Things I Heard In Church: Thanksgiving (and the opposite of thanksgiving)

Thankful by Jeff Turner - CCRead Philippians 2:12-16.

Complaining About A Tesla

One time, just for fun, I test drove a Tesla. I had it in autopilot mode on the U.S. 26 freeway in Portland, Oregon where I live. It was pretty amazing but I was surprised at my own disappointment when the Tesla rep., sitting in the seat next to me, explained that the car wouldn’t permit you to take your hands off the wheel for more than a few seconds.

When he told me that, from some primal place deep inside me, a complaint started to form. But I caught myself. Before I complained out loud — I realized how stupid that would sound.

Sunday our pastor taught from Philippians 2:14-15. In verse 14 God tells us to,

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Or to put it another way: without complaining.

That’s an interesting scripture because today we live in a culture of complaint. There’s even a book with the title: Culture of Complaint. Just look at your Facebook feed and you’ll have to agree that people are serious about complaining. People seem to find it cathartic or even enjoyable.

So complaining is part of our culture, but the thing is, the bible is full of wisdom and instruction that’s counter to our culture. And you and I have a couple of options if we want to obey God’s command to do all things without complaining.

The Two Options To Stop Complaining

Option 1: Change your external world.

My pastor says, “If you’re complaining about not being married, get married — then you won’t have anything to complain about.”

Or, if you’re complaining about how your boss micromanages you, work hard and become the boss — then you won’t have anything to complain about.

Or, if you’re complaining about bad drivers in traffic, move to a remote desert region where there are almost no drivers — then you won’t have any bad drivers to complain about.

Of course, every married person has complaints, and so does every boss — and have you ever lived in a remote desert region?

The point is, reducing your complaining by changing your environment is an impossibility. When you think it through, you’ll see that we have astoundingly little control over our environment, especially when it comes to other people.  When it comes to a human being other than ourselves, we have almost zero control.

Which brings us to option 2.

Option 2: Change yourself internally.

God is in love with the idea of your free will. He’s done all kinds of things to ensure it. (To learn more see The Control Freak And Jesus) The one place where you have complete and total control is yourself. You get to decide what comes out of you, and complaining doesn’t have to be part of it.

How God Responded When The People Complained

The original word used in the don’t complain verse, Philippians 2:14, is goggysmos, which means guttural grumbling. That’s what I can do when someone cuts me off in traffic. I can complain — from my gut. That’s what the Israelite people did in the desert, they complained from their gut. Just three days after God parted the Red Sea to deliver them from the Egyptian army — the people complained about the drink menu offered.

After they left Egypt, they did that from time to time, they complained. Like us, the people of Israel were serious about their complaining. And God was serious about it too. He noticed right away. He said to Moses “They grumble about me in their tents.”

And you’ll see in the book of Exodus and other passages of the bible that complaining spreads. When someone complains, the complaining has a tendency to catch on with others around the complainer. It can spread like a contagious disease.

When the people of Israel complained, God took it seriously. God saw their grumbling as an expression of their lack of trust in Him. God saw their complaining as an expression of their dislike for His plan. They wanted their own plan. We touched on this in a recent blog post called The Cure For AnxietyIf you’re a Christ-follower, God’s plan for your life is to conform you into the likeness of Jesus. That being the case, should we be surprised then if we encounter hardship? After all, Jesus encountered hardship. Jesus encountered hardship beyond anything we can imagine. And God’s plan is to prepare us for heaven by using this life on earth to make us like Jesus. (Exodus, Psalm 106:25-27)

Like the people of Israel, when the Christ-follower complains, what he or she is saying is, “God, I don’t like your plan. I want my plan — it’s the one without hardship.”

The good news is, when the people of Israel grumbled, God didn’t disown them. He only said that their complaining attitude would prevent them from experiencing all the good God wanted to give them. In Philippians 2, in the next verse after the don’t complain verse, Paul says that if we don’t complain we can be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom we can shine as lights in the world. If you want to experience the abundant life that Jesus talked about in John 10, then do all things without grumbling or disputing. Do all things without complaining. (Exodus, Psalm 106:25-27John 10:9-10)

Thanksgiving: The Antidote For Complaining

There’s an antidote of sorts for complaining, and like complaining, this antidote can spread to the people around you. This antidote is a contagious antidote. It’s called giving thanks, or gratitude. Because if you’re feeling gratitude, it’s impossible to complain. Gratitude fills you with thankfulness for God’s plan. Gratitude puts you in the flow of God’s plan for your life. Gratitude is God’s will for your life.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

If you complain, then you’ll be outside of God’s will. But if you’re in Christ Jesus, if you’re a Christ follower, then to be in the flow of God’s will give thanks in all circumstances. And also,

Be thankful so you can become blameless.

Be thankful so there’s no basis for accusation.

Be thankful so you can be approachable.

Be thankful so you can be more pure.

Be thankful so you can shine as a light in a dark generation.

Be thankful so you can be in harmony with God’s will.

And as my pastor said,

“Be thankful so you can not only get to heaven, but so you can get heaven inside of you.”

Be thankful.



This blog post was inspired by Randy Remington’s excellent teaching: Living as Lights in a Darkened World, November 19, 2017

Thankful image via Jeff Turner – Creative Commons

4 Comments on “Things I Heard In Church: Thanksgiving (and the opposite of thanksgiving)

  1. Every day for me is thanksgiving. Each morning in the shower I first thank our LORD for the shower and the hot water. Then I sing songs to and about Him!
    Then during the day, there are times of “thanks” for food, or friends, or family, or for good neighbors and especially for my husband whom I love and care for with his needs. I’m thankful that he is alive when so many Vets from NAM have died. In fact, this evening I read about Vets dying from parasites from fish in NAM, which my husband concurred that he ate, ugh! So then, it is a miracle he is with me still.
    Then at night before I sleep I thank Him for a roof over our head, a bed, for feeding us today and for precious peaceful sleep. And I pray that He would keep watch over the “door” of our dreams that they would be good and not frightful. Sometimes hubby has PTSD dreams and he thinks someone is in the house.
    If there are folks who are reading this and some are not thankful for what they have daily, I encourage them to be thankful, even during the difficult times, times of trials which will inevitably occur to cause us to grow closer to Him; there is always SOMETHING we can be thankful for!
    I am MOST thankful that I heard the Gospel in 1979 and bowed my knees to accept the LORD Yeshua a.k.a. Jesus. Since then the blessings have been multiplied by having six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and another “great” on the way!
    And I’m grateful for the occasional “slip-ups” of unthankfulness to teach me to be patient and kind.
    And Kurt, I am thankful for your blog. Blessings to you and your family, and have a Grateful Thanksgiving!

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