Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Give Thanks … Even When You’re Depressed

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
– Job 1:20-21 

In her best-selling book, “The Hiding Place,” Corrie ten Boom tells the story of how she and her family resisted the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands during World War II. When the Nazi Gestapo began rounding up Jews in Amsterdam and sending them to concentration camps, Corrie and her family risked their lives by helping Jews hide and escape. During the first four years of the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, it’s estimated that Corrie ten Boom and her family helped save the lives of 800 Jews.

But on February 28, 1944, the German secret police raided Corrie’s house, where she was hiding six Jews and resistance workers. The Gestapo didn’t find the hidden Jews, but they arrested Corrie and several other family members. Eventually Corrie and her older sister Betsie were transferred to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany, where they were disgusted to find that their barracks were infested with fleas. When Corrie began to complain, Betsie insisted that they give thanks instead, quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  

Corrie finally joined her sister in thanking God for the fleas. The two of them began hosting evening Bible studies for their fellow prisoners, and many women accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. To their surprise, the camp guards never disrupted those evening studies, and they never came to their barracks to harass or rape the women. After several months, Corrie realized the very fleas she had so despised had actually been a blessing. God had sent the fleas to keep away the cruel guards and pave the way for many prisoners to find hope and salvation in Christ.

If fleas in a concentration camp are actually a blessing from God, which blessings might you and I have missed because we’ve mistakenly seen them as a curse? In the Bible, Job is the perfect example of how to be thankful—even when we’re grieving and depressed.

According to Job 1:1, “Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” He was also wealthy and devoted to the large family God had blessed him with. But Satan wasn’t buying it. He challenged God: “What do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what’” (v.11). Well, God gave Satan free rein to do his worst, and that’s exactly what the devil did. In the space of a few hours, Job’s sheep were burnt to a crisp in a freak lightning storm, the rest of his herds were stolen by raiders, and his 10 sons and daughters were all killed when a dust storm caused the house where they were eating to collapse on them.

Job was grief-stricken. His first reaction was to do what was customary in his culture when someone was overcome with sadness. He tore his robe and shaved his head. But what he did next is remarkable: “He fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’” (vs. 20-21). And as chapter 1 draws to a close, the writer of Job offers this beautiful commentary: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (v. 22). Job sank into a deep depression. But still, somehow, he was thankful.

When we’re grieving and slipping into depression, we can pull these three steps right from Job 1:21:

Step #1: Look BACK. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb.” Job urges us to focus on God’s past blessings. When you and I are depressed, our tendency is to have tunnel vision. We become consumed with the thoughts of today’s misery. So, like Job, we must pull off the blinders and remember that we came into this world with nothing. Everything we own has been a good and gracious gift from God: our clothing, food, jobs, our homes.

Step #2: Look AHEAD. “Naked I will depart.” When we’re down in the dumps because our water heater is busted, our identity was stolen, or our car was repossessed, we need to remember that when we die, we won’t be able to take it with us anyway. If you are experiencing depression because something you value has been taken from you, here is the perspective that can help you be thank-full: “God gave it to me in the first place, and sooner or later He was going to pass it on to someone else. So, I’m going to thank God for the time that I had it. I was never the owner. I was simply the manager of that item for a short time. Thank you, Jesus!”

Step #3: Look UP. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” When you’re depressed, the more you look up to God, the better off you’ll be. Satan was convinced that when all Job’s stuff was taken from him, he would curse God and die. But Job wasn’t duped by the father of lies. Instead of cursing God, Job “fell to the ground in worship…. Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

May the same be said of you and me when we find ourselves in the pit of grief and despair. While most people are blaming God, resenting God and turning their backs on God, let’s worship and praise God. And through it all, let’s make sure we do not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. In the end, it will be crystal clear to everyone that God is faithful, God is just, and God IS at work for our good.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Give Thanks … Even When You’re Stressed

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18

The famous 17th century Bible scholar, Matthew Henry, was once mugged by thieves and robbed of his wallet. He wrote these lines in his diary: “Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Yes, there’s always something to be
thankful for. And at this time of year, as our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving, I’d like to focus on 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” No matter what you’re going through, God has called you to give thanks in ALL circumstances—even when you’re anxious, worried and stressed out. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat of Judah offers a powerful example of doing just that.

