Christian Devotionals

Stop Complaining And Start Gaining (1)
"'Do everything without complaining...' " Philippians 2:14 NIV

Two groups of psychology students were wired for recording purposes, and assigned a period to socialize freely. One group knew the experiment would measure the level of complaining in normal conversation; the other group did not. Afterwards, both groups were shocked by how frequently they complained. The group in the know complained almost as much as the group unaware of what the experiment was aiming to achieve. It's the oldest response in the book-literally! Confronted with our choices and actions, we spontaneously start complaining: 'It was their fault, not mine; if they hadn't...I wouldn't have.' Adam needed no lessons in the art of complaining. Caught red-handed, he told God, 'The woman whom You, she gave me...and I ate.' (Genesis 3:12 NAS) Eve said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.' (Genesis 3:13 NAS) Neither accepted responsibility for their choices. And since God doesn't help people who won't be responsible, He threw the complainers out of Paradise. If they ever subsequently 'got it' regarding complaining, they didn't transmit it to their offspring, Israel: 'Now the people the hearing of the Lord...His anger was aroused. Then fire...consumed...the outskirts of the camp.' (Numbers 11:1 NIV) Notice, all complaining is 'in the hearing of the Lord' and He clearly doesn't want to hear it! Paul writes, 'Do not complain as some of them did; they were killed by the angel that destroys. The things that happened to those people are examples...written down to teach us...' (1 Corinthians 10:10-11 NCV) Clean up your verbal act! Decide to detect, reject and eject all complaining from your vocabulary.

Stop Complaining And Start Gaining (2)
"'Do everything without complaining...' " Philippians 2:14 NIV

Complaining is toxic. It contaminates both the complainer and everyone within earshot. Sometimes we think we're helping by complaining. We maintain, 'If somebody doesn't say something, nothing's ever going to change!'-as though positive change can come from negative words. We imagine we've contributed something worthwhile by our complaint. But complaining is what we do to avoid facing, dealing with and solving the problem. It's what we do instead of contributing to constructive change, and it makes us part of the problem instead of the solution. The more you complain the more problem-focused you become, and the more problem-focused you become the more you complain. Ultimately, your complaining affects you more than anyone else. The Psalmist said, '...I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed...' (Psalm 77:3 NKJV) If no one else pays attention to your words, you do. Before you say them you think them: '...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.' (Matthew 12:34 NKJV) And when you say them, you hear them and believe them just as you would the words of a trusted authority. Every time you repeat them you reinforce their power over you until eventually you make yourself the victim of your own complaints! Your spirit (attitude) will be overwhelmed, not by the problems and difficulties people bring to you, but as the self-inflicted product of your own complaints. So, 'Do all things without complaining...that you may become blameless and harmless...without fault in...a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.' (Philippians 2:14-15 NKJV)

Stop Complaining And Start Gaining (3)
"'Do everything without complaining...' " Philippians 2:14 NIV

Isn't complaining really just about words? No, it's much more than that! First, complaining hands your power over to the people and circumstances you complain about, making you feel like their victim. It diminishes your ability to think of solutions, conditions your mind negatively and blunts your ability to receive creative ideas from God. Positive outcomes don't grow in negative soil! You can't complain and create simultaneously. 'Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring...can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?...' (James 3:11-12 NIV) Complaints are verbal expressions of negative beliefs. They cancel positive intentions and confessions, rendering you powerless to reap the gains God offers. Complaining focuses on a past you can't change. It keeps you scavenging in yesterday's debris, searching for evidence about 'who did what' and 'when' and 'why', while your present slips fruitlessly away. Second, complaining is toxic to your relationships: '...Do you not know...a little leaven leavens the whole lump?' (1 Corinthians 5:6 NKJV) Complaining invites others to complain. Injected poison toxifies every part of the body. Subtly, your relationship, your family, your workplace, your church and your environment become polluted. Complaining polarises relationships. People who don't like stress, anxiety and negativity begin to distance themselves from you. 'The tongue has the power of life and death...' (Proverbs 18:21 NIV)-your life and death, and the life and death of others. So pray, 'Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord...' (Psalm 141:3 NIV); help me to avoid complaining.

