Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Complaining

I recently did a post about Philippians 2:14-15. Those verses tell us not to complain, because we are to shine as lights in the world. If we really want the light of Christ to shine through us, we have to stop complaining about every little bump that comes along in the road.

Since posting about that, complaining has been at the forefront of my mind, probably because it is something that I really struggle with. A lot like worry, complaining is one of those things that "everybody" does and so we try to make it ok, instead of calling it what it is: sin.

Recently, I came across another passage that really made me think about the way I use my words. Let's read 1 Cor. 10:6-10. In the context, Paul is writing to the Corinthians about the children of Israel and the things that they did wrong. Here's what he says:
"Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play'. Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer." (emp. mine)
Now wait just a minute. You mean to tell me that complaining is listed right there with idolatry, sexual immorality, and even tempting Christ?!? How can that be?

Complaining is serious to God. As if one passage isn't enough (Phil. 2:14), the Bible gives us this discourse on what the children of Israel did wrong. And what was one of their sins: complaining. It wasn't just that they complained and that God didn't like it; no, the Holy Spirit recorded for us that they were destroyed because of their complaining.

God doesn't change. He is from everlasting to everlasting. He has always and will always hate sin. Why, then, do we constantly try to justify things that the Bible clearly tells us are wrong? We say, "Oh, everyone worries, it's not a big deal" or "Everyone complains so it must not really be that bad". In our society, everyone seems to be caught up in a lot of things that the Bible deems sinful, and guess what? That doesn't make it ok!

We must constantly guard our tongues (Prov. 21:23, Psalm 39:1) so that we keep from separating ourselves from God. Jesus warned us in Matt. 12:37 that our words would either justify or condemn us in the last day. If words are that important (even the idle or fruitless ones--Matt. 12:36), why do we not watch what we say a little more closely?

I am so guilty of these transgressions, and I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father forgives me every single day. I want to do better, though. I don't want to continue in sin so that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1). No, I want to keep my tongue from sinning. I want to make my heart pure so that there is nothing sinful coming out. But how do we do that? What's the first step in having a non-complaining tongue?

Read what Paul had to say to the brethren at Colossae:
"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving." (4:2)
James told us that when we want or need something, we are to ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach (1:5). If we want tongues that will be pure, we need to ask God to strengthen us. But look at what Paul said: not just to continue in prayer, but to be vigilant in it with thanksgiving.

When our hearts are so focused on thanking God for all He's given to us, we won't be quick to complain that something didn't go our way. We'll know that God has given us beyond what we could ever deserve, and even when something was taken away from us or didn't go quite as we planned, we've been and will continue to be taken care of by the Creator of the Universe Himself.

It isn't only physical blessings that we need to thank God for, either. God gave us the most precious, beautiful gift of all: His Son. In no way, shape or form could we ever merit this kind of love, and yet it has been given specifically to each and every one of us. Perhaps that is why God hates complaining so much. How ungrateful must we seem when we complain about little things that don't even matter (things that won't follow us into the afterlife), when God has given us ETERNAL life? We must seem like spoiled little children. I know that I, for one, am guilty of acting that way.

Let us all dedicate our hearts to thinking and speaking differently. I know there is at least one thing in your life (as there are multiple in mine) that tempts you to complain. Recognize what that is and guard your tongue. Decide that instead of complaining about that person or situation, you will instead thank God for all of the blessings He's given you. Use your mouth this week (and every week) to thank and praise Him, instead of dwelling on things that are temporal anyway.

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