who constantly picks apart his wife is like having bamboo shoots in your fingernails.
Notice I didn’t say dope dealer… We have the opportunity to be hope dealers. We have the chance to share with people the hope that we have. To introduce them to the God of hope.
I think Romans is one of the most amazing books in all of Scripture I want you to hear a few pieces out of it… first from Romans 15…
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so
that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul Romans 8: No condemnation in Christ Jesus
You are more than a conqueror.
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present/future, nor any powers, neither height/depth, nor anything else in all creation, separate us from the love of God in Christ
1 Timothy 1: Jesus is called “our hope”
Titus 2: Jesus is called “the blessed hope”
1 Peter1: Living hope
You see a fault finder Belittles, Demeans, Tears down
But a Hope dealer—Lifts, Strengthens, Encourages
This means we may need to rethink what we are saying and the words we are speaking.
Your child may not be most tidy—Compassionate, thoughtful.
Roommate eats food/wears clothes—But she’s loyal friend.
Your wife may not be the most organized—Good mom.
May not win yard of month—Tell him when he does great things.
It’s my goal that when you’re around me: I am Lifting you higher—Build you up—Give you hope.
I don’t want to be a Fault Finder— I want to be a Hope Dealer.
The truth is… when I understand the depth of my sin— and magnitude of God’s grace— that is when I know HOPE! Because in my sin I was dead, but with the grace offered to me in the sacrifice of Christ on my behalf I have been offered life eternal. I have been forgiven of every sin I’ve ever committed or will commit yet. Christ has tossed my sins and thrown them as far as the east is from the west. Friends that is hope. Hope is knowing that I will not die, but I will be alive forevermore with him. Hope is knowing that while I live on this earth that I have a God who walks with me on the journey and I will never be alone. Hope is knowing that even when I go through the darkest valleys of life I have Jesus with me all the way as my Good Shepherd. That is hope… do you know this hope? Do you have this hope if you do say Amen!?!?
I’m going to close with the closing words of Pauls second letter to the Corinthians…
I close my letter with these last words:
Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace.
Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Cor 13:11 NLT