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A Tender Heart and a Tough Hide
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:5-9; Proverbs 27:6; Act...
Track 14 of 15 in the Paul: Grace & Strength Mixed Together series
Paul was surrounded by many critics, both from within the church and from the outside world. Paul always balanced his reaction to the facts he knew to be true concerning his relationship with Jesus. That is all that mattered to him and because of that fact, falsehoods against him never slowed him down and he protected his heart with the truth he knew about grace and mercy from God.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

A Tender Heart and a Tough Hide

I find today that the world seems to be a place filled with people who are very thinned skinned. Do you find people the same way? What ever happened to the old saying, ďSticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me?Ē Does it still apply today or has society changed so much that every word we say needs to be carefully thought out so not to offend some person or group?

What about Christians? Are we too thinned skinned? What makes you think so? Based on how the church ministers today, are our congregations thick skinned or thin skinned?

How are you at constructive criticism? Are you by nature a person who wants to know how to better yourself and welcome help from others or are you a person who gets defensive as soon as someone disagrees or criticizes you or your behavior? If you are a defensive person, what causes you to put up the defense?

True or False: What are your thoughts about this statement?

For every achievement there is a price.
For every goal there is an opponent.
For every victory there is a problem.
For every triumph there is a sacrifice.

What are the inner reactions a person has to be aware of and prepared for when dealing with tough times, opposition to your beliefs or dreams, or in some situations, hostile attacks against your character?

True or False: A person is either tender hearted or someone with a tough hide. It is uncommon to be both.

There are many examples of people who had an exterior that was very tough but deep inside resided a tender heart. Abraham Lincoln was one of those persons. He was a man who had sincere convictions about his country and preserving the union for which a civil war was raging. He believed that it was wrong to own slaves and to treat a human being as though he was property that could be disposed of. He never wavered from those convictions in the face of extreme criticism and hatred toward everything he believed in. He loved his fellow man and was sympathetic toward those who were down trodden.

Lincoln was not someone who hid from criticism. Many leaders surround themselves with like minded individuals who understand and agree with their mission. But Lincoln was very different, he did just the opposite. After he became President, he surrounded himself with his closest rivals and critics. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln is a book that explores the unique quality Lincoln had in listening to and learning from his rivals. He had a thick skin and knew how to use criticism and make it work for good while at the same time had an inner tenderness of heart that won over his fiercest critics. He was a genius putting the two sides together. There has not been a President since who did the same thing.

Living the Christian life is no different especially for those who stand up and reach out to others through some kind of ministry. As you and I become more and more connected with our neighbors and the world around us, there will be those who will question our motives and will criticize us for the work we do. Frequently criticisms come due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the critic. The most dangerous mistake any Christian leader can make HAPPENS during that period when the truth needs to be shared. If the criticism is hard and I am a person with thin skin without a tender heart, my wrong reaction can be deadly to my witness.

Paul was surrounded by many critics, both from within the church and from the outside world. Paul always balanced his reaction to the facts he knew to be true concerning his relationship with Jesus. That is all that mattered to him and because of that fact, falsehoods against him never slowed him down and he protected his heart with the truth he knew about grace and mercy from God. Because of that fact, Paul was able to write the following:

1 Corinthians 16:5-9 (NIV)
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you--for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Why go to a place where you know you will be opposed and criticized? Have you ever done that beforeÖdone something or said something for good that you knew would bring heat upon you, your family or your reputation?

I guess the statement is true, For every goal there is an opponent.

So knowing this fact, there are some spiritual traps to watch out for when dealing with negative criticism:

First: Negative criticism always comes when we least need it. For me I find it when I am at my lowest points. It doesnít seem to attack me when I am on top of my game. When Iíve blown something, there is that person who comes and piles on the pain with their criticism.

Second: Criticism seems to come when we least deserve it. There is nothing like making an honest mistake and then get blasted by someone for making the mistake.

Third: Criticism comes from people who are least qualified to give it. If this is true, then who is best qualified to give you constructive criticism?

Here is a bit of advice for those of us who will be tempted to criticize, if youíre not fully apprised of the facts, just pass up the opportunity to criticize, let it be. Loving someone begins with knowing that person. That is why Solomon wrote,

Proverbs 27:6 (NIV)
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

In Hebrew the verse is even more specific, ďFaithful are the bruises caused by the wounding of one who loves you.

Fourth: Criticism comes in a form least helpful to us. In most cases criticism come snot from a motive of love but from jealously, hurt, envy or revenge. More often than not, it is delivered to you by third party, indirectly or anonymously. It is not designed to help but to hurt or hinder.

This takes us full circle, if you are going to be a person with a ministry, to survive, you better develop a tough hide and thicker skin.

Paul had to have a tough hide because he was under constant stress and pressure from the criticisms he received. He had many rivals and opponents some from inside the church, many from the Jews who hated him because of his teachings and from the Roman world who feared his message and the power he had through the Holy Spirit to win souls for Jesus thus creating a perceived rival to Rome. Everywhere he went he was in danger. In some congregations he found other Christians distorting his character for personal gain while false prophets tried to pick off the weaker believers and win them over to other beliefs.

There are may examples found in Acts and his writings that gives us an understanding of Paulís strategy when dealing with criticism. I think it is interesting that Paul knew more than just the tips, he actually had a strategy to not only protect him when criticized, but to gain the upper hand and win more souls for Jesus.

What about you, what is your strategy, what is your plan that you have in place when criticism comes your way? Why is this important?

After Paul was taken by the Romans to basically protect his life, they decided to take him to Felix the governor to get his ruling on the matter. Felix was a smart man and knew the ways of the Jews. He also was very aware of their tactics and was careful around them. He knew they were cunning and ruthless at times. The Jews presented all kinds of accusations and falsehoods against Paul but when it was Paulís turn to speak, he followed several principles that were a part of his strategy on how to deal with critics.

Acts 24:5-9 (NIV)
"We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him." The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

I wish I had time to go through Paulís defense in detail but that is for another day. What is important to discover is what we should do when we find ourselves in the same situation. We can use Paulís strategy for handling negative criticism. It worked and in the end the charges were found to be false. Had it not been for Paul appealing to Caesar, he probably would have been set free.

When facing negative criticism:

1. Refuse to get caught up in the emotion of the charge
2. Stay only with the facts
3. Tell the truth with a clear conscience
4. Identify the original source of the accusation
5. Donít surrender or quit
6. Donít become impatient or bitter
7. Stand firm on the promises of God.