Sometimes in his letters, Paul seems so strong and confident, so full of faith, that he appears to be a spiritual superhero. But Paul was as human as you and I. Cut him, and he bleeds. Slander him, and he feels the wound. Criticism and opposition always hurt. Yes, we can reach a stage of spiritual maturity where we are better able to manage our pain and forgive an injury, but only a person with ice water in his veins could say that criticism doesn't hurt.
Paul looked to the example of Jesus. He was comforted in knowing that his Lord and Savior, his role model, was constantly criticized and attacked. The Lord's enemies called Him a glutton, a drunkard, a lawbreaker, a blasphemer, a seditionist, and a demon-possessed madman. Evil always tries to portray good as evil and evil as good. Evil men always try to create confusion and divert attention from their wickedness.
Evil always tries to portray good as evil and evil as good.
One way evil people try to confuse the issue is by claiming that those who stand for Biblical morality, for God's Truth, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are guilty of that most vile of all sins, the sin of intolerance! If a Christian supports God's model for Christian marriage and the Christian family—one man and one woman raising children in the nurture of the Lord—that Christian will be labeled a bigot and be accused of intolerance. By supporting what is godly and good, a Christian will be demonized as a hater.
When Paul responds to criticism and opposition, he does not give in to anger or self-justification. His response is focused entirely on defending the Gospel itself. He reminds the Thessalonians of his love for them. He wants them to know that the Gospel he preached to them was delivered in love, not out of any selfish motive. If Paul's motives had been tainted, the Gospel he preached might have been tainted as well. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that the Gospel they received from him was pure and trustworthy.
When you are criticized for your faith in God's Word, for your trust in Jesus Christ, for your belief in the Gospel, look to Jesus. Remember His love and compassion and also His unwavering commitment to the will of the Father.
Prayer: God, help me to trust in You when I am criticized and maligned for my faith. May I remember the grace I have received and respond with compassion, standing firm. May I trust in Your perfect justice. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45a).
*Excerpt adapted from Fearless Living in Troubled Times by Michael Youssef © 2017. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.
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