CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

“Why Are You So Negative?”

May 7, 2017

The Old Testament prophets were well known as bearers of bad news. Their hard words, especially about judgment to come and the need for repentance, did not exactly make them the life of the party. They certainly were not on very many ‘Most fun people to be around with’ lists!

They were not exactly regarded as upbeat types, who made people happy and comfortable to be around with. It was a very lonely calling therefore. They had to be faithful in delivering the word of the Lord, even if it was mainly bad news instead of good news.

And those who preferred their religion to be on the happy-clappy side of things, with no negative vibes attached, would certainly steer well clear of any prophets or watchmen on the wall. They were avoided like the plague by most folks, and their social calendar would have been completely empty.

watchman 5Such is the lot of those God raises up to offer a prophetic type of ministry. It is never much fun, and you don’t exactly have heaps of friends or get invited to many parties! Over the years I have come to realise that this is basically the calling God has placed on my life.

I can seek to run away from it, just grin and bear it, or seek to fulfil it as best I can by God’s grace. But taking on the prophetic ministry means you have to resign yourself to the fact that you will not have heaps of friends, you will get few speaking gigs, and you will be routinely criticised, disliked and shunned by many – including most other Christians.

But just as the prophets and watchmen and sentinels of old fulfilled their God-given calling regardless of all the negative reactions they produced – and I am so glad they did – so too those who have a similar calling today must remain faithful and resolute, and they must persevere despite all the hostility and criticism.

So if you find yourself called to such a ministry, you need to surround yourself with those who will solidly support what you do and regularly pray for your work. The prophet’s life is lonely enough, and without some encouragement along the way and consistent prayer support, the burden can become too much.

But as stated, the critics and the knockers will always be out there. Whether they are well-intentioned or ill-intentioned, they will seek to deter you from what you are doing and may cause you to walk away from your calling. You need to be very wise and prayerful about their criticisms and concerns.

Yes we can all learn from our critics, and we must take their rebukes and accusations to the Lord to see if there be any truth to them. But we also need to develop a tough skin, so that the least bit of criticism does not throw us off our appointed paths.

It is so very easy to just want to give up as the criticism and rebukes flow in. As but one example, I was recently going to post something elsewhere, but ended up not doing so, since a criticism of a brother had just come my way. I am still not fully sure if I chickened out because of the fear of man, or if I was maybe being wise there in not running with the post.

But I share all this since some of you do have such a calling, and you need all the support and encouragement that you can get. It is so easy to let the attacks of other believers get the best of you. And they may be well-meaning as I said, but they may be missing what God has called you to do.

So remaining humble and teachable – as always – is a great place to be in as you seek to do the work of the Lord. Being open to the many criticisms that will come your way is also important. And come they will. I get them all the time, as do others in this sort of ministry.

Let me mention just a few recent examples. One person, commenting on a post about some ugly abortion activities, said that he deleted it and did not care whether it was true or not. The person said that he did not think he needed to know about such evil, and would just think about how great Jesus is. Another person said she wanted to hear some positive stories, something uplifting, something to praise God about, and not just all the negative ones.

So how might we respond to such things? As is often the case, there is a yes-no response here. Yes, we do not need to be familiar with all the evil that is out there, but no, we should not hide our heads in the sand. We need to be aware of what is going on in our world, within reason.

Pretending the Nazis were not killing and enslaving millions for example is not exactly a Christian response. Pretending millions of babies are not being slaughtered every year is also an unbiblical response. Wilberforce knew all about the evils of the slave trade, which is why he was so effective in fighting it.

So while we should not fully immerse ourselves in all the evil that is out there, we cannot pretend it does not exist either. Thus a biblical balance is needed here, as is so often the case. As to the charge that we are mainly negative, well, I cannot speak for others and what they may be called of God to do, but I can speak of my own ministry and calling.

As I have said, the watchman on the wall role seems to be what I am engaged in. As found in Ezekiel 3 and 33, this involves offering warnings of danger or judgment to come when necessary. And contained in these two passages are some very frightening words: if the watchman will not carry out these words of warning, he will have blood on his hands. I do not want to be in that place.

To those who complain that I don’t write anything uplifting, praiseworthy, and good news-ish, I simply ask them if they have read all 4000 of my articles. The truth is, I have penned many such positive articles over the years. While they may be in the minority, they are certainly there.

If one simply reads the articles found in my “Sermons and Devotionals” section they will find 630 articles, most of them very encouraging and edifying I would have thought. But it is not my calling to artificially have 50 per cent positive articles and 50 per cent negative ones.

