Rejoicing, Not Grumbling – Philippians 2:14; 4:4 & Selected Scriptures

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 10, 2004

Rejoicing, Not Grumbling

Philippians 2:14; 4:4 & Selected Scriptures

Most of you are aware that Grace Bible Church has been hit with some pretty hard blows in the last month. We have an adversary that has been working overtime to get us off track and destroy God’s ministry here if possible. The hardest hitting blow has only recently revealed itself, and we are still finding out the length, breadth and depth of it. The nature of this blow is related to what I can only describe as our adversaries exploitation of a personal offense or offenses into a web of grumbling and complaining that has strained and even broken some relationships; disrupted and damaged some of our ministries, some seriously; cast doubt on our church leaders and assassinated my character which has greatly hindered the teaching ministry to some. I believe that problems of this nature need to be faced head on, so this morning we are going to back to Philippians 2:14 to talk about grumbling and disputing and how to replace that with rejoicing.

The Prohibition of Grumbling Philippians 2:14

Philippians 2:14-16 commands Christians to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life . . .”. I explained these verses back last May so I am not going to go into any great detail in expositing the passage today. You can pick up a copy of those sermons for that. Today, I simply want you to understand that we must be very careful to obey this command of God to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” As the text describes, when we do so, we show that we are following God’s plan for our lives and proving our godliness in the midst of living among ungodly people and shining His light of righteousness and hope to them. Whe we do not, we do the opposite

The word translated here as “without grumbling” (NAS), “complaining” (NKJV & NIV) or “murmuring” (KJV) is goggusmoV / goggusmos which the describes the low tone used in whispering a complaint or talking in secret such as in John 6:41-43 when the Jews grumbled among themselves about Jesus. This encompasses the negative and slanderous gossip that people so readily spread among one another. The word can also used to describe more open verbal complaining too, such as in the Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20:11 when the workers openly voiced their unjust complaint to the landowner.

Without Disputing. The word translated here as “without disputing” (NAS) or “arguing” (NIV) is (dialogismoV / dialogismos) which actually refers to “thought,” “reasoning,” or “imagination.” It can be used in a good or neutral sense, such as in Romans 14:11 where it refers to the “opinions” of a weaker brother, but the word is usually used in a negative sense or context in the New Testament. It is used to refer to such things as “evil thoughts” (Mt. 15:19), the reasoning of the doubting Pharisees (Luke 5:22), the arguing among the disciples about which of them might be the greatest (Luke 9:46), the futile speculations of those that do not honor God (Rom. 1:21). In its context here in Philippians 2:14, it is used in a negative sense referring to disputing and arguing by either doubting God or being proud and contrary to others.

Grumbling is the starting point for disputing. We start with muttering something under our breath because we really do not want anyone else to hear the full expression of our bad attitude. But as the attitude gets worse, we put more voice to our complaints and share them with those we think would be sympathetic to us. This compounds itself as your comrades take your side and agree with you. This results in giving more public voice to your thoughts as you contend with whoever you believe is the cause of your troubles or have taken on as your adversary.

Grumbling and disputing are serious sins because they are the outward evidence of hearts that do not trust God. It states that we think we know better than God what is best for us. They are a denial of God’s goodness, omniscience and omnipotence. It is the same root of sin that caused Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. She believed the devil’s lie that God was holding back something good from her. She took matters into her own hands to gain what she thought was best. When we are wise in our own eyes we make very foolish decisions.

There is also an aspect to grumbling that proclaims that God should be our servant, and not the other way around. Consider the many gripes that the Israelites had against God. They had seen God free them from slavery with a mighty hand of amazing miracles, yet they continually doubted that God knew best or would care for them.

Is it really any different with you or I as we face various circumstances. Is God only good if everything in your life is comfortable and easy? Does God change character and become unfair to you when life gets tough and you suffer bad things? Intellectually, we would deny such blasphemous accusations against God, but when we grumble and dispute we proclaim those very things. Grumbling says that God is not doing things the way that we think He should, and we resent it. He needs to get His act together and fix it according to our liking. The ugliness of it comes out a little more when stated so directly, doesn’t it?

Grumbling is an expression of man’s sinful nature, so it comes naturally to us, yet it should and will cease in the life of the Christian as he practically applies the truth of Scripture.

How does God respond to those who grumble? Lets take a brief look at the Israelites that God had freed from their slavery in Egypt.

God’s Judgement on Grumblers

God judged Egypt with a “strong and mighty hand” in ten plagues that finally forced Pharaoh to release the Israelites. They leave Egypt in chapter 12 and make their way to the Red Sea in chapter 13. In chapter 14 Pharaoh pursues them and the Israelites already begin to waver in their faith, but God miraculously allows them to cross the Red Sea on dry ground, and they see God destroy the Egyptian army in the Red Sea which they had just crossed. In chapter 15 they sing a song of praise to God for His deliverance, but by the end of the chapter they are already complaining.

