My Big Fat Mouth - Complaining
Updated: Jun 12, 2018
I want to welcome all of you today. We're launching into My Big Fat Mouth, and what we need to understand is that there is such power in the words that we speak. Our words have the power to give life. Our words have the power to take life. Jesus said this, he said, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." We're going to talk about the words that we speak and we're going to get them right.
Just to introduce the theme for today, we are, in upcoming weeks, we're going to talk about the problems of lying, criticizing, and gossip. Today I want to talk to you about the problem of complaining.
When I think about complaining in the Bible, the very first place my mind goes is back to the Old Testament, to think about God's chosen people, the Israelites, who, when they were in captivity as slaves for hundreds of years complained. Then when God did miracle after miracle after miracle ... He parted the Red Sea. He drowned Pharaoh's army. He fed God's people with bread from heaven, water from rocks. Their clothes never ever ran out. What did God's people do? They griped, they whined, and they continued to complain.
In Exodus 14 verse 11, when 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? We were so happy when we were slaves, but now you've brought us out of there. Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians.' It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians and then die in the desert."
Sounds so much like so many of us. To add insult to injury, Moses said something that should probably stun you into a moment of silence. He said this about our complaining. Exodus 16:8 - He said, "You're not grumbling against us but against the Lord.” Imagine if every time that we complain, it's not just about our circumstances or about the traffic or about another person, but what if in God's eyes, we were actually complaining about him? Perhaps that is the way he sees it.
What I want to do today is I want to just help personalize this for you so that you'll hear the message through the lens of your own complaining. I want to ask you, "What is it that you complain about the most?"
I want you to think about it and be real honest. What is it that you think you complain about most? For some it is their relationship, or the house, or job, or family, or the WiFi is too slow.
I want to go ahead and just clarify this and hope that you'll understand that the problem is not the weather, or traffic or that Netflix hasn't come out with new original content that meets your approval rating. The problem is that we've taken our eyes off of the goodness of God and we've placed our eyes dead center on ourselves. That is the problem that leads to a constant curse of complaining.
What I want to do today is I want to look at a text that to me is powerful. It's written by the apostle Paul, and if there's anyone who had the right to complain, if there's anybody who had the right to complain, it was certainly the apostle Paul. The top thing on his bucket list, it was more than a bucket list, it was what he felt called to do. The number one desire of his heart was to go to Rome as a preacher, to go to Rome to communicate the gospel. He knew if he could go to Rome and reach the leaders in Rome, that he could have a chance of impacting the whole world. At the top of his list of things that he wanted to accomplish in life was to go to Rome as a preacher. Instead, he was arrested and sent to Rome as a prisoner. The dream is a preacher. Instead he is a prisoner. Not just a prisoner, but he was locked up for about two years, locked 24 hours a day, chained to different Roman guards, awaiting his very possible execution.
Instead of complaining, instead of whining, instead of telling God why God got it wrong, this is what the apostle Paul penned in a letter to the Christians in Philippi. Here's what he said. Philippians 2:14-15. Paul said this, "Do everything without complaining, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." That is a very high standard. Whatever you do, wherever you are, and whatever deed or word, do everything without grumbling or complaining. There's a lot of very spiritual reasons why we should live without complaining. There's also a lot of practical reasons. I want to talk about the spiritual reasons, but I want to spend just a moment and talk about some of the practical reasons.
There's a doctor named Dr. Travis Bradberry. He wrote a great book called "Emotional Intelligence 2.0". He's done a lot of research on the idea of complaining. What he says is that repeated complaining hard wires the brain to do, guess what? More complaining. In other words, the more negative you are, the more likely your brain is going to be triggered to continue to be negative. He and others talk about what it means just to have this kind of negative mindset that before long we enter into what they call a confirmation bias. In other words, you expect something to be bad, therefore you get what you expect.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to go through life preconceived to find the bad, when there's already enough bad in the world. I want to train my mind to find that which is good, that which is pleasant, and that which is helpful and hopeful, instead of always focusing on what's negative. When you look at the apostle Paul, the way he lived and what he taught, would communicate these two big ideas.
