When I think about rejection, Colonel Harland Sanders often comes to mind. Most of you know him as the founder of KFC—Kentucky Fried Chicken. After the Second World War, he tried franchising his fried chicken recipe to restaurants, asking them to pay him only four cents for each piece of chicken they sold, but every restaurant rejected him.
He didn’t give up and kept going to one shop after another until the 1009th restaurant bought his recipe. Can you imagine getting over a thousand rejections? I would have given up after ten rejections. By then, I would think either my recipe or marketing strategy was useless. How many rejections can you handle?
There are many types of rejections. Of course, sales rejection might be the easiest to handle because you are proposing a transaction. Some other rejections are hard to handle. Particularly people turn down your kind gesture or reject you after you work very hard to make a passionate presentation.
Sometimes, criticisms are a form of rejection also. Some people are good at dumping criticism at you egotistically.
Handling rejection used to be hard for me. A desire for retaliation could brew inside me for days. Sometimes, it could explode after suppressing for a long time, but I am improving!
Sometimes, an unanswered prayer can make you feel rejected by God. Worse yet, a tragedy can make you feel rejected by the Holy One. I know of a pastor who led a thriving church. His wife played the piano, and their children sang in the children’s choir. The entire family was faithful and devoted to their services.
However, one day a car accident tragically killed the son. The father couldn’t handle it because he thought he didn’t deserve it after faithfully serving God. So he suddenly disappeared, leaving the church without a pastor, the wife without the husband, and the children without the father when they needed him most. He never returned home.
Surprisingly, years later, the daughter grew up and became a pastor. She told this story in heart-wrenching humor. There was not a single dried eye in the crowd. In the same tragedy, the father lost faith and felt rejected by God, but the daughter gained resilience and grew closer to God.
We live in a fallen world where we must deal with fallen people and unfair tragedies. God’s will is not always done here on earth, and that’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If God’s will is done here, it would have been heaven already.
How do you live in this fallen world? Jesus taught us resilience. Don’t forget that our Lord has been rejected numerous times by his own folks in his hometown to eventually being crucified on the cross. He was rejected from birth, having no place to be born, and his own king tried to hunt for him to kill him even before he was two years old.
He was even rejected by his Heavenly Father at the time he needed him most. He cried on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Did he deserve it? Throughout the Bible, we read about his faithful service to God. He had every right to ask that question. He knows rejection!
No one in this world understands you more than Jesus. So, if you feel rejected, Jesus is the one you need to learn from. He taught his disciples to handle rejection through resilience because that’s the only way to live through this fallen world. You need resilience not only to survive but also to serve effectively.
So, today we will learn how Jesus taught us to be resilient so that we can stop reacting to rejections and facing unnecessary stress, anxiety, depression, and broken relationships. Let’s begin!
[Hi! In case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The scripture lesson is from the Gospel according to Luke 9:51–62. [Listen to the Word of the Lord.]
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:51–62).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. He had been to the city at least every year since childhood, but he knew this was the journey of no return. He would be rejected and crucified, so this is his last chance to reach out on the road and to prepare his disciples to carry on his mission on earth.
As I said, the signs and symptoms of this fallen world are broken relationships—among families, friends, and nations. Jesus’ ministry is to mend the broken relationships of this world. One of the immediate instances of broken relationships was between the Jews and the Samaritans.
If Jesus were to fix the broken relationships in the world, he might want to start with these cussing cousins in his own neighborhood. Samaria was on his way to Jerusalem, so it’s reasonable to stop by there to deliver his message of mediation and reconciliation.
He sent his disciples ahead to arrange his stay and venue to teach, but the Samaritans rejected them. The disciples were outraged. Like most Jews in those days, they could have skirted the Samaria to go to Jerusalem. They stopped by there to reach out as a sign of a kind gesture, but they didn’t honor their friendship tour.
The disciples felt insulted by their rejection, and they wanted to retaliate. The Bible says,
When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54).
Hospitality is a hidden commandment in the Bible. Even though God has never stated directly, we have read many instances where God delivered severe punishment to the people that failed to provide hospitality. Sodom and Gomorrah were among them.
Instead of providing hospitality, the citizens of those cities wanted to rape the handsome guests. They were handsome because they were angels. That was the last straw that broke the camel’s neck. God rained down fire to consume the two cities for their inhospitality.
