I want to cover an issue I can't claim to have
mastered. I can't declare this and say, "come up here". What I do say
is, "let's go together".
I read of a challenge once: You and your friend or family,
agree to go a whole day without complaining. The writer said no one he
had known made it. My wife, the children and I took ‘the challenge'.
None of us made it. As soon as you start the day, you begin realizing
how many different things can be classified as complaints. It's hard to
come back from a garage sale, having caught the seller in an outright
lie, and not say a word about it in the car. There are legitimate times
to complain, and even necessary times. Unfortunately, the complaining
usually goes beyond the legitimate.
Paul mentioned this trait, and how it should be for
Christians. Not only how it should be, but how crucial to our Christian
witness it is:
13 For it is God which
worketh in you both to will and to
do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and
disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God,
without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among
whom ye shine as lights in the world;
With a complaining attitude, you simply
don't "will". Paul
tells us the correction comes from God working in us. He will give us
the proper attitude and patience needed to deal with the trial.
The Christian who conducts his life, notably void of
murmuring, grumbling, or complaining, will stand out from the rest of
the world. It's important to note Paul said, "That ye may be blameless
and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke,". A murmuring attitude
is blameworthy and harmful. Paul indicated the world does it - "crooked
and perverse", but we can't participate. It tarnishes our testimony. We
clearly can't be radiating a joyful, holy life, if we're complaining
about whatever befalls us.
God directs the footsteps in the lives of His faithful
children. If He deems it necessary for such as Joseph to spend years as
a slave and prisoner, who would Joseph have been to complain against
God's decree? In the end, those events brought about the greater glory.
[It doesn't tell us Joseph complained. He sought deliverance, but
didn't complain. Such complaining would be a form of self-pity.
(Genesis 37:2- 41:57)]
I. This Dangerous Problem DISSECTING A COMPLAINT
We look at complaining as an act, but it's not so much an
act as it's a manifestation of our heart. The natural man views its
environment with a judgmental, condemning slant. It views everything,
to see how it measures up to its ideal, and condemns whatever falls
short. It also dwells on the failures. The successes, managing to
escape condemnation, are few.
Take a look at the people who complain frequently:
1 This know also, that in
the last days perilous times
shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous,
boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful,
unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers,
incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors,
heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Look closely at this passage. Notable of the thoroughly
vile, is that their characteristics would flourish in a complaining,
discontented atmosphere. Seeing that murmuring, complaining and
grumbling would be at home with this crowd (as drunkenness is with
alcohol), this gives us a warning as to what the general nature of
murmuring is. "Birds of a feather, flock together."
The following passage melts in smoothly with this theme:
10 As it is written,
There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after
God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become
unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their
throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit;
the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of
cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16
Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have
they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This shows the murmuring heart is part of the core of a
godless, self-seeking individual. Notice the "peace have they not
known:". A murmuring heart is never at peace. Where there's peace,
there isn't a heart of discontentment.
Further examples are found in Jude:
16 These are murmurers,
complainers, walking after their
own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's
persons in admiration because of advantage.
Take special note of these murmurers. You see they,
"speaketh great swelling words,". Great complainers are so confident.
They complain about everything, proclaiming their own
self-righteousness. They tell us how they could do it right, if it was
in their hands. These are the sort of people that work behind the
scenes to stir up a heart of revolution in people. They stir up
discontentment with the authorities. They mock them with bumper
stickers and crude T-shirts, dirty jokes and such things. The
scriptures fervently warn us to stay away from such as these:
21 My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not
with them that are given to change: 22 For their calamity shall rise
suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?
Proverbs 24:21, 22
This is clear. It warns us to have nothing to do with
political discontents. Recognize that the authorities are part of God's
I read of an old woman in Chinese history. The emperor was
very cruel. He found out this old woman prayed for him. He had her
brought to him to find out why she prayed for him, for no one liked
him. She said that two rulers ago, she had prayed for that wicked ruler
to be removed. He was and a worse took his place. She prayed for that
ruler to be removed, and someone even worse took his place. She didn't
want this present ruler to be removed for she feared what would come
after him, seeing the current pattern. (This shamed the ruler.)
We need to realize the political scene will never be right
until the Millennium. Right now, our responsibility is not to complain
about government, but to faithfully preach and live the Gospel.
