Robert Jeffress - Listen To The Jerks In Your Life
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When we're young, our parents correct us. In school, our teachers grade us. At work, our boss reviews us. But as we get older we tend to avoid scrutiny like the plague! Solomon says wise are those who listen to warnings from a friend. But wiser still are those who heed prudent counsel even from an enemy! Today we're going to discover why we should "Listen to the Jerks in Your Life" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory!
Gina Sirrells two year affair with Roger Clements was the worst kept secret in the Rush Creek Community Church. Gina had felt trapped in a loveless marriage with her husband Bill for longer than she cared to remember. Long ago she had given up trying to compete with Bill's other mistress - Seagate Technology Incorporated - the company that Bill had started more than a decade ago. Bill's 70+ hour work weeks gave Gina plenty of time to reflect on how miserable she was as well as the freedom to pursue a relationship with Roger, a divorced father of two that she met in her small group Bible study that she attended usually without her husband Bill. Ironically it was the Bible study group that provided Gina with the needed alibi for her times with Roger.
Since her husband rarely attended the Bible studies Gina had worked out a cover story with her best friend Lisa in case Bill ever called to check up on her, which he never had in the past two years. Lisa who was also was a member of Gina's Bible study, didn't approve of her friends affair but gave up trying to convince her otherwise when she realized she risked losing her best friend. One Tuesday evening as Gina was preparing to leave Roger's apartment and return home she had an inclination to call Lisa who was just leaving the Bible study. "Anything I need to know", Gina asked. Lisa hesitated and then said: "Bill called me on my cell phone looking for you". "What did you tell him?" Gina asked. Lisa hesitated again: "Gina I'm sorry, but I could not stand here in the middle of a Bible study and lie for you. What you're doing is wrong".
Gina didn't even wait to say goodbye. Dazed by the realization that her affair was about to be uncovered and her entire world turned upside down she raced out of Roger's apartment and jumped into her SUV. All the way home she rehearsed different excuses she might offer her husband about her whereabouts, which explains why she failed to notice the red light at a busy intersection three blocks from her home. As Gina awakened in the hospital all she could remember was barely seeing a car out of her eye racing toward her and then hearing the terrifying sound of the impact. The doctors told Gina and Bill that had it not been for the airbag Gina would not have survived the crash. Few people had walked away from that kind of accident with only a broken arm and a minor concussion.
Lisa wasn't sure how Gina would respond to a hospital visit but she knew she had the obligation to go both as a friend and as a Christian. When she arrived in Gina's room, she said: "Gina I'm praying for your recovery, I feel badly that I might have in some way been responsible for this accident but I just didn't feel like I was doing you or anyone else a favor by covering for you. I hope somehow God will use this accident to bring some needed changes into your life". "You don't have to worry about that", Gina replied coolly, "I've been thinking all day about the changes I'm going to make. This accident made me realize how short our lives are - too short to be unhappy forever. As soon as I get out of here I'm going to divorce Bill so that I can be with Roger forever".
Gina's story illustrates in a negative way one of the ten secrets for success that Solomon discusses in the Book of Proverbs and that is responding positively to the correction that God sends into our life: whether that correction comes from friends or even from enemies or the jerks in our life. Solomon in the Book of Proverbs has a term for those corrections that God sends into our life. He calls them rebukes or reproofs or discipline. And over and over again Solomon in the Book of Proverbs says that a successful person is one who responds positively to the correction that God sends into his life. By way of definition I want you to jot down what a reproof is because over and over again you find this word used in the Book of Proverbs. A reproof is an event that God brings into our life to convict us of our sin and motivate us to turn from that sin.
Now this event that God brings into our life it can be a negative circumstance like an accident, the breakup of the marriage, the loss of a job, financial bankruptcy. Sometimes the corrections God's sends are thought events: sometimes the correction comes through criticism from another person. But whether it is an event or whether it's criticism, when these negative situations come into our life we have a choice about how we can respond. We can either listen to the correction and make the needed changes or we can resist the correction and keep on doing what we have been doing.
In fact when you look through the Book of Proverbs, Solomon contrasts a wise response to reproofs from a foolish response to reproofs. A wise person listens to the reproofs of life and changes. The foolish person is the one who resists the reproofs of life. Reproofs are not negative, they can be positive: they can be life giving: they can be wisdom giving. God sends reproofs in our lives not to hurt us but to help us, and yet in spite of all of the positive benefits of reproofs that come into our life most of us hate them. In fact most of us have the same attitude about reproofs that we have toward broccoli. I know it's good for me... but. It's the same way with reproofs, we can learn and profit from criticism if we respond correctly. If reproofs in life, negative events or criticism, if they are so helpful why is it we resist them instantly? I think there are three reasons we are more likely to resist reproofs than respond correctly. One reason is because of pride.
