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Craig Groeschel - Critical People



Hey it's great to have you with us today at all of our Life Churches and our open network churches. We're in a message series called Relational Vampires. What do vampires do? They suck your blood. We're talking about in this message series, how do we love people who suck the life out of us. How many of you have somebody in your life that can be a little bit difficult at times? Last week we talked about those who are controlling us. Next week we're gonna talk about those who are very, very needy, who are always in need. How do we love them appropriately? On the final week, we're gonna talk about how do we minister to those who are hypocritical? Some one they call themselves a Christian and yet they don't live like Christ. What's are role, do we have a role at all? If so, what do we do?

Today I wanna deal with something that all of us will have to face at one point or another. All of us will face critical people, those who can be overly critical. In fact, how many of you would say that you have someone in your life that has the spiritual gift of fault finding? Anybody have somebody like this? They criticize everything. If you've leaned over to the person sitting next to you and told them five things you don't like about the church already, chances are this could be talking directly to you. How do we deal with those who are overly critical? As a side note, I wanna tell you that every month I release a leadership podcast. If you haven't subscribed, I would love to invite you to subscribe and see yourselves as a leader. Just a few days ago, the release was talking about part two of how do you effectively lead through criticism? How do you lead through criticism? This will help you from a leadership perspective.

Today I wanna talk about it broadly. How do we deal with those who are incredibly critical? Maybe you work for a boss that's like this. You never really hear about what you're doing until you've done something wrong and your boss is all up into your business. Maybe you're an adult and your parent, your mom or dad, still criticizes everything you do. The way you raise your kids, the way you spend your money, and the fact that you go to that live church. You should go to a real church. Whatever it is they criticize everything. Maybe it's your spouse who's critical about the way you look, about the way you talk, about the way you walk, about how you chew gum, about how you load the dishwasher or don't, the fact that you leave your underwear on the ground, and the fact that you wear that same shirt everywhere you go, I can not believe you would do that, and you deal with an overly critical spouse. How do we deal with, appropriately, and love those who are very, very critical? I'm just curious, has anybody ever heard somebody ever criticize our church before? This ever happen, raise your hand up, raise your hand up.

Oh man, you hurt my feelings I had no idea. I had no idea, no, no, no. I mean, it's just a part of it, right? Our church can be a very easy target, you know. It's the video church, everybody knows that God can't move through video. It's too big, it's too big even though people are going to hell. The preachers too demanding. He's always askin' us, you know, serve like Jesus. He's always askin' us to serve. The preacher doesn't talk enough about, insert your favorite subject. He talks way too much about insert your least favorite subject. He uses the wrong version of the Bible. Too focused on the un-church, the teaching is too shallow, his clothes are too trendy, too expensive, or too tight depending on the outfit. Worship is too long, it's too short and I hate the organ at the end. You think I don't know what you're saying. No matter what you do, wherever you are, if you're making any kind of difference, if you're in any kind of relationship, people are gonna be incredibly critical.

In fact, there's a quote that's attributed to Aristotle and others, we're not sure exactly who said it, but the quote goes like this, "To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing". Do nothing, say nothing, or be nothing. I don't wanna criticize that quote but if you do nothing, say nothing, or be nothing someone will criticize you for being a lazy bum. In other words, if you are alive you are gonna deal with criticism and especially if you're a follower of Jesus. You're gonna be different from this world. Your values are gonna be different and you will be criticized, you will be persecuted. If you're following Jesus we need to learn, how do we deal with criticism? Some of you, this is wrecking relationships. Your mom or dad's critical all the time. Your grandma's critical, in your marriage you're critical, your boss is critical. How do we love as Jesus followers, how do we respond to people with a critical spirit?

I wanna give you four thoughts today and hopefully these will speak to you in a very powerful way. How do we respond to critical people? Number one, often you don't respond. Oftentimes you don't respond. Just because someone criticizes you does not obligate you to respond and this can be incredibly freeing. In fact, this was Jesus' kind of line of offense. In fact first Peter 2:23 says this about Jesus. Peter says, "When they hurled insults at Jesus," What kind of insults would they say about Jesus? They said he was a friend of sinners and this was not a compliment. They said he was a drunk. They said he ate too much. They said he partied really hard. They said he was a lunatic. That he was a false God. He was a heretic and on and on and on and on and on. If they criticize Jesus who is perfect, they will criticize you. "When they hurled insults at him," what did Jesus do? Peter said, "He did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats, instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly". Notice he did not retaliate, he did not defend himself, he did complain, he simply entrusted himself to his Father in heaven.

