Have you ever been mistreated?
If you answered “No,” I want you to check your pulse! It’s possible you are no longer with us! For the truth is that to live in our fallen, broken, sinful world is to face multiple opportunities every day to be mistreated and not receive the just and fair treatment we all desire.
There are many situations in which a person can receive bad treatment. Here are a few possibilities—I’m sure you could add to the list:
• If you are a child—of any age—you might have a parent who constantly criticizes you unfairly.
• Or if you are a parent, you may have a rebellious or prodigal child who gives you insults and disobedience instead of love.
• You may be a student who just can’t please a demanding teacher
• You may be a great employee, but your boss doesn’t like you and wants to force you out of your job—to give it to one of her friends.
• You are driving your car and obeying the speed limit. But the driver behind you is in a hurry, blows his horn, gives you an obscene gesture, and curses as he drives by.
• You own your own business and treat customers well. But a competitor undercuts your prices and accuses you of shoddy work.
• You have been married for fifteen years, during which you put your husband through college and bore him three children. He just told you he doesn’t love you anymore and wants to marry a coworker.
• You have served in your church as a deacon, but your passion is leading the youth choir. You were just told that the choir will now be led by the new pastor’s wife.
These are just a few possible scenarios. There are certainly thousands more. No one is immune. The rich and strong receive it just like the poor and powerless. Some mistreatment is laughably minor. Other acts are horrific, having the power to wreck a person’s reputation—and even to threaten life itself.
But now let me share with you a truth from God’s heart that too many people do not know or choose to ignore: If we allow God to handle those who mistreat us, we will mature and reap great blessings. That’s what this book is about. If you are tired of the frustration that can come from not knowing how to respond to the poor treatment you receive from others, you are in for a wonderful revelation: God sees your suffering, He understands your suffering, and He’s got plans to bring tremendous good out of it in your life. But you need to know how He wants you to do that. And then you must get with His program and obey.
The results: a maturity, a strength, an opportunity to participate strategically in advancing the kingdom of God. You may not believe me now, but by the time I finish sharing this incredible truth from God’s Word, you will understand why, when mistreatment comes your way, that’s the time to let out a shout of joy and dance a jig. It’s time for a party in your soul! You are about to participate in one of God’s key efforts here on earth to show His faithfulness to His children and bring about great victories over the evil, destructive plans of the enemy.
But I admit the normal way too many people respond to mistreatment is to get angry and seek to get even. We live in a world where God’s intentions have been twisted, sometimes almost beyond recognition. One of His great, foundational, spiritual laws is the notion of justice. Built into our very mental and emotional foundation is a strong sense of right and wrong. So when we are wronged, we want somebody, somewhere, to make things right. Often we think that means us. That’s wrong.
Several years ago our son Addison experienced an injustice at school. What happened, and how he responded, reveals the key, life-changing principles I will explain in this book.
There may be nothing worse than seeing your child mistreated. As a father of four boys, in my flesh the first thing I want to do when one of them is wronged is to rise up immediately and go settle the score. It’s one of those “let’s act first and talk later” kind of sinful responses.
That’s how I felt as day after day, our oldest son, Addison, came home and told us about the bad things happening at school. My wife, Lisa, and I sat each night and listened as nine-year-old Addison shared story after story of how his teacher picked on him. This just didn’t seem right because Addison always had been a good student and was attending a fine Christian school. Just what was happening to turn our son into such a grumbler and complainer?
Lisa and I had talked privately about this a number of times. We really could not figure it out. Addison was all boy, but normally he did not get into trouble. For some reason the teacher often assumed that if there was trouble in the class, Addison was the instigator. The whole class could be goofing off, but when it came time to let the hammer down, the teacher usually singled out Addison and railed on him. The best answer Lisa and I could come up with was that it must be a personality clash. Maybe Addison and his teacher just didn’t hit it off. Sometimes that happens.
We prayed about this and hoped the situation would improve. It didn’t. God wanted to answer our prayers, and eventually He did. But it took a while because Addison needed to learn firsthand how the Lord wants His children to respond to mistreatment.
The straw that broke Addison’s little back, though, happened one day when two of his classmates—who sat behind him—were joking around. The teacher’s back was to the class, but when he turned around to correct the situation, the boys quickly quieted down. Without missing a beat, the teacher started yelling at Addison. Like everyone else, Addison hates injustice. As a result of being falsely accused of goofing off in class, his heart was wounded.
Addison came home that night and told Lisa and me what had happened. We sat at the dinner table, and big alligator tears poured from his eyes as he sobbed. This was a big deal for a third grader. Good mom that she is, Lisa took him in her arms and held him, saying over and over, “Oh, my son, my son!” I felt bad, too, and I racked my brain—What could I do? What should I tell my son?
While Lisa continued comforting him, something inside my spirit didn’t feel right—the Holy Spirit was giving me a nudge. Then I remembered a lesson I had learned years before. A lightbulb turned on in my mind, and I knew clearly what I needed to say to my son.
“Well, Addison, can I ask you something?” I said. He was still whimpering, huddled next to Lisa. “How did you respond when your teacher did that to you today?”
Addison straightened up, and I saw fire ignite in his eyes. “I told him it wasn’t me; it was those other two guys!” he said fiercely.
“Do you always do that when he corrects you?” I asked.
“Yeah, especially if he’s wrong, which is most of the time!”
“Son, what you’re doing is not right,” I answered. I picked up my Bible and read him some key verses. I reminded him of how Jesus had faced bad treatment. I also told him a story of how I had been mistreated as a pastor.
“Addison, you have a choice,” I said finally. “You can continue to defend yourself and keep resisting authority, or you can do this God’s way, which I think means you should go to your teacher and ask forgiveness for constantly challenging his authority and his decisions. Take your pick.”
“But Dad, suppose the teacher’s wrong?”
“Well, Addison, has your way worked?”
“Then you have a choice. You can follow Jesus’ example like the Bible says, or you can do this yourself.”
“Okay, I’ll do it God’s way,” Addison said.
“All right, let’s pray.” So we prayed.
The next day Addison made an appointment to see his teacher at lunchtime. He looked at the teacher and said, “Sir, God has dealt with me. I have constantly challenged your authority. That’s wrong. Would you please forgive me? I will not do this anymore.”
As you can imagine, that blew the teacher away. The end of the next week, guess to whom the teacher gave the Student of the Week award?
And to top it off, at the end of the year the teacher gave an Outstanding Student for the Year award. Do I need to tell you who won?
My question is: If handling mistreatment as God commands works for a third grader, do you think it just might work for you and me?
What I intend to do in this book, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is arm you to respond to mistreatment in a way that will bring you great blessing.
As you may know, my ministry involves speaking almost on a weekly basis at churches and conferences in the United States and throughout the world. As I talk to people and discern what’s on their hearts, overwhelmingly I am hearing that vast numbers of Christians are being tested by hard things in their lives.
Throughout the past year I’ve frequently asked during my messages, “For how many of you was the last year the toughest you have ever faced?” From 75 to 90 percent of those in attendance have raised their hands! This is just unprecedented in my experience. I believe God is up to something phenomenal.
Dr. Yongi Cho once said it this way:
I’ve got to die a thousand deaths before God begins to do something new in my life. One day I asked the Lord, “Why do I have to die one thousand deaths?” The Lord replied, “Because you have to have the character to handle what I’m about to place in you as far as responsibility goes.”
Often the hard things and suffering we face involve mistreatment by others. That’s why I believe God has given me this message to share with you in this book.
Once after I had given my message on how to respond to unfair treatment, a man in the audience—a teacher at a Bible school—was so ministered to by the content that he went home and listened to the message on tape eleven times. He told me that he turned the material into an academic course called “Christianity 101” because he believed every Christian needs to know how to respond to unfair treatment but hardly anyone receives teaching on this topic.
Here is what God promises to do on your behalf if you respond well to mistreatment:
• He will defend and vindicate you.
• He will bountifully bless you.
• You will grow in character and develop your spiritual muscles.
Let’s find out how all of this can come about in your life—to your benefit, the advancement of the kingdom of God, and—most important—to the glory of God.