Last week we examined Paul’s defense before Felix and discovered that Paul’s words illustrate how to maintain a tender heart and a tough hide while enduring criticism. We saw the first two of seven ways that Paul did it: he refused to get caught up in the emotion of the charges, and he stayed with the facts. Now, let’s examine the five remaining ways to cultivate a tender heart and a tough hide.
Number three: Paul told the truth with a clear conscience. He stated, “But this I admit to you . . . I do serve the God of our fathers . . . I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience . . . both before God and before men” (Acts 24:14–16). There is nothing like a clean conscience. It not only helps you sleep well, it keeps you thinking clearly. You have no fear that some skeleton will rattle when an investigation begins . . . because there is no skeleton!
Number four: Paul identified the original source of the criticism. Few things are more maddening than shadowboxing when you’re dealing with criticism. One of the worst things you can do is to spread the venom to a number of other people—your children, your parents, your friends, or a group of other Christians—rather than going to the original source of contention and addressing it. You need a tough hide to do that. It takes guts.
Number five: He would not surrender or quit. I love that about Paul. He’s like a pit-bull on your ankle; he won’t let go! Take a moment to read 2 Corinthians 11:23–33. Beaten, bloodied, shipwrecked, harassed, endangered, run out of town, and falsely accused, Paul didn’t give up, let up, or shut up.
Number six: He did not become impatient or bitter. For two years Paul had been waiting for this trial. Did you know that? Yet we see no sign of bitterness. No impatience. No grudges. No ranting against the Roman authorities. Paul believed God was firmly in control of both people and events.
Number seven: He stood on the promise of God. You know what flashed through my mind when I read this passage in Acts 24? A song I’ve sung in church since I was just a kid in Sunday school: “Standing on the Promises of God.” Someone has said that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. Have you claimed even one this past week? How about two? Do I hear five?
How did Paul handle criticism? He refused to get caught up in the emotion of the charges. He stayed with the facts. He told the truth with a clear conscience. He identified the original source of the accusations. He refused to surrender or quit. He became neither impatient nor bitter. He stood on the promise of God. Is that great or what? And it’s all from the Bible.
My fellow pastor, you can do every one of those seven. If you want a tender heart and a tough hide when enduring criticism, you must do them. So must I.