In this exciting chapter, Jehoshaphat learned that three enemy nations—the Moabites, Ammonites and some of the Meunites—had merged their armies and were marching toward Jerusalem. This combined army was massive, so when the king found out about it, he was terrified: “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah (v. 3). Notice what Jehoshaphat DIDN’T do. There’s no mention of him drafting more soldiers, or strengthening the defenses around Jerusalem. Instead, he mobilized the people of Judah to fast and pray.

When the people gathered to pray, Jehoshaphat laid the cold, hard facts before God: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do …” And then the key words: “… but our eyes are upon You” (v. 12). God’s spirit responded through one of the Levites: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15). The Lord went on to instruct them: “Tomorrow march down against them….Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you” (v. 17). The next day, Jehoshaphat carried out one of the most unorthodox military strategies in the history of warfare. Instead of having cavalry or spearmen lead the charge, he put his PRAISE TEAM in the front line to sing to God. We even have some of their lyrics recorded for us in verse 21: “Give thanks to the LORD, for His love endures forever.” God’s response? He set ambushes that caused the three armies to turn on each other. When Jehoshaphat and his men arrived at the scene, they found nothing but dead bodies. God wiped out all three enemy armies without the Israelites even having to lift a sword. Just as God had prophesied, the battle belonged to the LORD. No one can convince me there’s not power in thankfulness and praise.

When we’re stressed, how can we possibly give thanks to God?

Step #1: Begin by humbly taking your problems and stresses to God. There are any number of things King Jehoshaphat COULD have done when he heard the news of the invasion. But his first reaction was to do something entirely different—the same entirely different thing that you and I should do when someone drops a huge stressor in our lap. Jehoshaphat’s first response was to pray … REALLY pray … and to mobilize everyone around him to pray. Jehoshaphat was able to be thankful later, because he was prayerful first. If you want to lean on God in the midst of your stress, anxiety and fear, you need to start responding to your stresses differently. Instead of acting first and praying later, you need to pray first and act later.

Step #2: Take hold of both the commands and the promises of God. One of the reasons we get so stressed out is because we don’t even TRY to obey God’s most oft-repeated command in the whole Bible: “Do not be afraid.” And the Holy Spirit can help us “fear not” when we remember and believe the promises of God. God has made certain promises to you and me, and we need to believe them and take hold of them.

Step #3: Praise God for who He is, and thank God for what He’s done. It will feed your faith and lower your anxiety. Nine times out of 10, when we’re stressed it’s because we’ve taken our eyes off God. Praising God for who He is, and thanking Him for what He’s done, re-directs our attention to God and reminds us that He is much bigger and stronger than our problems. That being the case, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to praise and thank God for.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

God Can See You Through the Perfect Storm

 I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost. – Acts 27:22

In October 1991, a freak storm hit the New England coast. Even those who had lived in New England all their lives said it was, hands down, the worst storm they’d ever seen. Three storm systems, including the dreaded nor’easter, suddenly converged over the Atlantic, producing wind gusts up to 120 miles per hour and 30- to 60-foot waves. The locals dubbed it “The Perfect Storm.”

Three weeks earlier, Captain Billy Tyne boarded his fishing trawler, the Andrea Gail, with his crew of five fishermen. They set out for a one-month fishing trip off the shores of Newfoundland, where they knew the fishing was amazing. They hauled in a quarter-million dollars’ worth of fish—but they never saw a penny of it. On their return trip, the Perfect Storm hit, and the Andrea Gail got caught in the middle of it. In Captain Billy’s final radio transmission, he said, “She’s comin’ on boys, and she’s comin’ on strong!” After those fateful words, the radio went dead. To this day, the trawler and its crew have never been recovered.

