Craig Groeschel - Complaining
Alright, I hope you've been bracing for this message series, because some of you have... A big fat mouth! And so, we're gonna dive into something that is really, really important for us, as followers of Christ, for the next, whoever knows how long. Some people said, how long are we actually gonna talk about the power of our words? We're gonna talk about it, 'til we get it right. It may be four, it may be five years, I don't know how many, how long we'll do this, but we're gonna do it, until you get it right. We're talkin' about the power of our words, because words have the power to give life. Our words actually have the power of death. Jesus said this, He said, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks". If we are not pleasing to God with our words, that shows that our heart is in a very bad place, is just, gives evidence to what's already in our hearts.
So, over the next few weeks, we're gonna talk about the problem of gossiping, we're gonna talk about the problem of lying, we're gonna talk about the problem of criticizing, some of you might say, oh dear God, I'm bringing someone here, to hear that one. You know, this week, to introduce the theme, I wanna just show you some photos, from a recent trip, that my family took to London, and then I'll tell you the story behind it, and that'll introduce the theme. We took a trip, it was a work trip. Let me show you a couple of the photos, from this trip. This is Joy and Steven, two of my kids, and let me show you a couple of other ones. This is our family, out in front of somethin', one day, so only picture we got all of us together. And then, this is me takin' a picture, of the family, in front of one of the places, that we went on a tour.
I was actually in London, on a work trip, and when I travel internationally, actually when I travel anywhere I work, I don't have dead time. Like, we get there, we land, we work, and that's just the way it is. I actually had, because of where the schedule fell, a day and a half off, in London, which is the most time off I've ever had, on a trip like this. And so, Amy and I decided, let's fork over the money, bring the kids, make it a educational trip, and help them see something, that hopefully will be a great experience for them. And so, with only a day and a half off, Amy planned out every minute of how to strategize, attack, and maximize this amazing trip, to London. The only problem is, that I preached on the weekend, then I had Monday off, and normally, I wake up early, every day, anywhere, it doesn't matter timezones, I'm up, 5:30, 6:00 AM, whatever. I just wake up, I just do. And so, I didn't set my alarm.
Well, jet lag, evidently, hit me in a way, that I've never been hit before, and all of us, all six of us, we slept on our full, only full day off, until 11:45 AM in the morning. When I got up, Amy didn't hit me, but it was about this close, to, why didn't you set the alarm, and so we're panicking, rushing, eating as fast as we can, running out, we're gonna enjoy what little of this day we have left! We go to the Tower of London, pay the enormous fee, and one of my kids, which will remain nameless, cries out, "I hate this place! This is so boring! How long do we have to stay here"? And Amy, who's always laid back, stepped across a threshold of expression, that you'll rarely see in the Groeschel home, and grabbed this kid, and said, "You will not complain, one more time! If there's any more complaining, I'll give you something to complain about! This is history, you're gonna love history! You're gonna thank God, for history! You're gonna be worshiping God, for history! If you do not, you will be history! Do you understand me"?
Those pictures looked like we had an amazing time, but oh, my gosh, we almost sent the four kids home, and just stayed there, to try to enjoy it! It was the worst day of complaining, that you could ever, ever imagine! And I wanna talk today, about something, that very likely, will impact so many of you. So, many of us have the problem of complaining. In fact, even when I think about this subject, in the Bible, my mind immediately goes to the Old Testament, where I think about the Israelites, and if there was an Olympic sport of complaining, they would gold medal, in the sport of complaining! What's crazy is, the Israelites spent years, and years, and years, in bondage, in slavery, and then, what did God do? God did a miracle, upon miracle. He issued the ten miraculous plagues, to change the heart of Pharaoh. God parted the Red Sea, and drowned the army, that's pursuing God's people. He fed God's people, with mana from Heaven, water from a rock! They had clothes, that never, ever wore out, and what did these people do?