Another proverb gives us a final warning to stay away from
the murmuring crowd:
24 Make no friendship
with an angry man; and with a furious
man thou shalt not go: 25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to
Proverbs 22:24, 25
If you like complaining, you're not alone. Moses knew a
whole host of your type. He bore with them for forty years. The whole
congregation of Israel, which Moses led out of Egypt, never stopped
complaining. The reason they complained? They had no faith in God. If
they simply had faith in His provision (Hebrews 3:7-19), they wouldn't
have seen difficulties as barricades to wail about. They would have
seen them as opportunities for God's glory to be further manifested.
They would have been causes for rejoicing. You think I'm crazy? Look at
2 My brethren, count it
all joy when ye fall into divers
temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh
patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be
perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they
shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast
out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that
day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for
in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
These tell us to have the opposite of a murmuring attitude
in the midst of murmur inducing situations. The point? Our hearts
should be filled with the lightness of a joyous heart. This overrides
the world's oppressions. John said it beautifully:
4 For whatsoever is born
of God overcometh the world: and
this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our
1 John 5:4
Do you wonder if you can at least get away with complaining
about the food in a certain restaurant? Can't you go around warning
others? You answer that question. Tell me, do you dwell on this
failure? Is there any bitterness or spite in your heart over this? Is
there satisfaction in warning others to not give them their business?
If these attitudes are found, you can know such complaining comes from
a tainted heart. Such complaining is wrong. If someone asks you about
that restaurant, if you can't give an honest report without these wrong
attitudes, you need to avoid answering all together. It's best not to
fulfill the heart's corrupt call to satisfy a bitterness. Give all
bitterness to the Lord to remove and be set free of.
Back to poor Moses. From the fact the "bad guys" constantly
complained, shouldn't this tell you something?
10 Neither murmur ye, as
some of them also murmured, and
were destroyed of the destroyer.
1 Corinthians 10:10
Complaint is a hallmark of these faithless.
1. They didn't trust God.
2. They were always lusting, and never satisfied (Exodus
3. Bitterness was always there, and overflowed at every
water in a balloon under pressure. All it needs
is a little hole in the surface. It'll burst in any direction at the
slightest prick. The heart trusting God is at peace. Being settled and
sustained in Him, little pricks don't cause undue spouting. The
pressure isn't there, so nothing propels it. We can get shaken up and
reintroduce pressure like a bottle of soda, but God gives an answer:
3 Thou wilt keep him in
perfect peace, whose mind is stayed
on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
31 But they
that wait upon the LORD shall renew their
strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and
not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Let's say we're complaining about how unfair someone is to
us. Our listener heartily agrees, "That's terrible!" Upon parting, we
each go and treat others unfairly ourselves. When it's us mistreated,
it's horrendous. When it's us mistreating, we excuse it, "everybody
does it," or I've heard, "you can't be too good." To complain, then do
likewise, is outright hypocrisy. How dare we complain about the mote in
other's eyes and have beams in our own (Matthew 7:1-6)? This type of
behavior already classifies us as part of that list Paul warned Timothy
about. We complain how terrible so and so does this, as if we're
appalled someone could exhibit such behavior. That's why Paul completed
his list to Timothy with:
Having a form of
godliness, but denying the power thereof:
from such turn away.
These talk self-righteously in
condemning others, but don't
really know God at all. Don't be fooled, shun such company.
Hypocritical complaining follows the principal of
unrighteous judgment. The Pharisees of Jesus' day were well noted for
that (John 7:24; Luke 11:42).
33 Be not deceived: evil
communications corrupt good
1 Corinthians 15:33
Complaining is like a dreaded disease. It's contagious. Do
we hang around highly contagious people of a deadly disease? No! We
quarantine them! We need to be aware, we can't sit in the midst of
complaining all the time, and not get pulled in ourselves. Even if we
manage to keep our own mouth shut, we're likely to commiserate with
them in our heart. Flee these attitudes like we should gossip. We need
to set our hearts on things that are lovely, of good report. This
doesn't mean sticking our head in the sand and ignoring reality. It
means putting it in God's hands. Leave it there for His discretionary
action and ponder the right things. To complain is too great a
temptation, and it grows.
