The Heart of Grumbling

The New Covenant ministry is full of joy. The joy of seeing the image of Christ formed in God’s people; the joy of learning God’s truth; the joy of your own heart and mind being renewed. However, the New Covenant ministry is also full of deep sadness as well. It was said of the Messiah that He would be “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Yet, it was for joy that He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). His grief mingled with joy in the Father is THE pattern for His people in a peculiar way (Hebrews 12:3). It is not God’s plan that His servants lose heart or grow weary in their work (Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3). And yet, that is so often the knee-jerk reaction while in the throws of ministry. The heartache of seeing the ravages of sin in the lives of an unbelieving world. The grief over professing believers who refuse the Lord’s instructions. The depth of frustration over personal sin. The zeal aroused at the dishonor of God’s holy name. All of these things fill the heart and mind of God’s men as they seek to simply be faithful the Word of God.

However, there is a particular sin that often generates grief in ministry and it is as common as the sunlight. It is the sin of complaining. Complaining is that behavior that characterizes a man or woman who 1) loves himself/herself more than others, 2) thinks very little of the Word from God, the Bible, 3) simply wants to complain for the shear thrill of complaining. The fruit of complaining is division, broken hearts, fleshly strife, and devastated relationships. It was complaining that:

  • Caused God to judge Israel numerous times after the Exodus, including being confined in the desert instead of entering the land promised to Abraham:

    Numbers 14:26–29

    26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

    27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.

    28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;

    29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me

Led others into the same sin:

Numbers 11:1–3

1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.

3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.

 

Complainers are those who despise the Lord’s purposes for themselves. For Israel, they rejected YHWH’s commands, and since they could not approach God, they grumbled against Him by grumbling against His servant, Moses. These people were not only limited to Israel, however. People are people. Sinners are sinners. Grumblers are grumblers.  The tendency to grumble is the same for all-self-righteousness.

In John 6, Jesus is speaking to the multitudes, but especially the leaders of the multitudes, the Pharisees. These men were the target of the Lord’s ministry in a peculiar way. Because of their leadership, and since leaders will be in greater accountability by the Lord, Jesus initiated that judgment often with them (see Matthew 23, for example. That chapter reads like a judicial sentence). Jesus has been healing, feeding, and teaching the multitudes. The power of Christ and the grace of God was upon all of them. However, what was the response by those who should have rejoiced at the goodness of God? Grumbling. Their grumbling was not directed at the teaching. Their grumbling was directed at the Person of Jesus Christ because of His teaching (John 6:41). It would be one thing to complain about a teaching. However, that simply is never the case. When a person complains, the doctrine is simply the ruse. A complainer is actually assaulting the person doing the teaching, not the instruction itself.

However, it is greater than this, and more serious. Moses said it well:

Exodus 16:8

8 Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”

Any complaining, any, is not simply directed at the leader, it is always directed at the Lord behind the leader. This is why complaining is so very serious. It is an assault upon God. And, for that reason, when a complainer is spotted in the church of Jesus Christ, stay away from them. Confront them with the understanding that they are doing the very thing that brings the wrath of God down upon them. These people infect like a disease. They are exploitative, mean, and hypocritical. They are not interested in joy, righteousness, nor the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is too high for them, they cannot attain to it, so they replace it with their own. And, unfortunately, since this behavior is so common, they often gather followers and influence them to do the same.

The complaints of Israel were fueled by the “rabble” who attached themselves to Israel as they left Egypt. They infected the people by bringing out of their hearts what was already there, but they gave it boldness.

Numbers 11:4–6

4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?

5 “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,

6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

The church of Jesus Christ must refuse grumbling, and grumblers.

 

1 Corinthians 10:9–12

9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.

10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

Philippians 2:14–16

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;

15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

1 Peter 4:9

9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

 

And, saints, remember, your grumbling and complaining is a weight that bears upon the hearts of pastors so very heavily that they are prone to growing weary and losing heart. This would be unprofitable for you (Hebrew 13:17). Therefore, obey the Lord’s instructions and stop complaining and start rejoicing!