Pastor David B. Curtis


Stop Complaining! - Part 2

Philippians 2:15-16


How many of you caught yourself complaining this week? If you are glad that we got through verse 14 and are looking forward to moving on, I hate to disappoint you but we are going to be studying verses 15 and 16 this morning which are part two of "Stop Complaining." Verses 15 & 16 give us the reasons why we are to have the attitude of verse 14. Verse 14 tells us, "Do all things without complaining and disputing," and verses 15 and 16 tell us why.

Social Critic, Christopher Lash, says, "Every age develops it's own particular forms of pathology which express in exaggerated form its underlying character structure." The pathology of our day is narcisstic, self-indulgence. Narcissus from Greek mythology was a beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. In current psychoanalysis the word "narcissism" is used to mean excessive self-love. I think that characterizes our society. We feed on self indulgence, having every thing we still brood over what we don't have. We are rarely, if ever, satisfied.

Look with me at Paul's attitude in:

Philippians 4:10-13 (NKJV) But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Please notice that verse 13 is in the context of being content in any situation.

Psychologist, Kenneth Kingston, of M.I.T. said this, "If you live in a society where you believe the public institutions are deeply flawed and not easily improved, that leaves the pursuit of individual happiness in a private way as the main challenge to your energies." If we believe that our public institutions are flawed, then we won't get involved in them but will bury ourselves in our own pursuits.

The sixties were marked by protests-- they tried and failed to change the flawed institutions of our society. When they realized that all of their efforts and all of their work could not change the flaws of the social institutions, they became the materialistic, money-hungry, success oriented yuppies of the seventies and eighties who said, "We can't change the social institutions so we will pour all of our energies into our own personal pursuit of happiness." This is exactly where our society is today-- totally consumed with self-indulgence complainers that can never be satisfied. Every where you go people are complaining about something.

What are some of the things we complain about today, things that make us angry, hostile or even violent, things that increase our blood pressure? They're things like -- traffic jams, slow drivers, long lines, crying babies, (why the frightening increase in child abuse in our day? The baby once held to the Mother's breast and comforted is now hit with a fist or shaken violently. This happens because a crying baby violates our peace.) misplaced keys, cold food, noisy neighbors, tight clothes, unsuccessful diets. These things generate great hostility in people, we complain about all these things. We have it so bad!

If you were a member of the Berumen family on Tuesday night, October 17th 1989, then you would have had a problem worthy of considerable concern. Mrs Berumen and her two children were traveling on the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland California when an earth quake caused the freeway to collapse. Mrs Berumen died in the accident. The rescue workers found Cathy Berumen, eight years old, and Julio Berumen, six years old alive. They were able to get Cathy out of the car but they couldn't get Julio out because his mother was laying across him. The rescue workers took a chainsaw and cut the mother in half to get to Julio but they still couldn't get him out so they had to amputate his leg to free him. I think most of us could understand if the Berumans complained about their circumstances. But most of us complain about insignificant things that just don't even matter. Just because you didn't get your promotion or raise, or because you have been notified that you are over drawn on you checking account. I'm sure you'll find a way to survive, I'm sure you'll get through it.

One thing that Americans complain about is our age. Mid-life crisis -- there are some nations that don't ever have mid-life crisis because they don't live that long. Some people aren't bothered by such things at all, there are parts of the world where the average life span is 37 years and men and women are spared the distressing reality of a 40th birthday. Some people complain about grocery prices -- more that 10,000 people die of starvation every day and we're complaining about grocery bills. Millions more suffer from malnutrition. People complain about the high cost of rent or mortgage payments -- maybe you would rather be a pavement dweller in Calcutta, they don't pay rent or mortgage. They're born, live, and die on the pavement and the only thing they have to worry about is finding a rag to use as a pillow when they go to sleep at night. While these kinds of horrors go on around the world, we throw tantrums because we got seated in a poorly located table in a fancy restaurant. Or we gripe about our monthly debts. You think that you've got problems, relative to what? But we keep on complaining, how can we be so discontent?