There are people who do nothing but complain. You never
hear lovely stuff of good report from them (Philippians 4:8). When in
the company of such, try to change the conversation to uplift and give
good direction. Avoid falling into the murmuring trap when you're
visiting. I've noticed people with a wide variety of interests are
easier to talk with, avoiding this murmuring pitfall. You can talk
about all kinds of subjects with them, without coming around to
critical evaluations of people and politics. When you're with a person
who has almost no interests, the conversation inevitably falls back on
people you both know, politics, or unpleasant experiences they've
recently been through.
When you're sitting with someone and they begin
complaining, you find yourself in a difficult position. As a Christian,
you don't want to be rude and insult them in a holier than thou
response, "Oh, excuse me, but I don't want to hear your complaining,
it's not godly." What can you do? Redirect the conversation into an
uplifting, or, at least, not down-dragging direction. If you're forced
to listen until the sordid tale is told, remember, be polite. They've
been talking this way for so long, they see nothing wrong with such
talk. They complain out of habit and discontentment. You can try to
find some way to open their mind to view the events they talk about in
a different light. They may not appreciate such light, because they
love to tear down and not build up. Their habit of continual complaint
does pose a danger to you. Seek to minister what you can, but be alert
to its effect on you. Do you leave their company commiserating with
them? If you do, watch out! You're highly susceptible to their way of
talking about things. You don't have the strength to keep listening to
them, even politely, and not become infected. Flee while you have the
Philippians 2:13-15 told us to shine by not doing it
ourselves. If we don't forward murmuring talk, we will be noticed. The
difference will eventually become noticeable, and hopefully our inner
purity and beauty will create a hunger in them for such contentedness.
If not hunger, maybe conviction!
II. The Christian Way THE CAMPFIRE
Imagine Jesus sitting under the stars, outside some small
village, around a campfire. His disciples sitting with Him, enjoying
the crackling fire. Others, from the village, are hiding in the bushes
to see if they can snatch some of His conversation. They're eager to
learn from Him. If we were those hiding in the bushes, seeing what we
could glean, how would we feel about Jesus if we heard Him complaining
about one thing after another? We hear Him warn His disciples about the
Pharisees. Hearing this, we don't sense a picky, gripe laden attitude.
We sense an astute caution. If we heard Him complaining about the
service at the local fruit stand, to merge into a complaint of how poor
the public facilities in this village were and on and on, would we care
to hear any more from Him? We might be interested in His miracles, but
His attitude would appear no different to that of Murmuring Mary in the
local Bagel Outlet!
THE PROPER BALANCE
"I might get greasy working on a car, but it's another
thing to roll in the grease."
This expression illustrates how we have to deal with
unpleasant things in life. Thriving on unpleasantries is very different
I mentioned a good radio preacher to another Christian. I
suggested she listen to him. She asked something like, "He isn't
negative is he?" Her point was, she didn't want to listen to any
preachers who preached negative messages. This is a dangerous extreme
reaction to negative conversation. Negative conversation is absolutely
necessary in this world. Without it, ministers would be remiss in their
responsibilities. Look at Paul's exhortation to Timothy:
2 Preach the word; be
instant in season, out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the
time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after
their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching
Paul encouraged some negative preaching,
no matter what the
As a result of the woman's concern, I was curious as to how
much of the epistles actually were negative. I went through 1
Corinthians, Romans and Galatians in search. I read each chapter and
broke it into two and sometimes four equal portions. I rated them with
a plus or a minus being for a chastening tendency or with a plus for a
positive, jovial, nothing's wrong in the world type perspective. I
don't have the figures any more, but I remember 1 Corinthians was
almost exactly 50 percent negative and 50 percent positive. Romans was
a little more difficult to analyze in this way because it's more like a
doctrinal dissertation, however, it was about 6/10 positive and 4/10
negative. With Galatians it was something like 7/10 negative and 3/10
positive. Overall, this shows a pretty good balance, and that avoiding
conversation dealing with some form of criticism isn't biblical.
Negative conversation shouldn't just be rambling, pointless talk. No
talk should be pointless! Conversation must be controlled and steered
with the goal of uplifting a person. Rebuke and warning are negative,
but serve the purpose of uplifting, if the person will hearken. The
goal is pure, even though the results may not always be fruitful.
