Cornerstone

“When we complain we reject and overlook the love that God gives us constantly in our lives. When life is hard, instead of complaining we ought to find our refuge in Him. The Lord meets us in our distress, and instead of complaining we must lavish ourselves in His love.”

A few weeks ago I preached on Philippians 2:12-18, where Paul gives a difficult command in v. 14: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” These words can be summarized as complaining: do all things without complaining. This speaks not only to our tendency to complain externally, but to our tendency to do so internally in our hearts as well.

For Paul, this is the practical, on-the-ground application of the command to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.” Salvation is not a trophy to be placed on a shelf, but a gift to be employed, put into practice in our lives, touching every single corner of every thought, action, behavior, and decision. In treating salvation as a gift, we please God (v. 13) and “shine as lights” (v. 15). This “shining as lights” means that when we live this way we glorify God with our lives.

In the sermon I outlined 10 ways that our complaining undermines God’s glory in our lives, and I thought it would be helpful to share them with you here so that you can think over and meditate on them.

  1. Complaining is Pride. When we complain we are saying that “I deserve better”, and our model, Jesus Himself, did not complain but humbly and obediently follow His Father, even to the point of death on a cross (v. 8)
  2. Complaining is Passive. The whole thrust of this passage is to be active and not passive, in our sanctification and lives as Christians. But complaining is inherently passive. It gives the illusion of doing something without actually ever doing anything! For example, if your community group isn’t what it should be, instead of complaining, do something to make it better.
  3. Complaining sees God in light of our circumstances, not our circumstances in light of God. In v. 17-18 Paul describes his joy in his imprisonment, even in the midst of the possibility of death. How can Paul have joy like this in such terrible circumstances? Because he sees his circumstances in light of God, and not the other way around.
  4. Complaining undermines God’s value. When we complain we are elevating the value of the issue over the value of what we are given in Christ. Complaining says, “this issue is worse than God is good”. When we act this way we make God look small and unsatisfying.
  5. Complaining makes us the judge of the universe. When we grumble and complain we place ourselves in the seat of “judge”. We pretend to be God when we complain: we have a law that has been broken, a sense of justice, and we carry out that justice, pouring out our wrath of anger and hatred and condemnation towards whoever breaks our law. But we are not the judge, only God is.
  6. Complaining distracts us from God’s purpose. Few things distract our minds more than complaining. Why? There is always something to complain about. You can complain that there are 10 points in this post, or that your computer isn’t as fast “as it should be”, or that the weather is too cold, or too windy, or too sunny, or too hot, whatever. You can always find something to complain about in a world that is imperfect.
  7. Complaining undermines thankfulness. I say this all the time, but you cannot be thankful and complain at the same time. You can complain and be thankful in successive moments, but at the moment you complain, your heart is empty and devoid of thankfulness.
  8. Complaining denies God’s promises. God promises that all things, even the hard things, somehow work for our good. We complain about little things not going our way, and yet God promises that everything, whether small trials and tribulations or large trials and tribulations, works for our good.
  9. Complaining blinds us from our identity. In v. 15, not complaining is connected to being “blameless and innocent children of God”. When we complain we forget who we are in Christ, children of the living God, and what eternally glorious gifts we have been given as His children.
  10. Complaining rejects God’s love. When we complain we reject and overlook the love that God gives us constantly in our lives. When life is hard, instead of complaining we ought to find our refuge in Him. The Lord meets us in our distress, and instead of complaining we must lavish ourselves in His love.

During this holiday season and beyond, may we treat our salvation as a precious gift and live our lives with gratitude, glorifying our good God.

Matt Kleinhans

Matt serves Cornerstone by overseeing Family Ministries.

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