So, verse 14 gives us the general principle that our attitude is to be one of submission. We are not to complain or debate with God about the circumstances that we find ourselves in but we should humbly submit to His providence for our lives. Paul says, "All things do without complaining." That has to do with working out our practical sanctification (verse 12). We are to face the trials of life with an attitude of submission, not complaining. God is working through the trials to mature us and make us more like Him.

Philippians 4:4 (NKJV) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

If we are always rejoicing, there will be no room for complaining. Verse 14 has reference to God and His providential workings in our lives. There is to be no emotional revolt-- goggosmos, or intellectual debates.

Complaining is a symptom of a deep seated spiritual problem-- a failure to trust God and a failure to be submissive to His providential provision in your life. We complain and dispute with God because we think we deserve better than what we are getting. That is pride! What we all deserve is Hell. Anything that happens in your life short of you going to Hell, is pure grace.

Romans 3:23 (NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

People, we are all sinners and we all deserve hell. We should be able to rejoice in any and every situation because we have been saved by God's grace and are on our way to heaven.

Luke 10:20 (NKJV) "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

Rejoice over your salvation! We have eternal life, that alone should bring us great joy.

Philippians 2:3 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

The height of conceit is to think that we deserve more than what we are getting. The words, "I deserve better" are words of pride.

Now, in verses 15 and 16, Paul is going to give us the reasons for not complaining and disputing.

Philippians 2:15 (NKJV) that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

The first word in this verse is "that," it is hina in the Greek and denotes "purpose, goal, or objective." It is what is called "a purpose clause." The purpose of the attitude called for in verse 14 is that there might be complete absence of things which would mar our testimony.

Don't complain or dispute in order that you "may be." The words "may be" are the Greek word ginomi. It means: "become or show yourself." It is a process. The literal Greek reads, "In order that you might become blameless and harmless."

The word "blameless" is the Greek word amemptos. It means: "irreproachable, living a life at which no finger of criticism may be pointed." Let's look at one other use of this word in:

Luke 1:6 (NKJV) And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

This verse is speaking of Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth. It says they were "blameless," speaking of their obedience before God. No one could point a finger at them and accuse them of wrong doing.

1 Thessalonians 2:10 (NKJV) You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;

Paul tells the Thessalonians that he has lived a "blameless" life among them. They could not accuse him of wrongdoing.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul prayed that the Thessalonians would also live a "blameless" life.

James 3:2 (NKJV) For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

If we don't complain and dispute, we will be blameless, no one will be able to point a finger at us. James says that when you can control the tongue, you can control your whole body. The tongue is the hardest member of the body to control. That is why God put it in a cage of teeth, because it is so deadly.

We are not only to be blameless but are also to be harmless. "Harmless" doesn't mean someone who won't harm you, it is from the Greek word akeraios. It has to do with being pure, innocent, unmixed. It was used in the vocabulary of primitive metallurgy to talk about pure gold, pure copper, or any metal that did not have impurities. It is used of wine or milk which is not mixed with water. When used of people, it implies motives which are unmixed. This same word is used in:

Romans 16:19 (NKJV) For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.

The word "simple" is akeraios. It means: "unmixed."

We are to live a life without fault and without flaw. In these two ethical terms, we catch a glimpse of God's ideal for his people. In their character and conduct there should be no feature on which the outsiders would pass a critical verdict. This is a commentary on verse 27 of chapter 1.

Philippians 1:27 (NKJV) Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

Our life is to be worthy of the gospel that we believe and proclaim.

The third term Paul uses is "without fault." It is from the Greek word amometos, which means: "faultless, blemishless." This Greek word is also used in:

Ephesians 1:4 (NKJV) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

This speaks of our relationship towards God. This does not mean that there will ever come a time in our lives when we shall be without sin. Real sanctification lies in the increasing realization of how sinful we are. If you really understand just how corrupt and sinful you are apart form the grace of God, then you are making progress in the area of sanctification.

