(Turn : Numbers 13)
Some of you, your bibles are all marked up and higher and written on. Flip over to Numbers 13, I bet those pages are brand new.
Well I’m starting a 3 week series called “Stop Complaining”
And when people heard that is would be teaching this, multiple people came up to me and said “Pastor David, were you thinking of me when you decided on that series?” If you’re here today and you’re wondering that, the answer is YES! “Pastor David, is it because you think I complain too much.” YES!
This series is absolutely about you.
But it’s also a series about me. And everyone else in the room.
Shirley – Peas Covered in Applesauce I like to occasionally joke that early on in my preaching, Pastor Shirley heard a sermon of mine and told me “David, you are like peas covered in applesauce.” She said “You look sweet, but there’s some medicine in there.”
Well today, there’s some medicine in here.
But it’s an area we ALL have tons of room to grow, so there’s no condemnation in the room today, just an open-heartedness to what God would say to challenge and grow us as his children that he loves.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, (Philippians 2:14)
Which is really 2 ways of saying stop complaining.
We live in a complaining society. And as a parent who’s raising a daughter in the society that we created, I fear the complaining is getting worse with each generation.
It is a curiosity to me that the most indulged society is the most discontent society. That the more people have, the more complaining they seem to do.
“Moody discontent” that’s what you can write on the top of your paper if you’re taking notes.
Awhile back, I came across a paper by a sociologist who said something interesting.
Now just to warn you, this sociologist was clearly an old-school guy and I didn’t agree with everything he said, but it did get me thinking.
He was talking about young people and how they complain and how discontent they are about everything. And his whole idea was that it stems from what he called Child-Centered-Parenting. And I’m thinking “What else would parenting be centered on?” You’re only doing parenting because you have a kid. But what he was talking about is our tendency, to let the kid be the boss, basically.
He said that child-centered-parenting tends to create selfish, indulgent children.
He said the danger for this is particularly high in small families. Did you know that the average number of kids in an american family is 1.7 children. Which is a weird thing to say. 1.7 children. I can imagine a brother saying to his sister “I’m the one and you’re the point seven”.
He gave an example of a typical day in a small family vs a big family.
Now I was raised in a house with 2 children, and my daughter is an only child, so I’m not coming down on that at all, but it is funny to think about.
In a house of 1 or 2 kids, the kid wakes up in the morning and the mom says “What would you like for lunch?” And the kid says Peanut butter or tuna or whatever and the mom goes and makes it.
And then as they’re walking out the door to school school, the mom says “What would you like for dinner?” “Oh I’d like this and this and this” Mom: “Okay, what time will you be home?” And the kids says “I’ve got some things to do and Jana’s mom is gonna take us to the mall to buy some new jeans, so I’ll be home by 6.”
And then at dinner, the parent has slaved over this meal from this exotic cookbook, and the kid takes one bite and they say “I don’t like it”.
Now contrast that when you’re raised in a family of four or five or six kids, you get up in the morning and you’re handed a brown bag.
And as you leave the house your mom says “Dinner is a 6. You’re here, you eat.”
And if you go home and you’re eating dinner and somebody says “I don’t like it.” the kid next to them says “Good” and he takes it.
And that’s just funny and true.
It’s less funny when you have young people in their 20’s and the only world they know is one where people bend over backward to give them everything they want. And that’s not the way the world works.
Think about this:
40 years ago, kids couldn’t wait to grow up so they would have freedom. Remember that? But today, many kids never want to grow up because they don’t want to lose their freedom.
Growing up means conformity. Now they have to go to work and they have to show up on time or they get fired. They have to wear clothes that they don’t think are cool. Now the girl who was so hip and popular in high school, works at hotdog on a stick with the hideous hat and making lemonade like she churning butter in the 1800s. I mean how uncool!!! And they don’t want that.