How do you respond to critical people? Sometimes you don't, be free, just because they have access to you, doesn't mean that that demands a response from you. In fact, I love what Proverbs 19:11 says. Scripture says that, "a person's wisdom yields patience, it's to one's glory to" do what? Let's all say this aloud. "It's to one's glory to overlook an offense", what does that mean? Overlooking an offense, is not the same thing as pretending it didn't happen. It's not the same thing. What it means is, in fact, the word overlook comes from a couple of Hebrew words that it means to pass over, to get over it. To overlook an offense is a form of forgiveness but it's not forgiving something that's past tense. It's choosing to forgive in real time. In other words, I know that that's really not fair and I know that I could get angry and I know that I could fight back and I know that I could retaliate and I know that I could become defensive and I know I could let that become make my heart bitter. But I'm choosing in the moment, to get above that and to overlook it and to let it go in real time. This demands glory to rise above an offense. To forgive in real time.

I'm not gonna wait for three months to be upset and be bitter and get over this later on. I'm choosing right now because I'm called by God because I've got a higher purpose. I understand your heart may not, you may not know the context, I'm rising above this. This is something that Amy and I did recently. We experienced what was a very, very, very real in the moment, deep, and significant hurt. And there was a big part of me that wanted to get down in it. I wanted to defend, I wanted to strike back, I wanted to let somebody know this isn't fair, this isn't right, and everything in me wanted to do that, to defend. Sometimes you just let the spirit of God lift you above it. You choose in real time. I could let that in my heart but God's got somethin' better for me. I'm not gonna let something lower take me off of a higher calling. I don't know who I'm speaking to right now but every now and then when you're so lifted by the calling of God you just choose to overlook, to pick up, to get spiritual air above this thing in real time. That could hurt me, I could wanna fight back, but we're getting above this, we're moving beyond it.

Sometimes you don't have to respond. How do you respond to critical people? Sometimes you don't respond. The second thing is sometimes you respond carefully. You respond carefully. Notice I did not say you react instinctively. I said you respond, responding is very, very different than reacting. Reactin' is emotion, responding we're gonna be spirit led. In fact, there's a powerful example of this in the Old Testament, when a guy named Gideon was takin' some heat from some people who didn't like what he was doing. Here's what scripture says, Judges 8:1 and 2. "The Ephraimites asked Gideon, 'Why have you treated us like this? Why didn't you call us when you went to fight Midian'? And they challenged him vigorously". Another version says they criticized him sharply. But what did he do? He didn't defend himself, he didn't fight back, he didn't say, "That's not fair". But he simply responded and scripture says, "He answered them" and then he gave a very clear, very rational, very spirit led response. He said, you guys don't understand that we work the harvest and we, God brought us some grapes and the grapes were good and this was intentional. And you see the result was actually a good thing. He brought a very careful response and when he did this, verse three says, "When the men of Ephriam heard Gideon's answer their anger subsided".

There sometimes when a real answer or a response often kind of give a critical person an understanding that they didn't have before and you offer an explanation. In other words, at some point you're gonna do something and someone's gonna criticize you. Why in the world are you goin' back to school? You're gonna go serve in full-time ministry? That's stupid, you oughta be in business. Why do you serve all those hours at church, I mean why do you go up there on Wednesday night and do that? Now, wait a minute, you're gonna tell me that you're gonna be a stay at home mom? When you've got all that talent? Or the other side, you mean to tell me you're gonna go to work when you should be a stay at home mom? Whatever it is, can not win, right ladies? And so, what are you gonna do when someone does that? Sometimes you just offer context, you explain and give an explanation and sometimes that will make sense to someone and just like in Gideon's place when they heard the answer, their anger subsided. What happens? Your friend unleashes on you with harsh criticism. Your co-worker picks you apart. You didn't do this, you didn't do that, you didn't do this? Your parents, they're ridin' you and ridin' you and ridin' you, and ridin' you, what do you do? You wait before you respond. You wait before you respond because when emotions are high, wisdom is low.

I think I'm preachin' Pastor Chris a little better than better are responding because when emotions are high, you're not bein' led by the spirit you're being driven by emotions. What we wanna do is we wanna wait to respond. In other words, when you type it out, don't hit send. Just wait a little while, we're not gonna be driven by emotions, we're gonna be led by the spirit. And then when someone's incredibly critical, I wanna encourage you to remember that oftentimes the criticism really isn't about you. Oftentimes the criticism is borne out of the hurt in their own lives. In fact, I've found that most angry people are actually hurting people. That there's some wound and sometimes it's something that they don't like about themselves that manifests itself in a critical spirit about someone else. In fact I've found that those who are very critical of me, are actually often dealing with some inconsistency in their own life and the same would be true for you. You see it and it's obvious to you, but it's not obvious to the person who is there. I just need to say this, I have never, ever met a well-adjusted, happy, productive and positive person who constantly bangs out hateful comments on Facebook.

