Grumbling, Complaining, and Worrying
… in order to present you before Him, holy, blameless, and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:22).
Paul the apostle commands us to do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14). James instructs us not to complain against one another (James 5:9). Paul told us to have no anxiety about anything (Phil. 4:6). And Jesus told us not to be anxious about what we eat or drink, to not be anxious about what we wear (Matt. 6:25). How well are you doing in obeying these commands? Let’s take grumbling first. Do you grumble about your company, your boss, your fellow workers? How about when you are in traffic, late for an appointment? Are you filled with joy? Complaining. Do you complain about your hotel accommodations when on a business trip or vacation? If you are in your fifties or older, you were told that you should by now be able to ‘make hay’ in your financial security, but that is not happening. Are you complaining about that? Do you grow impatient with the service at a restaurant? Do you lose it when you are kept on hold for five minutes with a utility company when you are disputing a charge on your monthly bill? Anxiety. Do you lose sleep over the uncertainty and tenuous nature of your present job security? Are you worried about a younger work associate who may replace you? Your job performance has been steady for several years. You are reaching your ‘numbers’, but you know the company is all about ‘what have you done for us lately?’ You feel the pressure to maintain and exceed last year’s numbers, and you wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat, wondering how in the world you can keep this going. Do any of these scenarios describe your present condition? What is the remedy?
Paul is writing to the saints and faithful ones in Colossae. Though the church at Colossae was in Asia Minor – modern day western Turkey – and was no doubt influenced by Paul’s church planting work at Ephesus, he did not plant the church. Epaphras did (Col. 1:7). There is indication that even at this early stage (around AD 58) of the New Testament church, the gnostic heresy which one to two hundred years or so later gave us the spurious gnostic Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Truth, the Gospel of Matthias, and the Gospel of Phillip was beginning to be a problem for the church. Gnosticism taught a form of mysticism, seeking to convince believers that a straightforward proclamation of biblical truth was not sufficient, that some could gain a greater clarity of spirituality through visions, self-mutilation, or rituals of eating or abstaining from certain foods. Paul addresses this by giving a series of warnings, instructions, and commands.
I say this that no one may delude you with persuasive argument (1:4).
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy, or empty deception, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (1:8).
Let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink, with respect to festivals, new moons, or sabbath days (2:16).
Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause in his fleshly mind (2:18).
Nothing much has changed. People are the same today as they were in Paul’s day. People complained and worried then, just as they do today. People today are looking for wisdom and knowledge through all manner of dreams, visions, talismans, and new age spirituality. Even more mainstream people, including believers, when in a pressure situation can fall into such foolishness and superstition. Who has never, for example, used a post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) approach in a tough situation. The argument goes like this, ‘I noticed that when I wore my navy blue suit to the big sales presentation that I was able to secure the contract. No doubt the suit was the cause of the sale. I will wear the same suit today on my next presentation.’ ‘I noticed that when I wore my red golf shirt on the day of my team’s big game, they won. The shirt must be the cause of the win. The shirt is our team’s good luck charm.’ A rabbit’s foot, wearing a certain suit or shirt, or any number of other talismans are mere superstition, just as useless as festivals, new moons, Sabbath days, or self-mutilation were in Paul’s day.
These foolish ideas are no way to overcome grumbling, complaining, or worrying. Paul gives us the remedy for all this negativity which threatens to undo us. He says to the Colossians, these formerly pagan, godless, and superstitious people, ‘Though you were formerly alienated (separated from God due to their wilful, conscious, intentional rebellion against the true and living God who had given them every necessity for life), hostile in mind (turning away from the clear evidence that God is real and has sent them a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, going their own way as enemies of the God of all grace and goodness), and engaged in evil deeds (no doubt sexual perversion, idolatry, murder, drunkenness, etc.); God reconciled you in Christ’s fleshly body (Jesus was fully man, fully God) through his death on the cross.’ The great transaction of Christ becoming sin for us, of shedding his blood to redeem us, to take the wrath of God on our behalf, of satisfying the justice of God, of washing away the guilt and condemnation of our sin is the magnificent remedy for all manner of sin, judgment, and unrighteous thinking and living in this world.
How so? My dear Christians friends – due to Christ’s death you are now holy, blameless, and beyond reproach. Think about that! In yourself, in your thoughts, words, and actions you are anything but holy or blameless. You complain, grumble, worry, blaspheme, hate, lust, and bring great difficulty upon yourself and your family. You damage your relationships with others. You damage your health, and you damage the work of Christ in your community. When succumbing to grumbling and complaining you become a very poor advertisement for the Christian faith, sort of like an obese person on ads for the latest weight loss clinic. But if you are in Christ, then you are a new creation. The old, indeed, has passed away and the new has come.
So, how do you overcome grumbling, complaining, and worrying? You should argue the greater down to the lesser. If God has done this marvellous work of salvation in you, then can you not trust him for the details of your life, the every day, sometimes ‘frowning’ manifestations of his providence? Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with his presence and power. Believe that he will do so. Reckon it to be so, and live out the joy of your great and glorious salvation.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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