Transcription: Difficult People, Part 1
By Rev. Greg Byman
Difficult People, Part 1: Criticism
St. Joe Community Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana
January 18, 2009
5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”
9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me,[a] and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.”13 So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. 14 And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan.[b] And there he refreshed himself. -- 2 Samuel 16:5-14
…Of them. To diminish you instead to help build you up. See, a criticism, a good criticism should be helpful to build you up and make you stronger. The problem is there's people in your life, that they're not interested in making you stronger. They're there to tear you down. They are there to knock you out. Because somehow, in their minds, you see, you're seen as a threat to who they are. And you need to be wary of that.
And that's what we're talking about this today. So, let's talk about what happened here and let’s see if we can relate to David. Now none of you are on the run from a coup. I mean, how many of you have run a country? Anybody? You know. So, I don't get that. I don't know.
But how many of you have had a title or a position of leadership, in any kind, anybody here? You've led somebody. OK, how many of you are married? You're leading your home. OK. OK. It’s co-leadership. I know that, but, OK, how many here have at least one more year over somebody out you're working for your company?
You're a leader. Leadership. You're leading people whether you like it or not, whether you've been given a title or not. In this church, if you've been here a day longer than someone else in this room, you're a leader. You're leading. You're doing something that is influencing somebody who's watching you. Everyone's a leader in this room.
So, every one of us can learn from King David, a great leader -- flawed but great. A man after God's own heart. How to respond to the critical, difficult people. So how do we do that? Here's the least expected one. The types of criticism that he's dealing with.
First of all, it's least expected.
He never expected this person to come after him. He's really running and ducking for his life and suddenly this Shimei comes up out of nowhere and starts throwing stones and dirt at him and saying, "You're wrong! You're cursed! You're…. God's cursed you because of what you did!”
And he's all upset and is coming after him. It's an ambush, basically. And how many of you have gone to work and you're thinking everything's fine. Your coffee is exactly how you wanted it. It was hot. It was black, or it had lots of sugar in it. A little bit of coffee. However, you like that. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you had black coffee and a donut, and you’re set. I mean, this is like the best morning of my life. I get a fresh glazed donut and a coffee, or a bagel, cinnamon crunch. It's got to still got the sweets.
I mean, this is a great day. You got up on time, your shower, was hot the whole way through. I mean, there was, there was, you had soap next to you. Even just, good stuff, good stuff. And then something hits you, bam! Hits you with a criticism. You are like, “Really?”
Or maybe you have the toughest day of your life. There's been a family tragedy, something bad is going on. You're really really down in the dumps. Just want to get to work. You’re just like, “At least at work I don't have to deal with all this stuff because I’ve just got to do my work and I can do my work and not think about what's going on over here.”
And then somebody comes along the aisle and they decide on your assembly line, on your day, you're the poster child, you're the target of all of their wrath and they suddenly blame you because maybe their dog died, in their wife doesn't care, and their kids took all their money.
I don't know what all happened but you become the person they zeroed in on and decide, “I'm going to criticize you because I can. Nobody at home listens to me, but you're here. You're a captive audience. I'm going to tell you what I think, thank you very much.”
Criticisms come undeserved. You know, David, he's telling David here, he says, “You murdered Saul, my distant relative.” You see, Shimei was not …. We’ll get to this in a minute, but he was not an important person of prominence of any kind. He was a relative of a famous person and at that, he was a famous, the famous person, had sidetracked from God and God personally removed Saul. He was the first king of Israel and he basically didn't follow God at all, and then God anointed David privately to be the next king. And in fact, David had many opportunities to take the life of Saul. In fact, one time, David, King Saul, David has been anointed king, he knows he's going to be the King. He's the next one in line. He's not even in the family, but he knows that he's the one in line, and he, and he comes in he finds Saul asleep in a cave. Now, I’m God, I'm the king. I'm going to be the King. Saul is the king now. I'll take matters into my own hand. I'll become king sooner than later. He had the dagger. He said, “All I have to do is just jab it in there, kill him, and I'm the king.”