Exodus 15:24,25 – “We’re thirsty” – The attack was personally against Moses, but in reality it was against God. God responded with graciousness, but also a warning.

Exodus 16 – “We’re hungry” (vs. 2,3). The attack was personally against Moses, but in reality it was against God. God responded with graciousness in giving food – Manna & Quail (vs. 4, 8, 13, 14) , but also a test with mild consequences (vs. 4, 20, 27-28). \

Exodus 17 – “We’re still thirsty” (vs. 2). The quarrel was personally against Moses, but in reality they were testing God (vs. 2,7). God was still gracious.

Numbers 11 – “We want meat, not manna” (vs. 4-6). God gave quail as judgement. They would have quail until they became loathsome to them (vs. 20), and the quail also came with a very severe plague (vs. 33).

Numbers 14 – “We’re in danger” (vs. 3). The attack was personally against Moses & Aaron, but in reality it was rebellion against God (vs 4,9-10,11). God is merciful and spares their lives, but condemns those 20 and older to never enter the promised land and instead wander in the wilderness until their natural lives end (vs. 29-30).

Numbers 16 – “We’re as good as you.” The attack was personally against Moses & Aaron (vs. 3), but in reality it was against God, for they rejected God’s chosen leaders and rebelled against the consequences of their own sin (vs. Exodus 2-4, Num. 16:13-14). God had the earth swallow alive those who rebelled (vs. 31-33).

Numbers 16 – “You caused this.” The attack was personally against Moses & Aaron (vs. 41), but in reality it was rejection of God’s judgement (vs. 44-45). God began consuming them until Moses and Aaron intervened (vs. 46-48).

Numbers 21 – “This is taking too long” (vs. 4-5). The people spoke against God and Moses (vs. 5). God sent fiery serpents that ended the journey of the complainers that would not obey the Lord (vs. 6), but granted healing to those who by faith would look upon the bronze serpent He had Moses set up (vs. 8-9).

These stories from the Old Testament are not just historical footnotes for history buffs. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:6-10 “Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” We are to learn how to live in the present from what has occurred in the past that is recorded in the Scriptures. God takes grumbling and complaining seriously because it is ultimately against Him. Do not presume on God’s patience and mercy for He will bring to judgement those who continue to grumble.

Paul goes on to say, 12 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” Never think you are above the dangers to which others have succumbed. All of us can fall into the temptation of grumbling and complaining, but God provides a way of escape, if we will look for it. Here in Philippians 2 we find the way to escape grumbling is to live as a blameless and innocent child of God who is a light in the world (vs. 15) which is done by holding fast the word of life (vs. 16). We are to be people who are rejoicing (Phil. 4:4), not grumbling.

What is the damage that occurs when grumbling starts and is not quickly corrected?

The Damage Caused by Grumbling

Broken Fellowship – The first casualties of grumbling are the relationships between people. Proverbs 20:19 warns us not to associate with a gossip and 26:20-22 warns, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. 21 [Like] charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” A whisperer is another term for a gossip or grumbler. Proverbs 16:28 adds, “A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

An old essay entitled, “Nobody’s Friend,” describes the damage of grumbling, which is really just a subset of gossip.

My name is gossip. I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted the more I am believed. I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I am nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. I topple governments and wreck marriages. I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion. I spawn suspicion and generate grief. I make innocent people cry in their pillows. Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip. Office gossip. Shop gossip. Party gossip. Telephone gossip. (I will add, church gossip). Before you repeat a story ask yourself, is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary? If not – the essay concludes, “shut up,” but as Christians, we must do more.

Gossip is stopped by a quest for the truth. There is nothing wrong with someone coming to you with a complaint if you are part of the solution, but if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem and a participant in gossip. All of us experience problems including problems with other people and we need advice. Proverbs 1:5 states, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 12:15 adds, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” At the same time, Proverbs 12:5 warns, “The thoughts of the righteous are just, [But] the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.” Heed the warning of Psalm 1 and avoid the counsel of the wicked. How then can we be part of the solution instead of part of the problem?

First, never agree to keep a secret that would keep you from helping a person resolve a conflict or keep you from resolving any questions their complaint puts in your own mind. Second, give only sound, Biblical, godly advice and not your own thoughts. Third, hold them accountable to resolve any conflict they have with someone else. Don’t just tell them to work it out with the person, ask them later if they have done so and keep asking until they do resolve the conflict. In addition, consider that they may need help and offer to go with them to work out their conflict. Fourth, if they will not resolve their complaint or conflict, go to the third party. Fifth, if the complaint causes you questions about the third party, go and get their side of the story. Sixth, do not tell a fourth party. Seventh, follow the steps of Matthew 18:15-17 for sin issues. And finally, if you are not willing or capable of following these points, refuse to listen their complaint.