Well, 1900 years earlier, a similar freak storm swept across the Mediterranean Sea. Just like the Andrea Gail, the ship caught in that storm went down. But miraculously, not a single one of the 276 men on board died. Every one of them made it to shore safely, including the Apostle Paul. God had made him a promise that he would get to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome, and absolutely NOTHING was going to stop God from keeping that promise. Not even The Perfect Storm.

In Acts 27, after appealing to have his case heard by Emperor Nero, Paul was sent to Rome on a ship with his two companions, Dr. Luke and Aristarchus. Other prisoners were on board as well. If all went well, they’d reach Rome in a few weeks, before the bad winter weather came. But the winds changed and forced them to take a detour that added several hundred miles to the trip. When they reached the port city of Myra, they switched to a larger, sturdier ship to take them the rest of the way. But the wind still fought them, so it was October before they reached a small port called Fair Havens. Sailing the Mediterranean was sketchy in October and impossible in November. In Acts 27:10, Paul warned the captain that the voyage would be disastrous if they continued. But Paul was overruled.

The captain decided to sail another 40 miles to a more sheltered harbor, the port city of Phoenix. But in verse 14, “a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster”—like the one in the Perfect Storm—came up. The ship was tossed helplessly for days. The crew “passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together” (v. 17), and soon, they started throwing the cargo overboard … then the ship’s tackle. For two weeks, the ship was battered by the storm. Luke writes in verse 20, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

But not Paul. When they had gone days without food, he told the men, “I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed” (v. 22). And he shared a vision he’d had the night before, in which an angel told him: “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (v. 24). On the last night of their harrowing voyage, Paul urged everyone to eat to keep up their strength. The next day, they ran the ship aground on a sandy beach—and, just as the angel had promised, no lives were lost.

There are many wonderful lessons we can pull from this amazing chapter. Here are three highlighted by Pastor Warren Wiersbe:

Life Lesson #1: Storms often come when we disobey the will of God, and we sometimes suffer because of the unbelief of others. Paul warned the captain that disaster awaited them if they sailed on from Fair Havens. We don’t know if God had revealed that to him or if it was simply based on Paul’s experience. But Paul clearly had divine insight. That insight was ignored, and all 276 men on board suffered because of that unbelief and disobedience. The same holds true in our families, in our workplaces, in our church and in our nation. Storms come and many people suffer because of the disobedience and unbelief of a few.

Life Lesson #2: Storms have a way of revealing character. It’s easy to trust and serve God when the sun is shining and the seas are calm. It’s much harder to trust and serve Him when our ship is coming apart at the seams. None of us LIKE being scared half to death. None of us enjoy being in the middle of a miserable, painful storm. But that’s where you’ll find out who you really are. Are you a committed follower of Christ, or are you just a fair-weather Christian? Life’s storms will show you AND those around you what you’re made of. Storms will reveal if you’re the real deal.

Life Lesson #3: Storms can give us opportunities to serve others and bear witness to Jesus Christ. Most of the passengers on that ship probably wouldn’t have given Paul the time of day if it had been smooth sailing to Rome. But their ears were wide open to what he had to say in the midst of the storm. The same holds true for you and me during our storms. People listen more carefully to what I say at a funeral than they do at a wedding. And you’ll find that during the worst of storms, people around you will be much more open to you serving them and sharing the hope of Christ. So, let’s not curse our trials. Let’s accept them for what they are: opportunities to grow, serve and bear witness to Jesus Christ. 

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Better, Stronger and Faster are on the Horizon

 “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” – Romans 13:11-12

Superheroes have always fascinated me. And when I was growing up, one of my favorites was Steve Austin: “The Six Million Dollar Man” of TV fame. The show began with one of the best title sequences of all time. We see astronaut Steve Austin in his space suit, flying an experimental aircraft. But something goes terribly wrong. His plane crashes, and it’s engulfed in flames. The next thing we see is an operating room, and the narration begins.