Paul essentially would say, "If you can change your circumstances, then do something about it." If there are negative circumstances, something that is unpleasant, something that is not right, something that you wish you could change and you can do something about it, then do something about it. In other words, we're not going to go through life and pretend like everything's okay when it's not okay. It's not a sin to notice something that's not right. When it boils into sin might be when we complain and complain and complain about it and don't ever do anything about it.
If there's something that you dislike, something that gives you a righteous dissatisfaction, if there is a godly discomfort, if there's something you look and say, "This isn't right on behalf of God." Don't complain about it. Don't just put comments on social media about it. Get out with your life and do something about it. If there's a negative situation and you can change it, then bring your A game and change it.
Then, by his teaching, he would say this. He would say, "If you can't change your circumstances, then change your perspective." If you can do something about it, do something about it. If you can't change your circumstances, then change your perspective. Change what you say about it. Change how you think about it. Change what you see in those circumstances. This, to me, is so powerful, what he says in Philippians 2:17-18. If you remember, he's chained to a Roman soldier. He's awaiting his very possible execution. His dream was to preach the gospel and he's locked up in prison. This is what he says. He says, "But even if I'm being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me."
Now, a lot of people think that when he said, "I'm being poured out like a drink offering" he was talking about his ultimate martyrdom, when he would actually give his life. Actually, It was his daily life that was a sacrifice.
How could Paul be in prison, chained up to a Roman soldier, and offer praise and worship to God? Paul was not the center of his own story. Jesus was the center of his story, and because of that he could take a negative circumstance and Paul could change his perspective about it in such a way that it would impact what God was able to do through this negative circumstance. This is why Paul said this, in Philippians 1:12-13 - "Now, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (HIS PERSPECTIVE CHANGED) As a result, it's become clear through the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ."
What was he saying? He was saying, "You think that I'm the prisoner here? Let me tell you who the real prisoner is. Every eight hours, I get fresh meat, virgin ears. I get someone new. One of the most powerful people in all of Rome chained up to my arm for an eight hour sermon that I write new for each and every one. You think I'm the prisoner here? You've got no idea how God is using what others would see as negative to advance the gospel." In other words, this isn't my plan.
Think about it. Paul is chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day. I would ask you this. What are you chained to? What are you chained to? Don't say my husband, but maybe it is a very painful relationship. Maybe it's a job situation, a financial problem, or health issue. Let me just say this to you. If you can do something about it, do something about it. If you can bring your A game, bring your A game. If you can pray, pray. If you can work hard, work hard. If you can get counseling, get counseling. If you can seek help, seek some help. If you can get wisdom, get wisdom. If you can't change your circumstance though, change your perspective. Change the way you look at it. Change the way you think about it. Change the words that you speak about it. Rather than complaining about something you cannot change, choose to see God's presence and his power, even in the middle of something you would have never ever asked for. I may wake up five years from now and recognize I'm able to have a voice into people's lives because I endured it and God did something. If you can do something about it, do it. You're smart people. If you can't change the circumstance, at least change your perspective about it.
I like what David said in the Old Testament. David had a lot and he did complain a lot about a lot of different things, but in a moment of glimpsing the goodness of God, this is what he said. He said, "Let all that I am praise the Lord. Let everything in me give praise to God. May I never forget the good things he does for me." See his goodness in your life right now. See his blessings through the immediate pain. What does God do? He forgives all my sins. He heals all of my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. What does my God do? He fills my life with good things. Let all that I am praise the Lord.
I don't know who this is speaking to, but life may be difficult right now. If you can change something, do it. If you cannot change it, change your perspective, and choose not just to look at what's wrong. But above all else… recognize that if change is going to happen in your life you cannot be the center of your story. Jesus needs to be the center of your story.