Destruction of God’s Message

When grumbling and complaining goes on in the church and it is directed against a leader or leadership of the church, as has occurred here over at least the last few months, there are additional consequences to this sin. Let me briefly explain the most grievous and severe damage that has been done here by those that have participated in this web of sin. There is of course the personal damage to my own reputation, but I am but a servant of the Lord, so that is of little importance in itself. The severe problem that is caused by the denigration of the preacher is that it also causes the destruction of God’s message to the congregation. How?

Wrong Focus – is the first consequence. When the integrity of God’s messenger is questioned, the focus shifts off of paying attention to the Scriptures that are being explained and looking for what God is saying to you through them. Personally, while I would like you to like me and think highly of me, those issues are of little consequence in comparison to my quest and the importance of getting you to understand and apply what God has revealed in the Bible about Himself and how He wants us to live.

Ignoring God’s Word – is the second consequence. When people grumble and slander the preacher with insinuations that he is power hungry and has his own agenda, what he preaches is questioned and or ignored. When you boil it all down, though I would like you to agree with my opinions, it really does not matter whether you do or not. However, it is a serious thing to ignore what God says, because He will judge you for it.

How do I know that these things have occurred? The theme of Philippians is Joy & Unity. I have been preaching through this book since January. If the church as a whole were paying attention to God’s message to us in this book, then we should have greater joy and unity now than at anytime in our history. Personally, though I am tired and emotionally drained and am unhappy about what has been uncovered, I can honestly say that I can’t recall being as joyful as I am now. I can clearly see what our Lord is doing in the midst of everything and I praise Him for it. Some of you also have that same joy. Others of you have had your focus shifted off the Lord to peripheral issues and you have become self-centered or part of factions and cliques. Things which are exactly opposite of what God commands in Philippians.

Defaming of God is another consequence of grumbling and complaining that has occurred here.

Among Believers this shows up in lives that are no longer lived to God’s glory, but for self achievement. And let me clear that declaring you are doing something for God or by His leading does not make it so. Even believers can be very good at self deception. The fruit of the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22,23). Those are the characteristics that confirm a person is being led by God. Believers that do not obey God, defame Him. Believers that do not live in harmony, defame Him. Believers that grumble are not following God, they defame Him.

God is also defamed among believers when they do not give Him the praise He deserves. A church that is factioned by grumbling and complaining cannot, and even more so, will not recognize all that God is doing, and so God’s honor and glory are shortchanged.

God is also defamed by the questioning that goes on both within the church and by believers in other churches. Bad news travels a lot faster than good news, and we have already had the grumbling here reach people in other churches and cause their questioning about what is wrong with us. We have already had Christians say they would not invite someone here.

Among Unbelievers God is defamed because the grumbling gives them grounds to believe that Jesus Christ doesn’t really make any difference in a person’s life, so why bother to be a Christian? They discount the message of the preacher and harden themselves even more against the truth of the gospel. We already know that the grumbling that has occurred here has reached the ears and eyes of non-Christian spouses and friends.

Reduced Ministry is another consequence of grumbling. Instead sharing the gospel with others or even reaching out to new people that come here, the complaining causes people to lose heart and turn inward. They start questioning their own involvement, so they become resistant to getting to know new people or trying to get them involved. Those guests and newcomers that those of us who are reaching out cannot get to are left with the impression we are a cold and uncaring group of people. That is just the opposite of the love, warm and caring family that we are supposed to be as part of the church of Jesus Christ.

Another cause of reduced ministry is that those that are normally involved in outreach, planning ministries and carrying ministry out are sucked dry of our time and energy in trying to deal with the grumblers and the problems they cause. The amount of time that I have had taken away from me just this week alone has made it impossible to deal with other needs in the church, plan for upcoming ministry events and complete even some basic administrative duties – as evidence by the fact that there is no powerpoint presentation today.

I could go on about other areas that are damaged by the grumbling that has occurred, but these give you the idea that we have been hurt as a church by all these things. What then do we do in response?

First of all, now that this inflamed wound has been exposed, we will continue to root out those that have been involved in grumbling and seek to bring them to repentance, reconciliation and restoration. If you have been involved with any grumbling, or if you have any issues against me, any of our other church leaders, or any other Christian in this church, please save us the time and energy and arrange to get together with us so we can work through those issues and apologize and forgive one another as needed. It will only be worse if we have to search you out to expose any sin. If you are afraid or intimidated by me for any reason, then bring a friend for support.

Second, we will strive to keep the priorities of ministry God has given us, especially in personal discipleship.

Third, we will do our very best to continue to proclaim and obey the word of God, including the commands we have been studying in Philippians 4.

