Though I don't like it when it happens, and though I have sometimes brought it on myself, I know God uses rejection to shape the lives of those who serve the Lord. Harsh as it may sound, rejection is one of the primary ways God prepares people for effective ministry.
Sally and I spend much of our time these days discipling leaders. It is the season of life for us to pass on to others what we have learned in 47 years on ministry. All Nations is growing rapidly, yet we never want to lose sight of the value of personal discipleship. And one of the primary issues we disciple leaders in is regarding rejection.
As painful as it is, rejection is a gift from God. In this letter I share the reasons why I believe this to be true.
John 6:60-71 records a time when some of the disciples of Jesus rejected Him:
"Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve."
Rejection creates two character strengths when we respond correctly:
We cannot minister to people in the fear of the Lord without toughness to keep going when people turn away from us, and we have to have tenderness toward those who reject us. Rejection is so important in the development of people's lives, that if they do not bring about their own rejection through bad choices and lack of wisdom, God will bring it about for them. Regardless if it is us or God to cause it to happen, God uses rejection to shape our character and prepare us to be the men and women He wants us to be.
Has someone important to you rejected or betrayed you? Have you considered the possibility that this is God’s doing? Jesus suffered rejection. Should we expect anything less as his followers?
Why Jesus' followers rejected him – looking deeper in verses 60-71 in John 6:
1. hard sayings of Jesus - vs 60
2. they didn't understand him - vs 60
3. complaining by some infected the hearts of others - vs 61
4. they took up offenses - vs 61
5. seeing in the natural what they could not see in the Spirit - vs 62
6. flesh cannot understand the spirit - vs 62
7. unbelief - vs 64
8. betrayal - vs 64
9. the spirit was not drawing them - vs 65
10. the devil was at work - vs 70
Fallen, broken human beings reject one another. The pain of rejection goes deep. The lie of rejection is that we have to withdraw from others to protect ourselves. But God has a different purpose for rejection. He uses it. At times he may even cause it. Does this shock you?
Do not be surprised that God will orchestrate relationships that are painful in order to test you and teach you and mold your character.
To toughen you. To turn you to himself. To produce godly determination in your character. To teach you not to fear what people say or do, to impart to you a godly backbone of steel. God needs men and women who will not give up when things are hard, who will not sulk and whine and turn back when others do. God uses human rejection to produce divine desire and determination in our character.
To soften you. If you respond right to those who reject you, you do two things at once: you forgive them and you keep obeying God. We learn to forgive as we forge ahead. Toughness without tenderness is rude and uncaring. It is harshness. It is rejection in response to rejection. But those who embrace rejection as the gift of God, learn to forgive those who reject them and to continue to obey God.
One of the most helpful pictures of rejection and resulting tenderness and toughness we find in the Bible is when Joseph forgave his brothers, the very brothers who plotted to kill him, who sold him into slavery, who were jealous of their father's blessing in his life. When Joseph met his brothers again after many years, he was able to forgive them. And lead them without fear or favor – all while maintaining a tender and forgiving spirit.
Are you in the midst of a rejection test orchestrated by God? Have you blamed it on people but failed to see what God was up to? Perhaps your test of rejection took place many years ago – it is not too late to go back to the point of pain, to forgive and to take hold once again of God’s purposes in your life. It is never too hard and never too late with God.
May God bless you as you walk in His ways,