How would you handle yourself when you feel a lot of people are turning their backs on you or they are trying to stop you from serving God?
Christians are often persecuted by other Christians. It is especially common among religious leaders in the church who desire to be the “most important man in the church.” The average man or woman as well as some leaders can find themselves pushed aside by an individual or even a group. Jealousy, envy, status and pride are great sins in the church. Listen to Jesus,
And Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he was aware that the chief priests had delivered Him up because of envy. (NASB) Mark 15:9-10
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were filled with envy. They wanted the attention and the glory the people gave to Jesus. Some laymen and religious leaders today are competitive in their desire to appear to be more spiritual, have a greater gift, be more influential or to be a better servant of the Lord. The strategies and maneuvers that occur in some churches are the same that we observe outside the church. Listen to an illustration from the apostle Paul,
Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will. (NASB) Philippians 1:15
They will take advantage of the people for their gain,
But they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh. (NASB) Galatians 6:13
Why does this happen? The Holy Spirit tells us through Jesus’ brother James,
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (NASB) James 4:1-3
Who Are You Serving?
Conflict also occurs among the average men and women in the church. This is the result of self-centered Christians who have taken their focus off of Jesus. They consider the church to be something like a sports team, a political group, or the local charity group. Some churches are simply nothing more than social clubs. But Jesus’ church should be about giving God the glory. It should be about encouraging others in the ministry. We should be looking for the person God wants to take over the ministry that we are involved in. If we find someone who can do a better job than we are doing, maybe we should step aside for the glory of God. If we are unwilling to let that happen, then we are not serving Jesus – we are serving ourselves.
Your question is difficult to answer because the criticism may be justified. I have seen religious leaders assume they were being criticized for righteousness, for the sake of Jesus, when in reality they were suffering because they were in sin. That is the message of 1 Peter 2:20. It is easy to convince ourselves we are modern day Jeremiahs when in reality we should step down or step aside from OUR ministry. Did you notice I capitalized “our?” It should be HIS ministry!
I have always tried to take the approach that the criticism was justified and deserving. I would rather learn from criticism than to be a Pharisee and reject a lesson Jesus wants to teach me. I respond to criticism by self evaluation. I start by assuming they may be correct. I then ask the opinion of others close to me who will be honest. I pray and ask God to give me wisdom (James 1:5) and to help me improve where I need to. I desire to be a righteous man of God. Remember Romans 12:
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NASB) Romans 12:16-21
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, (NASB) 1 Peter 5:6