This week a man I’ve never met put a comment on Facebook about my give-away eBook on prayer saying that I’m just sharing it just for money. I replied that I had not received even one penny from my eBook or from the entire website. He responded that if I ever received any money from any ministry work, that I’m a fraud and a con artist.
At that point he was attacking anyone in vocational ministry, so I deleted his comments from Facebook.
The Bible says, “the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.” (1 Corinthians 9:14 NLT) See also 1 Timothy 5:17-18 which says those in ministry should be considered worthy of “double honor” or in other words, “double wages.”
Sadly, people who serve Christ are often attacked and persecuted from all directions—even from those who profess to be Christians.
Just a couple of days after the attack above, I received the following email from a woman who had asked for and received my FREE eBook on 10 Prayers to Unlock Heaven on Earth: “You are not who you are, just want money. I’ll stay with my Catholic Bible. Goodbye”
When I posted her criticism online, my friend Francis said it well: “Ignore the crazies.”
In this case, that is exactly true and great advice. But other times, criticism is much more difficult because the attacks don’t come from crazies who don’t know us. They come from people we have trusted and who betray us with vengeance.
It is really hard to be unfairly attacked by those who should be our friends and supporters: fellow Christians, family members, colleagues. Those kind of attacks can cause us to question God’s calling and want to quit our ministry—whatever ministry that might be.
What should we do?
Should we quit?
Should we run and hide out so there is nothing to criticize?
Should we apologize for doing things we have never done wrong, just to placate critics?
Should we mope, whine and fixate on “poor me?”
Recently I was encouraged from reading the story of the “Weeping Prophet” Jeremiah. He experienced severe, unfair criticism and horrible physical abuse from those who should have been his supporters.
Jeremiah’s response shows how to react when you’re hurt and begin to question God’s calling:
01. Expect to be persecuted for doing right.
The only thing Jeremiah had done was live righteously and declare God’s Words. He was totally innocent, yet he was persecuted mercilessly.
Does this remind you of anyone else…maybe Jesus Christ Himself?
Indeed, it is a repeated theme in the Bible that there is persecution for righteousness sake; 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (See also Acts 14:22; John 15:20; Matthew 10:25.)
Jesus even warned us to be concerned when we are popular; “What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets.” (Luke 6:26 NLT)
Don’t worry about popularity, worry about faithfulness!
02. Don’t be surprised when persecutors are people who are supposed to be fellow believers and friends.
Jeremiah 20:1-2 tells us that it was “the chief officer of the Lord’s temple” who struck Jeremiah and put him in prison. Wow, he was supposed to be an ally, yet he was an enemy.
We are to expect persecution and in addition, we shouldn’t be surprised when it comes from “religious” people, sometimes those who claim to be fellow Christians.
There are many instances of this in Scripture:
The same thing happened to Jeremiah in 26:7-8 when “priests, false prophets and all the people in the Temple mobbed him, shouting, ‘Kill him! Kill him!’”Jeremiah also wrote, “Even my old friends are watching me, waiting for a fatal slip. ‘He will trap himself,” they say, ‘and then we will get our revenge on him.’” (Jeremiah 20:10b NLT) No wonder he was “The Weeping Prophet.”It was religious leaders who instigated Jesus arrest, torture and crucifixion.Paul was constantly battling false teachers—who were teaching a false Gospel. See Galatians 1:6-9.
Paul was even opposed by fellow believers who taught the correct Gospel, but were envious and enjoyed the fact that he was in prison for Christ. “Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.” (Philippians 1:17 NLT)
03. Expect that suffering will at some point cause you to question God’s calling.
This treatment for doing God’s work made Jeremiah feel that God had tricked and deceived him:
“O Lord, you misled me,
and I allowed myself to be misled.
You are stronger than I am,
and you overpowered me.
Now I am mocked every day;
everyone laughs at me.
When I speak, the words burst out.
‘Violence and destruction!’ I shout.
So these messages from the Lord
have made me a household joke.”
(Jeremiah 20:7-8 NLT)
Like Jeremiah, we may want to question God’s calling and say, “This is not what I signed up for Lord! You misled me into this ministry. I have become a joke. I want outa here.”
04. Despite persecution and questioning God’s calling, we must just keep moving forward.
Jeremiah knew that he must not abandon his calling and quit:
“But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” (Jeremiah 20:9 NLT)
It’s not a sin to question your calling. It is a sin to quit when you know God has called you.
05. Rest assured that God will somehow deliver you.
In his heart of hearts Jeremiah knew that God would somehow deliver him sometime:
“But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior. Before him my persecutors will stumble. They cannot defeat me. They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated. Their dishonor will never be forgotten.” (Jeremiah 20:11 NLT)
God’s deliverance will usually not come quickly enough for us, but it is sure to come.
This is God’s promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)
06. Allow yourself to grieve, then get up and keep on fulfilling your calling.
This chapter ends with some strong emotion from “The Weeping Prophet.”
“Yet I curse the day I was born! May no one celebrate the day of my birth. I curse the messenger who told my father, ‘Good news—you have a son!’ Let him be destroyed like the cities of old that the Lord overthrew without mercy. Terrify him all day long with battle shouts, because he did not kill me at birth. Oh, that I had died in my mother’s womb, that her body had been my grave! Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame.” (Jeremiah 20:14-18 NLT)
Jeremiah was discouraged, probably even depressed. God’s most precious servants can become discouraged and depressed. It is not shameful. For a helpful article I wrote on depression click HERE.
But what we must not do is stay down. We must as quickly as possible get back up, dust ourselves off and keep on keeping on. This is what Jeremiah did, as described throughout the rest of his book.
The Apostle Paul is also a great example of this. As he sat in prison, facing trial and eventual execution, he wrote: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)
Press on my friend and remember:
“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:10 NLT)
“But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.” (1 Peter 3:14 NLT)
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)