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The Sin of Complaining

(Numbers 11:1-15)

Lesson 9 -- second quarter 2009
August 2, 2009

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2009

Introductory questions to chew

Is my discouragement any different before God than their complaining?

"And the LORD heard it" -- to what extent does that matter to me?

How have I grown weary and dissatisfied with any of God's provisions for me?

"I am not able to bear all this...alone" -- what's the solution?

What did I do this past week to overcome my complaining spirit?

What makes you complain?

Weren't the Israelites a complaining bunch, though? So they got a little hungry, perhaps even hungry to a great degree, but that surely didn't give them license to murmur against the Lord and against Moses and Aaron. They forgot so quickly the miraculous ways in which God had already provided for them. They were so governed by their stomachs that they actually stooped to pining for Egypt. The rumblings in their stomachs seem to have scrambled their logic to the point that they wished they had died by the flesh pots of Egypt with their hands and bellies full of bread. Whether they had died in Egypt instead of in the wilderness, would they be any less dead?! What a faithless bunch of malcontents!

Whew! I really laid it on the Israelites, didn't I?! And I would venture to guess that I am merely echoing the standard line in many Sunday School classes. But I am here to tell you that the vast majority of us had better be very careful in our attitudes toward and opinions of those Israelites. We haven't been in the wilderness. We are still sitting by the flesh pots, eating bread to the full. With frozen, canned, dried, and fresh food in abundance, and with money to buy at the store what we missed or ran out of, what do we know about trusting God when all looks bleak?! No, don't get me wrong. I am by no means excusing the Israelites. I am suggesting to you that we ought to be equally vigorous in judging ourselves.

Let me ask you a simple question: What triggers your complainer?

I wonder sometimes how little we can have before we become dissatisfied. In 1 Timothy 6:8, God tells us very plainly that if we have food and raiment we ought to be content. Do you really suppose He can be serious? (You might note that He isn't saying the best food and raiment; just so we have something to eat and something to wear. Under the raiment allowance you may toss in shelter if that makes you feel better -- it does me!)

As I write this, I wonder if I ought to make a new rule by which to live. I am sure if I could follow through with this, God would derive more pleasure from me, others would enjoy my company more, and I would enjoy life more. Think about this. If I have food to eat and clothes to wear, I will complain about nothing.

Now let me remind you that the first word of 1 Timothy 6:9 seems to indicate that a contrast to the food-and-raiment thought is about to be stated. So what do you think by now -- could it possibly be that the pursuit of more than food and raiment should be classed under wanting to be rich? Maybe these two verses show that God's poverty line for His people is food and raiment!

I know, that is an unpopular and uncomfortable train of thought. I will leave it for now; you and the Holy Spirit can wrestle with it. I want to add another "radical" boxcar onto your train of thought. It is found in Matthew 6:31-33. Ready? (I hope this all doesn't derail you!)

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things [eats, drinks, clothes] shall be added unto you."

I wanted to throw that in before closing because I didn't want us to take the First Timothy verses to mean we may feverishly pursue even something so basic as food, clothes, and shelter.

To overcome a complaining spirit...

"Be content with such things as ye have" (Hebrews 13:5). How easily we figure out ways to excuse our covetousness and lack of contentment! If we don't want bigger, we want better. And if we don't necessarily hanker for either of those, we wish for more. Has the evil one persuaded us with another one of his "Hath God said?" questions?

"In every thing give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Oh my, surely God doesn't expect us to practice this one literally, does He? Of course He does! God may have lots of breath, but He doesn't waste it just stringing letters and words together for the entertainment and intellectual exercise of it. While I do not believe God wants us to be thankful for everything, I do believe He commands us to express our thankfulness in the midst of everything. And yet how easily (and frequently?) I complain, fret, fuss, and fume instead...just as though this were the least important of God's commands.

"When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee" (Deuteronomy 8:10). Gratefulness keeps us focused on the Giver instead of the gift. Gratefulness reminds us of our dependence on and need of the Sustainer and Provider of all. Gratefulness keeps us from presuming that what we have is ours, or that we had it coming in the first place. Gratefulness blesses God for what He has given and refuses to complain about what He has denied.

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