Are you willing to believe despite criticism?
Have you heard of John Kirby or Alexander Garden? What about Bishop Lavington? There might be a few who recognize these men, but most would not. Perhaps you are familiar with Shaphat and Igal? Most likely, you are not. Interestingly, each of these individuals was a critic of their peers and generally, people don’t remember critics. Sadly, some critics would not have any kind of ministry if they didn’t live to criticize others.
Do you know who John Wesley and George Whitefield were? Most of us would recognize these two names because these men were prominent leaders of the eighteenth-century awakenings in England and America. They sacrificed much for the sake of the kingdom of God and the message of the gospel. Kirby, Garden, and Lavington, however, were the ministers who criticized Wesley and Whitefield and did everything possible to malign their ministries. Wesley and Whitefield didn’t shrink back from their God-given assignments regardless of criticism. They believed beyond their critics.
Shaphat and Igal were two of the ten spies who didn’t believe God’s Word or the favorable report given by two names that most of us would recall, Joshua and Caleb. Let’s consider the details of their story. God came to Moses and said, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel” (Numbers 13:1). Did you note that phrase God used, “I am going to give”? God had already promised to give Israel this territory. The spies were merely sent out to inspect the gift that was promised by their God.
The Bible indicates that the spies came into the valley of Eshcol, which means a place of cluster or much blessing. In fact, these spies harvested a single cluster of grapes that took two men to carry (see Exodus 13:23). After forty days, they returned home and proceeded to explain to Moses what they saw. They explained how the land flowed with milk and honey and they presented some of the fruit from this promised land. Everything appeared to be going well, but then the unimaginable happened. Fear fell over the spies and they lost sight of God’s promise. They focused on the size of the giants and not on the size of their God.
Two of the ten, however, had a different perspective. They believed the report of the Lord. Caleb said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). The other ten were so convinced that taking the land couldn’t happen, they began to spread a “bad report” among the Israelites (Numbers 13:32). This phrase means to spread a poisonous, slanderous word. It implies defaming the character of those with whom you disagree. Joshua and Caleb were being criticized for believing God’s Word.
What about you? Believing God’s Word will often put you in opposition with those around you who are overcome with fear and disbelief. They may criticize you, write things about you, leave your church, vote you out of the church, or worse, they may even try to physically harm you. The Israelites were so angered by the tenacious faith of Joshua and Caleb that they wanted to stone them (see Numbers 13:10). The question is, however, will you still believe beyond the criticism?
If you become angry and offended, then you’ll not respond in the correct manner. You don’t need to harshly respond to critics or violently defend your reputation when people come against you. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11). He actually said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). However, never shrink back from what you have been called to do and never stop believing God’s Word.
Critics are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere and in every church. Most of them will not be remembered in history for igniting the fires of revival or sowing into great moves of God. They aren’t known for what they believe as much as what they oppose. Usually, the hungrier you are for Jesus and the more desperate for the manifest presence of God that you become, the greater the criticism will be. If you place total faith in God’s Word and little confidence in earthly circumstances, then you will become a target of criticism. Nevertheless, don’t shrink back.
I like the apostle Paul’s response to his critics when he was in Ephesus, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). Not only was the Word of God heard throughout all of Asia, but a mighty revival exploded in the city of Ephesus that caused people to keep coming and confessing their sins and turning unto the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 19:10-18).
So, no matter what, believe beyond the critics.
Jesus, regardless of who might come against us, we will not shrink back or cease believing your Word. Use us to ignite citywide moves of God, amen