Philippians 2:14: Do all things without grumbling and complaining.
This is a verse that I taught my children a few years ago as we went through an ABC Bible memorization book. The verse in and of itself is very simple, but its application is broad, deep, and far reaching. God’s desire is that we would not grumble or complain about anything…anything at all.
The root of complaining is discontentment and entitlement. A person complains when they feel like their circumstances should be better or that they feel they are entitled to better circumstances. The amazing thing is that complaining is not just single act like saying an expletive. Complaining is corruptive. The heart and mind that complains over poor service at a restaurant stays angry, discontent, and entitled for a long period of time. Typically, we blame the circumstance for our bad mood, but in reality, the bad mood is because of heart of complaint. And…a heart of complaint is not easily changed.
Consider the list of things that can set most people or perhaps yourself off on a rant: your job, the lack thereof, the weather, service from a waiter/waitress, the government, your health, your age, other people’s efforts, and the list goes on and on. When you complain, you essentially set yourself above other people, institutions, God, or whomever else you are angry with, and your heart cries, “I could do a better job.”
That’s the insidious nature of complaining. It really is about self-righteousness. Often when I hear someone grumbling, their complaint is tagged with, “I would never do that to someone,” or “That’s why I never do that,” or “I can’t believe that they did that.” Each one of those statements is a declaration of self-righteousness. That attitude means that others are wrong because they are not as good as you are which stinks of self-righteousness like rotten meat.
There is even a temptation to do certain things certain ways so that we can tell others that they have wronged us and we have done it correctly. (This is an awful pattern of many parents). Obedience is a good example, but using it to complain about someone is not obedience. That is self-serving. A tendency to do everything perfectly so you can say “I do it right” is idolatry. It is not obedience out of desire to worship God but obedience with the purpose of recommending yourself.
The opposite of complaining though is contentment, and the best example of that is of course Jesus Christ. If there is such a thing as a right to complain, Jesus would have had it, yet He didn’t. He found joy in difficult circumstances, and His example of enduring trials sets a pattern for our lives. When facing the cross, He prayed to His Father for the “cup” to be passed from Him, but ended that prayer with, “Not my will but yours be done.”
There is the cure for complaining: offering our desires to God but submitting to His perfect will. For all of us, recognizing the creator/creature distinction cures our ills. So today, as your day progresses, give someone a break and don’t complain about them. If the annoyance rises to the level of complaint, offer it to God, and pray for His perfect will to be done. Realize that there are purposes to your circumstances that are beyond our understanding at times, and pray for peace.
This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25
You know some of us, really struggle with hope. It is easy to do in these economic times. One of the causes for this struggle with hope is the frustration that comes about when we don’t get the thing for which we hope. So, I guess hope for most folks has its limitations.
Why is that? I would offer that our hope has its limitations because of our narcissistic nature. We will hope in something as long as we know that we are going to get it which begs the question, “Is that really hope at all?”
For example, when your children ask for something and you say that it is way too expensive, somewhere deep down inside, they still think they are going to get it. Why? Because most folks pretty much get their children whatever it is that they want.
Whenever we want something, we might say we are hoping to get it, but deep down inside we know we can charge it or we expect someone to get it for us. And if we don’t get what we want? We become disillusioned and disappointed and depressed. You might make them wait, but aside from asking for a plane or something outrageous, most kids get what they want.
In all honesty, we don’t know what hope is because we either aren’t patient enough to wait and we just go get what we want for ourselves or we just get angry and write off anybody or anything that doesn’t serve us immediately. We are in essence spoiled brats.
But Paul says here, hope is the essence of salvation. It is only hope if it is unseen which means it is beyond our grasp or beyond our ability to get it for ourselves. If we only hope for things that we know we can get for ourselves or for things that we know people will get for us, it is not hope. It is impossible for us to take part in the grand redemption story that Jesus is undertaking or to properly serve our role as God’s children though unless we have a true, honest, earnest, hope and patient waiting for God.
Unfortunately, what gets in our way of having hope is our low view of God. We think He is constantly ready to destroy His children when He is actually about redeeming them. We see every difficulty in the day to day as God’s curse and forget that God desires to redeem and not destroy His children.
Spurgeon put it this way, “My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are ready to sin. He is more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus.”
Since we are so impatient and don’t want to live in hope but instead want everything we want right now, we as a consequence live without hope or without great faith in God. You can’t very well point people to the hope they should have unless you have hope. You can’t tell people that God can save a marriage unless you are willing to wait and trust that He is going to save yours. You can’t tell people about hope unless it is the thing by which you yourself live. That is why the witness of the church is often so weak…it lacks hope.
The question is, “What are you hoping for? Who or what are you trusting to bring about the thing for which you hope? Do you have stories of patience in waiting and hoping? What have you learned from those times?”
I invite your feedback and look forward to being encouraged by your response.
Recently, we designed and distributed a prayer journal at Sovereign King to enable people to grow their prayer life in both depth and frequency. We hope to launch a variation of the journal online eventually, but for now, we are just hoping people are enjoying more honest and personal prayer times in their relationship with Jesus.
The effort came about as we surveyed the landscape around us. Often, when times are most difficult, people want to pray, but they just don’t know how too. I recently found another resource that I thought was helpful. I’m a big fan of the folks at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, and they publish the fantastic “The Journal of Biblical Counseling” (a journal I used to subscribe to and need to again). In their Fall ’04 issue (vol 22, number 4), they included an article entitled, “In the Eye of the Storm: Dealing with Crisis.” It gives the following practical approach to helping folks (or yourself) when faced with crisis. They list the 3 choices that people have to make.
1. Will you see and rely on the Lord?
Or will you try to cope alone? Is your response to crisis God-centered or problem-centered? Do you see crises as a wonderful blessing that kicks away all those props that you have been leaning on in place of the Lord?
2. Will you use a heart-centered approach or a problem-centered approach?
Will you answer real questions like, “What is God doing in my life?” “How is He teaching me to trust Him?” “What sins do I need to confess?” “How can I learn to trust Christ in this area?” “What does faith and repentance look like in this area?”
- Will you let the body of Christ help?
Or will you try to handle the crisis alone? Will you approach the crisis in an isolated, individualistic way or allow the body of Christ to be the body of Christ to you?
These thoughts, of course, do not answer all the questions that people have during difficult times, but for some of us who are going through (or helping people go through) crisis, this is a good pattern to follow in seeking healthy process, petition, and praise of God.