When was the last time you complained?
I live in Philadelphia, and this past winter was one of the worst we've ever had. From November through March, all I heard was, "It's so cold. I hate the snow. I can't wait for summer."
Philadelphia also has the tendency to get uncomfortably hot, and guess what I've started to hear already? "It's too hot. It's so humid. I can't wait for Autumn."
Maybe you're abnormal and don't complain about the weather, but you complain about something. Have you ever stood in front of your wardrobe, stuffed with clothes, and grumbled, "I have nothing to wear..." Have you ever looked in your refrigerator, stocked with food, and sighed, "There's nothing to eat..."
Here's the reality: wherever you live, whomever you're with, no matter what the time of day, and regardless of circumstance, you have the amazing ability to complain about something!
In his letter to the saints in Philippi, the Apostle Paul writes, "DO ALL THINGS without grumbling or disputing." (Philippians 2:14, emphasis mine).
Can you imagine just one day that isn't marred in some way by complaint? Imagine waking up in the morning and being completely free of stress and pressure. Imagine lying down at night and sleeping with a heart that was satisfied with every situation of the day.
Imagine being a parent and not complaining about your child. Imagine being a spouse and not complaining about your husband or wife. Imagine being a citizen and not complaining about your neighbor or government. Imagine being a worker and not complaining about your boss or employee.
Now, without a doubt, the world and the people in it will create havoc for your life. There will be holy reason to groan and pray for change (Romans 8:23). But more often than not, your complaining reveals your selfish heart and the things you desire (Luke 6:45).
I want to look at the two words Paul uses - grumbling and disputing - and explore what they say about our heart.
Grumbling - "I Deserve Better"
Grumbling has to do with the emotional side of complaint. The English translation is onomatopoeic, meaning that the word audibly represents its definition. Maybe you should wait until you're in private to try this, but if you grumble the word "grumble" over and over again, it has the drone of complaint: "grummmmbblling, umb, umb, umb, umb."
Grumbling says, "I deserve better!" When we grumble, we insert ourselves into the center of our universe and make life all about us. When we don't get what we want, immediately when we want it and precisely how we want it, we grumble. It's the audible representation of a heart captured by the claustrophobic kingdom of self.
Disputing - "I Know Better"
Disputing can be translated to "questioning" (American Standard Version) or "arguing" (New International Version). It simply says, "I know better! If I were ruling my world, I would do X, Y, and Z differently." You are disputing the sovereignty and wisdom of God.
Of course, you would never publicly compromise your theology, but in the private moments of your life, you actually dispute who should be God. Maybe you wouldn't go as far as to replace God, but you would try and add a fourth seat to the Holy Trinity!
What should you do when you feel the urge to grumble and dispute? I say all the time that you're the most influential preacher in your life, because no one preaches to you as much as you do. So, preach to yourself!
Below are 7 of my favorite verses that remind me why I don't need to grumble and dispute. There are dozens, probably even hundreds more, so find a few that you can bind on your heart and tie around your neck (Proverbs 6:20):
- GRUMBLE: the only thing we deserve is death (Psalm 103:10), but we've been given life instead (Romans 3:24), and given everything we need for life (2 Peter 1:3), so we don't need to be anxious (Matthew 6:25-32).
- DISPUTE: God has been around from the beginning (Genesis 1:1), He has designed your entire life story (Acts 17:26), and His plan is for His glory and your good (Jeremiah 29:11).
This self-preaching will be helpful, but you (or your pastor) will never be your savior. Your only hope is found in the One who came down from His heavenly kingdom to liberate you from bondage to the kingdom of self.
Draw yourself close to the King of the Kingdom of God and experience the joy and peace He can bring to your soul!