Philippians 2:13-16 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life…
Like vines and brush across a narrow path, I tried to step over it but tripped instead. The last several weeks have been trying. As potential begins to yield purpose, and breakthrough is just around the corner – opposition always rises up. With come the words hard to swallow, the complaints and grumbling of our flesh with deep offense at the conditions of life or circumstances surrounding us. It is a bitter pill to swallow laced with pride and indignation. Peter gave in to it from time to time and as one of the most vocal disciples it creeps up in the Bible’s text. In John 19:27, Peter in a sharp discussion with the Lord says these words, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Unmet expectation is the faith stealing, joy killer and hope buster that is problematic for many believers. When God does not do it the way one thinks that He should, or perhaps when we think He would or even worse according to our idea of how it should have been done. I have given up everything to follow you Jesus now this… ever feel that way? I do sometimes when I let complaining take over my life.
For God is working in you… I was talking to a gentleman about to undergo radiation therapy for cancer. He knows that our son also had extensive radiation. Talking with him, I did not want to create an unrealistic expectation of the treatment. It is an excellent weapon against cancer. It starts off relatively painless just a bit of a sensation inside. Over time as the therapy progresses, it begins to work its way from the inside of the pinpoint laser delivering it to manifest on the outside. It can cause the surface of the skin to have symptoms that rise up from the inside where the radiation is concentrated. There may be some collateral damage. Most importantly with any type of cancer therapy, because they are all unpleasant, it is important to stay focused on the goal. Remission. A clean PET scan. An extension of our natural life. We must always keep our eyes on the destination because there will be obstacles along the way if the journey is worth the outcome. As God works inside of us, our flesh dies. I used to say at the gym, “Sweat is the tears of fat slowly dying.” If you have given the Lord permission, invited Him to work things out in your life for His Good and Glory, expect your situation to change. Know that He is changing you. It may be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Friend, it is always, always worth it.
“Giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him…” I want to please the Lord with my natural life. Some do and some don’t. Some will actually pass on eternal life because of the fear of letting go of some things here and not being satisfied with the outcome. Why must the Lord change my desire? Because I will always want less than He has for me, settle for substitutions, and in the name of comfort compromise. It is my nature. I must change the way that I think, move, breathe and exist to allow the God inside of me to make His Way out into my life. It all begins inside of me. Big gulp…the hardest part comes next.
“Do EVERYTHING without grumbling or complaining.” Ugh! There it is – spoiler alert – it is a Biblical mandate on my life to stop grumbling and complaining. God knows every detail of my life even when this passage was written centuries before my birth. He knew me and supplied all the grace and power necessary for me to overcome every obstacle thanks to the Christ in me. The pressures of life often give way to complaining. I will be the first to admit – I have been complaining about my job a lot lately. I love my job. It is a good position. However, it has been an exceptionally tough season with a gigantic transition. It is not going to last a short time but is clearly going to be awhile before things come together and are in order. The extreme conditions make complaining seem natural and acceptable…for some. I am not of this world. The Power in me is far greater than any circumstance or situation in my life. Do my words express His Power or give precedence to my problem?
James 3:2 (NLT) For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
James 3:8-12 (NLT) But no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
In our last house, there was a swimming pool. One step in caring for the pool was testing the water to make sure the chemicals were just right and favorable for swimming. When there was a great deal of rain, it would wash pollen and other naturally occurring substances into the pool creating a high phosphate level that required special treatment. It was more expensive than other chemicals but necessary to keep the water clean and clear. The home test kits did not pick up the level of phosphates. It would be discovered by the chemical analyzer at the pool store. The professionals would have to find it and give me the proper treatment. In life, rain is going to fall. Storms will come. The atmosphere of our life is not always favorable. Let’s face it. Bad things happen to good people. It is important that in such conditions – we test the content and quality of our conversation. What are we saying? Who are we saying it to? Are my words filled with life or death? Praise or contempt? Who are they directed at? The Word of God is the litmus test of life for the believer. It guides, instructs and teaches us the knowledge needed to apply to our life and create wisdom. Wisdom is the lifestyle of those who are blessing and prosperous. When I decide that I am dissatisfied with my life, I am telling God that He is not meeting my expectations or doing a good job. No one else. My life belongs to Jesus Christ. If it is not what I think it should be, He is the One responsible to change it. Not my family, my friends, my boss or coworkers – Jesus is the One.
Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NLT) I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
If the Word of God concerning my life is true and if Jesus truly is set on giving me a rich and satisfying life while doing more than I can even think to ask for, it is all about the waiting. He has given a place of refuge and peace to wait in called the watchtower. I stand guard over my heart in that place by filtering my words through the Word of God and listing His Promises not my problems. It is the place where my vision aligns with His Perspective rather than focusing on the conditions of life as I know it. I see through eyes of faith the confident hope that I have in Him. The kind of hope that never leads to disappointment and is worth waiting for. Impatience in the waiting gives way to grumbling and complaining. Complaining sows seeds of doubt and fear that become bitterness if continually fed with more grumbling. Pride feeds on the harvest of complaining and suddenly it gives way to wandering and disobedience as one decides if it’s going to happen then I must do it myself.
In the Old Testament, the Children of Israel complained about freedom and wanted to go back into slavery. Fear of the unknown will often compel us back to what is known. Don’t go. There was a group of Levites who did not like their position in ministry, so they complained to Moses. Shortly after, the ground opened, swallowing them and all their possessions. Complaining will forfeit our new life in Christ to become absorbed by the world and worldly things that bring temporary satisfaction rather than long-term completion. In Nehemiah, Judah gave way to complaining. The ones who led worship were tired and let others know. Who would lead the worshippers if the praise team quit? Job of all people felt the right to complain. (Job 6) But in Job 10, Job has reached an all-time low and says, “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain. Complaining always sows seeds of bitterness. Every time you utter the slightest dissatisfaction in your condition in Christ, it is a seed that must be dealt with.
When our son was undergoing radiation, about two-thirds of the way through his skin began to “break down”. This means that the heat of the radiation burning away the cancer was also destroying his skin. Our middle son is extremely fair. His skin turned a bright red and one morning just started to break open with intense heat rising from the wounds. I will not gross you out with details or descriptions but all I could think of as I attempted to offer comfort and apply the ointment was he has every right to complain. I told him that very thing and he said to me, “Mom, what good would it do if I complained? Would it make cancer go away? Would it make the pain stop? Would it do anything for me? No. So I am not going to complain because it will do no good.” Such profound words from an unsuspecting college student thrust into a life uncertain. I will never forget that moment when my heart broke open and I asked the Lord to forgive my wayward and wandering heart. I needed the coal from His Altar to touch my lips that complained about the hard bed with the plastic cover that was a bit uncomfortable. Lesson learned.
Your life may not be extreme today. Just filled with “ordinary” problems and some “inconvenient” problems, what you do with such opportunities are game changers in life. Complaining does nothing but complicate things. It is unclear our position. Our heart begins to waver uncertain of its commitment. Soon our thoughts give way to discouragement and then disappointment not of God but to whom we give all credit. Take your right hand. Put it firmly over your mouth. Say with me, through your tight clasped fingers, “Holy Spirit, filter my words for life today and remove any foul thing among them. Teach me your vocabulary to replace my doubt-filled vernacular. Give me wisdom to speak your praise when I want to grumble and complain. Let me see the Face of Jesus rather than focusing on the giants today.
“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life…”
Micah 6:1-3 (NLT) Listen to what the Lord is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints. And now, O mountains, listen to the Lord’s complaint! He has a case against his people. He will bring charges against Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me!
The Lord invites you to His Complaint Department today. The watchtower is open. It is a waiting room. It is His Presence. The place to leave all unmet expectation so the Lord can complete His Good Work uninterrupted by fear or doubt but pushed on by our faith in His Faithfulness. Our words should always express allegiance to Jesus Christ. Complaining and grumbling gives glory to a weak and inattentive god who doesn’t exist rather than an all-powerful, ever-present and always on-time God who is good and gives His Glory to His Children. What will you do with your words today? Life and power are in the tongue. It is up to you to decide how to use it. In His Presence, there is a new perspective. When His Unfailing Love and Overwhelming Goodness make it into our thick and hard hearts, suddenly there is very little to complain and grumble about because He is enough to change our heart and mind. God you are good! Help me to silence complaining and dismiss it from my life. You are a Good God. You are more than enough!
Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT) Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.