“Steve Austin—astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will BE that man. Better than he was before: Better. Stronger. Faster!” Sure enough, after his six-million-dollar surgery, Steve Austin had two bionic legs that let him run up to 60 miles per hour. He had a bionic left eye that gave him telescopic vision. And he had a bionic right arm that made him the strongest man on earth. Now, I admit it: “The Six Million Dollar Man” was a pretty corny show. But those words from the title sequence have still inspired me over the years: “Better than he was before: Better. Stronger. Faster.”

Here’s a question for you: As Steve Austin was soaring over the earth in his experimental aircraft he was completely healthy—two healthy legs, two healthy arms, two healthy eyes. So, BEFORE his plane crashed, how far was Steve Austin from being “better, stronger, faster”? Probably a few days. But what about AFTER Steve Austin’s accident? As he was lying on that operating table with two crushed legs, a severed right arm and a damaged left eye, at THAT point how far was Steve Austin away from being “better, stronger, faster”? Just minutes away.

If Steve Austin had been a real man, most people would have looked at him in his hospital bed and said, “He is definitely NOT better than he was before! After his accident he is LESSER, WEAKER, SLOWER.” And yet, when Steve Austin was at his WORST point, he was actually the closest to his BEST point. When he was at his WEAKEST, he was closest to being at his STRONGEST. When he was flat on his back, he was minutes away from being at his fastest. The night was nearly over. The day was almost there.

In today’s world, it’s been a rough couple of years for a lot of us. After having Covid, many of us feel worse than we did a year or two ago—lesser, weaker, slower. But God’s Word has some great news for you today: “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:11-12). Thank about that. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter how bad you FEEL right now. You might FEEL lesser, weaker and slower than you did a year or two ago. But we walk by faith and not by sight.

In God’s word, Hebrews 11 is nicknamed “The Faith Chapter.” It’s filled with over a dozen examples of biblical heroes who persevered through extreme difficulties … by faith. Noah persevered for more than 100 years as he built a huge wooden ship in the middle of the desert. But Noah walked by faith, reminding himself of what God said was up ahead. Abraham persevered for 30 years, trusting God’s promise that he and his wife would have a son in their old age. That took a lot of faith, because Abraham was 70 years old when God first made that promise to him. He was 100 by the time Isaac was born. But Abraham walked by faith, reminding himself of what God said was up ahead. Moses persevered for 40 years, carrying out God’s marching orders to lead over a million Israelites to the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses was repeatedly criticized and slandered, and he received death threats. But he walked by faith, reminding himself of what God said was up ahead.

Hebrews 11:13-15 tells us, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance…. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” These biblical heroes looked ahead, beyond what their eyes could see. And they saw with the eyes of faith what God had promised them was up ahead. Noah saw a flood that wasn’t yet there. Abraham saw a son who wasn’t yet born. Moses saw a homeland that the Israelites hadn’t yet reached.

And if you look ahead with those same eyes of faith, you can see what awaits you up ahead. No more pain. No more disease. No more cancer. No more depression. No more war. No more divorce. No more funerals. No more crime. No more poverty. Heaven is nearer than it was last year. Your complete physical healing is nearer than it was last month. Your brand new, top-of-the-line, pain-free, resurrected body is nearer than it was just yesterday. Despite how beaten up and broken down you may feel, if you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ you are closer than you’ve ever been to being better than you’ve ever been: BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER!

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Make the Most of Your Time With Kings

 “God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.
 – Acts 26:22

Mother Teresa dedicated her life to doing what Jesus Christ tells his followers to do in Matthew 25:35-36. She gave food to the hungry. She gave clean water to the thirsty. She gave a home to homeless strangers. She gave clothes to the naked. She gave free medical care to the sick.

And just three and a half years before she died, 83-year-old Mother Teresa was invited to Washington D.C. to be the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. On February 5, 1994, Mother Teresa spoke to an audience of 4,000, which included some of the highest-level leaders in the United States, including President Bill Clinton. As the frail little Catholic nun stepped up to speak, her head didn’t even extend above the microphones mounted on the podium. Here is a small part of her impassioned message: “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child.... Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

When given an audience that included the leader of the free world, that’s what Mother Teresa said. If you had been given that opportunity, what would you have said to them? Let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul said when he was given a similar opportunity.

