14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life… (Philippians 2:14–16, NKJV)
Murmuring and grumbling is the “complaining” we are commanded not to do in this passage. It speaks especially of a secret displeasure that is not openly declared. Yet, as is the nature of whispering, such mutterings rarely remain private. They have the potential of erupting into open disputes that tarnish the “blameless and harmless” character we are to possess and present to the world. As “lights in the world” we cannot be complainers and hope to influence the lost. We ought to learn from Israel’s example and refuse to “complain, as some of them complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10). Israel’s history in the wilderness was marked by repeated complaints that angered the Lord and that destroyed many, many lives (Num. 11:1; 14:1-38; 16:1-5). Instead of being a complainer, be a fixer. Instead of murmuring behind the scenes about a problem, become part of the solution. Rather than generating disputes that undermine effectiveness in a church, in the home, or at work, illuminate the path of peace and spiritual progress by “holding fast the word of life.” When we do that, we will not be complainers, we will be lights in the world.
12 “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:12–14, NKJV)
Like Israel at the Red Sea, sometimes we have trouble waiting on the Lord and trusting His salvation. After witnessing God’s great judgments upon Egypt through the miraculous plagues, just days later Israel complained when the enemy’s army approached (Exodus 14:11-12). Moses told them to replace their fear with faith in the Lord’s power and presence, for He would fight for them. That day they would see the salvation of the Lord – and they did. God told Israel to “go forward,” and He protected them and delivered them as they did (v. 15-22, 29-30). Having been saved from our past sins in Christ, Christians are told to press forward in faith, not draw back in fear (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 10:35-39; 12:1-2). Our enemy, the devil, will tempt us with sin and trials, trying to discourage and defeat us. Keep doing God’s will by trusting Him and the power of His word. Be faithful and go forward, never backwards, “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
1 Then Job answered and said: 2 “Even today my complaint is bitter; My hand is listless because of my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat! 4 I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments.” (Job 23:1–4, NKJV)
Have you ever complained against God? Like Job, most of us at one time or the other have found ourselves in a place that was not of our own choosing – someplace we never thought we would be. “Why this trial?” “Why this pain?” “Why this loneliness?” As such times we are tempted to blame God, to long for a chance to explain things to God about why we are being treated so unfairly. We are tempted to think we know more than God. We may even find ourselves arguing against God by opposing and rejecting His word, the inspired Scriptures. We think we know better. But, the truth is, we don’t. The truth is, our eyes need to be opened to God’s power and purposes, as Job’s were when God explained things to him (Job 38-41). Then, Job understood God is sovereign and that we never counsel God (Job 42:1-2). Job confessed, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). Don’t blame God. Don’t argue with God. Trust Him, believe His word and follow His truth. Come what may, He does all things well (Mark 7:37; Romans 8:35-39). Instead of asking, “Why me?” ask, “Why not me?”
Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9, NKJV)
How unseemly it is when Christians grumble and groan against each other. Such complaints lead to condemnation; a sinful devouring of one another that reaches into eternity (Gal. 5:15). James reminds us that the judgment is near, and such sins against fellow Christians do not escape the sight of the Lord, who is Judge of all (Acts 17:31). James urges patient endurance when we are wronged (Jas. 5:10-11). The Scriptures instruct actions of reconciliation, not words and deeds that lead to barriers and burdens (Matt. 5:23-25; 18:15). Forbear and forgive, “if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:13). Forgive, instead of fomenting strife. Forbear with patient faith, instead of verbalizing complaints that condemn your soul. The Judge is at the door!