The same thing, that so many of us do, in the middle of our blessings, every single day, and that is, they whined, they griped, and they complained. And this is how the story goes, it's just almost like my kids, in London. Exodus 14, verse 11, "They said to Moses, 'Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?' 'What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?' 'Didn't we say to you in Egypt, leave us alone! Let us serve the Egyptians? It would've been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'" We loved it, when we were slaves! We loved being in bondage! We hate being free, in this place, where God provides food for us, and clothes! We hate it, we hate it. And this is what Moses said, in Exodus 16, eight. This is so sobering to me. He said, "'You're not grumbling against us,'" but who are you grumbling against? Moses said, you're actually grumbling against the Lord.
Could you imagine, if every time we complained, in the middle of the enormous blessings that we have, if God in Heaven takes it personally, and says, you're actually complaining against me, after I've blessed you, again, and again, and again, and again. What I wanna do, is I wanna just help you to hear this message, through the lens of your most common complaints. Most of us will complain, at some point or another, and I want you to think about, what is it that you complain about the most? And what we're gonna do in our life groups this week, if you're not yet in a life group, this is the perfect time. We're forming brand-new life groups, and we're gonna discuss this. And I'll make it real easy.
Question number one, is this question, that we're just gonna talk about. What is it that you complain about most? It might be that, you know, for a long time, you complained, I'm not married, I'm not married, I want a husband, I'm not married, and she got married, and she's not even serving the Lord, like I'm serving the Lord. That's just not fair. And I wanna be married, and then you get married, and like, my husband drives me crazy. He chomps on his gum, and we walks like this, and he chews funny, he looks funny, and he smells funny. Whatever it is, you complain about the, it might be you complain, my boss drives me crazy, I can't stand this job, the meetings are so long, and they're so boring. The traffic is so bad, the weather is bad, my wifi is slow, there's nothing to binge watch on Netflix. And I just wanna say right now, for a moment, when you start to think about what you complain about, that the weather is not your problem, the slow wifi is not your problem, the lack of original content, that meets your viewing requirements on Netflix is not the problem, the problem is, that Satan has taken your eyes off of the goodness of God, and placed them squarely on yourself. That is the problem.
And let me say it again, because I want you to feel this. Our spiritual enemy has distracted us, and taken our eyes off of all the enormous blessings that we have, around us, off of the goodness of the grace of our God, and put our eyes onto the smallness of ourself, and that is why we're so prone to complain. What I wanna do today, is I'm gonna let you in on my strategy, 'cause I do have a strategy. This should be pretty easy, to beat you up pretty good, and make you feel guilty, because most of us complain. In fact, some of you complained all the way to church today. We're late, and we're gonna worship God. We got in, now the doughnuts are gone, and we gotta sit in the back seat, and they didn't play my favorite song, and why is he wearing that blue jean jacket, okay? It would be so easy, to get up in there, and make you feel convicted. But, more than making you feel convicted, what I wanna do today, is I really wanna bring a word of encouragement, and I don't wanna just encourage you not to complain, because that's really, almost difficult to ask, but what I wanna do, is help you take your eyes off of self, put them sole on the goodness of God, that you're moved beyond the easy fruit of complaining, into the joyous fruit of worship, because you continue to see the goodness of God, rather than feeling guilty today.
I hope you're gonna feel encouraged, and in the encouragement, and the grace of God, it'll move you to a higher level of the use of your words, because we have reason to give praise to our God. I'm gonna do it, by showing you a text in the New Testament, that, to me, is so profound, and powerful, if there is anybody, who had reason to complain, it was the apostle, Paul. The text we're gonna look at, is a letter that he wrote to the Christians in Philippi, and he was writing from the very place he always wanted to go. I wanted to take my kids to London, to enjoy it. Paul wanted to go to Rome, but not for vacation. For him, it was the most strategic city, in spreading the gospel, all over the world. If he could go to Rome, and preach the gospel, he knew, that he could spread the message of Jesus, all of the world, at that time. His top dream was to go to Rome, as a preacher. The problem is, he had got arrested, didn't go to Rome as a preacher, but arrived in Rome as a prisoner, and was awaiting, very possibly, his execution.
