In The Arena

Ezra 4:1
So the Jewish elders continued their work, and they were greatly
encouraged by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (6:14).

Theodore Roosevelt got things done. He was the
driving force behind the completion of the ambitious
Panama Canal project, won the Nobel Peace Prize,
and served as Assistant Secretary of the US Navy.
Oh, and he also became the 26th president of the
United States (jump-starting his country’s conservation

Like anyone who accomplishes great things, Teddy
Roosevelt had his critics. He said of them: “It is not the
critic who counts; not the man who points out how the
strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could
have done them better. The credit belongs to the man
who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by
dust and sweat and blood.” He added, “There is no
effort without error and shortcoming.”

In 539 BC, Cyrus King of Persia conquered Babylon
and allowed the exiled Jewish people to return to their
homeland. He also gave them instructions to rebuild the
temple in Jerusalem. But when that work began, the Jews
met with derisive opposition. “Then the local [non-Jewish]
residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of
Judah to keep them from their work,” says the ancient
record (Ezra 4:4). The building came to a halt (4:24),
and the temple was not completed until 23 years later
in 516 BC.

People who are critical are fueled by a variety of
motivations—pride, insecurity, envy, fear, hatred. But what do they accomplish?
It can be wise to question a plan and to entertain opposing views. But criticism
isn’t a spiritual gift; it’s a character flaw. If you’re prone to criticize, ask the Holy
Spirit to soften your heart. If you’re the target of criticism, don’t worry about
those critics. Be someone who’s in the arena, not heckling in the crowd.

—Tim Gustafson

Read Ezra 6:1 to see how the building of the temple resumed. In
Nehemiah 4:1, how did Nehemiah respond to criticism and attacks?

Are you prone to be critical or encouraging? How do you react when
you are criticized? How can God help you deal with these detractions?