Craig Groeschel - Criticizing
Hey, it's a great day to have church today. I'm excited to be with you guys. Welcome to all of our churches, all the way down into southern Florida meeting today without power, but no power will stop us from meeting in church. We love you guys in southern Florida. Hey, we are actually in part two of a message series. It's called my Big Fat Mouth. Last week at my life group, you would not believe the powerful discussion that we had talking about the problem of complaining. If you're not yet in a life group, we totally and completely believe that life change happens better in circles than it does in rows. I just want to tell you we have groups starting at all of our different churches. I want to introduce the theme for this week's message by telling you a little story about the very first time that I ever preached a message.
I was 22, maybe 23 years of age and I was serving under my pastor, Pastor Nick Harris at First United Methodist Church in downtown Oklahoma City and he invited me to preach on a Sunday. I was so nervous, I couldn't sleep the night before. I was, if you can imagine, I'm a young kid and I'm wearing a very formal robe. My robe was stripeless because I was not yet ordained and so had a stripeless robe, which made me a little more insecure because all the other robes were striped and my pastor introduced me. I had a 30-minute window. Within the first 30 seconds, I'm told that I had such a big red blotch across my face. Amy started praying, she was afraid I was gonna die at my very first message. I spoke really, really, really, really fast because I did my whole 30-minute message in on 18-minutes and it was over and i had nothing else to say. It was bad and it got worse. The part where I almost had the audience, at one point I said something and it must have made a little sense to them because they leaned in and they kind of smiled and a few people said amen. I said something about God knew ya before you were born. And someone was like, amen.
There's something we can like get into. And so I worked with it and I kind of decided to take it a step further, so I said God knew you way before you were born and they were leaning in and then I said and God knew you before your mama knew your daddy. And they kind of in it. Then I made my mistake. This is where the plane crashed, so if you can imagine. I'm like God knew you before you were born, God knew you before your mama knew your daddy. Then I said God knew you before you were an itch in your daddy's pants. I know, I know. It was horrible. Amy will tell you it is a 100-percent true story. After you preach at First Methodist, you go to the door. There's one door people come in and there's one door they leave. You greet them when they come in and when they leave they're supposed to tell you like great sermon, pastor. Great word. Thank you for that word, it blessed me pastor. They said to me, I was standing at the door. Nice try. Keep trying. And it was really awkward. The most awkward part was when the rude critical church lady came to the door.
There is one rude critical church lady in every church in the world. It is a spiritual principle. You can try to strike her down, the devil will raise two up in her place. There is one at every single church and she laid into me. She said, "Young man". She said, "You looked like you were gonna die up there. You talked way, way, way, way too fast. You were too loud and you were incredibly difficult to follow". She said, "And that part about your daddy's pants, well, you're just gonna have to talk to Jesus about that part". And that was the nice part. Then, this is almost a direct quote because it was burned into my soul. She said something very close to this. She said, "I hope you're good at something else because you're never gonna be a preacher". Okay, so today I want to talk to you about my big fat mouth and our topic is the problem of criticism. Now, when I'm talking about criticism, I'm not talking about he constructive feedback that we give because we care about people and want to help them get better. What I'm talking about is the critical nitpicking unkind, uninformed, cruel criticism that so often goes on. It's the problem of criticism.
Some of you right now, you're smiling in your seats going oh, dear God, thank you. I just need my spouse to hear this. I'm gonna send this link to my boss, you know. And you're thinking about all the people that you cannot wait to hear this. I want to remind you that this message is called my big fat mouth, not their big fat mouth. Because the problem of criticism is really difficult to see in the mirror because we hate when other people criticize us, but we often don't realize when we're criticizing other people because we often feel very justified in criticizing them because if they weren't so weird, so stupid, spent their money in such an unwise way, then we wouldn't criticize them, because after all, we know what's best for their life. God has a wonderful plan for your life and so do I and so if you don't live up to my plan, I will criticize the way you raise your kids, they way you dress, what you post on Instagram, how you drive and where you went for your last vacation because I know you're in debt and you cannot afford that. Man, you're quiet today. I don't know where you are. Maybe this is hitting close to home, maybe I'm the only one with this problem. I'm not sure.