The Command to Rejoice Philippians 4:4

Philippians 4:4 commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” We have already spent a lot of time with that passage, so this is only a quick reminder.

Rejoice in God’s Attributes

We can rejoice in the Lord always because of the characteristics God possesses. God is good and He will do what is best for us. God is all knowing, all powerful and in control so He can keep all of His promises. God is loving, merciful and gracious, as proven in Jesus dying to redeem us from our sins that we might be forgiven in Him. I can trust Him and rest in His peace. No matter what may happen and how unpleasant circumstances might get, I can always rejoice in God Himself just as Paul did when sitting in the Philippian jail in Acts 16.

Rejoice for What God is Doing

We can also rejoice in what God is doing. God wants us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness instead of being concerned about the daily necessities of life (Matt. 6). He want us to see and rejoice in what He is doing. Paul does that throughout Philippians. His circumstances are bad. He has other Christians that are purposely seeking to cause him distress, and Paul acknowledges those things, but his focus is on what God is doing. The same needs to be true for us.

There is no doubt that the grumbling that has occurred here has hurt this church, but that does not mean that God is not still doing great things in our midst. A good foundation has already been made in training people to disciple others so that we have a whole bunch of people being discipled now (and if you want to be discipled, we have people to do it with you). Our AWANA ministry has expanded this year. The new G.I.R.L Time ministry is off to a great start. We have new leaders in both our Christian Education ministry and our Teen ministry, and both Mark and Chris are doing great jobs. Our Praise Team was able to test some equipment on loan from the Hale’s, and we will be soon be getting them what the need to improve their ministry. We have had several men commit to seriously working to become Elders and I am already meeting with two of them on a regular basis to help them achieve their goals, and I will start meeting with a third in the near future. The Pastor’s Advisory Council, which is fulfilling the role of Elders at present, could not be more unified. Our Pastoral Intern, Elias Carrero, is now in seminary, he is excited, and we are already reaping the fruits of what he is learning. We are looking into how we might be able to take more advantage of his ministry abilities. We have a group of men that refer to themselves as a “band of brothers” that have committed themselves to a high degree of accountability and encouragement in walking with the Lord, and they want to include any of the rest of you men that would like the same. We have a faithful group of women that meet every Thursday at 6 a.m. to pray for our church. The point is simply that we have a great God who is doing great things and we should not let the sin of some cause us to lose that proper focus in praising Him.

Rejoice for Reconciliation

There is also rejoicing in reconciliation. No one like conflict, but there is joy in having that conflict resolved. No one likes the consequences of sin, but there is joy when sorrow for sin leads to repentance, reconciliation and restoration (2 Cor. 7). I am personally aware of this happening a couple of time in the last two weeks, but God brought about a major reconciliation this past Thursday. I am going to ask the couple involved in this to come and tell you about it.

Sermon Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times any words “grumble” and “gossip” are used. Talk with your parents about how you can avoid grumbling or gossiping yourself and how to respond when others do it to you.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

Explain the command in Philippians 2:14. What is “grumbling”? What is “disputing”? Why are these serious sins? What is God’s response to them? Explain God’s response to the Israelites in Exodus and Numbers. What are we to learn from their history (1 Cor. 10:6f)? What kids of damage is caused by grumbling? Has anyone ever gossiped about you? What were the results? Have you gossiped about others? What were the results? What is the difference between seeking advice and gossiping? Of giving advice and gossiping? What damage has grumbling caused Grace Bible Church? How have you been damaged? Have you taken part in the grumbling? When will you apologize? Are you holding any grudges? When will you seek reconciliation? How can you obey the command to rejoice in the Lord? What is God like? What is He doing?

Sermon Notes – October 10, 2004

Rejoicing, Not Grumbling

Philippians 2:14; 4:4 & Selected Scriptures

The Prohibition of Grumbling – Philippians 2:14

Without Grumbling =

Without Disputing =

God’s Judgement on Grumblers

 

The Damage Caused by Grumbling

Broken Fellowship

Gossip – Dealing with it

1 – Don’t agree to keep secrets

2 – Give only sound, Biblical advice, not your opinions

3 – Hold them accountable to resolve their complaint/conflict

Keep asking them about it / offer to go with them

4 – Go yourself to 3rd party if they will not

5 – Go to 3rd party if the complaint causes you to question

6 – Do not tell a 4th party

7 – Follow Matthew 18:15-17 for sin issues

8 – If you cannot or will not do the above, refuse to listen.

 

Destruction of God’s Message

Wrong Focus

Ignoring God’s Word

Defaming of God

Among Believers

Among Unbelievers

Reduced Ministry

 

The Command to Rejoice – Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in God’s Attributes

Rejoice in What God is Doing

Rejoice for Reconciliation


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