Instead he took a little garment and he ripped off part of it. I mean, that's how sleepy Saul was. And he took off a part of his garment and he took it in, and he used it and he and then he said, "Saul, why are you coming to murder me?” Because Saul was coming after David to kill him, so in other justification for killing Saul. Life for a life, you know self-defense. He says, “I don't know why you would even do this to me. You're coming after my life, and here I could have taken your life, and I didn't. I was more honorable than you. And Saul even said, “You're more honorable than me.” He later continued to try to take his life. This is crazy.
So what Shimei is saying here is, "No that's not right.” But Shimei is saying, “You’re a murderer!” You knocked off one of our famous people in our family. It's your fault and all this is coming on you because of how unjust you were and what you did!” And that wasn’t true at all. It was undeserved criticism.
You see, critics often don't see the big picture of what's going on. This Shimei did not realize that God was orchestrating a movement to put David in control of the Kingdom of Israel. David had really no, I mean really, wasn't David saying that he was going to be the king. It was God saying, God called him out. And you're in a position of authority and you're trying to do the right thing for your employees, and all the employers around you are upset by how you do something and they have no idea on the back side of things, all the things you're doing to make sure that even their job is secure, and that the corporate, actually is trying to make it work so that corporate doesn't shut you guys down. And they don't realize all the hours you spend making sure everybody's job is secure. All they care about is they don't get theirs. And they're going to blame you.
It often comes from an underqualified person. Someone who does not have any authority or power to say anything, but they don't care. Often times, the people who are the least in control are the most critical. People who are least in control of the most critical and, like I said, sometimes it's because they're out of control at home, and so they figure, you're their new patsy. They've decided that they are going to take everything out on you.
You know this happens in churches too, by the way. People will come into a church. People that the world, and I'm talking about in a good way the world, not like bad, bad, world that the work, that their job would never give them authority to lead or do anything, but for some reason they think that in a church that they can have more influence and power than they deserve to have.
I say this delicately but sometimes people who become leaders in, because churches are very passive, and they sort of say, “Oh yeah, we want people to serve and help and do and whatever” but many times, not many times, but occasionally, a person will, rise up and they will try to be influential when they really don't deserve to be influential in processes of leadership, and suddenly they're anointed with power that they would never have gained anywhere else. And then they become a chief critic to people around them because they're now the authority. They really don't have any. They feel like they have some self-ordained right to do so. There is no mention of this man anywhere in the Bible except for the fact that he comes to curse David later on.
The conclusion of his life later in under David's son Solomon. The father of Shimei, there's no mention. We really can't see exactly how he's related other than it said, that he was from the house of King Saul. He really had no way, he had no right, to tell King David what he was saying that day. And that often times, people with no title or authority, sometimes pretend they have authority, and they speak as though they do, when they really don't. It's a personal attack. He blamed David for everything.
Ever have a coworker that does that? They blame you for everything. If the shop is not an orderly fashion and you come in the next day and they go, “I can't believe you let this shop get this way.”
“Really? I was off all week. What do you mean? Get out of here.”
Now it's your fault. If you just pay a better example around here, we'd probably have a better shop.”
And you know, your immediate reaction is, “I’ve got a wrench over here that I want to show you what of I want you to feel, our shop a little more carefully.” Don't do that. But you feel like it.
And then unethical. You know that critics can play dirty but we can't. Doesn’t that stink? Doesn’t that stink? Say, “That stinks.”
Audience: That stinks. (Audience chuckles.)
Byman: Thank you. I got the biggest first response from you this morning on that one. They think they're dirty underhanded….hmm, all these names I think of don't want to say out loud. But this is…. They go behind and they do things the way that you should never do. And they can come after you in ways that are so wrong. And they go, "Man, I want to get ‘em.”
And you're King David, he's got all these guys and they've got swords. Take care of the problem, right? No, he doesn't. You see, there's a verse that I want is to read before we move forward. It is in Proverbs Chapter 15. Let's read this together. Proverbs chapter 15. It says, let’s say it together.
Anyone who ignores discipline despises himself but whoever listens to correction acquires good sense. – Proverbs 15:32
The fear of the Lord is what wisdom teaches and humility comes before honor. Many times, a person in your life will come with a criticism. Unjust. Unwarranted. Undeserved. Personal attack. It is unethical. It's awful. But you can still learn from a bad critic. You can still become, in the middle of that, a better person.
