This week I am paying tribute to a very influential figure the Lord placed in my life. This week I am paying tribute to my friend, Pastor Ronald Cannon.
1 Peter 2:19 For God is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience, you patiently endure unfair treatment. 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing right and are patient beneath the blows, God is pleased with you. 21 This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by his wounds! NLT
More than once I saw people attack Pastor Cannon over some disagreement. On a few occasions, I witnessed his accusers being down-right cruel. Human nature tells us to fight back whenever someone attacks us, but Pastor Cannon taught me the importance of allowing God to take care of our enemies.
I remember once when Pastor Cannon shared with the staff an important word of wisdom. “Gentlemen, you must toughen your hides while softening your hearts.” Anyone who has ever had to deal with people knows that this is easier said than done. The natural tendency is for us to have a ‘soft hide and a hard heart.’
Yet Peter tells us that when insults were hurled at Jesus, our Savior did not try to retaliate. He did not argue back or threaten to get even. Instead He entrusted His situation to His heavenly Father who always does what is right.
Pastors are not the only ones who sometimes get broadsided with unjust criticism. As sure as you try to do anything that is right, there is going to be someone who will oppose you. How can we endure and go on whenever we are tempted to quit and give up?
One of the lessons Pastor Cannon taught me was that no matter what – you have to keep moving forward. Let the critics say and do what they will, but you must keep doing what you know to be right. Billy Graham used to say that he never went back to answer his critics. He kept his focus upon doing the right things.
Nehemiah is another great example of this important truth. Day after day his enemies tried to stop him from repairing the walls; but instead of heeding their criticism and stopping the work, Nehemiah simply replied, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down; why should the work cease, whist I leave it, and come down to you? (Neh 6:3) If men like Nehemiah, Pastor Cannon or Billy Graham had quit the first time they were criticized; their ministries would have ended almost before they got started.
Regardless of whether or not others agreed with him, Pastor Cannon persevered for over 50 years in the ministry. As I informed my daughters the other day about his death, one of them replied – “He finished well.” Indeed he did.