So, you could imagine, I just wanna go to Rome, and preach about Jesus. Instead, I'm in house arrest, chained, 24 hours a day, to different Roman guards, for two years. Feel that. I mean, two years of your life, you're in house arrest, and you're awaiting your possible execution. If I'm there, man, I tell you, I'm tempted, God, this isn't fair. I've been serving you. All those other people take the easier road out. I've been shipwrecked, I've been snake bitten, I've been beaten, I've been whipped, I've been left for dead. All I've done is serve you. The floor is hard, the food is bad, and this Roman soldier stinks so bad. Would you please deliver him, God, from BO, in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit? We went over this. I'm complaining about this, and I want you to see what the apostle, Paul, from a Roman prison, at house arrest, writes, and this is what he says, in Philippians two, verse 14. He says to the church, in Philippi, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing".
Another version, translates it this way, do everything without complaining. That's a pretty high order, do everything without complaining. Why? "So that you may become blameless and pure. Children of God, without fault, in a warped and crooked generation". Do everything without complaining. There are so many spiritual reasons why we shouldn't complain. I even like some practical reasons why we shouldn't complain. In fact, there's an author I like, Dr. Travis Bradberry. He wrote the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0. This guy does a lot of research on complaining, and he states, that complaining actually rewires the brain, for more complaining. In other words, if you are negative, you are predisposing your brain to continue to think more negative thoughts, negative compounds, and begets more negative. In fact, he talks about confirmation bias. In other words, if you assume you're not going to like something, do you think you're gonna like it? No, you increase the odds of being dissatisfied with something. It's a confirmation bias.
Some of you decided, you know, maybe it's your first time at church. I'm not gonna like that church. I'm not gonna like that church. I'm not gonna like that church. Well, guess what? Chances are, you're gonna get exactly what you thought, because you can't see beyond your own preconceived negative ideas! Sometimes, I hear amazing women say, "All men are jerks! All men are losers"! And so, everyone you meet is exactly what you think. And I wanna say to you, they are not. There are some good men out there. I can introduce you to, at least, two or three of them, that are begging me to introduce them to you, right now! There are good people out there, but you'll see the negative, if that's all that you continue to focus on. It's not only spiritual, but it's practical. And I don't know about you, but there's enough negative stuff in this world, that I don't need to focus on so much negative, predetermining my mind to be even more negative, when there is so much beauty, so much grace, so much of the goodness of God, I wanna train my brain to see what is good.
So often, what you see, is the result of what you're looking for. If you look for God in the world, you're gonna see some goodness. Let me give you the whole message. I'm gonna give it to you here, in these two points, and then we're gonna unpack it for the rest of the time. Very simple, and I hope that this is somethin' that will stick with you. What do we do, as followers of Christ? Paul, and his teaching in the way he lived would've taught us this, if you can change your circumstances, do something about it. If you can change a negative circumstance, do it. Get in the game, and make a difference. But, if you can't change your circumstances, then change your perspective. If you can change it, do something about it. But, if you cannot change what you're facing, then change what you say about it, how you think about it. Change your perspective, about what you're facing. And this is exactly what the apostle, Paul, did. I love the way he changes this very negative circumstance, that he would've been incredibly tempted to complain about, and instead of complaining, because he can't change it, 'cause he's locked up, because he can't get outta prison. Instead, what he does, is he changes his perspective, and listen to the words that he says.
Philippines two, verse 17 and 18. He says, "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering, on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So, you too should be glad and rejoice with me". Even if I'm being poured out, like a drink offering, I'm glad, and you should be glad as well. Now, you might ask the question, what does it mean, to be like poured out, like a drink offering? You know, I haven't, I don't know what that is. That phrase comes from one little Greek word. It's the word, spendo, S-P-E-N-D-O. This one little word was a word, that Paul's readers would've been familiar with. What the priest would do is, they would make a sacrifice. They would take an altar, put some wood, light a fire, take a lamb, or some animal, and they would make an animal sacrifice. Then, as an active worship to God, they would offer what was known as the S-P-E-N-D-O, the drink offering, and they would take the most valuable liquid they had, usually wine, sometimes honey, and they would take this drink, and they would pour it on top of the animal sacrifice, and what happens, when liquid hits fire? You get that, and then the smoke would come up, and the smoke would be a offering unto Heaven. As they would take their drink offering, their most expensive, invaluable wine, pour it on the animal sacrifice, and then the smoke would be an offering up to God, in Heaven.
