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::Devotional:: ‘Battling A Critical Spirit’

November 23, 2009

It’s often been said that we are one of two types of people in life.  There’s the “glass half empty” and the “glass half full” camps and we live in one or the other.  I’d like to think of myself as a half full kind of guy, but maybe others might think differently – I don’t know.  Unfortunately I’ve found myself at various points in life traveling and visiting the half empty camp to attend one of their grand pity parties.  Sometimes I’ve even felt like the guest of honor.  Have you ever attended one?  It’s not really a black tie kind of party but you do have to have a critical spirit in order to get in.

Lately I’ve been dealing with a critical spirit in a few areas of my life.  It’s something that I know to be wrong and something the Holy Spirit has been pointing out to me.  The only way I know to remove something like this is through prayer and the precision of God’s word.  A. W. Tozer once wrote:

An honest man with an open Bible and a pad and pencil is sure to find out what is wrong with him very quickly.

What is a critical spirit?

First and foremost a critical spirit is not the Holy Spirit and that in and of itself is reason to remove it.  On a more practical note however, I’d define a critical spirit as an attitude of negativity motivated by the desire to destroy which manifests immediate and careless actions directed towards others.  That’s not an official definition but that sure is how it often appears in my life.  Sometimes, without much effort or thought, I can immediately pinpoint what’s wrong with a situation and who’s to blame.  Now, I didn’t say I was right.  In fact, more often then not I’m wrong.

What is the danger of a critical spirit?

The danger is division, plain and simple.  A critical spirit will lead to division between us and other people and especially between us and the Holy Spirit.  In other words, it will drive us in the complete opposite direction of where God wants us to go.  Dangerous enough?  It is for me.  I want to be closer to God, more like Christ, and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit – not running in the other direction.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians that the life of a Christian should be such that it is worthy of being an official representation of Jesus himself.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Ephesians 4:1

The danger of a critical spirit is that it tarnishes our lives and leads to a lifestyle that is not worthy of the calling we have received.  In other words, it is not an accurate representation of Jesus, it is not Christ-like.

What is the solution to riding ourselves of a critical spirit?

Unfortunately I don’t think this is as easy of an answer as we’d like it to be.  The Bible says that when we become believers we are to put on the new man and get rid of the old man.  The Holy Spirit is connected to the new and a critical spirit is connected to the old.  We all continually struggle with the willingness of our spirit (the Holy Spirit) and the weakness of our flesh.  However, this doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to disciplining ourselves, with God’s mighty grace, to quench the growth of a critical spirit.  In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he continued by advising them to take purposeful steps towards avoiding division and pursuing unity.

…With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 KJV

Here’s Paul’s advice in a nutshell:

  • (lowliness) Be humble – have the right perspective of yourself
  • (meekness) Be gentle – have soft touch with your words and behavior towards others
  • (longsuffering) Be patient – have an attitude that is willing to give others endless chances even at your own expense
  • (forbearing) Be encouraging – have an attitude to hold others up through encouragement because you love them unconditionally
  • and do this all with the motivation of unity and the pursuit of peace among the body of Christ

When it comes to a critical spirit, it is easy to see that it is anything but humble, gentle, patient and encouraging.  It is not Christ-like and we need to be diligent about removing it from our lives.  I’m not perfect, but I’m positive I can be better through Christ who lives within me.  How about you?

-Stay Rooted Col. 2:7-

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