Is that too real, I mean, can we go there? That type of on-going anger is not borne out of a mean spirited person it's borne out of a wound. It's borne out of a hurt. I had a counselor tell me one time that behind every anger is a hurt. And so we try to remember that. So when someone's shooting at us, when someone's hyper-critical, when our mom just won't let up, when our dad's just all up, when our spouse is just ta-da-da-da, we need to recognize. Instead of feeling defensive, I wanna have compassion. I wanna try to love through the wound instead of always takin' it personally. How do we respond when people are incredibly critical? Well sometimes we don't respond. Sometimes we respond carefully. Occasionally, you listen and you make a change. You recognize that there's actually something then you can love from a harsh critic who points out truth or from a loving constructive critic that really has your best interest at heart. Can I get up into your business for a minute? Sometimes the people who are being hard on you are right because you won't listen.

Listen, if everyone tells you you have a problem, chances are pretty good you have a problem. If your wife who loves you, tells you you're always yellin' at the kids too much, you're ridin' 'em, perhaps you're yellin' at the kids too much. If everyone of your friends, your mom and your dad, your professor, all your sorority sisters tell you that you're datin' the devil maybe you need to cast that demon out and wait for a man of God to show up and quit settling for somethin' beneath yourself. If everybody tells you somethin' then maybe you have something to learn. In fact Proverbs 15 says this, Proverbs 15 says, "If you listen to constructive criticism you will be at home among the wise, If you don't if you always reject discipline, you only harm yourself". There are people that love you even, I've learned a lot from critics who hate me, that have actually pointed out stuff about me that was unGodly or needed to change or simply ineffective or inappropriate. You could learn from anybody if you have a true heart to receive.

I remember when I was dating Amy and I was a young preacher and she wanted to give me a suggestion but she didn't wanna hurt me. She said, "Craig whenever you're preaching there's" and she was just so nervous. She's like, "there's this thing that you do and it makes it hard to hear. All the time no matter what you're doing you're always, you're just always, I just hate to say this, but it just really bothers me. There's just somethin' that you're doin' with your hands. No matter where you are," she said. "I don't know how to tell you this but we all talk about it and we all know that you do it. And for every time the whole time you're talking," she said, "you're carrying a box". She said, "It would help us so much if you just put the box down". So what I want you to know is, I don't have a box anymore. My preaching is set free, now, I have other things. I have prayer hands. I chop the wood and I have the flying C. I want you to know, I don't carry a box but oh man, I got prayer hands and I can chop it and it's comin' your way. You better feel it because it's comin' your way. I just totally blew all the rest of my sermon's 'cause you're, there's power in it.

There's so many areas of my life or they're better because of constructive criticism. They're even better from people that didn't like me that pointed some things out that helped me be a better dad, be a better husband, be a better pastor, be a better leader. If in the last year, there haven't been two or three or four things, that you've changed because you listened to constructive criticism, guess what? You are missing opportunities for growth. Literally, look back, sometimes you listen to it, you internalize it, and you make a change. How do you respond to criticism? Well, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you respond carefully. We're not driven by emotion, we're led by the spirit. There it is. Occasionally, this is gonna be hard to get through the rest of the message. Occasionally you listen and you make a change. But number four, you always work to guard your heart. You always work to guard your heart, why? Because we will not be one who lives with a critical spirit. Who has the critical spirit? Satan is called the accuser of the brethren. He is the one the Father of Lies. He is the critical one who keeps shame and guilt and we will not allow that spirit to drive us to have a critical spirit.

In fact Proverbs 12:18 tells us this that, "some people" what do they make? They make "cutting remarks but the words of the wise bring healing". I don't want my words, my heart, my spirit to be cutting, to be detracting, to be life taking. I want my words, my heart, my spirit to be life giving, to build others up. To encourage them onto Godliness. The problem is because of our sinful nature, guess what? We can be the critical ones. When we talk about dealing with critical people, so often we have no idea because critical people often don't know they're critical because they justify their own criticism because in their ignorance they actually think they're right to tear things down. We have no idea how incredibly critical we can be borne out of a sinful spirit. Can you believe the way she dresses? Wearin' that thing in here actin' like she loves God? Oh, all she loves is that job she got. She's tryin' to show it to everybody else. Can you believe the way she dresses? My boss is a complete idiot, he is the dumbest guy I've ever seen. That coach should be fired. Can you believe he made that play?