This is what Paul says. Even if my life is being poured out, to God, I will praise Him. Notice, Paul didn't see his ultimate death, when he would be crucified as a martyr one day, or put to death as a martyr. He didn't see that as his ultimate sacrifice. It wasn't his future death, that was his sacrifice. It was his life, that was a sacrifice. And this is why Paul said, elsewhere, in Romans 12. He said, in view of God's mercy, based on who God is, and what God's done, he says, offer your bodies, as a living sacrifice to God. This is your holy and pleasing spiritual act of worship. He's saying, this situation, that is exactly what I never, ever wanted to happen. I wanted to be here, preaching the gospel, but I'm not going to complain about it. Instead, I'm gonna see that God is still in it, God is still working, God is still good, and I will give Him praise, even as my body is being poured out, like a drink offering.
If you can change your circumstances, do something about it. If you can break out of prison, break out of prison. If you've got headaches, and you can take medicine, or change your diet, change your diet, or take medicine. If you wanna lose some weight, get in the gym, and change how you eat. If you hate your job, change your job. If you can't change your job, change your perspective, change how you think about it, change how you approach it, change what you say about it, change where your mind goes, instead of saying, I can't stand this job. Well, thank God I have a job, 'cause I know a lotta people are looking for a job. If you can change your circumstances, do it, if not, change your perspective, just like last night, when there were about 20 people in my office, before I was preaching, and it got me really stressed out, and I came home afterwards, and I made the mistake of complaining, to Amy, right after my message on not complaining, about how crazy my office was, and there's too many people, and I've gotta focus, and I gotta be prayerful. And she looked at me, and she said, "Oh, man of God, Pastor Craig, thou shalt do something about it, or change your perspective"! I hate when she preaches my messages right back to me, right after I preach them! But, either ask them to leave, or embrace that you've got people that you love! If you can do something about it, do something about it. If you can't change your circumstances, then change your perspective.
How in the world, could Paul be like this? How could Paul... On a mission from God... To preach the gospel, and make Christ known. How could he rejoice, locked up to a Roman soldier? Let me tell you how he could rejoice, because for Paul, Paul was not the center of the story. For him, Jesus was the center of the story, and when Jesus is the center of your story, it changes how you see your perspective. Let me say it again. The moment everything is about us, oh we will complain, 'cause there's a lot to complain about. If it's about you, if it's about me, we can get together, and we can complain like the best of 'em, believe you me, I can go a distance with you in a complaining game! If it's about us, then we can complain. If we recognize, that life is not about us, but we've been crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live, yet it's no longer I who lives, as Paul would say, but it's Christ who lives in me. When we recognize, that He is the center of the story, it changes how we live our story. Our story is not about us. Our story is about Him, and this is how Paul, in the middle of a Roman prison, could say, even if I'm being poured out like a drink offering, I will still rejoice, in the goodness of my God.
Watch how he changes his perspective. Watch what he does, I love this. He says this, in Philippines one, 12. He says, "I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me," this really bad thing, you know, I'm in prison, you know I'm locked up, he said, this bad thing, "is actually served to advance the gospel," what? Read on. He says, "As a result, it's become clear, through the whole palace guard, and to everyone else, that I am in chains for Christ". What's he saying? He's said, hey, hey, hey, you think I'm the prisoner in this equation? You have no idea what my God is doing. You see, every eight hours, I get a new Roman guard chained up to me. Talk about a captive audience! You have no idea who the real prisoner is, to hear my eight hour sermon, about the goodness of Jesus. Here I am, every day, attached to one of the top leaders in Rome, forced to hear, forced to receive what I've got, and I'm just lovin' them, and I'm just praising God, and I'm just giving God glory, and I'm tellin' them about who God is. You think I'm a real prisoner here? You have no idea who the real prisoner is. God has given me strategic influence, to some of the most powerful leaders, in all of Rome.