And God did not get surprised when you got ambushed. He knew this person was going to attack you. He knew that you were going to come under fire. And he let it happen. “So that’s just…I don’t get this….”
There's a reason, because God is more interested in your character than your comfort. Did you hear me? He is more interested in your character than your comfort. No pain, no gain. There are things in your life that you've got to go through to be a better person. And I tell you what, I had a whole bottle of criticism early into my ministry. I still have it. And I like, I appreciate getting feedback, and knowing what I need to do right and wrong. But I’ll tell you what. It was it was trial by fire. It was tough.
You know what I’ve discovered? Most people in leadership positions, have gone through the fire somewhere. In fact, most people who are any worth their salt of a leader, has gone through a tough time. A leader who has not gone through a tough time is not a better leader. I'll say that out loud. I hate that. Ugh.
And at the time, you don't see this as character building. “Well, I'm done in the school of character building! I'm ready to just enjoy my character!” But God is ready to deal the School of Hard Knocks. You ever been in that school? That's what it is. And you will rise and, in leadership, as God allows you to be tested in the leadership you currently have.
And the first person you have to lead is yourself. How are you going to respond even when nobody else is defending you? And it feels like the world is coming in after you.
What would David do? David, first of all, decided to respond instead of react. Oh, my first thought, when something comes across social media that seems like it's attacking me is to tell the thing or two.
“All those people saw what they said. Why, I need to share my side of the story.”
You know. That's a reaction. What's the right response? See, his trusted military leader is right to lop his head off. “What's this dog doing coming after my king? He has no authority, no right. In fact, he's disrespecting you. He has…. Get rid of him!”
David says, “No, no don't do that. There's… God's got a plan in the middle of this. God told him to do that now.”
Now, I'm not saying God did, but God might have. We don't know for sure, but we do know this: David was willing to receive whatever God was letting him deal with. Because he knew God let it happen in this life for a reason. Respond. Don't react.
Second. Stay focused on your purpose. David just kept on going. David kept on going. Boom, bam, bam. Stone. Rocks. Dirt. And sand in my eyes. Oh, come on. And they finally made it to where they were going, and they were exhausted and they rested there. You're going to get to the end of the day. You’re going to clock out and go home. At the end of the day, you're not going to be with that person anymore.
Be happy then. You know, you know, I’ve had critics in my life and I know the background is there's some tough stuff going on in their lives. Some of it is self-inflicted. And I’ve said, "You know what, I'd rather get in my van, go home to my family then get in their van go home with their family.”
At the end of the day, you will get through it, if you know what your purpose is. Why do you exist in this world? To knock down all your critics or to live according to the Word of God? To glorify and honor Christ in your life or to go around bashing everybody who bashes you? What your job in life? Why are you… why do you exist? What is your purpose? What are you up to? And if you don't know that, that's a whole other series of conversations about…. You get into God's Word. Say, "Who am I supposed to be?”
And then let that become the person you are, and you let that be your focus, not what everybody else is saying.
By the way many times, a leader will be sidetracked because they try to please everybody in their life, and you cannot be a people pleaser.
Even in your own family. Your siblings, and everybody's trying to figure out what to do with the inheritance that mama left behind or something that's going on, that you drive you a big....
And you know what? You can't please everybody and make everybody happy in your family. You just can't, but you have to know that you're pleasing the Lord and that's enough. And if you're pleasing the Lord, then you will please the right people that God wants you to be pleasing to and the people that can't be pleased by anything you do? You just have to say, "Well I guess they just have to deal with that, and that's their own business not mine.”
You have to stay focused on what you're supposed to be doing instead like everybody else because if you begin to do everything that every critic says you need to do in your life, you have all the bosses in the world. Chaos. You will have more than one vision for your life, which means you have division in your life. And you will get nowhere.
You need to continue to stay focused and David did. He kept on plodding ahead, he kept on finding where he needed to go with his men, his administration, his team, his security team, and they all got to where they go, and eventually we know that David was restored to his throne. He did not have to lop off the head of unwarranted critic to get were God wanted him to go. Keep on keeping on.
Find God's good in the criticism.
You know, who knows? “For such a time as this that Shimei was sent out to tell me what a bad guy I am.”
