Refueling When You’ve Been Rejected
Christianity works really well. Some of the time. Cultivating Christian character can help get you a job. Following principles of hard work and self-control can help you pay the rent. Learning patience and kindness can infuse stability into a rocky marriage.
Because Christianity enhances our lives so well, we can start to see personal enhancement as the point of Christianity.
But then there are those principles and practices in Christianity which seem to work against one’s own personal enrichment.
For example, have you ever spoken God’s truth only to be ignored? Have you ever stood up for God’s standards only to be ridiculed? It’s very disappointing to do something for God expecting success but instead to meet rejection. Being rejected doesn’t seem to fit the narrative of Christianity. Or does it?
Actually, if you look at the life of Jesus, you will see a significant amount of rejection.
Isaiah prophesied, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). His disciple John explained, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:10-11). His first sermon in His hometown synagogue ended with them trying to kill Him (Luke 4:28-29). There was a time when even His brothers had rejected Him (John 7:5).
Some of us like to be liked so badly that we’ll do almost anything to avoid rejection. In order to escape it, we might even sidestep our core mission as Christians: to make disciples of all the nations. After all, what if the response to my attempts to evangelize is lost friends, mockery, or even worse?
Rejection can leave you feeling empty. If you’ve experienced the rejection that comes from following and promoting Jesus, then you will need to be refueled.
When we feel empty, we typically respond by filling up on various types of physical “food.” Some people fill the void with actual food. Others binge on entertainment. Some incessantly check their devices, seeking dopamine rushes with each new Facebook like or Twitter retweet. Still others try to fill the emptiness by obsessing over successes.
Jesus experienced more rejection than we will ever experience. Fortunately for us, He also talked about two kinds of “food” that kept Him going. Both “foods” sustained Him through what was at times an incredibly disheartening ministry.
Not on Bread Alone…
As for the first kind of “food,” it is so necessary to our souls that God led His people through the desert for 40 years to teach them to rely on it. Here is how Moses explained it:
And [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3).
The first kind of “food” is God’s words.
Does that sound a bit underwhelming? Maybe somewhat unsubstantial compared to “real” food? It shouldn’t. Jesus went through 40 days of being tempted by Satan himself, and it was the words of God which Jesus spoke to defeat Satan’s lies. Forty days without food, and yet Jesus proved tougher than the desert and the Devil put together. How? Jesus was being sustained and strengthened by the words of God.
And the tempter came and said to [Jesus], “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
When you feel rejected, refuel on the words of God.
I Have Food That You Do Not Know About…
Jesus and His disciples had been traveling by foot quite a distance to get back home from a festival in southern Israel. As they journeyed north, they stopped at a town in Samaria. Jesus stayed by the well and sent His disciples into town to buy food. When they returned to Jesus, they realized that He had been talking about God with a lost person.
They knew Jesus had to be tired. After all, He hadn’t eaten yet, and they had journeyed quite a ways that day. Knowing Jesus had to be fatigued and famished, they told Him to eat. Strangely, Jesus assured Him that He was just fine. In fact, He was so energized that it was as if He had been eating the whole time.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work (John 4:31-34).
For the disciples, physical food was the most urgent matter. Similarly, my temptation is to feel as though whatever current problem I’m dealing with in my life is the most urgent matter. That’s the window that’s open on my desktop. But Jesus was teaching us that there’s something more important than physical food and pressing problems.
For those of us who tend to think only about our own pressing needs, Jesus tells us to lift up our eyes.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35).
Again, it was more than physical food which sustained Jesus. It was more than the prospect of eating a good meal that excited Him. His soul was stirred and sustained by the thought of lost people coming to life.
Thus, the second “food” which sustained Jesus during a difficult ministry was doing God’s will.
How can we feel sustained when we’re not experiencing success? How can we feel encouraged and energized when what we’re trying to do doesn’t seem profitable or probable? What do we turn to when we face rejection from people instead of respect?
We refuel on God’s will.
Knowing that we are doing “the will of Him who sent us” is food enough to sustain us in seasons of rejection. Though rejected, Jesus was faithful to save us. Though rejected, we can be faithful to serve Him. For though others might, He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Jesus is “the stone that the builders rejected” (1 Peter 2:4). But that is only the beginning of a beautiful story of a grand new building project. Though thrown out, Jesus was to become the cornerstone of a new building, of which we are “living stones . . . being built up as a spiritual house” (2:5). Though rejected by many, we who continue doing God’s will are being built into a “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (2:9).