What I want to do is I want to show you a very popular verse in the Bible. If you're not a Christian, you may actually know this verse. Chances are though, that are very few of you that actually know the verse that comes after this very popular verse. So I'm gonna look at the popular verse and then I want you to see what comes after it. Paul said this to the believers in Galatia. He said in chapter 5, verse 14 and 15. He said for the whole law can be summed up in this one command. Love your neighbor as yourself. Most of us know that and we love it and that feels good. Love your neighbor as yourself. But then he goes on to say, but if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out. Be aware of destroying one another. Love your neighbor as yourself, but be careful. If your words are constantly critical. If you're always cutting into people. If you're always harsh with the words, be careful of destroying one another. What if, for some of you, your critical words are actually destroying the potential intimacy you could have in your marriage. What if your critical words are driving a wall between you and your children. What if there are those of you, your critical words are actually keeping you from sharing the goodness of Jesus because people can't get over how critical you are about anything and everything. Be careful that your words do not end up hurting those around you.
I want to look at a couple of other verses and I actually call these contrasting versus. There's so many contrasting versus in the Bible. They'll say one thing about a subject and then they'll say something completely opposite about the very same subject. I love Proverbs 12:18. Here's one side of it. Some people make what, some people make cutting remarks, you know how it is. Your grandma says to you did you lose your phone? Well, no grandma, why? 'Cause you haven't called me in two weeks. I could have been dead and nobody would have known. It's cutting remark, it's a grandma burn. Some people make cutting remarks. Here's the other side. But the words of the wise bring healing. Some people cut, hurt and criticize, but other people speak words of wisdom and those words build up, they don't tear down, they create healing. Paul said it this way in Ephesians 4:29. He said do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen. He said don't let unhelpful, unwholesome, impure words come out of your mouth. Don't tear other people down. Let the only words you speak be words that are helpful for building others up according to their needs.
Here's what I hope you'll understand. Is you have no idea whatsoever how a single word of criticism can pierce someone's soul and stick with them for years and years. And on the other side, you have no idea how God can use a single word of encouragement to build someone up, to give them the faith to go on. Your words have power. Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs and benefit those who listen and this, the flip side is exactly what my pastor did to me after my very first message crashed before it ever took off. Right after the lady said I hope you're good at something else, because you're not good at preaching, I walked into my pastor's office and the first thing that he did is that he put his arm around me and he said, "Well, I got really good news for you". He said, "You ready for it"? I said, "Yeah, I'm ready". He said, "You will only get better from here". I was like yeah. And I'm fighting back the tears. And he's like, "Your first sermon was 18 minutes, my first sermon was 15 minutes. I didn't make it as long as you".
And he said, "You made some mistakes and you shouldn't have said that thing and we know that, but let's look at the things you did right". And then he started to build me up. He said your insight into scripture was amazing. This guy was a hero to me. He's like a Bible scholar, you know. And he's like, "I've never seen that in that text like you did". He goes, "Wow, it's so obvious that you're spending time with God". And then he said, "You know, you were talking a little fast, but it's because you're so passionate". And he said, "Passion is not something that can be taught. That's inside of you and over time, God is gonna own that and develop that," and he said, "I have no doubt in my mind God is gonna use you to reach so many people. I can see it in you, I believe it with all of my heart". You have no idea how much one word of criticism can take somebody down. And you have no idea, I will tell you this, I am here today because of the voice of hope from my pastor who continued to talk me through my own doubts and my own insecurities. You have no idea how one word of encouragement, how God can use that to build faith and hope into someone who needs it.