Think about this. Paul was chained to Roman guards. What are you chained to right now? What is it, that you wish you could change? What is it, that you wish were different? If you can change your circumstance, then by all means, use what God has given you, to make a difference. If you cannot change your circumstance, chance your perspective, even if I'm being poured out, even if I'm stuck in this dead-end place, even if I feel really discouraged right now, even if finances are really tough, even if I'm facing this real, physical challenge, even if I'm gonna change my perspective on this, and choose to see God working somewhere in it. What are you chained to right now? If you change your perspective, who knows how God might use it. I've tried to tell this next story, without getting overly emotional, because every time I talk about any one of my kids, there's this, you know, don't tell 'em what's gonna happen. If you were here a month ago, or so, I told you about my second daughter, Mandy. Mandy is married to James, my oldest two daughters are married. They both got married, when they were 20. I told them both, that is entirely too young. Nobody gets married at 20. And they reminded me, that Amy was 20, when I picked her off, and they held that against me, and so they're both married. Married to great guys, and I thank God for them.
So, I told you, that Mandy, she's 21 now. She got mono, and has never quite recovered. And so, for a year and a half now, she's faced tremendous physical challenges. She's been to the Mayo Clinic, and everywhere else, and now she's on a plan, she's got a diet, and she's doing more better at the system. And some days are better than others. Mandy can go to the grocery store one day, and the next day, she'll have to stay in bed, 'cause it was too much physical exertion. You could have a hour and a half conversation with Mandy, and think, man she's doing great. And then, you won't know, that she'll probably cry herself to sleep that night, because of the physical pain, after being out. And so, there's some good days, and there's some really difficult days. And so, as a dad, you know how that is. It's just, I would give anything, to trade places with her. Here's what I love about this girl, so many things. Never one time, never one time, in 18 months, has she ever said, Daddy, it's just not fair. I just wanna work, I just wanna be back in my job as a youth pastor. I just, I wanna, it's not fair, why me, never one time.
Well, she said to me the other day, she said, "Dad. You have no idea how many people I'm able to minister to, because of this". Because, she can't do anything else, she just started makin' little YouTube clips, little clips, little eight, ten minute clips, tellin' her story, and talkin' about stuff that, honestly, I don't care about, food, and healthy stuff. But evidently, there's a lotta people out there, going through somethin' similar to what she's goin' through. And now, she's got several thousand subscribers, and she just put tears in her eye, and said, "Daddy, you have no idea how many people I'm getting to help, and point to Jesus, through this trial". That speaks to me. Because, I'll be the first to complain about my schedule, when a different perspective would say, thank you God that I've got places to go, opportunities to make an impact, and people that actually want to spend time with me. Sometimes, I'll complain, my body's so tired. Thank you, God, that I got to pour it all out today on the field, and do something that eternally makes a difference! If you've got a negative circumstance, and I know there are many of you today, that you're facing very, very difficult things, and I don't wanna discount that for a moment.
But, I do wanna say, if there's somethin' you can do about it, then let's get together, with our life group, and let's do something about it. If you cannot change it, let's change our perspective. Let's not just focus on what we don't have. Let's thank God for what we do have. Let's not just complain about what we lost, let's complain about where we've been blessed. Let's not just complain about what God didn't do, let's thank Him for what He did do for us, on the cross, through His son, Jesus. I love the way David, in the Old Testament, he just, he just, every now and then, we just have to remember the goodness of God. This is what David said, in Psalm 103, verses two through five. He said, "Let all that I am praise the Lord. May I never forget the good things he does for me".
I don't know who this will speak to, don't forget what He's done! Don't forget who He is! Don't forget that He's with you right now! What does He do? "He forgives all my sins. He heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death, and crowns me with love, and tender mercy. He fills my life with good things". Let all that I am, praise the Lord. Let everything in me praise the Lord. If I can change something, that is not pleasant, something that gives me a righteous discomfort, or even a righteous anger, then by all means, I'm not gonna complain about it, I'm gonna do something about it! But, if I cannot change it, I'm gonna change my perspective. I'm gonna change the words that I speak, the thoughts that I think. I'm gonna approach it, and say, God, where are You working? What are You doing? How can You be glorified through this?