Maybe Jesus had told them previously that those villages that didn’t provide hospitality would suffer worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. So, James and John thought it was time to avenge the rejection by exercising their authority to command fire to come down on them.
But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. (Luke 9:55-56).
Jesus rebuked them because the disciples had forgotten Jesus’ instructions. If any village did not provide hospitality, their job was to shake the dust off and leave for another village. Retaliation was not their job but God’s. As the Bible says, “Vengence is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
For the time being, retaliation will only break the relationship further. However, that’s human nature to feel embarrassed and enraged by rejection and fall right into the devil’s trap of ruining relationships further. Just a few verses up, Jesus instructed them to move on when they were not welcome.
Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5).
So the first principle of cultivating resilience over rejection is to realize that the world is vast and you have more than enough places to welcome you. One of the best-selling authors who had written 20 bestsellers says that less than one percent of the world knows him. I’ve never thought of that way; I thought everyone would know him unless they were hiding under the rocks.
He is right. There are over 7 billion people in this world. 1% of it would be 70 million people. No bestseller has ever reached 70 million people. That means if 70 million people reject you, that is only 1% of the population. You still have 99% of the world that potentially love you.
So the first principle of cultivating resilience over rejection is to listen to what Jesus said, “Move on!”
1. Move On
“Move on, my son. Move on, my daughter.” The world is vast. Go to the next town. Your mission is to mend the relationships, not to make them worse. Jesus wants you to leave the job of condemnation to God and keep the mindset of “the world is big enough for me to find many good friends.”
Three opportunities came for Jesus to teach the disciples further on the road.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58).
Some people think, “If I follow Christ, my life would be easy, prosperous, and problem-free,” but Jesus showed them the reality he experienced himself. Whenever he addressed himself as “the Son of Man,” he was talking as the Messiah because that’s how the Messiah identified himself. That means there were times even God didn’t have a place to stay overnight. So, the second lesson is,
2. Expect Rejection
When Jesus was on the cross, he prayed to God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” It means people reject you because they don’t know what they are doing. So, expect rejection. If you treat rejection as inevitable, you become resilient and able to forgive.
Even though it seems the dialog was between Jesus and the potential followers, he was using the opportunity to teach his disciples because they knew the Samaritans had rejected him and gave him no place to lay his head. It sounds tragic, but don’t forget Jesus’ Jewish sense of humor, which is not apparent in the text.
In other words, he was saying, “James and John, don’t retaliate. I expect rejection, and so should you. Don’t think you are an exception just because you follow me. You might encounter even more rejections because of me. That’s the cost of discipleship.” Then he taught them the next lesson,
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60).
Again, keep Jesus’ sense of humor in mind. Otherwise, you would miss the punchlines. At this point, Jesus may still be in Samaria, moving from one village to another seeking hospitality. Being unhospitable, they were as good as dead.
The following sentence reveals that Jesus wants us to know our priorities. Of course, Jesus loves those who honor their parents. But the kingdom has to be the top priority. If you are too busy for God, you are too busy. So, the third lesson is,
3. Know Your Priority
Jesus said, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33).
The kingdom is the place for healthy relationships. If the disciples prioritized retaliation, they would have become part of the dog-eat-dog world. This world urgently needs salvation from broken relationships.
You might worry what if I fail my filial duty, which is one of the Ten Commandments, but you must also know your priority because filial duty is the fifth commandment, not the first. Furthermore, Jesus will reward you for knowing your priority.
And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Lk 18:29–30).
Jesus knows your sacrifice, and he will never forget the price you pay for following him. Then Jesus taught the third lesson.
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61–62).
Sometimes we appear to move on from rejection but keep revisiting it over and over again as if a farmer with his hand on the plow and looking back. We seem to have forgiven them but keep counting the cost. So, the fourth lesson on building resilience over rejection is,
4. Don’t Regurgitate
When the angels helped Lot’s family escape the fire in Sodom, they told them not to look back, but Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. If you drive your car with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake, it will destroy the vehicle soon.
Once you decide to move on, move on! Don’t regurgitate, don’t regret, and don’t regress. Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Always remember, Jesus will write the last chapter, and he will tie up loose ends. You don’t have to worry about what you have left behind. Don’t look back.
There we have it. Four practices to cultivate resilience over rejections:
1. Move On
2. Expect Rejection
3. Know Your Priority
4. Don’t Regurgitate
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.