Journal Prov 10 (all references are from the ESV unless noted otherwise; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “Whoever heeds (pays attention to) instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” Prov 10:17
Observation: There are a lot of “if/then” statements in Prov 10, some that are more “promising” than this one. However, this one has challenge to the believer’s heart.
Analysis: Reproof, criticism, admonishment, rebuked, and many other synonyms like these are the bane of any age of Believer. No one likes to be criticized.
The most difficult practice I have in pursuing godliness is to hold my tongue, accept and analyze critique, and not revert immediately to some self-protection mode of defense, rejecting what is being said.
My motive in anything is suspect except to me. I think way higher of myself than I ought. Therefore, it is good that the Holy Spirit has HIS best interests for me in front of Him always.
So, I need to get my mind reoriented as per Romans 12. Embracing reproof (criticism) without defense or rebuttal may be a good start:
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it…” (Ps 141:5a)
“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore, despise not the discipline of the Almighty.” (Job 5:17)
And my favorite, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge; but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Prov 12:1)
How do I deal with reproof? Not very well, but I do have a process I go through:
- Try to immediately bow my head and, more importantly, my heart.
- Give recognition that this is the Holy Spirit; reject that this is some attack from the enemy; remember Job 1-3 and that God uses the enemy to discipline and prove the believer.
- If my heart is unsteady and raging, control my mouth and don’t let sin use my tongue to start a fire (c. James 3, but especially James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”)
- Thank the person for having the courage to speak, “Thank you for sharing that with me. Could I ask some clarifying questions? May I have some time to consider what you just said and get back to you?”
- And then truly do the above.
Remember and be convinced, criticism is a kindness.
So, as to not paint this as easy, it is not and it takes effort and intent to do the above; a lot of preparation and practice—in prayer, study, and meditation, but also transparency in confession and discipleship with other brothers. In Ps 39, David shows he was not immune from the rising up of anger when challenged:
“I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue…” Ps 39:2-3
But David also tried to prep himself: “I said, I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” (Ps 39:1)
This is not a one and done subject for Believers.
Prayer: Lord, as the day dawns, teach me to hold my tongue from evil and only use the few words that you give me to be in your service always.
Ricky Two Shoes