Saved From Public Opinion

During the time we served with Peoples Church of Montreal, I had the opportunity to speak at some chapel services for some National League baseball teams. I enjoyed getting to meet some of the popular players during the mid-eighties. One of the lasting impressions from my fellowship with those Christian athletes was the stress of their high profile lives. Their salaries are big, but the pressures are huge. So much rides on their game-by-game performance. When they make a great play, the fans erupt in applause; that must feel great ! When they make an error, the stands vent their frustration with ‘boos.’ That must feel terrible. What a roller coaster experience–going from celebrity to villain and back, depending on how the ball bounces!

This phenomenon is not limited to sports figures. We can all relate to the pleasure of a compliment, as well as the pain of a put-down. Many have experienced years of rejection from important people in their lives. This pattern puts down layers of emotional hurts that typically prompt defense mechanisms, coping strategies, and various attempts to get one’s needs met.

Needs and Fulfillment

We were all created with basic personal needs. For example, we need a sense of belonging, a sense of worth, and a sense of competence. Due to living outside of the Garden of Eden, the people around us seem to take turns sabotaging our quest to get our personal needs met. How often we look to the opinions of others to determine our sense of success or failure, of worth or worthlessness, of competence or incompetence. Some manage to perform well enough to get a reasonable amount of positive feedback from others. Most of us seem to lack fulfillment, failing to measure up to the expectations of ourselves and others. [1]

Enter God’s amazing love! God intends for His children to discover how He can meet their ultimate needs here and now. No wonder the Lord Jesus said, “… I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).

As we become disillusioned with the relational debts of others toward us, we discover the limitless provision of God in Christ (See Eph 1:3). We are to find the resources for fulfillment in our personal relationship with Christ–whether or not other people accept us. As Paul testified, “And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19, Amplified Bible).

When the “eyes of our understanding are enlightened,” we are delighted to discover that

  • we belong to God, being adopted into His international, forever family.
  • We have worth in Christ, redeemed by His priceless atonement.
  • We are competent, because our competence comes through the all-sufficient grace of God (Eph. 1:18; Gal. 3:26; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2 Cor. 3:5,6).[2]

We need to cry out, “You are my portion, O LORD” (Psalm 119:57a). Evan Hopkins commented,

“We are not only saved from eternal death by the reception of the gift [of regeneration]–we are enriched by it … The fullness of grace and glory that gift contains is intended to meet every need of the soul as it arises. If I am conscious of needs not met, it is for me to discover by His Holy Spirit the divine provision in Him that will meet those needs.” [3]

Freedom from Peer Pressure

Since these needs are met through our spiritual union with Christ, why be bound by the opinions of others? Why base your value on the acceptance of people? Why feel worthless when others don’t show appreciation? Why feel incompetent when folks don’t praise your best efforts? Why feel lonely when you’re not part of the in crowd? The essential condition for freedom from public opinion is to stay focused on Christ as your all-in-all.

Our Lord Jesus was not exempt from hostile public opinion. His opponents accused Him of being a demon-possessed Samaritan (John 8:48). Such blasphemy did not deter Him because He knew His identity–the great I AM! (John 10:58).  In His home town of Nazareth the people spurned His message and tried to kill Him! (Luke 4:1-30; See John 1:46).  Yet Jesus had incomparable power, peace and poise. How? As the Last Adam he depended totally on the love of the Father, made humanly experiential by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45; Phi.l 2:5-11). His needs for belonging, worth, and competence were met by the Father, who declared at Jesus’ baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:1-17).

And how did the apostles cope with public ridicule? The early Christians were despised by society and harshly persecuted. Yet Paul testified that their needs were met in God:

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:7-11).

William Nicholson’s Breakthrough

William Nicholson needed to learn these lessons to be fruitful as an evangelist. While attending a conference on victorious living He began to grasp “the Exchanged Life” (Gal. 2:20). “I began to understand that I could not attain this life by self effort or ceremonies… it was not an attainment, but an obtainment.

But there was an obstacle that Nicholson needed to overcome to be truly effective in God’s ministry. He confessed, “The fear of man was a dreadful snare, and I was helpless about it. I was ashamed of Christ, and ashamed of being seen with out-and-out Christians. I was a sneak and a coward, if ever there was one. I despised myself, but was helpless about it…”

God’s providence is tailor made for teaching us necessary lessons. Nicholson continued his account:

“The Salvation Army came to our town. The Corps was composed of two wee girls in uniform. They held open-air meetings and made noise with their tambourines. Their first soldier was a man called Daft Jimmy. He had hardly enough brains to give him a headache, but he had sense enough to get saved. He carried the flag as they marched the streets. On his jersey, a red one, he had the women put with white yarn these words on his back, ‘Saved from public opinion.'”

Nicholson tried negotiating with the Lord to evade the inner conviction that he should openly identify with these brave witnesses. “I said, ‘Lord, I will be willing to go to Timbuctoo or Hong Kong, or even die as a martyr.’  I couldn’t get out of it. I became more and more miserable and oh, so hungry for freedom and victory.”

Finally Nicholson knew that the condition for the Spirit-filled life was total surrender, so he went down to the shore there in Ireland and called upon God in resolute prayer, opening every aspect of his life to God’s control. He took God at His word and sensed a great blessing: “Hallelujah! What a thrill, what a peace, what a joy!… [then] The very thing I dreaded most before receiving the blessing, about the Salvation Army meeting, was faced. I couldn’t say I was very happy about it; but I told the Lord I would do what He wanted, cost what it may. So I went to the open-air meeting on a Saturday night…”

Nicholson went on to describe his hesitant walk to their meeting and his embarrassment when he heard some laughter and jeers from the gathered crowd. Then he related,

“The officer prayed a telegram prayer–short and to the point. I could have wished the prayer had been as long as the 119th Psalm. I stood up, blushing and nervous … then to my horror [one of the girls] said, ‘Brother! Take this tambourine and lead the march down the street to the Barracks.’ I couldn’t let a girl beat me, so I took it. That did it. My shackles fell off, and I was free; my fears were all gone. I started down the street, whether in the body or out of the body, I can’t tell. I lost my reputation, and the fear of man; joy and peace and glory filled me. I can see now, and understand why the Lord dealt with me so drastically. I would never, I believe, come right through and out-and-out for Christ in any other way … I was naturally timid and shy.”

The Irish evangelist went on to have a fruitful ministry over several decades, circling the globe ten times and seeing thousands of people saved by God’s grace. [4]

During Christ’s public ministry many fence-sitters missed out on the grace of fully identifying with Jesus. As John recorded, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42). And why did they hold back? “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). They were not free from public opinion.

Let us boldly identify ourselves with the our Savior and Lord–the Lord of lords and King of kings.  Jesus promised, “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12:26).  With such hope we can live securely in God’s favor and be saved from public opinion.

[1] See The Rejection Syndrome and The Way to Acceptance, by Charles R. Solomon. (available through

[2] These three needs and their fulfillment are adapted from the GFI Exchanged Life Conference.

[3] Evan Hopkins, Broken Bread, (Zondervan), Aug. 21.

[4] V. Raymond Edman, They Found the Secret, (Zondervan), pp.100-103

A couple I appreciated fellowship with was Tim and Christine Burke. Their story is published in the book, Major League Dad (Focus on the Family).

Copyright by John Woodward, 2000. Permission is granted to reprint this article for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.