Hebrews 10: 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved”
For most young athletes, their dream is to play at the highest level in their sport. Perhaps it is the ladies national soccer team or on the professional golfing circuit (LPGA). For some it might be playing in the NBA or in the MLB. They think that if only they can achieve that goal then their life will be nothing but a smooth ride full of joy and happiness. What they fail to recognize, however, is that the higher the level they achieve, the greater the criticism they face. Critics can include parents, coaches, teammates, commentators and especially fans. For many athletes, their success in sport will not have as much to do with their physical abilities, but rather their ability to handle unfair criticism. For some athletes, they can brush off unhelpful criticism, but for others they are never able to get over the critique of their performance and it becomes debilitating. They walk away from the sport they love rather than face the ongoing criticism.
Whenever you choose to step out and take on a task in public, you run the risk of being a target for criticism. Every time you choose to step on the court, the field, the track or jump into the pool, you risk being criticized. But remember that you have a choice. American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard said: “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.[i]” So you have a choice. You can choose to pull back; you can choose to quit and to get out of the spotlight. But what a shame if you are influenced not by what you desire, but by the power of critics who have no concern for your best interest, and usually those who haven’t bothered to take a risk of their own.
Christians who boldly share their faith or are actively making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) are prone to receiving criticism. Just mentioning that you are a Christian can evoke some rather unpleasant responses or reactions in the world today. When we review the life of the Apostle Paul we see a man who faced significant criticism (and even conflict) as he carried out the work of God. His writings reference numerous trials where he even faced criticism from within the church. However, if you read passages like Philippians 1:12-18 you will see that Paul was not one to buckle to criticism because he chose to focus on his purpose rather than the critics. “The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (vv 17-18)
Paul didn’t have the time of day for those who were unjustly criticizing him. His eyes were focussed on his father in heaven. How about you? Are you afraid to share your faith because you are concerned about the criticism you might face? No problem: “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” You know that is not who you want to be. “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39). Pray to God for courage so that you can be a disciple of Christ who is not ashamed of the message, a disciple who is not swayed by the unjust critic.
[i] (Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great Vol. 3: American Statesmen, 1898) Hubbard, Elbert.