About 10 years ago I had a minor reproof that came into my life. One of our television viewers of "Pathway to Victory" called the toll-free number and said to the operator: you know we really enjoy doctor Jeffress' messages but somebody has got to tell him he's got the worst toupee we have ever seen before. Of course I don't wear a toupee, which made it especially painful. Now I'll have to admit confession is good for the soul, my initial response to that was not good. My initial response was if that lady was more spiritual she'd be concentration on the message instead on how I wear my hair.
But then I began to think about it and so the next day we had our staff meeting, everybody was seated around the conference table, I told the staff about this phone call. I said how many of you think I need to change the way I wear my hair? Complete silence. People looked down, started shuffling their feet. I said, no, honestly nobody is going to get fired over this, how many of you think I need to change the way I wear my hair? Everybody raised their hand, it was unanimous. First unanimous vote our staff had ever had, they all raised their hand. And I made some changes.
Now the reason I did it was I didn't want it to be a distraction to the message that I was preaching and so I made those changes. We all have reproofs that come into our life. Look, let's face it you're just like I am, nobody enjoys criticism and our first response to criticism is almost always going to be negative, but folks it's not our first response that really matters, it's our final response to criticism. Are we going to learn from it, or are we going to run from it? Listen to Proverbs 29:23, "A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor".
One reason we resist reproof is out of pride, another reason is kind of the other end of the spectrum, it's because of fear that we don't respond. Most of the time criticism that comes into our life is not the cause of our problem it's simply a symptom of a problem that already exists. Whenever you respond to criticism with fear it keeps you from making the necessary changes that will bring success. That's why in Proverbs 29:25 the writer says, "The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted". Anytime you allow your actions to be dictated by fear rather than faith you're going to get tripped up. You're going to run into a snare. What I want you to understand is making those changes does not cause you to experience what you fear most it will prevent you from experiencing what you fear most.
The third reason people resist reproofs rather than responding to them is laziness. I don't know another way to say it: just laziness. Most of the time when somebody criticizes us and signals that we need to make a change in our life, that change is going to require effort. And we all have a streak of laziness in us and rather than exert that extra effort to make the needed change that will bring us success we choose to ignore the reproofs. Solomon had a lot to say about that. In Proverbs 12:1 he writes, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge but he who hates reproof is stupid".
We've talked about the negative response to reproofs and that is to resist them either out of pride or fear or laziness. If we're going to be successful in life and that's what this series is about how should we respond to correction that comes into our life, whether it's through negative events or whether it's through criticism of other people? Let me give you four positive ways to respond to painful reproof in your life and each one of these begins with an "E".
Number one: expect reproof. Expect reproof. Don't be surprised when you're criticized, just don't be surprised at it. Now mark it down, circle it, remember it forever, you are going to make mistakes, big mistakes in your life, ok. You're going to make them, I'm going to make them, all God's children are going to make mistakes and the reason we're going to make mistakes is we've got a virus inside each one of us. It's called the sin virus. That makes us inclined to make mistakes in our relationships, with our finances, and our moral life we all have this sin virus Romans 5:12 tells us. It's not a question if we're going to mess up: we are going to mess up. We are going to sin.
You know what's interesting to me is God understands our propensity to make mistakes sometimes better than we do. Psalm 103:14. I love this verse, "For God himself knows our frame: he is mindful that we are but dust". We're so surprised when we make a mistake. God's not surprised. He's surprised when we do anything right. Because he knows us, he knows we were formed out of the dust of the ground: he knows we inherited that sin nature: he knows mistakes and the reproofs that come with them are inevitable. But even though mistakes are inevitable understand this: they are also forgivable. How do you deal with reproofs in life? First of all: expect them. They're going to come because we make mistakes.
Secondly, evaluate reproofs. Evaluate the criticisms the negative events that come into your life. Now get this - not every negative event, not every criticism is because we're doing something wrong. Think about Job, boy did he wake up and have a bad day one day. Just because you're having negative situations and criticism in your life doesn't mean necessarily that you're doing something wrong but some of those negative events are the result of our doing. And that's why we need God's wisdom to evaluate the reproofs, the corrections that come into our life to see if there's some sin in our life that needs to change. Whenever negative situations, negative words come into your life don't be surprised with them, expect them, evaluate them, see if they have a kernel of truth in them and then if you believe that there's something you need to change that leads to a third step, embrace reproofs. Embrace them, rather than resist them.