So, I don't know who this is speaking to right now. But, if there's something in your life, that you cannot change, maybe instead of complaining, and complaining, and complaining, and complaining, which doesn't change anything, doesn't make anything any better, or any different. Instead, God, help us change our perspective, that we can see that You are still good, that You are still with us, and let everything in us, God, give praise to You. All of our church is praying. Father, we thank You right now, for the example of Paul, the example of Your son, and Your grace, God, to change our words, from that which takes life, to that which gives life. All of our different churches, those who would say, Craig, kinda like you, I can be maybe a little bent toward the negative. I can find fault, find what's wrong, and be quick to give expression to what I don't like. I want the help of God, to change my perspective, to see His goodness. God, help me stop complaining, and help me start living with praise on my lips. All of our churches, if this is an issue for you, and you want God's help, to be different, would you lift your hands right now? All of our different churches.
God, I thank you so much today, for so many people, who wanna focus on Your goodness. God, I know there are many things, that it would be so easy to complain about. If we can do something, give us wisdom, give us strength, give us power. God, even give us miracles, to see Your hand making things different. In any place, God, that we don't have the ability to make a different, change our perspective, God. If I'm a 21 year old girl, that wants to work, and can't work, God, even if, God, we choose to praise You, even if, God, You don't answer the prayer in the way we want, even if, God, we go to bed alone at night, even if, God, we're struggling financially, even if, God, we choose to praise You, even if we're being poured out, like a drink offering, we offer our lives, as living sacrifices, to You, holy and pleasing as our spiritual act of worship, God, because you are always good. Help us focus, not on what we don't have, but to see all the blessings that we do have, and worship you daily, God, for who You are.
As you keep praying today, at all of our different churches, I love what David said. He said, everything I have, praise God. He's forgiven me of my sins. David knew, very intimately, what it was like, to be forgiven. He sinned against God, again and again, in different ways, the pride. He committed adultery, and he recognized the grace of God was the greatest gift, and all of our churches, there are maybe those of you, that when you look at your life right now, you feel, you feel embarrassed about some things you've done, maybe various shame, of the wrongs that you've done. How could God love someone like me? Paul talked about being poured out, like a drink offering. Let me tell you about the greatest sacrifice, and offering, made in the history of the world.
This is the love of God, poured out, for us, through his son, Jesus. God became flesh, in the person of Jesus. Jesus was without sin, never ever sinned. Jesus became, for us, sin on a cross, died in our place. On the third day, He was risen from the dead, why, so that anyone, who calls on the name of Jesus, would be saved, forgiven, and made new. At all of our churches, there may be some of you, you're complaining about this, complaining about this, maybe you're complaining about even your own life, and how you've lived, and what you've done. When you call on the name of Jesus, He forgives every sin. He doesn't make you a better version of you. You become a new person.
All of our churches, there are those of you, you recognize, you're not here today, just to stop complaining. You're here today, to start praising God for who He is, for His redemption, for His forgiveness, for His grace, for salvation, by faith in the risen son of God, Jesus, all of our churches, those today, who say, yes, I need His grace, yes I need His forgiveness. I turned from my sins, I turned toward Jesus. Today, I give my life to Him. That's your prayer. Would you lift your hands high right now? All of our churches say yes. That's my prayer, right back over here. God bless you, both of you over here as well. Praise God for you. Over here, in this section, right back over here, right here as well. God bless you guys. Church online, you click right below me. Those of you from Florida, click right below me, right up here, close. Bless you, bless you. Others today, who say, I need His grace, I surrender my life to Him, would you all pray with those around you? Everybody pray a loud.
Heavenly father, forgive me of my sins, make me brand new. Fill me with Your spirit, so I could know you, serve you, and follow you for the rest of my life. Help me see your goodness, to worship you, with a living sacrifice, giving my life, as you gave yours. Thank you for new life. Now, you have mine. In Jesus' name.