Now, I’ve discovered that there is a kernel of truth in every criticism. When someone comes after you for something that they don't like, what they're saying may not be the big issue but there is sometimes a very kernel of truth that you need to learn in the middle of the criticism.
“I resent that you called me a murderer.” (I would resent that because I'm not.) But King David did murder. Now it wasn’t Saul, but it was somebody else. Yeah, he had to remember that, that the Lord had put him in a position. Absalom’s rise to power was because he had failed to lead his home well. That was even more hurtful than the idea that he took, I mean, this Saul thing, and being the king after Saul, that's chump change compared to what he was really dealing with. And so, this criticism, although unwarranted, unfounded, based on its facts that Shimei was saying out loud, there was something in the middle, that God allowed that criticism to come that on Earth something, that maybe David needed to deal with personally in his life. In a whole different area than Shimei ever intended for him to fix.
So never discount a criticism, even if you can't stand, and even if the person has no ethical quality about them giving you the criticism. Don't ever discount a criticism.
You know that phrase, "the customer is always right.” How many know that's not true? All right? But there's a kernel of truth in every customer's complaint. Something didn't go right and maybe in their situation, nobody's going to help them, but in the other situations in the future or maybe in past, there's a pattern that needs to be fixed in your company, so that more customers can be served better over time.
So, there's always good and let God show you what you need to learn from a critic. Even when that criticism is unfounded unwarranted and unethical.
And then allow God and others to handle your critics. Ultimately, David's son Solomon took care of this critic. And I won't go into detail but it was a pretty crafty, wise way of handling this guy. Ultimately, it led to Shimei’s life being taken. You see, our rebuke is never as strong as the rebuke of our defenders. Our own rebuke of a critic is never as strong as those who do know the truth, and stand up for it on our behalf. I cannot tell you how many times someone has come to me with an unwarranted criticism in past years of my ministry and my first reaction is to absolutely blast them and publicly declare that they are the worst person I’ve ever met. I don't say it quite that way, but in Jesus' name. OK. Right?
It is so tempting to tell the world what I think about this person. And the last thing I want is be quiet. But I am. And I won't say it publicly. But I’ve shared privately how God has turned the tables in complete ways on people who meant very harmful things to me. And God brought out a blessing that they would probably be seething today if they knew that God blessed me in that way.
I've also discovered that whenever I don't speak up for myself in a bad situation, that there is a host of other people, that if that's an unwarranted, unfounded, criticism they will come to me and say, "That's wrong” and they will be my defenders. But if I have stood up and lopped their heads off, spiritually speaking, I would have been seen as worse than my critic.
Be careful in the workplace how you deal with criticism, because you're setting an example for how people ought to live. And if that company, as a whole, is trying to move in the right direction. And, the secular companies, some more or less, try to do the right thing, I know that. It's human. Human. Being, you know, we're church, we're still dealing with a church. A company that's not a church. OK, but generally speaking, a company moving in the right direction will self-correct those issues and you don't have to be the person to be the boss of the person who is trying to knock you down.
You'll be seen in your.... Let your actions....
I have a big t-shirt that Indiana Tech gave all the students and we staff members got it this year, and says, "Less talk, more do.”
Any team that goes out in the field to play a sport, any sport, football, soccer, basketball, and they get trash talked, what does a coach usually say? You speak up on the court. You silence your critics by what you do. And you don't worry about the trash talk. You show up and do your job. And let your performance speak louder than your words. That's what you need to do. And you allow God and others to handle your critics.
In Matthew 15:13-14, Jesus said this.
Every plant that my Heavenly Father didn't plant will be uprooted. Leave them alone. They are blind guides and if the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit. – Matthew 15:13-14
At some point that person will crumble if they don't repent. I don't like that. I feel bad for even my worst critic, that that might happen in their life, but the reality is a person with evil intentions will suffer the consequences of their own evil. And you let God handle how he deals with that critic.
So, the question this morning is how are you going to respond this week? You've got a critic in your life. Everybody in here probably has a name, a person, a face, someone that their stomach just churns when they know they're going to be there.
So, when you really can't quit being around because you're at work and you can't fire him and you can't quit. You’ve got to stay there. What are you going to do? You can't fix them. They’re going to keep doing what they do. But are you going to let them be the thermostat for your temperature of character?
