Without Complaint

Originally posted on 12/24/15 on the GOC UCLA blog, which can be found here.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” – Philippians 2:14-16a

As I began working a full-time job and regularly spending much more time with unbelievers than fellow brothers and sisters, these verses have begun to stand out to me more than before. I see how much temptation there is to sin by complaining and how easily I dismiss this sin as “harmless”. There are so many things one can easily complain about – traffic, weather, work, class, other people, etc – and often it is easy to justify our complaints. But it is clear in James 2:10 that if we do not follow God’s word on one part, we are accountable to all of it. Any sin condemns us. So as I think about my own struggle with complaining, 3 things stand out to me in this passage of Philippians.

First, we are commanded to not complain. We are to “do all things without grumbling or disputing”. As I fought the temptation to complain, I was reminded that we are commanded not to do it. As believers we are to obey the commands given to us in Scripture. In John 15, we prove to be His disciples when we abide in His love (v7-9), and we abide in His love by keeping his commandments (v10). We prove ourselves to be disciples and show our love for the Lord when we obey. We obey because that is consistent with who we are as children of God.

Second, our testimonies as children of God shine as a light in the world when we do not complain. Paul goes so far as to say we appear as “blameless and innocent” and “without blemish”. This is the point that has been impressed upon my mind the most lately. Spending 9+ hours a day with my coworkers has shown me how normal it is for people to complain and grumble. My experience does not make the Bible any more true, but this truth – that we stand out from the world by not complaining – means more to me now that I see how much we really do stand out. My coworker often comments on my lack of complaining as she contrasts me with her own constant complaining. I am thankful that God has guarded my thoughts and speech so that I may stand out as a light in the office. It is out of the ordinary, when we as children of God do not complain along with the world.

Third, we do all things as we hold fast the word of life. We often complain because we forget. We forget that God, in His love, chose us and called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). We forget that God supplies all our needs (Philippians 4:19), that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). But as we hold fast to the word, we are constantly reminded of these truths, of the glory of God in His character and attributes, and of our sinfulness and God’s grace. When we consider who God is and how He loves us, we turn to thankfulness rather than grumbling.

So as we are tempted to complain, look instead to the truths and promises in Scripture; we can look forward to the eternity we have in Christ. Remember your status as a child of God, how you are to shine as lights, and the eternal glory we can look forward to according to the truths in Scripture.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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Complacency and Failure

Never begin to think there are areas of temptation where you don’t need to be on your guard. That could be your downfall.

– Jerry Bridges, Discipline of Grace

Sin and temptation doesn’t take breaks, so neither should we. We are foolish and deceive ourselves when we think we do not have sin (1 John 1:8-10) We need to be on guard at all times against our deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 4:23). Be careful not to think more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3). Sin can far too easily break through your defenses.

Desiring to be with Christ

My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. – Philippians 1:23

I wish I could constantly and earnestly echo Paul in this statement. Do I truly believe that to be with Christ is far better? FAR BETTER – as in there is no competition between being with Christ and anything else. Christ is far better. But my heart often disagrees. I often want things in this world, to be with certain people here. I cannot easily say that my desire is to depart from them, as I love these people dearly. Paul loved the Philippians enormously, holding them in his heart and longing for them with the affection of Christ (Phil. 1:7-8). Yet his desire and longing for Christ was so great, that to be with Christ is far better.

I hope and pray that my desire for Christ, too, will be like far greater, not to lessen my love for the people around me, but to increase my desire and love for Christ that it far surpasses that of what I feel for these people.

Losing Our First Love

As strange and unthinkable as it may seem, in the hurricane of Christian activity and the avalanche of ‘Christian things’ in which most of us live, Jesus Himself can come up missing.

– Rick Holland, Uneclipsing the Son

Is Christ the reason you do what you do? Is He the center of it? If not, then you have lost sight of your first love.

It is folly to think the Lord provides grace for every trouble but the one you are in today. 

– C.H. Spurgeon

Do we not profit most in stormy times? Have you not found it so — that your sick-bed — your bereavement — your depression of spirit, has instructed you in many matters which tranquility and delight have never whispered to you? I suppose we ought: to learn as much by joy as by sorrow, and I hope that many of my Lord’s better servants do so; but, alas! others of us do not; affliction has to be called in to whip the lesson into us.

– Charles Spurgeon

The Valley of Vision

LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee

in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold

thy glory.

 

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

 

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from

deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter

they stars shine;

 

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty

thy glory in my valley.