Sermon Follow Up - Week 12, 2022
“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 to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Phil. 2:14-18 ESV).
MAIN POINTS AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. The Goal: Living grumble-free until the day of Christ
Why would Paul give the Philippians such a... basic... sort of command? It seems like there are so many things more essential to living the Christian life than grumbling and disputing against one another. The point is that choosing to grumble and be at odds with one another and to complain against God are both roadblacks to living a life of joy in Christ and significant hinderances in proclaiming the gospel to a crooked and twisted world.
The Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron and ultimately God and it cost an entire generation the glory of inhabiting God's promise land. God takes grumbling very seriously because it is treason against him. It’s taking the breath breathed into man by God and exhaling it back at him in complaint. It’s us, finite people, telling the all-knowing one that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s weak people who need sleep and food, telling the all-powerful one that he’s not able. It’s presumptuous people telling the King of the universe that we have better ideas or better timing or a clearer sense of love and mercy and justice. This is especially offensive to God when our complaining and murmuring are directed at our brothers and sisters whom he loves and for whom Jesus shed his blood. He cherishes his children and just like we feel when our kid gets pushed down at the playground or someone we love is being mistreated…. God burns with jealous love. If we are to accurately live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, displaying what our humble Savior was like, and working out our salvation by God's power, we should not be characterized by grumbling. We are meant to be lights burning bright on a dark backdrop, not bubbling tar that sputters out complaints.
“Complaining turns off the light of the church in the world; proclaiming the word of life shines the light of the life of Christ into the darkness of the world.” G Walter Hansen.
“When Christian conversation is laced with complaints and personal attacks, Christians have lost their distinctive quality as the children of God in a world characterized by that same kind of negative tone.” G Walter
- What are ways that you are inclined to grumble against other people? Maybe even specifically in our church?
- What are ways that you are inclined to grumble directly against God? (though all grumbling is against God).
- Who do you know that is characterized by this distinct lack of grumbling.
2. The Way Out: Believing and Rejoicing
“Now these things [the Israelites’ experiences in the wilderness] took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did… We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:6, 9-13 ESV).
Grumbling is a temptation that we don't often apply 1 Corinthians 10:13 to. God has provided a way out. And the way out for Paul involves yet another choice to rejoice. If there was a fork in the road as you experience suffering, like imprisonment or otherwise, then one side would lead brazen complaining and the other would lead to joy. Paul was faced with a choice way back in Philippians 1:15-18, he could either grow discouraged and bitter about people dragging his name through the mud, or he could take a step back and rejoice as he noticed that Christ was still being proclaimed. Even in this instance he has made a choice, even if he suffers for the sake of the Philippians faith, he will rejoice and he invites them to rejoice with him. The choice is ours as well: To go on complaining and puffing out the smoke of grumbling that chokes out our joy, or to entrust our concerns to Jesus who will make all things right one day.
The Philippians shouldn’t expect to go on shining as lights or to be filled with the joy Paul is about to talk about if they are not holding fast to the word of life. And neither should we. We shouldn’t expect to overcome a propensity to grumble if we hold fast to this word of life, this good news that keeps us oriented. The good news that tells us we are forgiven and redeemed and treasured by God himself who has not withheld his own Son from us. The good news that reminds us that suffering for Christ’s sake is a privilege and it’s all part of God’s master plan to rescue people and deliver us one day.
We can have this joy, but it is rooted in what Dan mentioned at the very beginning of our series in Philippians: We can experience indestructible joy that is produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ displayed in the gospel and in God’s people.
- How is doing all things without grumbling a matter of faith and trust in the Lord?
- How can you apply last week's promise "for it is God who works in you" to the issue of grumbling?
- Make a concerted effort, by the Spirit and through prayer to identify grumbling in your life.
It might be easy to say that we grumble, but it may be harder to identify specific ways in which we shake a finger at God and one another.
- Consider putting your complaints into the form of a lament prayer.
Joy in Christ has room for things we might call "negative". The Psalmists had a lot of "negative" Psalms but when we put them to use to express our complaints and pain to God, it can reinforce our joy all the more. The worst thing for us to do is to grumble in our hearts or grumble against that other person, always feeling like the thing we're dissatisfied about is never addressed. What if we brought those things before the one who can really lift burdens or satisfy us with his love? One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply take what you're enduring and put it in the language of Psalm 13, 89, and more— "How long, O Lord?". That sounds like grumbling at first... but it's actually 1) directed at the right person and 2) it's an expression of faith that he can put an end and will put an end to it one day.
- Numbers 14
- Exodus 16
- Acts 16
- Matthew 5:14-16