Paul had been cooling his heels in prison for two years while the corrupt Governor Felix waited for him to bribe his way out. Finally, Governor Felix was booted out of office, and Paul was called into court to stand before the new Roman governor of Judea, Porcius Festus. And Governor Festus responded ... by asking Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there.

Paul knew he’d been given the runaround by Governor Felix, and it seemed Governor Festus was doing the same. So, Paul gave him this very respectful but eloquent response: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:10-11).

God had promised Paul that he’d get a chance to share the Gospel in Rome, and Paul probably decided it was time to “get this show on the road.” The quickest way to get there would be to claim his right as a Roman citizen to have his case appealed to the highest court in the empire. So, Paul asked for his court case to be transferred to the Caesar himself, Emperor Nero.

In Acts 26, before Paul was transferred to Rome, he was given the opportunity to share his personal testimony with a lower-level ruler: King Agrippa. Paul spoke to the king respectfully, saying that he considered himself “fortunate to stand and offer my defense” before King Agrippa. Then, in a courtroom filled with powerful leaders, he shared his testimony: the story of his own persecution of Christians, his life-changing revelation on the Road to Damascus, and his mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ from that day forward. And in verse 26, he pointed out that the king was familiar with both the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. In front of everyone in the room—all the political, military leaders and religious leaders—Paul asked the king a question that could lead to him embracing the truth that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do” (v. 27).

But instead of responding with a genuine, heartfelt answer, King Agrippa took the easy way out by asking a question of his own: “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (v. 28). That is what we called a missed opportunity. King Agrippa heard the good news of Jesus Christ, and I believe the Spirit of Almighty God was whispering in his ear, “Today is the day of salvation.” But King Agrippa said, “No!” He squandered that moment. He put Jesus off until tomorrow. And as best we can tell, for King Herod Agrippa II, tomorrow never came. He never turned from his sin and received the grace of Christ.

I’d like to share two life lessons that we can draw from this passage.

Lesson #1: When given the opportunity to stand before high-ranking leaders, treat them with kindness and respect. Regardless of the way Paul was treated by governing leaders, he spoke to them with kindness and respect. As Chuck Swindoll puts it: “When God grants us the rare opportunity to stand before prestigious people and high-ranking government officials, it is best to demonstrate courtesy and grace. Regardless of their lifestyle, speak with respect…. To come on like gangbusters will surely be an offense, and the door of opportunity will slam shut…. Despite his chains and their differences, [Paul] addressed them with kindness and respect.”

Lesson #2: Don’t squander your God-given opportunities to truly believe, repent and submit to God’s will for your life. King Agrippa heard Paul share about his experience on the Road to Damascus and how it changed his life forever. And King Agrippa COULD have had his own Road to Damascus experience right then and there. But foolishly, King Agrippa squandered his God-given opportunity. He chose not to believe, not to repent and not to submit to God’s will for his life. What a tragedy!

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are being offered your own Road to Damascus moment. You have the God-given opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ, turn from your sin and submit to God’s will for your life. The question is, are you going to respond like Paul or like Agrippa? Will you take hold of this opportunity, or will you squander it? 

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

How to Handle Criticism

I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” – Acts 24:16

Two taxidermists stopped in front of a store window in which a great horned owl was on display. They immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted: “Its eyes don’t look natural. Its wings are out of proportion with its head. Its feathers are matted, and its feet could be improved.” When they had finished with their criticism, the old owl turned his head ... and winked at them.

Evidently, even an owl minding his own business is not above negative criticism. Sooner or later, you’re going to be criticized by a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor. And if you find yourself in a significant position of leadership, you’ll likely have criticism coming at you from all sides.