Are you a thermometer or thermostat? The monitors go up and down according to what's going on around it. A thermostat set the temperature. Are you setting the temperature at your workplace, or are you letting others set the temperature for you?
Are you living for Christ in a way that honors Him or are you letting others decide for you how you're going to be spiritually strong or weak?
Are you finding all the reasons in the world why you can't do well where you are because of all the people who are coming at you? Or are you deciding, "You know what, God's giving me this position. I have authority to do some things and, by God's grace and His leadership, I'm going to find His wisdom to do the right thing even when nobody else cares.”
And the reality is that many people do care and they will see what you're doing and you will be rewarded in some way. I don't know if it is in this lifetime and or in life forever, but generally speaking, good work is noticed for what it is, by the right kind of people.
Last question this morning. Do you really feel like doing the right thing? And the reality is, that feeling or that want to comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I do not have the power or capacity to respond in the way I did to the critics in my life in the past. And it was when I just got down and.... I remember being down on my knees, being in a bedroom, a spare bedroom, because we didn’t have any had kids, and I had my office in there. And I’d just say, "Lord I have no idea what to do. I'm spent. Tired. I'm depressed. I need your help, Lord. There was nothing I can do. God, if this is how it's going to be, I don't want to be in ministry. I don’t even want to deal with people anymore. I want to just go be a … name your job.”
And I discovered that it wasn't my success in ministry that God cared anything about. Nor was it my success as a leader that I he cared anything about. He just wanted me. He wanted me. And I began to be overwhelmed by the sense of how loving and wonderful God was. Now he wanted to change me into a person I could never become by myself. I realized that he had a bigger plan that he had a bigger dream for me than I ever had for me. When you're around someone like that, the sky is the limit.
This morning you need to turn to the Lord and say, "God don't destroy my critic. Use my critic to make me a better person.”
Our team is going to come up right now. We're going to sing one more song. This is a song of commitment. A song where we respond. What is God saying to you, in your job? What is God saying to you in your moment, when you don't know what to do? It might be this morning you realize, "I have no fire power because I don't have the fire of God in my life. I've never put my trust in Him. I keep trying to do things my way, and it keeps not working out.”
I would say to you, the first thing you need to surrender is not what's going on at work. You need to surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. King David was able to do what he did in that moment because he was a man after God's own heart.
A sinner? Yeah. A big-time sinner.
But he was forgiven, and set free from that sin through a personal faith relationship in God, and it was many years later that Jesus would come and he would die on the cross and on the backside, he would forgive all those who have put their trust in God, the One True God, through the shed blood on the cross, and it's us that look back to the cross, and find our forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And in this morning, you look back to what Jesus did 2,000 years ago. He set you free from your sin, and your guilt, so that He can give you power and strength to do what he would have you to do.
This morning I pray that you have put your trust in him. The power of Christ, so that you can have the desire from Christ, so that you can respond correctly to what you would do today. Let’s stand to our feet.
There might be one more person in this room, too, who might be a person, who you have discovered this morning. You’re that person at work, that is highly critical with no warranted…. And instead of trying to deal with your own mess, you're trying to include other people to avoid dealing with what you need to deal with in your own personal life. If you're upset with God for something, I don't know, you're blaming the whole world for what's going on around you.
You're coming home with problems from work, and you're blaming your spouse because you don't like what's going on at work. And suddenly your kids can't perform enough, or your wife can't do enough to please you, as if it's her, or his job, your spouse's job, to make you happy.
Ultimately, it's only the Lord that can make us happy. It is only the Lord that can give us the joy. It's only the Lord that can give us what we truly need this morning. And I just ask for all of us to be introspective and to think about what God would have us to do. Whether we're the critic or being criticized, “Lord show me how I must respond today.” Take that yellow card. Use it. Write on it. Make it yours. Put it in the offering box. As you leave today. Give it to me personally, if you need to. Fold it up put in my hand, or ask me to…. Let's chat sometimes. Let’s have coffee. Let's talk. Don’t stay stuck in where you are. Don’t stay thinking, “I'm just going to stay, plowing ahead, doing what I do.” No. Have a change, and the change is to put your trust in Christ, in a new fresh way.
Will you do that this morning? Respond as we sing.
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