Summary: Complaining can keep us from experiencing God's best.
How many of you know somebody who complains all the time? How many of you are that person? Well, after today’s message, some of you will find help with the problem of complaining while others of you will no doubt find something else to complain about.
Through-out Scripture, we read of people complaining about one thing or another. But if there's one group that’s known for complaining more than any other, it has to be the Israelites in the Old Testament.
They’d been slaves in Egypt. They had one prayer, “God, get us out.” So God raised up a leader, Moses, and God brought 10 miraculous plagues upon the Egyptians, and changed the heart of Pharaoh, who let them go. Then Pharaoh changed his mind and sent the army after them. They were trapped. The Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s armies on the other. So what did God do? He parted the Red Sea! The Israelites walked through on dry ground. Then Pharaoh’s army followed, but God closed the sea, and destroyed them. They’re now a free people, headed for the land of Promise. God feeds them miraculously (Exodus 16:11), gives them water from a rock (Exodus 17:6), makes their clothes and shoes where they never wear out (Deuteronomy 29:5), and what do they do? They complained.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” - Philippians 2:14 (NIV)
Let’s see what lessons we can learn from the bad example of the Israelites about how we can avoid being a complaining people.
1. Explaining our complaining. We complain because . . .
A. We have a faulty memory.
In the margin of my Bible I’ve written, “We always remember the past as better than it was.” That is certainly true of the Israelites. The way the talk about life in Egypt, you’d have thought they were part of the ruling class! They’d forgotten about their enslavement and the bricks they had to manufacture. All they remembered was sitting around pots of meat, eating all the food they wanted. They had a faulty memory. Often, like the Israelites, we are led to complain about the present based on untrue memories about the past.
B. We don’t know the facts.
This one is closely associated with the first reason for our complaining. The reason why we have untrue memories of the past is that we do not know the facts. Not does ignorance of the facts regarding the past result in false memories about the present; ignorance of the facts can lead to false impressions about the present. That’s what was true of the Israelites, “you have brought us out into this desert place to starve this entire assembly to death.”
“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.” - Proverbs 17:28 (NLT)
There is nothing intelligent about complaining about things about which we do not know the facts. As the old saying goes:
“Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” - Anonymous
C. We engage in stinking thinking.
The fact is, we find what we’re looking for. A realtor was showing a family different homes, none of which they were pleased with. They then asked the realtor, “What are the people like in this town?” The realtor replied, “What were the people like where you came from?” They said, “They were judgmental, busy bodies and gossips. They just weren’t very nice people.” The realtor said, “You’ll probably going to find people in this town are the same.”
The next day, another family looked at the same houses and had noting but positive things to say. They also asked, “We’re curious, what are the people like in this town?” The realtor replied, “Well, what are the people like in the town you came from?” They smiled and said, “They're great! We had so many great friends there it’s really hard for us to leave.” The realtor answered, “Well, I've got good news for you! Chances are, you are going to discover the people in this town are a lot like the ones in the town you came from.”
If you want to complain, you’ll find plenty of things to complain about. You find what you’re looking for. That’s stinking thinking.
D. We value our preferences over God’s purposes.
What was God up to in leading them through the desert? Numbers 14:22 indicates God took them through ten tests by which they might grow in faith and trust Him as they entered the Promised Land.
Sadly, because they were more interested in their worldly comfort than in godly character, they consistently chose to complain and disobey God each of the ten times; and as a result, were not ready to enter into God’s ultimate purpose for them - to live in the land of promise, where they would be protected and provided for by the power of God, and thus point other nations to also turn to God as their Savior.