I love the story about the young bank executive who is getting ready to become the CEO of the bank. He was going to receive the mantle of leadership from the founding guy of the bank, a crusty old CEO and so one day the young executive walked in to the retiring CEO and he said: you know sir, you've had a legendary career and you made this bank what it is I'm getting ready to succeed you and I just wonder is there any advice you would give me? What has been the secret of your success? How do you explain you remarkable career? The crusty old bank executive was working: he looked up at the young man and said: two words: good decisions.
The young man said: well sir, that's very helpful but do you mind me asking you how do you make the good decisions that make you successful? The old man looked up and said: one word: experience. The young guy thought, well that's pretty interesting, he was about to leave he turned around and he said: sir, pardon me from pressing my luck but I've got to ask you one final question. What is the key to gaining the experience that will help you to make good decisions? The old man looked up and said: two words: bad decisions.
What Solomon is saying here is we need to learn from the bad decisions so that we can gain the experience to make good decisions. He said it this way in Proverbs 29:1, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy". On the other hand those who care to learn from their bad decisions will experience success. Look at Proverbs 19:20, "Listen to council and accept discipline that you may be wise the rest of your days". Notice Solomon is contrasting two different responses to reproofs. Resisting reproof or responding positively to reproof. I think Solomon had in the back of his mind, when he drew that contrast between resisting and responding correctly to reproofs, I think he was thinking of his own father David. Because Solomon saw in his own dad both responses illustrated.
You know the story of David: probably the most well-known story in David's life. In Psalm 32:3-4 David explains what that period of time was like when he covered over his sin rather than confusing his sin. David wrote, "When I kept silent about my sin my body wasted away through my groaning all day long: for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of the summer". But then on a day that begun like any other day a prophet named Nathan walked into the throne room where the king was. Remember what happened? Nathan looked at king David pointed his bony finger in his face and said: guilty. Guilty, thou art the man. At that point David had a choice to make. He could've resisted that correction. He could've had Nathan executed. But look at what happened when he confessed his sin. Verse 5, "I acknowledged my sin to thee and my iniquity I did not hide. I said 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' and thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin".
That last verse expresses the relief that comes to people who confess their sin rather than cover over their sin. When criticism comes into your life if it is a valid criticism embrace it. Make the needed change instead of resisting it and experience the relief that comes from repentance. There's a fourth stage, a fourth step that we all need to take if we're going to respond in profit from reproofs in our lives and that is entrust your reproofs to God. That means to believe that God brought this negative circumstance into your life or he brought this negative criticism into your life for a reason. It's to believe and understand that none of us are simply victims of random people or random circumstances that God is in control of our life. And he allowed this negative event: he allowed this negative word into our life for a reason.
You know people ask me all the time: "Pastor, if God has forgiven me why do I still feel the results of my sin whether those results were from broken marriage or drug abuse or financial problems, I've confessed, I've received God's forgiveness why do I continue to experience negative consequences for sins that God has already forgiven? Is it because God doesn't love me"? No. It's because God does love you. But he allows you sometimes to feel the pain of your sin even after you've been forgiven. David understood that. In Psalm 119:67 David said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep thy word".
David understood that painful consequences of his forgiven sin were God's way of gently keeping David in line. Whenever David was tempted perhaps to look at another woman or to stray into some other sin David felt the sting of his past transgression. And that's why he said before I was afflicted, before God sent judgment in my life I went astray but now I keep your word.
I think about the words from the late pastor Donald Grey Barnhouse who talked about the sovereignty of God in our life. Listen to these words, they'll give you great hope. "There is no will or act of creatures, men, angels or demons that can do other than work for our good. No dog can bark against us, no man can act or speak against us, no sinister plot of evil can be against us but all must be for our good. There is no phenomenon of nature, fire, flood, storm, earthquake that can work us ultimate ill. The law of gravity cannot cause anything to fall on us unless it has been sifted through the will of God and his purpose for our good".
Do you believe that? Do you really believe it? Do you believe there is no harm that can come into your life? No negative event, no negative actions by another person can invade your space unless God has willed it to. And if God has willed it to come to your life it's not because he hates you, but because he loves you and he has a perfect plan he's working out for you. You will never be able to respond positively to the reproofs of life until you're convinced of that. Perhaps it was watching how God dealt with his father David that caused Solomon to write these words in Proverbs 3:12 about the reproofs that God sends into our life. "For whom the Lord loves he reproofs, even as a father the son in whom he delights". It's because of God's love for you that he brings correction into your life even when that correction comes from the jerks in your life.