Lessons from the Book of Philippians
Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty for all of His goodness to you. I know that there may be things going on in your life right now that you cannot understand and are very hard to go through, but realize this, that it is only for a time. It will pass one day and as you are going through this stormy time of life, Jesus has promised to be with you. Be thankful for this. Take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the Philippians in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
If you have been with us over the past weeks, you know that we have been going through the Book of Philippians verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter. All previous articles can be viewed on the web site of Calvary Chapel of Alpine. This week we will begin with Philippians 2:14-18, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.”
Paul addresses the all too familiar subjects of “complaining and disputing”. The word complaining has the meaning of murmuring, griping, and of being unthankful, where the word disputing has the meaning of debating, arguing, and discussing for the sake of getting out of doing what is required of you. For those of us who have children or are employers, there are few things more irritating than having to listen to them complain and dispute about completing a simple task.
In the context of this verse, Paul has been telling us to simply submit ourselves to God, do what He has directed us to do, and allow God to do the work that He desires to do in and through us. Complaining is such a mark of not being thankful and grateful to God. It is as Paul tells us, a mark of being part of “a crooked and perverse generation”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being around people that are complainers and grumblers, it is very depressing.
I think it is important for us to realize what God thinks of complaining and disputing. God had miraculously delivered the children of Israel after over 400 years of terrible slavery to the Egyptians. Soon after their deliverance and for the next forty years, the people complained of just about everything. Read what Paul has to say about this time of complaining and how it is used as an example to us. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-10, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters, as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
We also see from the Book of Hebrews what affect complaining had on the quality of life for the people of Israel. In Hebrews 3:7-19, we read, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' " Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
Did you notice the two key ingredients that led to their complaining and failure to enter into the rest that God had prepared for them? It was unbelief and hardness of heart. Hardness of heart is a by-product of unbelief and both lead to complaining and griping. The opposite of unbelief is faith. Faith trusts in the Lord and His plan for our lives and therefore is no room for complaining.
In view of what God has done for you and I, what do we really have to complain about? It is true that many things could be better than they are, but what are you doing to make them any different? Are you spending your time, money, and energy to bring about change or merely just griping?
Having been a former police officer and seen the worst side of humanity as well as having traveled much of the world for the past 20 years and seen the depths of depravity that mankind has sunk to, I realize, probably more than most, that there is plenty to complain about. But my focus is not upon these things, rather upon Him who can bring about everlasting hope and change, Jesus Christ the Lord. When the outlook seems to be quite dim, try the up look. I have found the old adage to be very true, it goes like this: look around and become distressed, look within and become depressed, look to Jesus and find rest.
This is the very thing Paul admonishes us to do as he says, “Holding forth the word of life.” The word of life that he speaks of is none other than Jesus Christ and the word of God. There was an occasion in the Gospel of John when Jesus had spoken some very difficult words to the thousands of people that began to follow Him. As a result, all but 12 or so turned away from Him, never to follow Him again. Then the following occurred, in John 6:67-68, “Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
Let me ask you dear ones, where are you in regards to complaining and disputing? When given tasks to do or just in the everyday events of life, do you complain and argue about doing them or do you do all things without murmuring and disputing? Are you thankful or unthankful?
I do hope that you take the Word of God that you have read in this article to heart. That if you do find yourself to be a complainer and disputer, that you repent. That your life not reflect the character of this world, which as Paul writes is crooked and perverse, rather that you reflect that of being a child of God.
We will continue our study in the Book of Philippians next time, until then may the Lord richly bless you beloved.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our web site at www.calvarychapel.org/alpine/index.htm
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine