Dr. Ian Paisley presenting me with his book on the 1859 Revival in Northern Ireland
(This post continues my conversation with Dr. Paisley, as I asked him more questions.)
5. There is an old Dutch saying that “he who stands in the front, gets kicked in the rear.” You have stood in the front most of your life both in church and in politics. How have you managed to cope with all the criticism that that entails—especially when, as David says, that your own familiar friends have lifted up their heel against you? What advice would you give to young ministers who are just beginning to face criticism?
Expect criticism. If you’re doing anything for the Lord, the devil will be aware of this. If a man is working for God, he is under attack. There is no discharge in this war.
Get the Lord’s armor of Ephesians 6 to cover you and the stones won’t touch you. You’re invincible when you have God’s armor on. Keep on the Lord’s way—which is usually through both difficult afflictions and joyful times—and decide throughout to be joyful in His ways.
Then, too, don’t forget that others are entitled to criticize you. This is part of the cross. We don’t need to be vindicated because we are only bearing Christ’s cross after Him. Our vindication will come on the Judgment Day, but even that is not important. Only Christ’s vindication is important; we are but unworthy servants.
If you respond to criticism well, then as you grow older in the Lord’s work, there comes a time when criticism just passes you by. It then does not really bother you much, as you have more to do with the Lord than with people. We need to remember that John 3:16 is enough for time and eternity.
6. As you look back over your long life, what is the best decision you ever made by God’s grace? What decision do you most regret?
By grace, the best decision I ever made was when I knelt at my mother’s knee at age 6 and received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. From that time on, I felt an urge to speak about Christ to others. I was privileged to lead my first convert to Christ at age 8. I had a friend who I would walk home with from school. One day he expressed his need to me for a Savior. I took him aside and explained the gospel to him. Together we found a place off of the beaten path where we knelt down together, prayed to God earnestly for His salvation, and my friend was truly saved that day. He has been walking with the Lord ever since and today is a faithful gospel minister.
What do I regret? I regret all my sins—and there are hundreds of them.
After this interview, Mrs. Paisley told us some stories of remarkable conversions connected with her husband’s ministry. I’ll just mention one of them. One man hated her husband so much that he moved to Texas to get away from his constant emphasis on the need for being born again. But once he was settled in Texas, Dr. Paisley’s voice kept ringing in his ears, “Ye must be born again”—to the point that the man fainted under the stress. A friend found him and helped him recover. He then told his friends about his spiritual struggles. His friend then said, “I have a tape you have to listen to.” Imagine how shocked the poor man was to discover the tape was by Dr. Paisley! He went home but refused to listen to it. Finally, to quiet his stormy conscience, he decided to listen to it, though he still hated the speaker. But as he listened, the Holy Spirit brought him powerfully to the cross and he was saved.
Wednesday evening, I preached for the last time on backsliding—this time to an overflow crowd. To my surprise, Dr. and Mrs. Paisley attended, together with their security guards. Due to Dr. Paisley’s weakness, they left immediately afterward. As we said farewell to each other, Dr. Paisley handed me a note.Like all the other evenings, the address was followed with a late-night supper. By the time all the goodbyes were said and I was back in my room, it was past midnight. I opened the note that Dr. Paisley handed me a few hours before as he was leaving the gathering:
For the Preacher
Thanks for showing us our Lord.
Blessed by His Name.