I mean, I've never played a down of football in my life but I know he shouldn't have done that. If I had money I wouldn't spend it the way they do. I mean if I was a rich person, I'd be so much more Godly than they are. They have no idea what they're doing. They have no idea how dumb they look. She is so full of herselfie, selfie, selfie, selfie. Her whole page is selfie. Hey, hey, hey, I'm just bein' honest. I'm just sayin', I'm just tellin' it like it is. We have no idea how incredibly critical our own spirit's can be. We're gonna guard our hearts against that. I can be very critical. I can be very opinionated, which sounds better. What it means is critical. Right, I don't know about you but here's my areas. I mean, I can pic apart the way you dumb people spend your money. You shouldn't spend it on that. What are you thinkin'? You're in debt. I pick people apart in a leadership organization, I can come in and give you the 15 things they should do different.

In parenting, well they shouldn't let their kids throw that fit in this place, right now. On and on and on and on. Somebody that doesn't have a work ethic. I can pick 'em up one side and down the other. Get 'em a real job, do a 10 hour day, see how that feels mister led by the spirit, free floatin' thing. Why, why can I be critical? My critical heart is always borne out of either pride, ignorance, or hurt. That's what it is, it's pride, it's ignorance, or it's a hurt. So what do we do? What do we do to over come a sensitive spirit to criticism? It eats me up. Listen, some of you this is keeping you from doing what you're called to do because you get so wrapped up into what they think. Or how do we overcome living with a critical spirit? Let me tell you how we do it. We have to become deeply grounded in who we are in Christ. We talked about it last week. Clarify your calling. This is who I'm called to do because I know God this is what you're calling me, this is who I'm supposed to be, I'm so confident and assured in your opinion of me, of who I am in Christ, on what I'm called to do for Christ, that criticism doesn't derail me.

I can overlook that because I've got a higher calling. If you wanna get caught in the lower things, picking it apart, I've got something that's more important to do therefore since I'm already approved by God, you're approval or disapproval doesn't derail me from doin' what God called me to do. And at the same time, because I know who I am in Christ, I don't have to tear somebody else down to justify myself or make me feel better. What happens? I'm not driven by praise and I'm not derailed by criticism. If I need your praise to live, if I live by the presence of your praise, I will die by its absence. I can't be driven by what you think about me. So what I wanna do is I wanna get to the place in my life where very, very clearly I'm not motivated by praise from people and I'm not derailed by their criticism. I won't let compliments go to my head and I won't let criticism go to my heart. I'm just doing what God called me to do. I don't have to tear you down to make me feel better and if you don't like what I'm doing, if I can't learn from it, I'm gonna dismiss it and I'm gonna rise above it because God has called me to overlook this offense.

How do you deal with a critical spirit? You're assured, I'm confident, I'm gonna love you, I'm not responding, driven by the flesh. I'm responding driven by the spirit of God. This is who God called me to be. If you don't like me, we move on. Some of you, you need this to fulfill your calling. You're too wrapped up in what everybody else thinks. It's idolatry. You can not please God and be living for the approval of people. When you serve God, there are gonna be people that are critical, you've gotta deal with it. You gotta deal. The higher you rise, the more critics you're gonna have. The more you do, the more people are not gonna like you. It's a part of it. You wanna make a difference, you gotta learn to live with it and rise above it. I'm not gonna let their praise go to my head. I'm not gonna let their criticism get in my heart. What do we need to know?

Paul said this, so powerful. Romans 14:10, Paul said this, he says, "So why do you condemn another believer"? Why pick 'em apart, why tear 'em down? "Why do you look down on another believer"? Can you just sense the critical spirit going on, that he's addressing? He says, "Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God". He says, "Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God," so what does he say to do? "Let's stop condemning each other". Let's stop tearing each other down. Let's stop picking each other apart. Let's stop being nitpicky about every little thing. We're not called to be anyone else's judge. We're called to love people. There is enough negativity in this world, there's enough hatred, there's enough angry people. I don't wanna be a voice of discouragement. I wanna be a voice of life. I don't wanna be one who's looking for something that is wrong, I wanna be one who's looking for something that's right.

If you want to look for something to be critical about you can find it anywhere and everywhere. But if you wanna look for good, if you wanna see God working, if you wanna see people growing, you can see it, you can see it and you become what you focus on. If you focus on the negative you will become negative spirit and you will never be used in a big way by God when your first response is to criticize everything you see because God did not look at the world and say this is bad. He looked at the world and he said this is good. What I created is good and when it went bad, then what did he do? He sent good, pure, holy, and righteous, his son Jesus to redeem what is bad and to bring what was dead back to life because that's what the people of God do.