Sometimes the best response to criticism is no response at all. During the Civil War President Abe Lincoln told one of his military officers, “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything.” These words so impacted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that he mounted them on his office wall.

Yes, there are times when we shouldn’t respond to criticism. But what about the times when we NEED to respond? In those cases, there is no better place to turn for advice than Acts 24. In the city of Caesarea, as the Apostle Paul stood in the courtroom of Governor Felix, he was given the opportunity to respond to the harsh criticism and accusations leveled against him by his critics. And he responded masterfully. We would do well to take note of and mirror Paul’s seven guidelines for responding to harsh criticism.

GUIDELINE #1: REFUSE TO BE CAUGHT UP IN THE EMOTION OF THE CRITICISM. As Paul begins his defense in verse 10, he doesn’t let his emotions take the lead. So, ask yourself: “When I am harshly criticized, do I tend to respond more like Dr. Spock from Star Trek or more like the Incredible Hulk? Do I respond to criticism with a level head, or do I tend to lose my head? Strive to respond to criticism like Paul … calmly and rationally.

GUIDELINE #2: STICK TO THE FACTS. In verses 11-13, Paul presents the facts of his case. He respectfully points out that there’s not a single eyewitness among his prosecutors. Their accusations and criticism are nothing other than speculation and hearsay. So, when responding to criticism, do what Paul does: Stick to the facts.

GUIDELINE #3: TELL THE TRUTH WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE. In verse 16, Paul mentions his efforts to maintain a clear conscience in the sight of both God and man. That’s significant! He wasn’t a religious snob who said, “To heck with man’s laws! I only pay attention to God’s laws!” On the other hand, he didn’t just do everything that was right by man but wrong by God. So, when you’re under attack, you may not think speaking the truth will pay off in the end, but it will. “The truth will set you free.”

GUIDELINE #4: IDENTIFY THE ORIGINAL SOURCE OF THE CRITICISM. Paul respectfully points out in verse 19 that those who had first made accusations against him in Jerusalem were nowhere to be found on court day. Where were they? Who knows? Criticism tends to come from people who are the least qualified to give it. So, when responding to criticism, it’s a good idea to identify the original source of the criticism. 

GUIDELINE #5: DON’T SURRENDER OR QUIT. Paul’s prison sentence in Caesarea lasts more than two years. Think about that for a moment. The charges against him are unsubstantiated hearsay. He’s never convicted of a crime. And we learn in verse 26 that Governor Felix leaves Paul in jail for a very selfish reason: He’s hoping Paul will offer him a bribe! No matter. Paul refuses to compromise his integrity by throwing in the towel and taking the easy way out. And it pays off in the end. Paul eventually makes it to Rome.

GUIDELINE #6: DON’T BECOME IMPATIENT OR GROW BITTER. Instead of growing bitter while under house arrest, Paul takes the opportunity to serve Jesus Christ right there. And it’s most likely during his two-year incarceration in Caesarea that his missionary companion, Dr. Luke, is able to conduct interviews and do the research necessary to later write the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. I am very grateful for these two books of the Bible and for Paul’s no-retreat-no-surrender attitude that helped pave the way for them to be written.

GUIDELINE #7: STAND ON THE PROMISES OF GOD. Because Paul knew that God’s promises are as good as gold, he didn’t need to be anxious or worry about his unforeseen roadblock in Caesarea. God had promised him that he’d make it to Rome, so no matter how long and drawn out his incarceration was, he knew he would eventually make it to Rome. God had said so. So, when you are harshly criticized, hold onto the promises of God. Paul was able to endure some of the harshest criticism imaginable as he stood firmly on the promises of God. And so can you.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.org.

 

 

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Are You a Bulldog for Jesus?

“The Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’” – Acts 23:11

A man who loved to hunt purchased two Irish setters that he trained to be world-class bird dogs. One morning, the dog’s owner saw an ornery little bulldog shuffling and snorting down the alley beside his house. With drool hanging off his gums, the bulldog crawled under the fence into the man’s backyard and started to pick a fight with his two Irish setters. Well, those setters chewed that bulldog up one side and down the other. The intruder crawled back under the fence and went on his way, and the man figured that would be the end of it.