Watch the tongue with this understanding:
8 But the tongue can no
man tame; it is an unruly evil,
full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and
therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren,
these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the
same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren,
bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield
salt water and fresh. 13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge
among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with
meekness of wisdom.
The wise will take stock of his
conversation and, with the
meek heart, will speak warnings and chastenings. It may still be harsh,
for some rebuke has to be harsh, but the heart of the wise is sensitive
to his own condition. It's always on the alert .
If we don't treat others unfairly, this isn't cart Blanche
to complain. The foundation and the focus of the heart is still the
core. The Christian should be totally different. The delights, the
musings of the heart, are in another world.
Murmurings and complaints focus and abide in
discontentment. As Christians, we're called out of worldly
discontentment. We're to focus on Christ and trust in Him. There will
be many things we come against, and that come against us. If our faith
remains in Christ, we'll not get overwhelmed with the abuse, but still
look trustingly to Christ. By leaving it in His hands, we're at peace.
Where there's peace, there won't be complaining.
19 Wherefore let them
that suffer according to the will of
God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a
1 Peter 4:19
Peter wanted to encourage the suffering Christians to take
the persecution they were receiving, with a faithful heart. If we leave
our afflictions in God's hands, we won't worry about them and certainly
You may say no one's tried pelting you with stones for your
faith. This may be true, but this call of Peter's doesn't just apply to
obvious persecution. Satan hates us and seeks every opportunity to
cause our downfall. Our car breaking down at a most inappropriate
moment may be a Satanic assault. How do we respond? We should trust God
to work things out. God may bring difficult circumstances to our lives
to teach us to abide in Him. As we abide in Him, He gives us peace when
the natural man would be complaining. We wouldn't learn to abide in
Him, if we didn't have circumstances that opened our eyes to see our
failure to abide in Him. We see our discontentment, realize our failure
to abide in Christ, so turn to Him for His mind, heart and peace for
the situation. He restores our soul, and hence we live Christ in the
midst of our suffering. We're in a supernatural peace that comes from
God. This kind of peace, frees us from the complaining mind set that
would otherwise rule our hearts.
Paul described this process in Ephesians:
16 That he would grant
you, according to the riches of his
glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted
and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what
is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the
love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with
all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that
worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus
throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Paul starts with, "That he would grant
indicates a request on our part. This peaceful heart must be sought.
Paul goes on to say God does this work by the Holy Spirit in our
spirit. Our spirit is the "inner man". He outlines this strengthening
to have the right heart, is the result of Christ being the life behind
the attitude. It tells us faith is the core on our part. As I said
earlier, the murmurers of Moses' time, were murmurers because they had
no faith. The solution for us is the same as it could have been for
them. This passage continues talking about Christ's love. As we abide
in Him, we're filled with love. Love doesn't murmur. It understands God
does love us, hence doesn't leave us as helpless victims of
We see God has all the power He needs to take care of any
difficulty we find ourselves in. It's beyond our wildest dreams, so
never fear, the Lord is near! Just leave it in His hands and have
faith. What will flow will be the mind of Christ founded in love, not
For those of us who have been complaining for so long, as a
regular course of living, we need to correct this disorder. We need to
purposely redirect our thought life:
8 Finally, brethren,
whatsoever things are true, whatsoever
things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are
pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on
Doing this takes constant vigilance for the novice. With
time, it will become habit. Christ will work the change in what you
delight in, if you call upon Him and allow Him to. Just like we
initially come to Him, it calls for repentance. Forsaking old ways with
an about-face towards new, right ways of living.
Hebrews swirls this together:
14 Follow peace with all
men, and holiness, without which
no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of
the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you,
and thereby many be defiled.
The heart of peace, extends to those who
afflict us, "all
men". We deal with these challenges in "holiness". It goes on to sound
the alarm to keep CAREFUL WATCH in the "looking diligently". Watch for
what? Failing God's grace. How? Bitterness. Bitterness is that
complaining heart. It's what goes on inside of us. First there's
bitterness, then there's complaint. We walk very closely on this
dangerous edge of catastrophe every time we're stirred to complain.
This is part of the reason we have to carefully watch, checking our
spirit for complaint. Watch for it, and quickly get back into Christ.
III. The Perfect Picture
As Christians, we want our lives to be perfect pictures of
Christ, otherwise it's covered by a dark shadow. The beauty, that we
know should be there, just isn't. There's a weight and sadness that
never seems to go away. Our Christian walk lacks the joy and the glory.
