Paul, the Bold2 Corinthians 10:1-18Theme: Strength under pressure.This week’s lessons teach us how to handle criticism in a God-honoring way.
LessonHow do you attack arguments if you are a Christian? How do you attack and overcome pretensions? You do it by the Word of God, by the logic of the Word of God that is found there. You try to make that Word as clear as you possibly can. Paul is saying that whatever the battle or criticism, he was not going to reply on a human level, using their arguments against them. Rather than using carnal weapons, Paul would war with spiritual weapons. Paul, as he does in this letter, uses the Word of God.
If you do that, if you use the Word of God in your dealings with other people, even when dealing with those who are your most devout enemies, you will find that God has a way of blessing it and breaking down those pretensions of the human mind, those strongholds of human arrogance. You find that God will use his Word to break those barriers down. And sometimes even those who are most critical of you and of the Gospel will end up on their knees before the God of grace. That is the way Paul operated.
From verses 6 through 11, Paul goes on to explain another way he countered his critics, and that was through consistency. They were accusing Paul of inconsistency, saying that he said one thing while he was present with them, but said another thing when he was away. Paul explained that that was not the case. He told them that when he was gentle with them, it was because he cared about them, and because he was seeking to imitate Christ. And if he was bold with them in his language or his actions, it was also out of care and concern to imitate Christ. There was therefore no inconsistency.
When we are engaged in the Lord’s work and when criticisms come, we need to search our hearts and ask, “Are those criticisms true? Am I being inconsistent in what I say or do?” If that is the case, then copy the Apostle Paul in that area.
In the verses that follow, Paul talks about his own task. There is another principle here. Paul says that he is willing to concentrate on the work God has given him: “We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you” (2 Cor. 10:13).
What Paul is talking about there is the Lord’s call upon him to be a pioneer missionary. Paul says that he had made it his boast not to plant or plow where somebody else had been before him. If there was another missionary who had gone to a particular area, Paul would rejoice in what that person had done. God had given him the task of being a pioneer missionary, so if he came to an area where the Gospel had already been preached, he would pass beyond that to an area where it had not been preached. That was how he extended his ministry, because his goal was to cover the whole Gentile world.
We know that Paul hoped he would eventually get to Rome and even beyond Rome to Spain. Perhaps he actually did. Paul was not against other people’s building on his foundation or another foundation, or people’s reaping where somebody else had sown. What Paul is saying is that he was most content to do what God had given him to do.
I wonder if we have the same mindset. Now, God can give us a great work to do, one in which we can really be effective. Yet because of the way the human heart works, we look at somebody else who is doing something different and we say, “Oh, but I wish I could be like that.” Or, “I wish I could do that. I wish I had the talent that person has. I wish I had the opportunity that person has. I wish I had the success that person has.” It is a great evidence of the grace of God in the life of a Christian when the Christian does what God has given him or her to do and finds contentment in that kind of work. Paul did. God richly blessed him and continues to bless him to our own hearts and minds.
What is the best method for countering criticism?
In what ways should we examine ourselves when criticism comes?
PrayerAre you content in the work God has called you to do at this time in your life? To cultivate contentment, regularly offer thanks to God in each task of every day.
Key PointIf you use the Word of God in your dealings with others, you will find that God has a way of blessing it.