A man wanted to become a monk so he went to the monastery and talked to the abbot (the head monk). The abbot said, “You must take a vow of silence and can only say two words every three years.” The man agreed. After the first three years, the abbot came to him and said, “What are your two words?” “Food cold!”, the man replied. The abbot made sure the meals are not cold. Three more years went by and the abbot came to him and said, “What are your two words?” “Robe dirty!” the man exclaimed. The abbot ordered his robe be washed. Three more years went by and the abbot came to him and said, “What are your two words?” “Bed hard!” The abbot made sure the mattress got re-stuffed. Three more years went by and the abbot came to him and said, “What are your two words?” “I quit!” said the man. “Well,” the abbot replied, “I'm not surprised – you've done nothing but complain since you got here!”
Complaining or gratitude? In case you’re wondering if your Pastor has lost it or got confused thinking this is Thanksgiving week, I have not. Gratitude is not meant to be once a year. It is so easy to complain, to be grumpy; but it takes a lot of time and effort to cultivate a culture of thanksgiving and gratitude. Today is a very special day. After worship today, our congregation meets to share a meal together and celebrate a year of ministry to the Lord.
The Annual Meeting is a harvest festival. It is an annual celebration of what God has done in us, for us, and through us. It is a festival of gratitude for the food God provided for us, for the crops gathered to the stores. In the spiritual sense, today we celebrate the lives that have been transformed by God’s grace; the hearts that have been dedicated or rededicated to Jesus; and the visions, dreams, and hopes God has given to this congregation.
Moving from complaining and grumbling to gratitude and thanksgiving is a long journey. Cultivating this kind of culture requires a lot of work. In Exodus chapter 16 we see a grumbling people. Yes, the Israelites were a grumbling people. They grumbled when Moses came to save them from the hands of Pharaoh. They grumbled at the banks of the Red Sea. They grumbled when they didn’t have water to drink. They grumbled when they thought they will face starvation in the wilderness in Sinai. This is a nation of grumblers. Today and next Sunday I would like to tackle this topic. This morning I would like to talk about grumbling and ingratitude, and next Sunday, Lord willing, I will be talking about how do we get past our grumbling?
What is the Big Deal about Grumbling?
So, what is the big deal about grumbling anyway? The more I read the Bible, the more I come to realize that grumbling and ungratefulness is a sin. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 Paul included the sin of ingratitude among some serious sins. He says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times 2 in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving.” We can identify two ways the sin of grumbling offends God:
First: Grumbling Denies the Sovereignty of God
When the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron leading them out into the wilderness, complaining about the lack of food and remembering the great feasts back in Egypt, God told Moses that they were not grumbling against him, but against God Himself! Moses was executing God’s plan and by grumbling about the hardships and continually pulling back to the former life, it was God they were complaining against, it was His plan they were undermining. While it may seem that we are merely complaining against people or circumstances, we are in fact complaining against the plan and purpose of God, and against God Himself!
There are ways to express reservations or concerns to leaders and those in charge. In Proverbs 15:22 the Bible acknowledges that in a multitude of counselors there is wisdom, and wise leaders listen to sound counsel. But by grumbling, they were rejecting God’s promise, His purpose and His prize. They were rejecting the one who was leading them in the direction of Canaan, not Egypt.
Second: Grumbling Discourages the People of God
Grumbling encourages others to adopt the same negative, unsupportive and crippling attitude toward God’s leaders and God’s plan. Grumbling never simply affects us personally and individually. By nature, grumbling, most likely, is done in the open. It encourages people to feel that God cannot fulfill what he has promised.
There were those in the Israelite camp who encouraged others to believe that it was all a pipe-dream, that the conquest of the Promised Land would never come about. The grumbling spread throughout the camp. Grumbling and complaining became a way of life for the Israelites in the wilderness, a sort of default reaction to hardships and adversity that always put them on the wrong side of the will of God. Ingratitude caused pilgrims to literally drag their feet the whole way on their journey, and even the generation made it to Canaan was with only halfhearted enthusiasm, which led to a history of compromise, moral failure and ultimately to exile. Grumbling produces the kind of environment among the people of God that leads to discouragement and drawing back. Grumbling is destructive to the work of God. It will burn, undermine, breakdown, discourage, and destroy the work of God.
How Do we Get Past our Grumbling?
Although I will talk in detail about this topic next Sunday, let me give you a very helpful hint this morning. How do we get past grumbling? Is this possible? Faith is the spirit that carries on in confidence, even when it is hard, or nearly impossible. Faith lifts its eyes and sees God (Ps. 121:1-2). Faith stops identifying with what is wrong, inconvenient, undesirable and uncomfortable, to grasp the promise of God and to go forward with him, until the victory is won and the promise is fulfilled. And if that does not come in this lifetime, it rejoices in the prospect of joining with those in the future who will be alive at that moment of Jesus return, when every promise will come to total fulfillment (Heb. 11:39-40)! 3 So, whatever wilderness you wander right now, there will be manna from Heaven each morning in the form of Jesus Christ—the one who forgives our sins, sends his Spirit, heals our diseases, and promises us eternal life now and forever. Whatever road you have to travel today, when you wake up tomorrow morning, there will be new mercies from Jesus. Friends, let’s trust that God will provide, and that He already has provided in Christ. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, February 10, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris Yousef, Pastor