But the next day, around the same time, up the alley came the same bulldog, shuffling and snorting just as he had the day before. And, once again, he crawled under the fence, picked a fight with the two Irish setters and got the stuffing beaten out of him. So, the bulldog crawled back under the fence and went home. And the next day? Same time. Same dog. Same result.

The next day the man left for a business trip. When he returned a week later, he asked his wife for an update on the dogs. She said, “Honey, every morning at the same time, that little bulldog crawled under our fence and fought with our two setters. He didn’t miss a day! And now, every time our setters hear that bulldog snorting down the alley and see him squeezing under the fence, they start whining and run into the house. Now that little bulldog struts around our backyard like he owns the place.”

I got to thinking: That scrappy little bulldog – THAT’S THE APOSTLE PAUL! Paul took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’. Paul was chased out of Pisidian Antioch, stoned in Lystra, flogged in Philippi, arrested in Jerusalem and had his life threatened numerous times. But he refused to back down. He just kept coming, taking whatever blows were necessary to spread the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but I want to be that determined. I want to be that resilient. I want to be that tough for Jesus.

In Acts 22 and 23, Paul was rescued from an angry mob by a Roman commander, Commander Lysias, three times in a 24-hour period. When Paul got back to the safety of the barracks after his third rescue, he must have wondered if the NEXT mob would be the one that would take him out. But then Jesus spoke to Paul with this promise: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11).

But the mob had other ideas. The morning after Jesus’ promise to Paul, more than 40 men hatched a fresh plot to murder him. They asked the chief priests and elders to have the commander send for Paul “on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here” (v.15). However, Paul’s nephew—a young man we’ve never heard of before and won’t hear of again in Scripture—learned about the plot. He went to Commander Lysias and urged him not to send Paul into the conspirators’ trap. So, late that night, when most of the conspirators were home in their PJs, the commander had Paul escorted out of the city. Just to be safe, he sent along some company: 200 armed foot soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen. Even if the 40-plus conspirators had realized Paul was being escorted out of the city, they wouldn’t have stood a chance against 470 armed soldiers. They were outnumbered 11 to one.

So the Apostle Paul, our determined bulldog, lived to fight another day. Here are three Life Lessons we can draw from this passage.

Life Lesson #1: When God makes you a promise, you can afford to be bold in carrying out His marching orders. I like to remind people: There is no safer place to be than in the center of God’s will. When you are right where He wants you to be, doing exactly what He wants you to do, you can afford to be bold and courageous for Him. Why? Because He’s made you some promises. He’s promised that He will be with you. He’s promised to never leave you nor forsake you. He's promised that the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say when you’re under attack. Since God’s promises are as good as gold, allow His promises to embolden you to say what He leads you to say and do what He calls you to do.

Life Lesson #2: Most of the time God doesn’t use extraordinary means to accomplish His purposes. He uses ordinary people and circumstances to carry out His will. For every time that God does the extraordinary, He works thousands of times through ordinary people and everyday circumstances. Occasionally God will part the Red Sea, hold the sun in place or raise someone from the dead. But every day, God works in unremarkable ways through thousands of ordinary people. In Acts 23, He fulfilled His promise to protect Paul by working through Paul’s nephew and Commander Lysias. There’s a good chance neither of those men was saved. But God used them anyway to work all things together for the good of His servant Paul.

Life Lesson #3: Somewhere inside you there’s a bold, scrappy bulldog. So, let him loose. Be a bulldog for Jesus. As long as we allow Jesus to hold our leash, you and I need to be more bulldog-like. Jesus doesn’t want us to be like the two Irish setters who start whining and running into the house at the first sign of an attack. We need to be like the bulldog: standing strong in our faith, holding firm in our convictions, and speaking boldly for Jesus. And when we take some lumps for our Lord, we need to lick our wounds and do it all over again the next day.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in October.