Sunday morning I preached a sermon about waiting on God’s promises. We looked at Genesis 15, where God tells Abram, “Don’t be afraid. I’m with you.” And Abram kinda loses it with God, saying, “You know, God- you keep saying that, but you haven’t given me any children yet, and now I’m getting old and I’m going to have to leave my whole estate to a servant instead of a son.” It seems like Abram is growing impatient and frustrated, and he lets God know it.
So God takes Abram outside and tells him to look up. He tells Abram to calm down, and that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. My point was that when God makes us a promise, we can rest assured that he’s going to come through. It may not be when we want, or how we want, or what we expect, but we can trust God when he tells us he’s going to do something.
At the end of my sermon, I had everyone write one word on a notecard. I told them to write down a word that would sum up a situation in their life where they’re expecting God to come through. One word that reminds them of that thing they feel like God has promised them. Then I had everyone bring their cards forward and lay them on the stage as a way of saying, “God, this is out of my hands. I trust you to work in this situation in your own way and in your own time.” It was really neat.
After everyone had gone, I gathered the cards and brought them to my office. (I’m going to use them in next week’s sermon.) I thumbed through and read some of them. People had written things like Peace, Finances, Children, Wisdom, Work, Faith, Reconcile. Than I found one that had a word I wasn’t expecting.
I have to admit, that stung a little. It probably shouldn’t- I don’t know what they had in mind, but what I read into it was this:
I just preached about God promising to change a situation, and how we need to wait and trust God to do that. So there’s someone in the church that feels like God has promised to bring in a new pastor. They think I’m no good…I’m no good. Ugh, tomorrow morning I’m gonna Google “ministry, job openings, Texas”.
That was my train of thought because I am so vulnerable to criticism. I constantly feel inadequate. “I’m undereducated, inexperienced, I talk too fast, I don’t visit enough, I don’t know enough, I should have done this, I shouldn’t have said that…” I wish I didn’t do that to myself. I wish I was one of those old-school tough guys that could just say, “You don’t like me? Tough. See you next Sunday, sucka,” but I’m not. I’m apologetic and thin-skinned.
Maybe God made me that way on purpose. Maybe that’s his way of keeping me humble, because I certainly do pray a lot- a lot– when things like that happen. I pray for confidence, not in myself but in the work that I’m doing. I pray for guidance, because then if someone doesn’t like it, it’s not all my fault. I pray for friends who will compliment and criticize with honesty and loving attitudes. I pray that I would remember to work hard for God’s honor, not for the approval of people. It’s tough at times, but it does keep me humble and prayerful, so I guess in that sense, I’m thankful that someone wrote “Pastor.”
How do you handle criticism? Do you confront it or ignore it? Does it get to you like it gets to me? Comments are always welcome.