God uses rejection to shape our inner world. 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?” 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 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. 65 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. 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” 71 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:
Leaders cannot lead in the fear of the Lord without toughness to keep going when people turn away from them, and tenderness to those who reject them as they leave. Rejection is so important in the development of leader’s lives, that if we do not bring about our own rejection through bad choices and lack of wisdom, God will bring it about for us. Regardless, 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:
- hard sayings of Jesus - vs 60
- they didn't understand him - vs 60
- complaining by some infected the hearts of others - vs 61
- they took up offenses - vs 61
- seeing in the natural what they could not see in the Spirit - vs 62
- flesh cannot understand the spirit - vs 62
- unbelief - vs 64
- betrayal - vs 64
- the spirit was not drawing them - vs 65
- 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 us. To turn us to himself. To produce godly determination in our character. To teach us not to fear what people say or do, to impart to us 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 us. If we respond right to those who reject us, we do two things at once: we forgive them and we keep going. 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 greatest pictures of rejection and resulting tenderness and toughness 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.