Opposition and Hardships

As I have been studying the biographies of famous Christians in history I observed that every single person who achieved anything of recognition went through some very difficult trials, received criticism, and experienced many failures. This is the same pattern we find in scripture. The inspired history of God's servants includes the accounts of opposition from enemies, criticism from peers, betrayal by friends, personal weaknesses, blunders, and failures. The thing that made them great servants of God was not that they were superhuman, or even above average in talent. The thing that made them effective was their devotion to God and a fervent dedication to the calling He had given them. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, Nehemiah, Simon Peter, and Paul all had their failures chronicled in scripture as well as their successes!

Church history provides us with the accounts of many well known Christians who have been recognized as making great contributions to the cause of Christ. C.H. Spurgeon, known across the world as the "Prince of Preachers", led the largest congregation in the world during his lifetime. His sermons have been printed and read by millions. He is acclaimed by many Christian historians and scholars as having been the most gifted sermonizer in the history of the church. Did you know that he was severely criticized by several prominent contemporaries? One well known pastor in London even questioned the legitimacy of his conversion and called him a dangerous and errant man. Others took issue with him for using humor and anecdotes to illustrate his sermons. They found fault with his person, his style, and his theology, yet history has demonstrated that he made thousands of genuine converts who went on themselves to win many thousands more!

Jonathon Edwards, known as the Father of the "Great Awakening" and author of the famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was later fired from his own church for insisting that church members should be genuinely regenerate! The man we all now consider to be specially anointed to turn a country to God was dismissed from his pastorate by political players.

There are times when we are reminded of our own weaknesses and limitations. For those who strive to achieve something, there will be setbacks, failures, and disappointments. There will be those who will find reason to criticize, mischaracterize, castigate, and even demonize the man or woman who follows the call of God. If God waited for the perfect people to surrender for service, He would be waiting still and no one would be found. God uses flawed people. He uses cracked vessels. He uses mistake makers. He always has.

Have you messed up? Do you think that your mistakes have ruined you for service? Are you wounded because of the enemies' assaults on you? Take heart! God can take you at whatever state you may be in, re-work a plan for your life, and empower you to be His servant again. It is better to be the one taking the arrows than the one shooting them. It is more admirable to fail at something important, than succeed at something mediocre. Is it more commendable to draw the hatred of the small minded than to enjoy the false peace purchased with the price of cowardice?

Our ultimate example of worthy accomplishment is our Savior Jesus Christ. He had no faults, yet He was grievously accused. He made no errors, yet He was constantly harassed by critics. He never acted in malice, yet he was the victim of the worst malicious violence sinful man ever displayed! If the most perfect man in the world received unjust criticism, surely we who are flawed, faulty and often errant will experience criticism, both deserved and undeserved.
Press on. Pray hard. Play fair. Perform! God will help you.

 "If you want everyone to leave you alone, it is simple... just don't be anything, do anything, or have anything!  But if you try to be something, do something, or have something, expect opposition."  Vance Havner
 (When he heard that he was being criticized by a gossiping woman)  "Well, I agree with her that I am not a good man.  I know more bad things about myself than those she claims to know!"  George Whitefield
"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them."  (attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson)
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."  Winston Churchill