Those who just want the positive stuff alone are well serviced elsewhere. There exist plenty of ministries – often mega-ministries with millions of followers – where only happy-clappy good news is proclaimed. You will never hear anything negative or discouraging or sober there. Indeed, you will hear only what you want to hear, not what you may need to hear.

Well, that is not my calling, sorry. So if you want only the stuff that makes you feel good, then you will really want to stay away from places like CultureWatch and other such sites. We do not offer sickly sweet sentimentalism or feel good, upbeat pop sermonettes.

I write all this as much for others as for myself. I have long ago accepted the call of God on my life, and have also accepted the fact that such a ministry will not be making me a lot of friends, but will result in plenty of opposition and enmity. As mentioned, I need to listen to the critics prayerfully to see if they have truth that I need to receive and apply to myself.

But I also must set my face like flint (as Isaiah put it), to carry out the prophetic task. Sure, I often offer back to God the work that I do, reminding him I am quite happy to give it all up if he so leads. I would be more than happy to not have the regular flow of hatred, abuse and vitriol! But I will remain faithful as long as he still calls me to do this work.

And I want others who are in similar situations to be encouraged. The work is daunting and will not result in you ever winning any “Mr Popularity” contests. You will need to persevere. Yes, listen and learn from the critics, but above all, listen and learn from God.

So keep on keeping on for God. Remember that the prophet’s job is never an easy one. Let me close with the words of a few saints who know far more about all this than I ever will:

“The prophet must needs have the heart of a child and the hide of a rhinoceros. His problem is how to toughen his hide without hardening his heart. That combination can be achieved only by the grace of God.” Vance Havner

“The voice of the prophet today is seldom heard, not because there are no prophets speaking for God, but because the noise and clatter of our culture have so invaded the church that they have drowned out that voice.” A. W. Tozer

“The essence of the message of the prophet is truth. Truth is always a double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. There is a cost factor for the prophet to deliver the message, and there is a cost factor for us to receive that message. This emphasizes the extreme importance God puts upon the truth He is trying to bring our way.” A. W. Tozer

“If Elijah were to turn up some Sunday morning, we probably would not let him in the church; or if we did, we certainly would not let him in the pulpit.” A. W. Tozer

“We already have enough promoters; we need prophets. We already have enough organisers; we need men who have met God in the crisis of the encounter.” A. W. Tozer

“We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.” A. W. Tozer

“Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.” A. W. Tozer

“The true prophet of God is not concerned first of all about the nation, or even about the Church. He is concerned that God is insulted openly; that God’s laws are broken; that God’s Son is rejected, and this in a land that is seemingly saturated with the gospel.” Leonard Ravenhill

“The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history. There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable.” Leonard Ravenhill

[1869 words]

29 Responses to “Why Are You So Negative?”

  • The sad thing about a lot of Christians is that they do not believe we need prophets today because we have the Bible and God speaks to us through that.

    In today’s world of knowledge, we have emptied the church of anything prophetic. Maybe because reading the Bible is less invasive than God speaking directly to us.

  • “Those who just want the positive stuff alone are well serviced elsewhere”: you mean like “Gospel” messages that don’t mention hell? (sorry, a soapbox thing for me)

    You’re in good company Bill, and you’ll have lots of friends in Heaven who wouldn’t be there without your ministry.

    P.S. The quote that affected me most is “The true prophet of God is not concerned first of all about the nation, or even about the Church. He is concerned that God is insulted openly; that God’s laws are broken; that God’s Son is rejected”

  • “…the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” – Revelation 19:10 [NET]

    The Gospel itself includes a prophet’s indictment of the human race, that Christ died for our sins, and a warning that there is a Man whom god has appointed to judge the world…

  • Keep it up Bill! These days the true prophetic voice is greatly devalued, yet needed more than ever. There is so much pressure on leaders to speak out only that which ‘tickles the ears’. I’m reminded of the lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 22 who ‘prophesied’ that King Ahab would prosper in the battle against Ramoth Gilead. The only true prophet of God, Micaiah, finally said “No. King Ahab will die.” But nobody wanted to listen to those words of doom. King Ahab’s words: “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me?” The question today is, Do we want to hear the truth, unpleasant though it may be … or would we rather have our ears tickled by lies?

