That is a hard lesson to learn, and yet, we will have to learn it. Many young evangelists start out thinking that there will never be any opposition, that everyone will welcome their ministry, and that they will be a success from the very beginning. They will not go far before they will realize that, if they are going to be successful, they will have to face both envy and opposition. There will be those who will be jealous of them, and there will be others who will oppose them.
Do not think that everyone will praise you, that other Christians will encourage you, that pastors will speak well of you and assist you in every way possible, and that you will have no difficulties to face. You might just as well know now, as you launch into your life’s work, that you are going to face envy and opposition. There will be those who will not co-operate with you. There will be those who will endeavor to discourage you, who will do everything possible to make your work difficult.
As long as you do not accomplish much, no one will bother much about you. But just as soon as you commence to become success, just as soon as you are getting results, just as soon as people flock to your ministry, there will be those who will be envious of you. All you have to do is accomplish something that no one else has accomplished, build something that no one else has built, get results that no one else has been getting, become a greater success than those around you, and the most deadly opposition will be yours. There will be jealousy and envy on every side.
Moreover, it will not come from the world. You would not be surprised if those who didn’t know Christ were to oppose you. But it will, in all probability, come from Christian leaders and Christian workers, from those who ought to be standing by you and encouraging you in every way possible.
That is when you will feel like giving up. But if you know ahead of time that you must expect it, then you will be ready for it when it comes, and you will not be surprised. I say again, if God is going to use you in an extraordinary way, if He is going to do something through you that he has not dome through others you may be perfectly certain that you will be surrounded by envy and opposition on every side. That has been true all down through the centuries.
What about Finney? Was he every criticized? Did he ever have to face envy and opposition? Do you know, the wonderful thing about it all is this, that as the years go by, the opposition, the criticism, the envy, the failures are for the most part forgotten. Seldom they are ever recorded- when you read the life story of a man; you only, read the encouraging things about him, the successes, the victories. It is seldom that the other side is recorded. But let me say that Finney had about as much opposition to face as any man who has ever been used by God. And it was most diabolical. He was slandered on every side, and that by some of the most outstanding leaders of the Church of his day. For they were jealous of his success. Unitarian ministers fought him for years, so much so that he was always in the center of a storm, in spite of the wonderful success he was having.
Dr. Lyman Beecher, one of the outstanding leaders of Finney’s generation, did everything in his power to defeat him. As Finney approached Boston, Beecher sent him this message, and I quote it verbatim: “If you attempt to carry the fire to Boston, I will meet you at the state line and call out all the artillery men and fight every inch of the way to Boston, and then I will fight you there.” Can you imagine anything more vicious than that? Well, then, what did Finney do? How did he answer him? What did he have to say? He never said a word. He made no reply whatever. He simply did what he always did. He went to the woods, to be alone with God. He began to wrestle in prayer. He told the Lord all about it, and God gave him a great victory.
That, my friend, is what you, too, should do. No matter what kind of a letter you receive, no matter how much opposition you have to face, just take it to God in prayer. Spread it before the Lord. God will fight battles for you, if you will let him. But, if you do your own fighting, God will let you do it, and then there may be defeat instead of victory. Learn how to pray. Never answer for yourself. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Envy and opposition can both be overcome by prayer. God did it for Hezekiah. He, too, was opposed. He, too received a letter, but he spread it before the Lord, and the Lord delivered him. So long as you know that you are in the center of the will of God, you need not worry. Never mind the opposition. Pay not attention to the envy. Just go serving the Lord. He will clear a way for you. God will gloriously vindicate in His own good time, and you will find that it pays to let Him fight your battles.
That is about the only kind of opposition and persecution that we get any more. We are not bound to stakes and burned alive. We do not have to suffer the death of a martyr. Seldom are we subjected to bodily injury. The only kind of opposition we get is criticism and slander, and that because of envy and jealousy.
For many years I have adopted a motto that has stood me in good stead. It consists of but 4 words: “No attack, no defense.” I have passed it on to other evangelists, and they too have adopted it. They have learned that it works. I never attack anyone personally, and I never defend myself when I am attacked. I leave the matter entirely with God. God does not call you to attack others, and you do not have to defend yourself. He is able for every emergency. “As much as lieth with you, live peaceably with all men.” If you will do that, God will bless you and use you and you will never need to fear envy or opposition around you. “ “God is my defense.” What a wonderful defense He is! Why not leave it in His hands? When you and I try to vindicate ourselves and fight our own battles, God has no alternative but to leave us to ourselves. But when we let Him defend us, then we are depending upon the One who never fails. Hence my motto, “No attack, no defence.”
Moody and Sankey had the same experience. When they went to Great Britain, they were opposed on every side. Newspapers ridiculed them and laughed at them. They even put in cartoons of them. Everywhere there was the bitterest opposition, and yet God so vindicated them that they won countless thousands to the Lord Jesus Christ in the British Isles. Today they are lauded and praised to the skies.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to be opposed. Again and again he had uproar on his hands. Everywhere he went he faced opposition, but God delivered him in spite of it all. You, too will be delivered, but you will be opposed, and you must expect it. I warn you, therefore, lest you become discouraged. Expect both envy and opposition and these from Christian leaders.
Source: Oswald Smith “The passion for souls”