I spent two summers in college working at Salem Ranch, a home for troubled teens in Middle-of-Nowhere, IL.  My former youth pastor who had discipled me was the director of the program.  The second summer I spent up there was much drier than the first as far as seeing fruit in the lives of guys I tried to invest time with (and in my life).  That summer Steve (my old youth pastor) taught and modeled something that has proved invaluable for ministry.  God demands faithfulness from us, not fruitfulness.  In other words, we are called to be obedient not to give a list of numbers.  He will provide the fruit, we are called to be faithful.  So often in ministry we long to see fruit, which is good.  However, instead of that motivating us to faithful prayer and faithful ministry despite the results, we allow ourselves to become discouraged if someone we are investing time with is not showing radical change all the time.  There’s more I could say about this, but for now I’d like to point you to The DesiringGod Blog.  They have a guest post from a missionary in Asia on this subject that is well worth reading.

HT: DesiringGod Blog


GRUMBLING — We all do it.  Call it complaining, murmuring, whining, or perhaps a preferred expletive, you probably spent at least twenty minutes to an hour doing it today…maybe a lot longer if it was a “bad day.”

Yesterday I finished a long busy day of work and spent some quality time at the neighborhood pool with my gf.  She asked me how work was and I spent about 20 minutes explaining why dealing with the public can be so frustrating.  I told her about a guy who called me to ask for our address so he could write a letter to express the fact he did not enjoy his time visiting…as if his present phone call and his vocal expressions a week before were not enough.  I told her about patterns of complaining and how almost every person over forty (that’s not an ageist remark, just something I’ve observed; plenty under 40s complain too) has at least one complaining remark to make before they leave, even if they enjoyed their time.  She was very patient and listened attentively (she’s really good at that).  She stuck with me, but after a while I could see in her expression that it was starting to wear on her.  I suddenly realized I’d spent about 20 minutes not merely explaining about my day, but complaining in detail about all the complainers.

That’s when it hit me — Conviction from God about my own sin.  I’ve never seen myself as particularly whiny, but I grumble inwardly or outwardly WAY too often.  It lead me to the Word where I was convicted by passages like:

1 Peter 4:7-9

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (ESV)

And Philippians 2:14-15

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 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… (ESV)

Show hospitality?  No problem, I love hanging out with people and helping people out.  Shoot, my job is in marketing and public relations, hospitality is my specialty…wait…without grumbling?  As I searched my heart I realized that while I do experience joy in working with people and serving them, I have a short fuse before I get frustrated with many of them.  Most of them would never notice, but it’s there all the same.

Ok, so when I’m showing hospitality I can’t grumble, but there are plenty of other times I can get away with it, right?  Not according to Paul.  I’m called to do ALL things without grumbling.  That means doing the daily duties I don’t really want to, that means enduring traffic jams without grumbling, it means responding to rude remarks from folks at work with genuine care and concern, and it means glorifying God for every situation whether I feel like it or not.

I think there are two basic reasons why it’s so important that we not grumble.  First, grumbling is like the perfect inverse to praise.  When I am excited about something or enjoy something I speak aloud my joy.  I tell my friends and some random people about the good thing allowing them to join me in my excitement.  My heart ascends beyond myself in happiness and acclaim for my God who has done such a great thing for such an unworthy sinner.  Grumbling is the opposite of all that.  It is expressed by complaints to whoever will listen.  It drags others into things like gossip and more complaining.  My heart exclaims its lack of faith in the good sovereignty of God and makes ME central, surrounded by anyone who will join my pity party.

This may sound extreme, and we all know people who do this often and obviously.  Chances are, though, that sometime today you and I both have done just that, it just may have been more private and less noticeable to anyone besides God, but the essence was the same.  Grumbling is an assault on God’s glorious merciful sovereignty.  The book of Psalms describes the foolishness of the people of Israel whining in the wilderness…it’s a very convicting description:

Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the LORD.

(Psalm 106:24-25 ESV)

Not grumbling is important because to grumble is to shake a fist at our glorious God when we ought to rather be lifting our hands in humble praise.  I said that there were two reasons it’s important not to grumble; the second is that our decision to not grumble, even in the most grumble-like situations, allows us to shine in the darkness that is around us and show that unlike the rest of the world, Christians don’t have to grumble.  Most folks complain because they do not have a greater hope beyond what they see in front of them.  If they were planning to get a particular job, or planning to marry a particular person, or planning on everyone being nice to them at work, or planning on there being no traffic on the freeway during rush hour, and they find their plans are shot, all hope is gone.

For the Christian, the best is always yet to come, and we have a wise and powerful God who explains to us gently, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”  (Isaiah 55:8-9).  His thoughts and ways are high as the heavens are above the earth, but so is his grace towards us if we trust in him, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12), and “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  Therefore by trusting in the hope that is to come and trusting that God has a great and mighty plan at work in the midst of our worse day, we show the world just how glorious and worthy of trust he is.

I am guessing that since almost everyone around me is complaining at work, if I am tender and kind and not complaining I will prove a sharp contrast that God may use to give hurting folks a peak at his Gospel.  John Piper says it incredibly well in his meditation on Philippians 2:14-15:

Grumbling only adds to the darkness because it obscures the light of God’s gracious, all-controlling providence.  But grumble-free, joyful, sacrificical love for others is the brightest reflection of God’s glory in the world.  A passion for the supremacy of God is a passion to murmur no more. (A Godward Life, 204)

Friend, will you join me in fighting to trust God so much that we have nothing left to grumble about?