  • Many thanks Ann. Yes I used Micaiah as an example of this very thing in an article I penned some years ago:

    billmuehlenberg.com/2011/09/11/prophets-who-stand-alone/

  • Keep going, Bill. The hour is late & we need to be out there among the people, telling it how it is, the truth & the consequences. I have many Christian friends who never comment one way or the other.

  • Your words of wisdom, warning and encouragement are like nuggets of pure gold. God has not let us be overtaken by unpleasant surprises but rather has provided ample warnings and continues to do so even today through you and others who are committed and have the courage to speak unpalatable truths. Wisdom and discernment is my prayer for you.

  • Thanks Shirley and Stephanie.

  • Hi Bill, a very insightful article. To any of your readers out there (if there are any at all ! ) who still believe that the gift of prophecy or the prophetic office are popular and colourful ministries that are to be aspired to, then this article will serve as a major reality check. Bill, in my own ministry activities I have a couple of senior pastors who act as my spiritual oversight. If for some reason I went off the rails (and I pray that it never happens) then either of those two men would have no hesitation in coming down on me like a ton of bricks. I am sure in your own ministry Bill, that you have people in your life who act as your spiritual covering, and who are constantly looking out for you. That is apart from many of your supporters like myself who constantly keep you & your family in our prayers. Thank you again Bill for spelling out what the Prophetic Ministry is really like, warts & all, OBEDIENCE TO ALMIGHTY GOD AT ANY COST! Regards, Kel.

  • I am very sorry Bill that you have a regular flow of hatred, abuse and vitriol. I think your articles are very balanced and well written. I was drawn in by the positive thinking movement for some time but now see it as a very dangerous deception. The fruits of this belief system range from self-absorption to cruelty eg insisting that sufferers of an illness have brought it on themselves. I think the terms positive and negative make sense in mathematics and electrical engineering but they have no value when used in a sociological framework. They are completely subjective. Who decides who or what is positive or negative? I prefer to ask, Is it true or false, loving or hateful, will it prevent or exacerbate evil, how will the Lord rate my words and actions?

    Check out: Smile or Die by Barbara Ehrenreich, 2009

  • Thanks Gail. Yes there are various version of it, and they all can be harmful. See this eg.,:

    billmuehlenberg.com/2010/09/29/problems-with-the-positive-confession-movement/

  • Hello Bill!

    Your choice of books/commentaries first caught my eye!

    I look forward to your daily articles/briefings. They do my soul a great amount of good; knowing that there are Christians like you out there who are willing to fight the good fight at any cost!

    Once again, Bill. Thanks!

    Paul Titterington, (UK)

  • God bless you Bill,
    You are on track. Negative is positive if it serves a purpose, because warnings save us if we heed them. Prophesy is necessary and perpetuous, but its acceptance has failed most of the time.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Thank you, for your warnings, and for this message.

  • Thanks again, Bill. I find your articles very helpful because they are well balanced and thoughtful. They focus on the truth, and there is diligence in considering the reflection of scriptural truth.

    In my small circle I find that your articles, and the choice of input from a variety of sources are appreciated greatly – and more and more often by those who have disagreed with me in the past. What you do is helpful because my only comment is something like, “here is a very thoughtful insight or view”, and it is much more readily accepted, for whatever reason. For that we can both give thanks to God.

  • At risk of somewhat negating your valuable article: Bill, you have many friends. Sadly the perpetrators of hatred, abuse and vitriol is a large number, but many people appreciate your good work and consider you a friend. Friends you certainly have in great numbers.

  • Hi Bill, just another short note to encourage you, thank you so much for challenging and stretching my theology. So many of your articles drive me back into The Word. Milk is for babies, what you serve us at great personal cost, is real food and real drink. The enemy would seek to discourage and pull you down through all the vitriol and destructive hate mail that you constantly receive. But know this, there are plenty like myself who will keep you & your family covered in Prayer. Bill, all we ask is that you “keep dishing it out” we live in a dying world who desperately need to hear The Truth wether they like it or not. I’ll stick my neck out by saying that your ministry has not gone unnoticed within The Heavenlies. I believe that all the time, The Lord Jesus Christ is saying to you, “well done good and faithful servant” . Bless you heaps, Kel.

  • Hi Bill
    Not following the exact line here. Thought you may be interested in the following comment from my son about today’s supercar event. As follows:
    “Yeah your right they always talk about equality went to watch the v8 supercars today theirs about 25 cars racing and halfway through the race they starting talking about a “pink holden equality car” it wasn’t in the top 5 and had nothing to do with the race but they starting talking about marriage and the lgbt community have to ruin everything ”
    End of comment.
    Bill, it gets one thinking about just how they are pushing thier social agender.
    What hope can those standing on the fence. Those who just don’t know.
    The younger generation are bombarded from every angle on this.

