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The Complaining Trap

1 Cor. 10:1-12 ERV “Brothers and sisters, I want you to know what happened to our ancestors who were with Moses. They were all under the cloud, and they all walked through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food (manna), 4 and they all drank the same spiritual drink (water from the rock). They drank from that spiritual rock that was with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 But God was not pleased with most of those people, so they were killed in the desert.
6 And these things that happened are examples for us. These examples should stop us from wanting evil things like those people did. 7 Don’t worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people sat down to eat and drink and then got up to have a wild party.” 8 We should not commit sexual sins as some of them did. In one day 23,000 of them died because of their sin. 9 We should not test Christ as some of them did. Because of that, they were killed by snakes. 10 And don’t complain as some of them did. Because they complained, they were killed by the angel that destroys.
11 The things that happened to those people are examples. They were written to be warnings for us. We live in the time that all those past histories were pointing to. 12 So anyone who thinks they are standing strong should be careful that they don’t fall.”

Now, in these passages the Apostle Paul is bringing attention to the sins that kept God’s people out of the Promised Land.

Through the sins listed, the children of Israel were robbed of God’s highest purpose for them.

And out of all the sins mentioned, one of them particularly stands out as something we might not think was all that important—the sin of COMPLAINING.

“10 And don’t complain as some of them did…”

The Greek word for complain is gong-geed-zo, and sort of sounds like murmuring or muttering or grumbling in muffled undertones.

It reflects smoldering, under the surface discontent.

You’re complaining under your breath, droning in a low murmur.

Now, the reason Israel was complaining is they had been brought out of a place of daily food and security (even though they had been slaves) into a wilderness of want.

To make matters worse, it was taking a lot longer to make it to the land of promise than they’d anticipated.

They therefore complained against their leaders and threatened to return to Egypt.

In fact, the Bible records Israel provoked God 14 times with complaining!

And Numbers 11:1 says, “When the people complained, it displeased the Lord.”

Now, Israel’s issue wasn’t really with Moses and Aaron, it was ultimately with God Himself—they were angry and discontented with Him.

It boiled down to they just didn’t trust Him.

TRUSTING GOD, or not, is the bottom line issue with complaining.

We’re basically saying, “I resent the hand God has dealt me.”

The children of Israel might just as well have looked up to heaven and said, “I don’t trust You!”

And the bitter consequence is they were destroyed in the wilderness, shut out of the land of Promise.

Now, in modern day society complaining is not thought to be that big a deal.

In fact, we’ve become a whole nation of whiners and complainers,

constantly griping,
and grumbling about not getting our rights,
not being happy with this, that, and the other, and so on.

We protest
and criticize
and scream
and yell
and find fault about how things aren’t the way we think they should be,
or that we somehow deserve,
and we’ve become the opposite of THANKFUL.

The fact is, you can’t thank if you’re complaining, and you can’t complain if you’re thanking!

In our text, Paul warns against falling into a critical, complaining spirit, an overall attitude that ultimately dominates the complainer.

He says that complaining is damaging to the complainer and opens a door for attack from the destroyer.

ILLUS: Now, in honor of full transparency, this message was sparked in me this week in a restaurant. An older couple sat down at the table next to us and the man immediately began to complain.

This man found fault with EVERYTHING.

He badgered the waitress, criticized the food, the renovation of the premises, the amount of hash browns on his plate…

And he left saying, “This is the biggest waste of thirty dollars for a breakfast I’ve ever spent. We won’t be back!”

It reminded me of something I once read—“The person who is always finding fault seldom finds anything else!”

I leaned over to Cyndi and said, “I bet he’s fun at home too!”

My guess is that this man was a chronic complainer.

He sees everything through a jaded eye, always noting the negatives and never praising the positives.

And I’ll guarantee you—HE’S NOT HAPPY.

I’ve never known a happy complainer!

And the danger is, if you hang around a complainer long enough, you will learn their ways and become one yourself!

Complainers are always looking for someone to join their unhappy party, and with time they form COMPLAINT CLUBS.

Complaint clubs spring up in businesses, in homes, in churches…anywhere there are people.

The complaint club’s motto is: Something is always wrong to gripe about.

This is wrong, that’s wrong
That’s not up to par,
This or that leader aren’t doing things the way they should be done,
I could do it better, faster, more efficiently, and on it goes.

And the contagion of complaining eventually grieves away the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit!

Soon the business, or family, or church it infects withers and wilts.

This is why James warns, “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”—James 5:9

Sadly, complainers fall into a trap of their own making to finally become nothing but a murmuring, mumbling, grumbling personality no one wants to be around.

What starts as minor complaining eventually becomes…

a habit,
a way of life,
an inward snare that holds the complainer tight in a choke hold of misery.

John Mason accurately writes, “A complaining spirit is first a caller, then a guest and finally a master!

ILLUS: There used to be a thing at retail stores called a customer complaint desk where a hapless employee was hired to field complaints from dissatisfied customers.

Don’t see many of those anymore!

Now they actually have a software program designed just to handle angry, discontented customers and their complaints.

I was recently thinking about that and how some people spend all their days at the complaint counter of life.

So we find the Bible advising:

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”—Philippians 2:14-15 NKJV

So to avoid spending too much time at the complaint counter, I want to share instead how to counter the complaint with the right kind of response.


I. Trust the sovereignty of God

God’s sovereignty means He is in charge of all things, including me.

Sovereignty says nothing can hinder God’s plan—History will be worked out according to His will!

Ephesians 1:11 “Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” (NLT)

The positive result of trusting in God’s sovereignty is knowing and trusting that his good purposes are being and will be achieved!

This is why the Bible says, “In everything (we should) give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you!”—1 Thes 5:18 NKJV

He didn’t say “FOR” everything, but “IN” everything give thanks.

Because no matter what is going on, God’s sovereignty says God is still in control!

He is sovereign over the affairs of my life, busying Himself with my every step.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”—Ps. 37:23 NLT

Bottom line: When I trust in God’s sovereignty over my life, I can thank Him for working all things together for the good, even the tough stuff!

A second thing to avoid complaining is:

II. Find God’s message in the mess

In the OT story of Joseph he was:

Betrayed by his brothers,
Sold into slavery
Lied about and thrown into prison
Torn away from family, home, and homeland
And left to rot in obscurity

But God delivered him, vindicated him, and made him 2nd only to Pharaoh in the most powerful kingdom on earth!

In his later years he showed that he had discovered the message in his mess, telling his brothers: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to keep many people alive.”—Gen. 50:20

Joseph had saved an entire nation and the Hebrew people from famine, and he realized that this is what the sovereign hand of God had wrought!


III. Remember your manna jar

In Exodus 16, God instructs Moses to save a jar of manna so future generations could see how the Lord had provided for his people in the desert.

When they looked at the jar of manna, they remembered God’s fingerprints on their past!

God is saying the same thing to you and me.

Since we’re inclined to grumble, to be thankless, and to complain about our circumstances, we are to remind ourselves of all the things God has done.

—Remember how God has protected you from making shipwreck of your life.
—Remember how God graciously let you grow up in a godly family.
—Remember how God awakened you to the ugliness of your sin.
—Remember how you walked away from that terrible car crash.
—Remember how you had mentors and key friends guide you in your faith.
—Remember how God sustained you during that season of unemployment.
—Remember how God miraculously healed you.
—Remember that impossible prayer request that God answered.
—Remember how you had no money and someone was led to hand you just what you needed.
—Remember how the gospel came alive to you and you were saved.

Remember God’s fingerprints and you’ll be thanking instead of complaining!


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