This one lady, she was a life taker in that moment. My pastor was a life giver. Our words have the power of life and they have the power of death. I want to ask you this. What kind of person do you want to be? Which type of person do you want to be? And I want to give you two options. And these will be very, very clear and when I say it, my face will not be blotching and I will not be speaking too fast at most part of my message. I'm just saying that in case you're paying attention. Maybe in a few. Any time I go too fast, Amy does this. That's a symbol for a turtle. If you ever see Amy, she's not knuckle bumping me, she's slow down, slow down. Sorry, I'm just having fun, okay. what type of a person do you want to be? I'm gonna give you two options. Which do you want to be? The first type is what I'm gonna call a fault finder. A fault finder. This, quite honestly is what most people are. Because of our sin nature, we tend to look to find what's wrong before we find what's right. Those of you who are married, oh, be careful. Because it's so easy to be a fault finder. You can take a relatively good person and pick them apart before you ever even get to lunch that day. I don't like the way you walk. I don't like the way you chew. I don't like the jokes you tell. I don't like the way you snore. I don't like the way you breathe.
Some of you are laughing because you've had that conversation. I don't like the way you breathe. You know you can go into the office. I don't like the way she runs her meetings. You know, this is, I don't like the way they talk. You know, we don't have any kind of real plan here. This is the stupidest place I've ever been. I can't believe the picture she posted on Instagram. She says she loves Jesus. Looks like she loves her body, but you know, I'm not judging, I'm just saying. Can you believe the way they raise their kids. I mean, if they're gonna raise their kids like that, they might as well put them in prison right now because those kids don't stand a chance. And the way they drive their car. They better take the Life Church bumper sticker off their car, because they're being a bad witness. Whatever it is, it's so easy to be a fault finder. If you're a fault finder, let me remind you, you're a lot like the Pharisees. Because this is exactly what the Pharisees did. You're not only like the Pharisees, but you're actually like the devil because one of the names of the devil, he's the deceiver, he's the devourer, he's the prince of darkness, he's the father of lies. He's also called the accuser, who accuses the people before God day in and day out.
What does he do? He finds fault, he finds fault. That's what Pharisees do, and that's what the devil does and the reality is is that's what a lot of us do and why do we do it? The reason is a lot of times is because we are full of pride, we think we know what's best. We're also insecure and therefore we criticize in others sometimes the very things that are weaknesses in ourselves. I can spend a whole message talking about that if we had more time. The third reason is because we just don't understand. So often we criticize from a distance things we know nothing about. You can criticize a lot about the church. If you had context, you might say I understand. It's a lot like before we had kids, man. I could criticize parents all day long for how they didn't discipline their two-year-old in the grocery store and the reason is because I'd never had my own two-year-old in a grocery store. And when you know, you have your own two-year-old in a grocery store, you know you cannot negotiate with terrorists. You don't know that until you have your own two-year-old. And then you don't judge anybody. You're like I know this is bad parenting, I just surrender. I give up. You can have the candy, shut up. I'll buy you a Porsche, you can have a pony, just get in the car, don't embarrass us. You don't judge anybody because you didn't understand. I need to tell you this right now.
When you criticize others, here's a lot of times what we're thinking. We tend to think, well, this makes me look smarter. This makes me kind of look like an expert. This just shows just how good I am. No, what it does is it makes you look insecure and mean spirited, that's what it makes you look like. Ask yourself, have you ever met a critical person that you want to be like? I have never one time met a critical person that I wanted to be like. In fact, speaking of critical women. There's a verse in the Bible about this. I'm gonna show you this verse and you may criticize me for bringing up this verse, but I want you to understand, this is the word of God. Now me, when I read this verse, what I want you to do is just look forward. Don't elbow anybody. Don't let your heart rate go up. Don't you dare nod. Don't say amen or your life is over. Just keep your breathing normal and just let God do what he wants to do. This is not your place. This is all in the hands of God. Some of you are getting mad, I'm so sorry. There's more coming, just get ready.
Proverbs 21:19 says it's better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife. May God add his blessings to the reading of his word. There's not a verse about men, but if I ever get to add a verse to the Bible, it'll be first Craig 12:24. It'll say something like it's better to get bamboo shoots in your fingernails than to live with a man who constantly picks you apart. This goes both ways. I've never met a critical person I wanted to be like or to be around. So, I want to ask you, those of you who like me have battled with a very critical spirit that's so difficult to see in the mirror, because we justify what we do because we feel like we actually have the right to pick other people apart. Do you want to be a fault finder or do you want to be what I call a hope dealer. Hope with an H. Just making sure you know I said hope dealer. For those of you online in Colorado, actually. I forget, you don't deal in Colorado, you're consumers, right. Don't eat the brownies. I said hope dealer, just so you'll know. I had an energy drink this morning, it's a rare day. It's a hope dealer.