Stop Complaining And Start Gaining (4)
"'Do everything without complaining...' " Philippians 2:14 NIV

You say, 'But isn't it possible my complaint might be legitimate?' Yes. Injustice, abuse, betrayal, robbery, gossip, libel, prejudice, physical harm against you or your family, and so on, are legitimate causes. 'And if I don't do something about these, won't I be failing in my responsibility?' Right again! You are called to be salt and light in this world, resolving problems that arise by practicing spiritual principles in your daily life. To do nothing at such times makes you irresponsible and disobedient to God. But complaining about it is not doing something, not by God's definition. You say, 'All right, since God is against complaining, how do I handle legitimate complaints?'

First, do nothing until you've talked with God. You'll make the right moves if you take time to get the right counsel. Prayer clarifies your options and adjusts your perspectives. It defuses your anger, restoring you to objectivity and rational thinking. Your second move is more likely to succeed if your first move is to seek God for wisdom: '...he should ask God...' (James 1:5 NIV)

Second, before you say or do anything, carry out an attitude check. Stop and ask yourself, 'What's my real agenda here? Is it to show them that I'm right and they're wrong? Is it to come away looking good while I make them look bad? Is it to win a personal victory or to solve the problem in a way that glorifies God?' Before you speak, check what's in your heart: '...For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.' (Matthew 12:34 NAS) When your heart attitude pleases God, you're ready to handle any legitimate complaint.

Stop Complaining And Start Gaining (5)
"'Do everything without complaining...' " Philippians 2:14 NIV

When your complaint is legitimate, first talk to the person with whom you have the issue. When you're upset, your temptation will be to tell everybody. It feels right, justified, and even therapeutic. Well-meaning friends will encourage it, and even help you publicize it. 'You'll feel better when you've got it off your chest,' they'll say. But God's Word condemns handling complaints that way! Do it, and you add insult to your own injury by disobeying God-and you can't expect Him to cooperate with you while you violate His Word. 'If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.' (Matthew 18:15 NIV) Courage, humility and wisdom are required to face your offender privately, but it's God's way. It contains the conflict, minimizes embarrassment and increases the likelihood of resolution and restoration, which is God's real concern. Second, speak in love, not in words meant to hurt. Let your words be gracious, conciliatory and aimed at solution, not 'one-upmanship'. The Bible counsels, 'Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will...grow up...' (Ephesians 4:15 NIV) Your growth in Christ is the end; speaking truth in love is the means. Tell the offender your goal is not to humiliate them or to get revenge, but rather to resolve your differences, strengthen your relationship and honour God. Instead of making an adversary who'll oppose you, you'll be inviting an ally to join you in a mutually beneficial, God-glorifying mission!

Stop Complaining And Start Gaining (6)
"'Do everything without complaining...' " Philippians 2:14 NIV

Here are three final thoughts on complaining. First, don't make a complaint, make a request. However legitimate your gripe, you'll be heard as complaining-greatly reducing the likelihood of a good outcome. Whatever the cause, you're more likely to get what you ask for graciously, than you are to cure what you're complaining about. Asking, 'Would you be willing to do this [a preferred specific behavior] rather than that [the old behavior]?' is respectful, clear, avoids argument over past issues that can't be changed, and always brings a better result.

Second, all right, you've said it, now let God work. Changing people is God's job, so back off, be patient and give Him a chance. 'But doesn't somebody need to supervise them to be sure they change?' Unless they're behind bars and you're their prison guard, the answer is no! Get out of God's way and let Him do what you can't. He has ways and means you never dreamed of. When He's allowed to take over the job it gets done properly!

Third, what should you do while waiting for God to work? Well, you could sit around ruminating, resenting and rehashing the past, or you could take lessons from Joseph. He'd every reason to complain about his family's treatment and to take revenge when the tables turned in his favour. Instead he conscientiously and skillfully did what he had to do, watching for the strategic moments every problem offers, when he could align himself to become part of the solution. He did, his family was reunited, and God promoted him to even greater blessing. Learn from him!

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