We want that beauty with the bright sunlight of day chasing
away the gloom. So let's take a look at this well-lit beauty we should
We should see someone who is filled with a sense of
5 Let your conversation
be without covetousness; and be
content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never
leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is
my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Contentment leaves us with little reason to complain and
murmur. This speaks in regards to material things. The lack of material
things is a large area of complaining in our lives. They say a large
percentage of divorces are over money troubles. That's what this
passage covers. So we have this Christian in perfect contentment in
regards to his material situation. It doesn't mean he won't have goals
to get things, but he's not discontent and complaining until he obtains
those goals. (Need a better running car for instance.)
The next verse covers the conversation of this perfect
29 Let no corrupt
communication proceed out of your mouth,
but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister
grace unto the hearers.
The conversation seeks to build and
direct in a godly
manner. It edifies, it doesn't defile the heart and mind of the
Peter also gives instruction addressing this heart and
1 Wherefore laying aside
all malice, and all guile, and
hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
The faulty, murmuring conversation is to be put aside. It
flows from a list of three terrible heart states. These three are from
the pit of hell, and manifest themselves in the conversation. This
verse serves to embellish the corrupt communication of Ephesians 4:29.
Return Good For Evil
Next we have the world's way versus the Christian's way:
21 Be not overcome of
evil, but overcome evil with good.
My, this is different. As the light, we don't retaliate
with slander, we "retaliate" with love. Love motivates our actions.
Remember being "grounded in love". Jesus loved greater than they could
hate Him. They crucified Him in hate, but His love, though perceived as
weakness in the midst of the trial to death, came forth in victory that
hate couldn't defeat! They may hate you now, but one day, they will
glorify God (1 Peter 2:12).
The perfect picture speaks not of murmuring, but
11 Not that I speak in
respect of want: for I have learned,
in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how
to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I
am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to
You'll note Paul "learned" to be content. As I said, trials
bring about trust in God and the mind of Christ. Our contentment
doesn't rest in outward supplies or lack of them (monasticism), but by
abiding in Christ. Contentment is inner, not outer. Paul was careful to
point out that what was said, wasn't said with a murmuring heart. Paul
wanted to make sure misunderstanding didn't arise. Some things have to
be said for good reasons, but the heart in which it's said makes all
the difference. The motives of our conversation need to be expressed,
so others don't misunderstand and discredit the ministry of God in our
hearts. That testimony is guarded by observing this. It calls for us to
guard our conversation, checking our motives to keep from drifting.
We talked earlier about the attitude towards ruling
authorities. The attitude of the godly example is Titus:
1 Put them in mind to be
subject to principalities and
powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2 To speak
evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness
unto all men. 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish,
disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in
malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
Subjection doesn't allow for verbal slaughtering.
Subjection calls for "Yes Sirs". Paul lived this example in the direct
face of a hypocritical ruler (Acts 23:2-5).
The description in this passage is picturesque. No public
criticism, not looking for a fight, gentle, meek. His reason for good
behavior and meekness was because we're not unfamiliar with how it is
for them. Apart from Christ, we're like those we would complain about.
In fact, we were like them. See the difference we're to be to the
world? Surely this difference, if found in our lives, will stand out.
If we put two people, side by side, the one like verse 2 and the other
like verse 3, who couldn't see the difference?
It's A Choice
One Psalm expressed the heartfelt desire for a contented
14b . . . . that there be
no complaining in our streets.
We won't see this happen until after the Millennium, but it
clearly shows this ideal. Others may not contribute their part towards
this pleasant behavior, but we can give ours wherever possible.
In this world, a certain amount of complaining is
unavoidable. Let this complaint be Spirit-controlled, not fleshly.
Anger is sometimes right, but not always. Complaining issues from
anger. Paul said:
26 Be ye
angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon
Likewise, don't allow complaint go on churning and churning
within. Deal with it appropriately and let it go.
As we saw, whether we complain inordinately or not, makes
or breaks our testimony. The stakes of mastering this are too great to
neglect. Either we master it, or it masters us. We have the choice:
11 Likewise reckon ye
also yourselves to be dead indeed
unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not
sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the
lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of
unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that
are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of
righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible