Anything that has been featured on Oprah, I find very suspicious. The modern new age guru often features items and books on her show that skyrocket in popularity after being featured, but generally have much to be desired. What caught my attention was the so-called “complaint-free world” bracelet. Pastor Will Bowen was featured on Oprah regarding this 21-day challenge for a complaint-free world. He gave out purple bracelets to his congregation and when they complained they were to switch the bracelet to their other hand and start the 21-day challenge all over again.
Is this how easy it is to eliminate complaining from one’s life; with a simple bracelet? What is the big deal with complaining after all? Complaining is the act of expressing feelings of pain, dissatisfaction, or resentment. Complaining is a negative action done by people who cannot understand how or why God operates. Complaining ultimately denies the sovereignty of God, disrupts the life of the body of Christ, and devastates the life of the believer.
COMPLAINING DENIES THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
The ultimate issue every believer needs to address is his relationship to God. He must understand who God is, what He does, and what is the believer’s response to Him. The Scriptures teach us that God is completely sovereign over all of the created order. The Scriptures read, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Elsewhere Daniel reminds us that, “all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:35). God is completely sovereign and in control of every event in the universe. The Dutch theologian and one-time President of The Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920), once famously said, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is Mine!’”
Ultimately all events throughout history, all movements of every atom of matter, absolutely everything is under the complete and sovereign control of God. What does this have to do with complaining? When we complain we seek to express our dissatisfaction with God and where He has placed us. Complaining is ultimately the act of saying, “God, I know you are sovereign and this event that you have placed me in is of your own design, but I can do better. In fact, God, you were wrong to put me in the situation you have.” This is the general effect of complaining. It practically denies the sovereignty of God. God is completely sovereign and every event that God brings into your life is of His hand and for His glory. While the event, in itself, may not be good, as a Christian, one must be content and learn to accept God’s plan for your life.This is no better illustrated than in the book of Habakkuk.
Habakkuk expressed his frustration about the sin and wickedness around him and wondered when God would act (1:1–4). God answers Habakkuk by telling him that He will judge the wickedness of Israel but will use a nation even more wicked to do so: the Babylonians (1:5–11). Habakkuk questions God’s usage of a wicked nation to do this and practically expresses that God could not possibly do that in this situation (1:12–2:1). God responds by reminding Habakkuk that even the wicked nation of Babylon will be punished in the end. God’s plans are never frustrated (2:2–20). God describes the coming of His judgment to Habakkuk which would disturb us all (3:2–16), yet Habakkuk responds in faith. Knowing that the situation is difficult and grim, Habakkuk still acknowledges the sovereignty of God and will not complain about how God will sort this out. He concludes the book, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (3:17–19). We must respond like Habakkuk and rejoice in the Lord in all circumstances.
COMPLAINING DISRUPTS THE LIFE OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
Our complaining, though, does not just affect our view of God but it affects the body of Christ as well. Ephesians 4:29 reads, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We have learned that complaining is negative since it denies the sovereignty of God. Therefore, complaining is corrupting talk. This corrupting talk is that which brings down people instead of building them up. Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that,in contrast to allowing corrupting talk to come from their mouths and bring down believers, they are to allow only good things which bring grace and build up people out of their mouths.
We all know how a complainer brings people down.Someone who constantly complains about his situation in life is one that brings us down too. We begin to sense the same problems in our own lives and become complainers too. Complaining is contagious. And as people who are not to allow corrupting talk to come out of our mouths for the sake of those around us, we must be very careful with what we say. Complaining has the potential to seriously disrupt the life of the body of Christ. In contrast, someone who does not complain but instead speaks words that build up, brings grace to the body of Christ.
COMPLAINING DEVASTATES THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVER
On an individual level, complaining devastates the life of the believer. Our behavior, over time, becomes habit. And eventually it destroys any real joy we can have in Christ. This one act of disobedience can lead to other acts as well. If you complain too much you can become so focused on the negative that you miss out on all the good things God does around you. Psalm 106:25 reads, “They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.” The Israelites murmured and complained about being led out of Egypt and into the desert. And this led to a failure for them to obey the further commands of the Lord. And God punished them for it. God’s patience ultimately is tested by the complaints of people. 1 Corinthians 10:10 reminds us not to “… grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” Complaining is a sin that does not please God. Since God is sovereign and He ordains all events to occur in life including the ones you are facing in your life today, complaining tests His patience. If all things are done to His glory and ultimately your good then why have you got to complain? Instead, you should be joyful in the Lord. Complaining tests God’s patience and we know that God punished those who tested His patience.
SO, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT COMPLAINING
Complaining practically denies the sovereignty of God, disrupts the life of the body of Christ, and ultimately devastates the life of the believer. It does not honour God, it hurts friends, families, and churches, and it hurts us. It can lead us into further disobedience and ultimately it can lead us into punishment from God.
How do we stop complaining? A bracelet will not help. Only the transforming work of God in your life will help. If you have never turned to Christ in faith, do so now. The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer in Christ and helps him pursue a life of godliness and joy. But, it is not just the Spirit working in you; it is a joint process where you are involved. Actively seek to eliminate complaining from your life. Pray for help in this regard. Study the Scriptures to see God’s gracious and good acts in the past and reflect on His kindness to you in your life. Seek to speak only profitable things and when you sense a complaint coming out of your mouth, your best advice is simply to shut your mouth! Then, think, and speak things that build people up. God will aid you in your effort to eliminate complaining from your life. It will be ultimately better for you, better for your church, and better for the exaltation of God!