“Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” —Philippians 2:14
Complaining, or murmuring, is an expression of grief, pain, or discontentment. It is blaming or charging circumstances, people, or even God for causing losses, hurts, or dissatisfactions.
Ultimately, complaining is doubt—unbelief in God’s Word, love, and power. God not only says He will control the number and strength of temptations and tests Satan can bring into the believer’s life (I Cor. 10:13), but He also promises to bring good out of everything that He allows if we continue to love Him and stay in His calling by faith (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 5:3-5; 8:28,37).
So, if someone persists in complaining, he is attacking what God is trying to accomplish in his life. No one can control what happens to him, but he is accountable to God for how he reacts.
From Exodus 5 through Numbers 21, the Israelites murmured and complained against God 12 times. They complained about:
Obviously, most of these needs were legitimate, but they complained, which was unbelief and rebellion against God. But during this same time, they ignored and overlooked 46 miracles that God performed in their presence.
- Their increased work load (Ex. 5:19-21).
- Pharaoh’s army chasing them at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:10-12).
- The bitter water they could not drink (Ex. 15:23-24).
- Not having bread and meat to eat (Ex. 16:2-3).
- Not having water in the wilderness (Ex. 17:1-7).
- Telling Aaron to make the golden calf when Moses did not return (Ex. 32:1-6).
- God’s leading (Num. 11:1).
- A lack of meat and desire to go back to Egypt (Num. 11:4-9).
- Refusing to go into the promised land (Num. 14:1-4).
- The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num. 16:1-3).
- Having no water (Num. 20:2-5).
- Having no water or bread (Num. 21:5).
It is so much easier for us to focus on the negative things in our lives rather than on the positive, on ourselves and our circumstances rather than on God, and on problems rather than on solutions.
So, what should the Israelites have done when these problems and needs came into their lives?
First, they should have continued praising God for who He is—thanking Him for what He had done for them in the past, trusting Him to meet their present needs, and praising God in faith for what He was going to do.
Second, because of their faith in the Cross, they should have kept asking, seeking, and knocking that God’s will would be done. God says we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Asking God for things is a recognition that we cannot produce what is needed but God can, and asking is an expression of faith that He will.
Third, if they had kept their faith in the Cross and the help of the Holy Spirit, then things that were true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report would have been in their minds and hearts and expressed by their mouths. Matthew 12:34 says, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
People cannot see physically without light because their eyes only pick up and are able to see objects as they reflect light. The same is true spiritually. So, if believers want to see things more clearly—as God sees them—then they need to get closer to the living and written Word of God, which are the only sources of truth and spiritual light (Jn. 3:19-20).
For example, when Isaiah saw the Lord, he saw himself, others, and his circumstances in a totally different way. Previously, when he compared himself to others, he had seen himself as religious and with good morality. But when he experienced the presence of the Lord, he saw himself and others as sinners who needed spiritual cleansing, and he saw his circumstances in the spiritual context of God’s plans and purposes instead of just as problems and calamities. This changed Isaiah’s whole life, and it can also change the lives of everyone who allows it to happen in their lives.
Instead of just reacting to things in their lives in the natural, believers need to let God heal their spiritual eyesight so they can see things the way that He sees them, react accordingly, and allow Him to accomplish His will in their lives.