This is what scripture says. Romans 15:13, check out what the Bible says. Do you want to be a hope dealer. Paul says this, listen to the hope, listen to the hope, listen to the hope. He says may the God of hope fill you all with joy and peace as you trust in him. Why? So that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Man, Paul was a chief hope dealer. Any time he'd speak, any time he'd write, he wasn't gonna tear people down, he was gonna build them up. He wasn't gonna let any unwholesome talk come out of his mouth but only that which is helpful for building life into other people. He was a supreme hope dealer. In fact, if you just read some of his writing, I picked Romans chapter 8, I want you to listen to the words of hope that Paul said. I just picked some high parts out of one chapter. He starts it and he says this. Listen to the hope. Now therefore, there is no condemnation for those of you who are in Christ Jesus. He said the Holy Spirit, he helps you in your weakness. He said Jesus is making intercession at the right hand of God the Father right now.
That gives me hope. He said that you are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. That gives me hope. He said neither death nor life, neither demons nor angels, neither powers of the present or the future, neither height nor depth, neither anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do you want to be a fault finder or do you want to be a hope dealer? The Pharisees were fault finders, the devil is a fault finder. Jesus is full of hope. I love the different metaphors of Jesus. He is the bread of life, he is the living water, he is the good shepherd, he is the door, he is the living vine, he is the gate, he is the King of Kings, he is the Lord of Lords, he is the alpha and the omega. Let me tell you who else he is. 1 Timothy calls Jesus this. He calls Jesus our hope. Titus 2 calls Jesus the blessed hope. 1 Peter calls Jesus the living hope. Whenever someone would sin, the Pharisees would point out the sin and accuse. Jesus would come, he'd call sin what it was, but then he would offer hope to walk away from the bondages of sin.
When there was a woman caught in adultery, what did the Pharisees do? The Pharisees said, stone her. The law says put her to death and that was exactly what the law said, but the Pharisees pointed out everything that was wrong. Jesus instead knelt down in the sand and started writing something. We're not sure what he was writing. Many scholars believe and I tend to agree, he most likely was writing something like the sins of the Pharisee men, because one by one from the oldest to the youngest, they all just started walking away. Walked away. Then what did Jesus do? Jesus knelt down in the sand to this woman who was broken and full of shame and said to her, woman, sweetheart, where are the fault finders? Where are the accusers? Where are those who tried to condemn you. And she looked up and said they're all gone. And so Jesus said, neither do I condemn you, don't do this anymore, there's a better way. He said go your way and don't sin anymore, but you can find forgiveness, you can find life, you can find real love. What do you want to be? Do you want to be a fault finder?
That's what the Pharisees were. That's what our spiritual enemy is. The prince of darkness, the father of lies, the great deceiver, the accuser of the brothers. Who is Jesus? He is the way, he is the truth, he is the living hope. He is the blessed hope. He is our hope. I want to be a hope dealer. I want to tell you a story and I'll try not to get emotional about it, but Amy and I have had the blessing for now 20, I guess it's almost 6 or 7 years of marriage, I'll get that date exactly right before next time, just work with me. Once you're over 25, you can, over a quarter of a century, okay. We've had a lot of kids stay with us for varied amounts of time. We've been able to take in children and I call myself a weekend dad. We usually have four or five extra kids that will stay with us on the weekend. We've got a couple this weekend and I'm a weekend dad. And there was one particular kid years and years and years ago before we had kids that was in a really bad spot. His dad was everything you would never want a dad to be. And he was absent and this kid picked up more unhealthy thought patterns than you could imagine for a 12-year-old and so Amy and I said we would take him in and spend some time with him, have him on the weekends and take him to church and do the best we could to speak life into him and they warned me, they said you need to understand, he will steal from you, he will lie.