    Poor old Sodom and Gomorrah aint got nothing compared to us.
    Us the collapsing ex Christian Roman Empire.
    We who have been given more…surely will have more to answer.
    Lets hope in the end at least there be one who stands for the Lord God.
    Terry

  • You are doing an invaluable service, and you are probably read in most English-speaking countries. Among other things, I particularly appreciate when you encapsulate and distil all your reading and learning about key doctrines in a thousand words or so, for those of us who do not have the time, the gift or the calling (or the theological library!) to do a lot of study first-hand. These articles are real seed sowers in to the minds of many of us, your readers, for strengthening and clarifying and upbuilding. Keep on doing what you are doing.

  • Absolutely correct and so good to see so many comments in agreement. Keep up the good work, Bill. I know my day would be all the poorer for not reading your articles.

    Rom 8:21 that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
    Rom 8:22 And we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
    Rom 8:23 And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruit of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, awaiting adoption, the redemption of our body.

    (MKJV)

  • Why is the church so weak? Congregations greying – or running after happy time? A journalist named Marshall once criticised us for neglecting the “bad news”. His secular mind thought it “sells”. But it’s the bad news in the good news that shows what the Good News is and how desperately the whole race needs Gods’ True News. Your article today confirms the need of the Spirit moved prophet and what a helpful teaching this is! Amen! Reading Ezekiel this morning chs 8 – 13 there was shocking stuff uncovered in the hierarchy of Israel in Jerusalem and there was strong judgment but it was all to the end goal of the grace of a new hearted people!

  • God bless you and keep you safe & sane, Bill, from the manipulative, cunning & misguided wiles of the enemy.

    What an AMAZING Ministry you are involved in & we are so blessed to have discovered you and your teachings – True Food for our Starving Souls.

    God’s Truth will set The Captives free – And will it not be Glorious to Behold?
    As ‘it is written’.

    Luke 15:17
    In the same way, I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

    At the risk of sounding ‘Happy-Clappy’, Brother in Christ, We LOVE your Holy Spirit Inspired, Prophetic Work & God will ensure your Legacy will continue long after you go Home.

  • Many thanks indeed Melinda.

  • Oh Bill, your article made me both laugh and cry. Cry, because that word “lonely” is so apt. It was actually brought to my attention by one one of my longest standing friends: she identified the prophetic ministry and quoted a colleague of hers who said that it is a lonely calling. I think that is part of the journey of growing in spiritual maturity – not struggling against being the awkward misfit who WILL insist on dropping that “clanger” of truth.

    And I laughed because the good news for those in prophetic ministry is that they are so very aware of God’s.grace and presence that we CANNOT do without.

    I firmly believe in speaking the truth in love. But have come to realise that it won’t always be received in love.

    But press on: to quote another dear friend (in response to my relating the insightful comment from a non-Christian to me: “you speak the truth and people will hate you for that” – a gobsmacking revelation for me, as personally I prefer to hear the truth): “yes, but when people want the truth, you’re the person they come to”.

    I would reiterate that for you: Bill, when we want the truth (& we do!), we come here to you.

    I would also proffer another comment made to me: “I can take what you say, because I know you have a good heart.” I have never read anything you’ve written that has shown anything less than a good heart.

  • Many thanks indeed Karen. Bless you heaps.

  • Bill, it has been so encouraging to see so many of your readers who know exactly where you are coming from, and are right behind you, Kel.

  • I am a bit late in commenting, but I just want to encourage you Bill in your ministry. You are indeed called (as I am at at times) to be “watchman on the wall.”

    Watchmen and shepherds are metaphoric biblical titles are given to the leaders of the Church, those with a divinely ordained duty to warn God’s people when they are going astray. When we ignore obvious sin in our midst, we are to some degree accountable for it. Note what God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel:
    “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.” (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

    There is a book by Christian psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb entitled “The Silence of Adam” which reminds us of one essential element of his original sin. Adam was there when Eve was deceived and ate the forbidden fruit. Adam was responsible for saying something, stopping her, and at least not following her lead. He knew better because he was the one who actually heard God’s command. WHEN WE KNOW BETTER AND ARE SILENT BEFORE SIN, WE SHARE IN IT.

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