By Sherri Langton
I have committed many Scripture verses to memory. Philippians 2:14 isn’t one of them. “Do everything without complaining or arguing” conveniently slipped from sight whenever I read Philippians. Yet recently an evangelist parked on it during a church revival meeting.
I squirmed. Oh, come on. Can’t Christians express their opinions?
The evangelist wasn’t addressing opinions but complaints about the church—from people like me. I had a running list: repetitious music, annoying brethren—even the revival itself.
Nearly every Sunday I refreshed the list with the latest irritations and recited it to friends and family. On Mondays, when I couldn’t remember much good about the worship time on Sunday, I had to admit that I’d become a pro at complaining. But since the revival, God has been teaching me the cure for it.
Confess to God.
Complaining isn’t a harmless sport; it’s serious sin. Paul wrote, “And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel” (1 Cor. 10:10).
The men who spied out Canaan had returned to Israel’s camp and reported that the Promised Land had giants. Knowing they would be squashed once they entered Canaan, the people grumbled (Num. 14:2).
What Moses said to the people echoed the conviction in me: “You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD” (Ex. 16:8).
After reading these Old Testament passages, I understand that my complaints weren’t against conditions and believers in the church body but against God Himself. Weary of wandering in my own wilderness of unrest and irritability, I asked Him to forgive me.
Share your complaints with God.
While God frowned on my spreading a bad report among fellow believers, He urged me to vent my frustrations to Him. I gathered this from two well-known verses:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil. 4:6).
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7).
Though Paul and Peter specify anxiety here, the same principles apply to complaints. Like anxiety, their erosion is too great and their weight too heavy. I must share them with God.
As I do this, Jesus comes alongside me as High Priest, not criticizing but sympathizing with my weakness (Heb. 4:15). His is a throne of grace where I receive mercy (v. 16).
Since I’ve been doing this, my thoughts have changed: I’m sure the church leaders are praying about their decisions. They’re trying to honor God, not make me miserable. Maybe I feel this way not because they’re doing something wrong, but because I don’t like change.
Such thoughts are part of God’s peace guarding my mind and heart as I entrust my complaints to Him (Phil. 4:7).
Dwell on the positives.
Constantly repeating a church’s flaws isn’t a healthy pastime. Paul says whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy about the church, I’m to think on these things (v. 8).
I wonder how conversations with others would improve if I spent more time dwelling on what the church has done right. The congregation is where grace and mercy became realities in my heart. It’s where biblical truth is preached from the pulpit, helping me discern Satan’s lies. Older saints in this local body model a lifestyle of prayer and perseverance under trial. Thanks to their example, my prayers and trust in God have deepened during personal crises.
When I put my mind to it, much about the church is excellent and praiseworthy. The more I think on my spiritual milestones because of this group of believers, the less I notice its flaws.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Complaining had turned my eyes away from Jesus to people and peeves. Why don’t you quit the music ministry? a diabolical voice whispered in my ear. Nobody understands how you feel. Why don’t you find another church?
Complaining had also affected my love for Jesus. I realized this while chewing on the evangelist’s link between complaining and Revelation 2:4, “You have forsaken your first love.”
This was not an easy to hear, and it didn’t come instantly. Over time, however, I turned from complaints and committed myself to march forward in the church God had called me to. To this day, I ask Him to “renew a steadfast spirit in me” (Ps. 51:10). The more I do this, the more I regard complaining not as a right but as a weight I must strip off in order to reach the finish line (Heb. 12:1).
Am I completely cured of chronic complaining about the church? I wish. But I’m not the same as before revival either. Nowadays when my spirit rebels over something I don’t like at church, Philippians 2:14 drifts into my thoughts and quiets the agitation. The Holy Spirit is adding to my memory by sheer repetition. It’s His way of nudging me back to my first love—and keeping me there.
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