Monday, December 3, 2012

Ungrateful Grumbling and God’s Grace: Part 1 of 3

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation."
Philippians 2:14-15

    My next few articles will be part of a series of three on gratefulness.  I've been convicted many times and  have also grown (and am still growing) much in the ways of thankfulness and contentment, and I'm excited to write on this topic for you all to read. Thus begins the first in my series on gratefulness…
     God is a very gracious, merciful God, but He hates complaining. How do I know this? It’s written all over in the Bible, especially in the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament.
     God performed so many wonders and blessed the Israelites so many times, even when they asked in a whiny voice. He executed ten incredible plagues, He delivered them from bondage in Egypt, He provided gold and goods from the Egyptians for their journey, He led them by a pillar of cloud and fire, He parted the Red Sea so they could walk on dry land, He destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army, He made bitter water sweet for them, He provided bread and meat for them to eat, He poured water out of a rock for them to drink… the list goes on and on! 
      “In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe” (Psalm 78:32, NIV). The Israelites did not listen, did not trust; they grumbled and whined against God. When the Egyptians were pursuing them, they didn't say to themselves, “God has done amazing things for us so far just to get us here, so I’m sure He wouldn't just lead us to a dead end to die; I’m sure He has a plan.” No! They moaned, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? . . . For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12, ESV). Only once did I find in Scripture when the Israelites praised and thanked God: after God destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, the Israelites threw quite the party in God’s honor. 
     Other than that one time, they whined that they would rather be back in Egypt under bondage. And that’s where their hearts were: still in bondage in Egypt. Their minds were not in submission to the Lord, but to sinful ways.
     God warned them many times: He turned the manna maggoty when they didn’t listen and hoarded it overnight, He told they were obstinate people and deserve to be destroyed, Israelites worshiping the golden calf were put to death, He burned the outskirts of the camp when His wrath was kindled after they complained. He gave them these warnings and more, and still also blessed them. Yet they continued to grumble and disbelieve. Their hearts were ungrateful, not committed to Him, so He banished them to the wilderness, forbidding that generation to see the Promised Land.
     What it really comes down to when we complain and are ungrateful, is we are telling God, “I don’t like what You are doing in my life. I don’t trust that You have a purpose in everything, and I want it a different way.” We compare the blessings God has given us to the blessings He has given others, and we are envious and turn up our noses at His grace. That is why God hates it so immensely that He will open the earth and swallow up the ingrates (Numbers 16).
     Many times, we read Bible passages like these and think, “Those nearsighted Israelites. Can’t they see all that God did for them, yet they still complained! What dumb people,” and then we think we would do better; we wouldn't grumble. We’d give thanks; we’re better than them. But we’re not. 
     Think of all the times you've complained. Did you get upset when your computer crashed, or your coffee spilled, or construction slowed you down on your way to somewhere? Did you mutter under your breath when you were asked to do a chore that wasn’t yours, or had to help a sibling with school, or when your dishwasher didn’t clean the dishes properly so you had to wash the dishes again? We are a very whiny people. Even small, insignificant things—like having to put more toilet paper on the holder (even though you weren’t the one to use it all up), or having to hang up all that laundry, or having to go all the way downstairs just to get a pencil (such a long trek, I know!)—cause us to grumble. 
     And I’m completely guilty as well. When I learned my family was moving to Illinois, I was distressed. Because I take a long time to become close to friends, I did not want to lose my dear friendships in Wisconsin. I assumed I would become the “new girl” and stay the “new girl,” a companionless introvert. Even though God had blessed me with so much—a wonderful, comfortable new house; my own room; a job for Dad; being able to see Dad every night now that we moved down with him; Skype and email to keep in touch with friends—I forgot all that and relied on my own abilities to make friends instead of asking and trusting in God to provide me with Christian fellowship.
     The first week I went to our new church, my family joined the fellowship meal; since I was new, I figured I would be eating lunch with Mom and Dad. Immediately, though, a handful of girls greeted and invited me to lunch at their table. While I chatted and listened, I discovered I had a lot in common with one of them. That very evening, we were invited to sup with other families in our area at my new acquaintance’s house, which—surprisingly—was located only a few blocks away from our own home! One day, I invited my new friend over to play games, but we ended up simply talking for the whole two hours, and I really clicked with her.
Even though I lacked trust in God and grumbled on the inside, God graciously gave me a friend. I did not deserve to be rewarded for my lack of faith, yet God chose to bless me. 
     We must watch ourselves and guard our ungrateful thoughts so that we do not continually grumble against God and end up like the Israelites—wandering in the wilderness of our sin and despair for the rest of our lives. We must make sure our hearts are not devoted to the old, sinful man—like the Israelites in bondage to the Egyptian ways even after they left Egypt—but we must devote our hearts to God. We must give thanks and praise God for all the blessings He has showered us with. How do we do this? Well, since I’m already over my word limit, you’ll just have to stay tuned to read my second article in the series on gratefulness…


Image by Klipsie


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