Are you a grumbler? If you are be aware you’re grumbling could end in big trouble! Grumblers are a menace in any community and most definitely in the church. Paul urged the Ephesians to Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Grumbling is one of the ways in which we destroy this unity and that is serious.
Grumbling has a long history and when it occurs it always ends “in tears”. Paul tells the Corinthians and do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel (1 Cor. 10:10). Paul is referring to the nation of Israel and specifically to the events recorded in Numbers 14 and 16. The grumbling started in Number 14 where we read that all the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness (Numb 14:2). By the end of this season of grumbling and disputing against God and his chosen leaders catastrophe had struck among the people. We read in Numbers 16:49 that 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Moreover, the LORD said that because of their grumbling none of the grumblers would enter the promised land (see Numb. 14:26-35).
Grumbling is essentially anti-God because in grumbling we are saying that God is not being good to me/us. If you take the case of the Israelites they were saying that God was being nasty to them. They said Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?“ And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Num. 14:3b-4). Through their grumbling they were saying that God had got it wrong with the circumstances and with the leaders He had given them. Circumstances may be bad and the leaders of your church may be inept, but grumbling is not the answer. We must remember from looking at Num. 14-16 that the LORD detests grumbling. It always ends in disaster.
How is it then that we can stop grumbling. The thing that puts a stop to grumbling is faith. It is to trust God knowing that He is good. Caleb was such a man. He did not succumb to grumbling. The LORD says of Him: But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it (Num. 14:24). Caleb believed in God and therefore rather than grumbling he set himself to trust in the God who is good and look towards the future.
Help to make sure we do not grumble is also found in the book of James. In James 1:2-4 we read Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. We can have joy rather than grumbling in difficult circumstances when we set ourselves to know that God can be trusted to work these hard things to transform us for our good and His glory.
Giving thanks is also a great preventative against a complaining grumbling spirit. Daniel in Daniel 6 found himself in a situation where he was facing being thrown into a den of lions if he prayed to his God (see Daniel 6:1-9). Notwithstanding this, he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to His God, just as he had done before (Dan. 6: 10b). How easily Daniel could have grumbled. Instead he determined to thank God. How needful it is for us to take heed to this example of Daniel. Our prayers need to be infused with giving thanks.
Grumbling then can be devastating to the community of God’s people. We learn moreover that it has a capacity to spread in a church. Unless there is a prayerful God-centred thankfulness among the people then grumbling can soon develop. Let us then heed the instruction Paul to the Philippians that we should Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil. 2:14)
Nevertheless it is needful to counterbalance this teaching by being aware that there are times when we need to face up to issues. Shunning grumbling does not mean we shun a proper dealing with issues. Hard circumstances and inept leadership do not call for grumbling, but they may call for proper action to be taken in accordance with biblical principles to resolve issues.
So let us determine to reject grumbling and in doing so we will save ourselves from falling under the disfavour of our God.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of December 2010)