And when they are inevitably pushed into adulthood, they tend to be very dissatisfied adults. They become filled with ‘moody discontent’. They become over-indulged, childish adults who complain about everything. Nothing is ever enough. Someone gives them a $1,000 and they complain about the line at the bank.
It’s interesting to think about. And I think it points at a much larger problem which is : People seem to be getting more and more comfortable thinking that every system should bend to their preferences.
Nowhere is this more true than in the church. “The music is too this” or “The preaching is too that.” Did you know that we’ve had people leave this church because the music is too loud, and we’ve had people leave this church because the music was too quiet? We’ve had people leave the church because they only want to hear me preach and they don’t like it when Marshall preaches, and we’ve had people leave the church because they only want to hear Marshall preach and they don’t like it when I preach. Hey whatever floats your boat. And this is not just quiet preferences in their heart, no they want everybody to know that the way things are is unacceptable.
But what I hope to show you in this series, is that :
Being a complainer is a completely unacceptable way to live as a Christian.
Complaining is not New
In fact, let’s think about to the first complainer in the history of mankind. Who do you think that was? Well, it was the first person of course.
Adam “This woman you gave me”
Interesting. He didn’t blame Eve, he blamed God. It was the woman that YOU gave me.
The first ever complaint was complaining about God.
Interesting: People living in perfection and they still complained.
I think we need to get over the idea that “I’ll stop complaining once things get better.” No you won’t. Adam lived in perfection. And he doesn’t make it one page without complaining.
And it just continues on from there:
- Cain Cain complained about God’s punishment for killing his brother. Genesis 4
- Moses Moses complained to God for not doing what Moses wanted him to do when he wanted Him to do it. Exodus 5
- Aaron and Miriam Aaron and Miriam complained to God about Moses, God’s chosen leader. Numbers 12
- Jonah Jonah complained to God for showing mercy on his enemies. Jonah 4
And that makes sense, when God shows mercy towards people we think he should kill, that’s infuriating.
Contageous Real tragedy of the sin of complaining is how contageous it is.
You think Corona virus is contageous? Lets look at how far complaining has spread. There is not a single person on the planet not affected by it.
This is such a huge and important point.
If we were to say what the classic, perennial example of complainers and whiners is, it’s obvious. The Israelites.
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30)
So Joshua and Caleb come back from spying on the promised land. This is the land they wanted to inhabit, and it was the land promised to them by God. They come back from spying and say “Guys we can do this.”
But (say that word with me ‘but’. There’s always someone being a ‘but’) the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:31)
So they say “No we CAN NOT do this.”
So here these men are doubting their own abilities, but more than that they’re doubting God.
And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. (Numbers 13:32)
We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33)
So they come back complaining “Oh man! We’ll never do it! Look how big these people are! Oh figures! Thanks for nothing God”
Now jump to the next page, chapter 14, and look what happens. Where before it was just this small group that was complaining, but look what’s happened:
So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community (what is it? 🙂 grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it— (Numbers 14:36)
So what started as a small group of complainers, infected the whole community and now it’s the whole community that’s complaining.
Did you catch that? A group of people were complainers and they caused the whole community to complain.
Let me say that you have that same power.
You have the power to infect other people with your complaining.
(So what happened to these complainers?)
these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. (Numbers 14:37)
This really is the story of Israel in the OT: Complaining.
I believe the biggest sin in the Entire Old Testament is complaining.
That’s how you can sum up the sin of the Israelites: The Sin of Complaining.
And they pay dearly for it.
Here you have the children of God, who have been led out of Egypt by a miraculous deliverance, God has parted the Red Sea for them. They had seen these 10 plagues that provide their deliverance. And as soon as they become free people, what happens? They start to complain.
I want to take you on a brief journey through the story of Israel
The Israelites had just been delivered and now they’re out in the wilderness.
They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? (Exodus 14:11)
This is an incredibly disrespectful statement.
“You didn’t have anywhere to bury us in Egypt so you decided to come let us die in the wilderness?”
