Critical Mass

Click here to read Isaiah 51 on BibleGateway.com

Listen to me, you who know right from wrong,
you who cherish my law in your hearts.
Do not be afraid of people’s scorn,
nor fear their insults – Isaiah 51:7

Why do successful people do what they do?  Yes, NFL quarterbacks make a helmet-full of cashola, but do you think they do what they do for the money?  Why do the world’s top actors keep acting?  If it was just for money, why not stop after you make that first 20 million?

In a word – approval .  Successful people do what they do because they want to be the best at what they do, be that athletics, art, politics, or whatever.  And why do we want to be the best?  So that everyone else will know that we are the best (and hopefully tell us from time to time how awesometacular we are).  We want to win more championships, own more real estate, or set that record.

Unfortunately, as many successful people have stated, no matter how high you climb, there will always be someone telling you how you should have climbed faster, or that you don’t really belong on the mountain at all. Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady of British politics, said “If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn’t swim.” And no matter who you are or how successful you become, the criticism always stings a little. The author Isaac Aimov once stated that “from my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.” We try to ignore what the naysayers say nayingly, but it seems those little barbs drop straight down into the gut and setup shop for the next decade.

WHY BE YE SURPRISED?

We live in an world that loves to criticize.  We love to criticize more than we love to produce; a recent study found that more people would like to be a film critic than a director.  Think about that.  More people want to sit and criticize other people’s work than actually do any work themselves.  It’s almost mind-boggling.  You may be shocked to find out that some people even criticize these devotionals.  Unbelievable, isn’t it.

Of course, living for people’s approval is very difficult for the Christian. Jesus flatly told us “in this world you will have trouble” and “people will hate you because of me.” The closer we get to Christ, the less approval from the world we can expect.  So why are we surprised when people call us idiots, challenge our beliefs, and mock our morals?  After all, if people were loving us, maybe we should take a hard look at our walk with Christ.

APPROVAL RATING

So how do we avoid taking criticism so seriously? Or, to put it another way, how do we change our attitudes so that acceptance is not our goal? Simply speaking, by knowing God’s word. Isaiah tells us that if we know right from wrong, if we pursue God’s truth, then we won’t fear people’s insults and criticisms.  Jesus wryly commented once that critics called  John the Baptist demon-possessed because he didn’t drink wine, and then called Jesus a drunkard when he did.  People will criticize you no matter what you do – so don’t work for their approval.  Strive to know Christ and please the Father: what other opinion matters?

“If you don’t live by the praise of men you won’t die by their criticism.” Bill Johnson

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