When we walk into the room, light walks into the room because Jesus is the light and he dwells within us. Wherever there is darkness, the light shines into the darkness. When a Jesus follower walks into the room what we do is we lift spirits, we encourage one another, we build each other up in the faith, we point people to Jesus, we love, we encourage, we'll tell the truth but when we tell the truth we always do it in love. If somebody has something to say to us and they're critical, if we can learn from it we do and we change and we recognize we haven't arrived. We let iron sharpen iron but if it's just a distraction, a voice from the dark side we have a higher calling and because we're called higher we rise above it and we overlook the offense because God is calling us and we are not living for the approval of people because we already have the approval of God. Step into it, this is who you are in Christ and that frees you. It frees you to love people like Jesus loved. All of our churches let's pray together.

Father thank you so much for an amazing group of people open to the work and the spirit of God. We pray God, that you would speak to all of us directly.


All of our churches, those who would say you know what, I deal with people that are critical. It's hard for me, it's a challenge, they're around. You may be thinking of somebody right now, maybe somebody close to you, those often hurt the most. All of our churches, you say God help me love them in a Godly way. Would you lift up your hands right now? Lift 'em up high, lift 'em up high. As you keep praying today, those of you who would say let's call it what it is. I can be critical, I can have a judgmental spirit, and I want to learn to grow through that. Lift up your hands all of our churches. Lift 'em up.

Father I thank you for incredibly honest people who are sensitive to what your spirit is saying. God I pray that we would be so grounded in who you say we are, God, that we know who we are in Christ. Forgiven, redeemed, called, sanctified. That we are your ambassadors God, the highest ranking diplomats sent by you God from heaven to Earth to represent you God. We're evangelists, we're carries of the good news God. Help us be so assured by that, that if there is Help us be so assured by that, that if there is any type of criticism against us, if there's any truth in it God, help us to learn from it. God, give us the courage to rise above it and know we don't have to always respond. God if there is an appropriate response that may bring a solution, give us the wisdom not to react God, but to respond. God, above all else, I pray that we're always part of the solution and not a part of the problem. God help us to guard our hearts against a critical spirit. We know that Jesus came to bring life. We know that Satan is the accuser. God, we wanna be a life giver rather than a life taker. Give us eyes to see the good God. Give us a heart to see you working. God, instead of tearing down, I pray God that you would use our heart, use our spirit, use our presence to build up as often as possible, pointing people to your good work, to your kingdom, to the light of this world, God. Use us to be life givers, God, not life takers.


As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, I've talked a little bit about who the enemy is. There is the God of light and there is the prince of darkness. There is the kingdom of good and there is the kingdom of evil. Jesus came to give life, Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy. Our spiritual enemy, one of his images is the accuser, what does he do? He criticizes, he'll tell you what you're not. You'll never be good enough, you'll never measure up. God couldn't love you, God you're too far from God. Who is God, he sent his son, it's called the good news. What is the good news? That God loved the world so much that he became one of us in the person of his son Jesus.

Who is Jesus? The sinless son of God who is perfect in every way. Jesus was obedient, even to death on the cross. He gave his life as the perfect sacrifice, for the forgiveness of our sins. He died and God raised him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on the name of Jesus would be forgiven and made completely new. The devil will tell ya, God couldn't love you, you'll never be in his family. Jesus came to break the lies of the accuser. The truth is when you call on the name of Jesus he'll hear your prayer. He forgives your sins not because you're good but because he's good and you become a brand new person. At all of our churches, there are those of you you recognize your need, it's time today to be set free. You're here today to experience the goodness of God. It is not a coincidence it is by the divine love and providence of God and you know it.

All of our churches, those who say I need his grace, I'm sick of the lies, I'm sick of the bondage. I want his freedom, I turn to Jesus. Today I give my life to him, that's your prayer. Would you lift your hands high right now. Lift 'em up high all of our churches. Say, "Yes, I surrender my life to Christ". Those of you at church online, you simply click right below me and as God is doing a work in the lives of so many people, I would love it, if you would do the honor of helping give life today by praying with those around you. Everybody pray aloud, pray:

Heavenly Father. I need your grace. And I receive your love. Jesus save me. Forgive all my sins. Make me brand new. Fill me with your spirit. So I could walk with you. So I could serve you. So I could share your love. Everyday of my life. My life is not my own. I give it to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus name I pray.

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