Here’s their complaint: “This miracle doesn’t look how I expected it to look.”
By now they’re on the other side of the Red Sea, their deliverance is complete.
Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. (Exodus 15:22)
So 3 days without water. Which, let’s give them some credit, is a big deal.
You can go occasionally up to a week without any water, but after that, you die. So this is a big problem.
So let’s not pretend that these people have no good reason to complain while we do. I mean, this is a big problem.
When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) (Exodus 15:23)
(Marah means ‘bitter’)
So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” (Exodus 15:24)
There’s that word “Grumbled” which is bible word for whining and complaining.
Of course later in the chapter God provides water and food.
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. (Exodus 16:1)
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 16:2)
So here God has miraculously delivered them from captivity, he’s parted the Red Sea, and provided water AND food for them, as free people. And what’s the very next thing they do? Complain.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. (Exodus 16:4)
I’ll tell you, God’s patience is amazing.
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. (Exodus 17:1)
So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” (Exodus 17:2)
But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3)
It takes them almost no time at all to forget the blessings and faithfulness of God.
This is at the END of the 40 years in the wilderness. Certainly they’ve learned their lesson by now right?
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, (Numbers 11:1a)
This is amazing. 40 years later and they’re still complaining.
I don’t want to disrespect but my elders, but perhaps some of you, 40 years ago, were complaining, now here you are 40 years later, and you’re STILL complaining.
Complaining is not just a young people thing.
I know plenty of people that once they hit 60, their complaining goes WWAAYY up.
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he (God) heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. (Numbers 11:1)
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! (Numbers 11:4)
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. (Numbers 11:5)
These are real deep people. Geez. They’re complaining that they don’t have cucumbers and melons. Like who cares. Can we be real? Bread is way better than fruits and vegetables.
God keeps faithfully providing for his people, they keep complaining.
God sends spies into the promised land. The spies come back, we can’t do it. We’ll be killed. We’ll be crushed. There be giants.’
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: (Numbers 14:26)
“How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. (Numbers 14:27)
So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: (Numbers 14:28)
(Interesting. So their complaints boomeranged back on them and became true.)
In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. (Numbers 14:29)
One interesting thing to note here. The people’s grumbling about their situation, god took it as grumbling against HIM.
Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. (Numbers 14:30)
(The 2 non-complainers)
As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. (Numbers 14:31)
(Wait, how did they reject the promised land? By complaining about their current circumstance, they were rejecting gods plan to get them out of it.)
But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. (Numbers 14:32)
The next day (the day after some people are killed for Invading the priesthood) the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the LORD’s people,” they said. (Numbers 16:41)
But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. (Numbers 16:42)
Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, (Numbers 16:43)
and the LORD said to Moses, (Numbers 16:44)
“Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown. (Numbers 16:45)
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started.” (Numbers 16:46)
So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. (Numbers 16:47)
He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. (Numbers 16:48)
But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. (Numbers 16:49)
“Korah” where the ground swallowed them all up.
Happens again in chapter 20, happens again in chapter 21.
The whole ordeal is really summarized by the Psalmist in Psalm 106:25
They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord. (Psalm 106:25)
So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the wilderness, (Psalm 106:26)
make their descendants fall among the nations and scatter them throughout the lands. (Psalm 106:27)
Why would did do such a thing: Because they “grumbled in their tents”. Because of their complaining.
These are not pleasant scriptures. I don’t enjoy reading these stories.
And I don’t have time to get into how Jesus shapes our understanding of the Old Testament. We can do that another time.
For this series, I just want you to hear the warning. The biblical writers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, documented these stories to teach us something.
Now look at how Paul is able to recall the story, and receive the warning from it.
We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. (1 Corinthians 10:8)
We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. (1 Corinthians 10:9)
And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. (1 Corinthians 10:10)
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us. (1 Corinthians 10:11a)
Ok so these stories are here to teach us something. And what are they teaching us? The point I made at the beginning:
Being a complainer is a completely unacceptable way to live as a Christian.
