Years ago, I heard from a man who challenged some of my views. I try to be open to other people's opinions, especially when they're offered with good intentions, and in Christian love. But I had the distinct impression that this man didn't just want to offer me a different perspective - he wanted to debate with me. I admit that I have a problem with Christians who want to debate. Have you ever met any of these folks? They don't just want to understand your feelings about a particular subject. They want YOU to know what THEY think. And they are not going to be satisfied until they convince you that their opinions are the right ones. They are a good example of the Proverb that says: "Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2 NLT)
I believe that some Christians have a God-given gift for debating. But I also believe that this is more uncommon than most of us think. If you look up the definition of "debate" in the dictionary, you'll find words like "fight" and "argue." In fact, the word "battle" is at the root of "debate." Knowing this, I think God's people need to take this kind of thing more seriously. The apostle Paul wrote: "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel." (2 Timothy 2:23-24 NIV) I can't tell you how many times these verses have prevented me from becoming involved in foolish debates with other people, both Christians and non-Christians. Why does the Bible warn against this sort of thing? Paul says it beautifully - "It is of no value, and it only ruins those who listen." (2 Timothy 2:14 NIV) I have witnessed so many believers making this sad mistake, and doing more harm than good, that I've developed a healthy aversion to getting involved in these destructive discussions.
One of the things I've learned from being in ministry is that if you want to make a real difference for God, you will attract a lot of opposition - from believers and nonbelievers alike. The apostle Paul said that when God opened a door of opportunity for him, along with it came "many adversaries." (1 Corinthians 16:9 NKJV) We can't expect the devil to roll out a red carpet for us when we make a decision to impact the world for Christ. So we shouldn't be too surprised when he incites people to challenge or criticize our views, or our ministry efforts. When he does, the worst thing we can do is allow ourselves to become intimidated and fearful. Giving in to these tactics will only cause the enemy to parade these troublesome people in front of us on a regular basis. And we will never fulfill the call of God on our lives.
When this man challenged me, I prayed and sought the Lord about it, asking Him for HIS perspective on the matter. It was then that the Lord led me to a passage in Jeremiah that He had led me to many times before. It says: "Get up and get dressed. Go out, and tell them whatever I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them. For see, today I have made you immune to their attacks...They will try [to stand against you], but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!" (Jeremiah 1:17-19 NLT) God has made it clear to me more than once that if I want to be His mouthpiece, He expects me to say exactly what He tells me to say, without worrying too much about how other people react. I heard one godly man put it this way - "Obey God, and let HIM take care of the consequences."
The next time someone challenges your ministry efforts, or tries to draw you into a debate, don't automatically assume that you're doing something wrong. You could be doing something right. Let this precious promise from God's Word encourage your heart today: "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)
Prayer: Lord, when someone challenges my beliefs or my ministry efforts, help me to turn to You for wisdom and guidance. Give me the discernment I need to know when someone is trying to debate with me, to undermine my faith, or to hinder my service for You. Guard me from foolish discussions that will do more harm than good. Thank You that as I concentrate on pleasing You, I'll enjoy increase, promotion, and honor!
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