If his lips are moving, he's probably lying. He'll talk back to you, he'll run from you, he'll hit, he said, this kid is bad news. 12-year-old kid, I'll call him Jonathan to respect his privacy and so I said fair enough, we're ready for him. Well, when I met Jonathan, I never will forget. I reached out and I said young man, my name is Pastor Craig and I am honored to meet you. And he shook my hand and went oh, man, that was the most firm handshake I've gotten all week. That's the way a man shakes a hand. You must be a young man. Are you a young man? He went, uh, yeah. I said no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Young men, they say yes, sir. I said that was a handshake of a man if I've ever felt one. Are you a young man? He went yes, sir, I am. I said aw, man, you looked me in the eye when you said that. You're like crazy polite. You're not only just a young man, but you're strong and you're polite.
I said wait a minute, do you know I'm a pastor. He said, yeah. I go, you gotta hold on a second. Pastors have weird spiritual gifts. I'm sensing something in you. I sense greatness inside of you. Have you ever had anyone tell you that there's greatness in you? He looked up at me, he said no. I said great young men say no, sir. Have you ever had anyone tell you? He said, no sir, no sir. So you need to understand, I sense greatness in you. It's all over you. I bet you love to go to church, don't you? He said, yeah, I do. I said I bet you're polite. Yes, I am. I bet you like take the dishes over to the, I just said this, all this kind of life into him. Let me tell you what. We've had so many kids in our home throughout the years. I have never had a politer, better behaved kid working his tail off to live up to someone who believed that there was greatness inside of him.
Years later, this kid, you wouldn't believe who he's grown into be and he calls me his spiritual dad. Very little time. The window of time we spent with him was so short, it would stun you and he points back and says that was the season that God completely changed his life. You have no idea. You have no idea when you criticize your spouse what the does to self-esteem and intimacy. You have no idea when you're hard on your kids how it belittles them and distances you from them. You have no idea how foolish you look when you criticize and criticize and criticize, thinking it makes you look better. It makes you look insecure and mean spirited. And you have no idea how one word of encouragement, how God can use that to change a life. You have no idea when you speak the best about others how God can build them up. Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs.
So your kid may not be the neatest kid, but he's got a great heart. Tell him, you're amazing, I love what I see in you, I love the way you speak about others. Build them up. Your roommate may eat your food and wear your clothes. Of course, that's what she does. She's a she does. That's what she's do when they're roommates. But she's a great friend, tell her you're the most loyal faithful friend. I couldn't image a better roommate. Your wife may not be the most organized, but she's an incredible mom. Instead of picking her apart for what she's not, build her up for what she is. I love the way you love our kids. I could have never married anyone that would impart more life into our children. Your husband may not ever win yard of the month, he doesn't like to mow the yard, looks kind of bad. Next time he does, just say you so sexy out there in your black socks pushing that lawnmower. I love what I see. Words of life, words of life, words of life, words of life, you have no idea how God can use your words to build someone up.
You might say Craig, you're a little bit passionate about this, why are you so passionate about it. Because I had the most critical spirit that you'd ever seen. I'll tell you what. When Amy married me, the reason why I was so insecure and so what I wanted to do is I wanted to make her think I was smarter and better, so I'd criticize that girl's husband, he's nothing like me. And the way they spend their money. Oh, and church thing, man in my 20s, I criticized every church thing. Instead of finding the good of what God was doing, I'd try to pick it apart. It's amazing how when I was young, I thought I knew everything and now that I'm older, you know, I recognize a little more humility.
I was so critical in my spirit because I was so insecure. The closer I got to God, though, the more aware I became of my sinfulness. And the more aware I became of my sinfulness, the more I became aware of the magnitude of God's grace and because of who he is and what he's done for me, I will not waste time criticizing the speck in someone else's eye when I've had a log stuck in my eye for way too long because of who God is, because of what he's done, because of how he's forgiven me, because of how he's given me hope, because of how he has loved a person who didn't deserve that love, I will not tear down. I will build up. Who are we? We are people of God. We are hope dealers. We point people to Jesus, the living hope. We point people to Jesus, the King of Kings. We point people to Jesus, the one who forgives brokenness and heals all infirmities. We point people to Jesus, our Savior, our King, our Lord.
We point people to hope. We are not fault finders. Anybody can be a fault finder. Pharisees are fault finders. The devil is a fault finder. We are followers of Christ. We speak words of healing, we speak words of life. You have no idea, no idea, how a single critical word can pierce, kill and destroy. Hope you're good at something else. 'Cause you'll never be good at preaching. You have no idea how a single word of encouragement. You could only get better from here. You've got passion, you can't teach that. I see it inside of you. You have no idea how God can use a single word of encouragement to push you forward, to build your faith and to transform you even more into the image of Christ. So, what do you want to be? I want to lead a church full of hope dealers, pointing people to the one who is our living hope, our Savior, our King, our Lord Jesus. All of our churches praying today.
Father, we ask that you would do a very healing and even a convicting work in our hearts and God I just confess that I've been one who has had a critical spirit. God helps us all become aware of our need and the grossness of our own sin and the magnitude, God, of your grace, that we wouldn't even have time to point out the faults in others, but we would offer words of hope and words of healing.
All of our churches, as you reflect today in prayer, those of you who would say, yeah, I can be a little more critical, I can be harsh, I can tear people down. It may be in my marriage, it may be with my kids, it may be with people I work with, it may be at school. It may just be in society and politics and online, I can be a critical person. God, help me not to be a fault finder, but a fault finder, that's you. Lift up your hands right now, I hope it's everybody. Lift up your hands high.
Father I pray that with hands lifted toward our eternal hope, God, that you would work on our hearts, God that you would help us see the power of our words. They have power of life and death. God, may we be life givers, not life takers. God, every time we want to just criticize, point something out that's wrong, God I pray that we would remember all that's wrong with us and not waste a breath on tearing somebody else down, but God you would use our words, use our heart, use our spirit to built others up and most importantly, to point them toward you. God, while so many will make cutting remarks, empower us to say wise words that bring healing. We pray, oh, God that there would be no unwholesome talk that comes out of our mouth, but only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs. God, make us hope dealers. Everywhere we go, God, when we walk into the room, hope walks into the room. God, we come to a party, hope just came to the party. God, wherever we are. Help us to represent the living hope your son Jesus.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches. There are those of you, you may have been listening to the words of the chief fault finder, your spiritual enemy. What's so interesting about the devil is before you do something wrong, Satan's gonna say, hey, it doesn't matter. Do whatever you want. No one's gonna care. Afterwards you do something wrong, it's like God could never love you. You're pathetic, after what you did. You're ruining, you'll never be used. That's how he lies to us. He's the chief fault finder. You're not good enough for God. You've gone too far. After what you've done, God couldn't love you.
Let me tell you who God is. He sent Jesus, our ultimate hope dealer, Jesus was perfect in every way. He said I have come that people may have life. I have become that they may have life to the full. Jesus went to the cross for us. The sinless son of God. He died in our place, rose again for the forgiveness of sins, so that anyone, and this includes you, anyone, no matter what you've done, no matter how dark your life feels, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord would be saved, forgiven, made completely new and all of our churches right now, you are here today because you need to experience the living hope. You are dead in your sins, but you are one prayer away from experiencing true life.
At all of our churches, those that say yes, I need his grace, yes, I need his forgiveness. Yes, I turn my life over to Jesus. That's your prayer today. Lift your hands high right now. All of our churches say yes. That's me right back over there. God bless you. Over here as well. Back here in this middle section over here. Leave them up, I want to find you. Leave them up, right back over here. Others of you today, over here as well. Back here in the middle section. Oh, my gosh, somebody better cheer. A little louder than that. Right here, all of you right here in this section. Hope is in the house. Hope is in the house. Church online, you click right below me. Everybody pray aloud.
Heavenly Father, I give you my life, forgive me of all my sins. Make be brand new. Fill me with your spirit so I could follow Jesus, so I could become like him. My life is not my own. Today I give it to you. Thank you for new life. Thank you for hope. Help me to be a hope dealer, spreading the love of Jesus to everyone I meet. It's in his name that I pray and everybody say loud, amen, amen, amen.