So when we go back to our first verse:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, (Philippians 2:14)
Paul is not coming up with some statement out of thin air. No he’s purposefully using language associated with the grumbling and complaining of Israel and saying “Do not be like that.”
I think often times people don’t realize how much of a complainer they really are. We all see it. “Man, all she does is complain about everything.” But maybe you don’t see it.
So I have for you 3 self-diagnostic questions to identify your own Complaining:
1. Do my conversations often revolve around everyday situations that are irritating to me?
It’s easier to see in other people than in yourself.
I bet you can all think of that person that comes in to the office
“I just got back from the grocery store and they had 2 lanes open. 2. I had to wait 15 minutes to buy eggs.”
“My in-laws are coming into town. Oh goody. I’m sure that will be fun. Not.”
“You wouldn’t believe how stupid the people I have to work with are. I mean, geez.”
Angie Complaining at Cardinal Health – Years ago, I worked at Cardinal Health Pharmaceuticals. For maybe a year. And there was this lady named Angie, probably in her early 50’s. Now Angie was married to a man named Ron. Now I didn’t say HAPPILY married. But married. And this job involved a lot of cutting open boxes and stocking shelves, so there was lots of time to talk. What amazed me during the year I worked there is how well I got to know Angies husband Ron, even though I had never met him. It felt like every single day Angie would come in complaining about some thing that Ron had done or was doing. I knew intimate details about this man. I knew that he left his underwear on the floor. I knew that he smoked in the house when he was alone. I knew that he stunk up the bathroom and never left the fan on. How did I know all this? I knew all this because Angie was a complainer. And I honestly believe she was trying to connect with me, but constantly talking about what was irritating to her.
2. Would other people consider me negative, while I just consider myself realistic?
We’re so proud of bring people who ‘Call it like it is.’
Any imbecile can call it like it is. It takes the holy spirit to see under the surface. To see life and potential and hope in broken situations and broken people.
3. Do I find comfort in being around people who are annoyed at the same things I am?
Complaining is contagious. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are relationships built completely around complaining. That if you both had to stop complaining, you wouldn’t have anything to talk about. You would sit there in silence.
Listen, I completely understand this tendency. It feels good to have something to complain about. And it’s an easy way to connect with you, for me to go up to you and say “Can you believe this construction?! Totally unacceptable. And city workers, I’m sure that will go nice and quick. Not.” It’s an easy way for me to connect with you. Problem is, it’s the way of the world. And even if you don’t recognize it, your complaining destroys your joy. And not just yours, the joy of those around you.
Next week we’re gonna talk about the solution. The solution to complaining is gratitude.
We’re going to be getting into it in the next couple weeks, but I want to tell you, you can become grateful, and you whole life will change in one second.
“Pastor David, you don’t understand. I have things in my life that are wrong!” Well welcome to everybody.
Nobody’s life turns out exactly like they’re expecting it to. But there is not a single person here that doesn’t have something to be grateful for. Not a single person.
Doesn’t mean that you don’t have pain or grief, and we’re gonna talk about all those in the next 2 weeks, but even at this very moment, in spite of all the things that might be wrong or broken or missing, you have the ability to be grateful.
As we close, I have a declaration that I’d like us all to make together. I’ll read it to you and if it resonates with you, I’d like us to read it together.
In this very moment, I have the choice to complain or to be grateful.
Which of course leads us to Jesus.
You want to talk about someone who had something to complain about. He leaves his place in heaven to come to earth as a man to save us all and we’re so appreciative, we kill him.
But not before spitting on him, and mocking him, while he’s standing there bleeding, naked, and alone.
And when his pain is at the climax, the words he speaks are “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
And I believe in that moment, he’s talking about those Roman Guards and officials, but he’s also talking about me, and he’s also talking about you.
And that offer of forgiveness is available to you today. No matter how far from God you feel. His kindness, his forgiveness is waiting there for you.