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
Isaiah 51:1-6; Ephesians 1:15-23
This morning we continue our study looking at one of the most remarkable prayers in the Bible. It is one of two prayers Paul prayed for the Church in Ephesus and they are found in Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21. The two prayers give us a glimpse of how important prayer was for the apostle Paul and how important it should be for us today. The last couple Sundays we saw Paul praying for “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation” to be given to the Ephesians so that they may think and ponder the mystery of their faith.
One great thing Paul asked the Ephesians to ponder was the truth that in Christ God chose them before the creation of this world. Ephesians 1:4 states, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Yes, you heard it right. God has chosen YOU before the creation of this world. Before you even existed, God loved you so much. We neither earned nor deserved God’s love. This “choosing” is based on God’s sovereign pleasure and good will.
Often times we tend to think that we are the ones who chose God, but in reality, it is the opposite. God is the one who has chosen us. In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” You belong to God. You don’t belong to anyone or anything else but God. God has chosen us with a purpose in mind ~ I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.
We also talked about another magnificent truth, another important component of our faith and that is “God’s calling.” God has called us to great things. In 1 Corinthians 1:9 we read, “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26, Paul invites the Corinthians to consider their calling. “Consider your calling, brothers and sisters.” Believe me, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that the God of this universe has chosen YOU and has called YOU to be in fellowship with Him.
As Paul continues his prayer for the Ephesians in today’s passage, he adds that he is praying for the Lord to give them knowledge of the “HOPE” to which He has called us. Ephesians 1:17-18, “ I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” Paul prays for God’s people to know the hope to which God called you.
What is Hope?
2 But what is that “hope to which God called us”? “Hope” is a much-misunderstood word. For some, hope denotes a lack of certainty, or a lack of assurance. Often, hope is mistaken for wishful thinking. But hope, in the Biblical and theological sense of the word, is not any of these things. The more I read the Bible, the more I see that hope is not a passion for the possible, but it is a passion for the impossible. Two important features or characteristics of Biblical hope:
First: Hope is Built on Trust in God
Hope isn’t built on what we have seen. We do not believe in heaven because God has given us a walk through heaven to see what it will be like when we get there. If we already saw what we are hoping for it wouldn’t be hope any longer. Hope is built on trust in God that all that He promised He will fulfill. It depends entirely on our ability to trust God and His ability. Hope is not built on our circumstances, rather, on the “One who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” Romans 4:17.
Abraham wasn’t just a great example of faith in the Lord, he exemplified what hope does for a person. In Romans 4:18-22 we read, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham’s faith resulted in hope which kept him faithful to the Lord. It is the same hope that will keep us trusting God all along.
Second: Hope is an Anchor of the Soul
The writer of Hebrews says that hope serves as an anchor of the soul. In Hebrews 6:19 we read, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” For Paul, hope is what keeps him fighting the good fight. Hope is what keeps him praying and praising even while in prison. Hope is what gives Paul the boldness to declare that the gathering of a few believers of Jews and Gentiles in the port city of Ephesus is no mere sociological fact but a new humanity in Christ.
As ridiculous as it might sound, God called the Christian community at Ephesus to be a sign of the age to come ~ a sign of God’s Kingdom on earth. By eating together in friendship, they actively participated in the unfolding of God’s purpose for creation. By joining together in the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, this small band of disciples witnessed that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. In short, God called the little flock at Ephesus to be a sacrament of Christ’s work of cosmic reconciliation.
The point I am trying to make is an important one: hope will motivate us to keep growing in faith and commitment to God even when things seem to be going wrong. There isn’t anything that destroys us more than the feeling that “Hope is lost.” Friends, there is power in the hope of our calling. There is power in the name above every name; power to enlighten the eyes of our hearts; power to wake those who are asleep; power to wake those who are pretending to be asleep. Let’s claim that power. Hope abides. God is not finished with us yet. “And now these 3 three remain: faith, hope and love” 1 Corinthians 13:13. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street Blackwood, NJ 08012
(Sunday, February 3, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris Yousef, Pastor