This word is also used in the Septuagint in Numbers 6:14 and 19:2 of sacrifices. This word is especially used in connection with sacrifices that are fit to be offered on the alter of God.

Romans 12:1 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Our lives are to be a sacrifice to God

In these three words, (blameless, harmless, and without fault) we see; blameless expresses what the Christian should be to the world. When the unsaved look at you, they should see you as blameless. There should be no moral or character defect that they can point to. We should also be harmless; this expresses what the Christian is in himself, he is not a hypocrite. We should also be "without fault"; this expresses what we should be in the sight of God. In your fellowship with God, you should be without fault.

Then Paul calls them "children of God." The Greek word here is tekna which stresses the idea of offspring. The stress here is on parental relationship. I am the tekna of my mother even though I am 44 years old.

Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

We, as God's children, are to imitate our father. When people see us, they should see a reflection of our Father.

Titus 2:7-10 (NKJV) in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. 9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

Our life is to "adorn" or make attractive the doctrine of God. By our lives we can beautify the gospel of Jesus Christ. We bare the Father's name and must be consistent to live a life that will speak well of the name we bare. That means not complaining or disputing in this context. If you are a complainer or a disputer you distort the image of God in your life.

Ezekiel 36:22-23 (NKJV) "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23 "And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.

Our sanctified lives put God on display to the world, and when we don't live as we should, we profane God's name.

Philippians 2:15 goes on to say, "live this way in church on Sunday morning." Don't you wish it said that? That would be easy, most of us do that. But it says, "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." How we live affects the world in which we live. The main issue in verses 14-16 of Philippians 2, is evangelism. Evangelism is primarily a matter of God's children shining as lights in a dark world, and doing that effectively comes down to two things-- character and content. It's not just what you say, it's what you are. What you are gives you a platform for what you say. The man who shared the gospel with me was able to do so because his life demonstrated the reality of what he believed.

We often fail to realize how crucial to the purpose of God is the behavior of his people. As God's children, we are to live blameless, sincere, blemishless lives. This would be easy if we lived in the garden of Eden, but we don't. We are to live this way in a crooked and perverse world, and it is difficult, very difficult.

The phrase "crooked and perverse generation" are used in the Septuagint in Deuteronomy 32 of Israel as apostate.

Deuteronomy 32:5 (NKJV) "They have corrupted themselves; They are not His children, Because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation.

So again, Paul connects this passage in Philippians with the children of Israel. They had become a crooked and perverse people and were no longer His children.

John 17:15-17 (NKJV) "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

We are in the world but we are not to be of it. It is a God hating, Christ rejecting world. We know how perverse it is, we don't need to be told.

The word "crooked" is the Greek word skolios. The disease Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. The word means: "curved, bent out of shape, out of proper alignment, off and deviated from the standard."

Proverbs 2:15 (NKJV) Whose ways are crooked, And who are devious in their paths;
Isaiah 53:6 (NKJV) All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Man has a spiritual disease, scoliosis of the heart, he is deviated from God.

The word "perverse" is the Greek word diastrepho. It means: "to be severely twisted or distorted." Man has gone astray and become twisted. It is a twisted perverted world. It says fornication is alright, adultery is alright, homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle, lying is alright but you just call it something else, and abortion is alright, all contrary to what the Word of God says.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The only way to keep our thinking straight is to stay in the Word of God. The whole culture has deviated from the standard of righteousness and become distorted and twisted. Because the world is crooked, it persecutes those who live righteously.

John 16:33 (NKJV) "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

To live in a crooked and perverse world is not easy. Now, I want you to think with me about this, look at:

Philippians 1:28 (NKJV) and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.

We live in a world of adversaries who contradict the gospel and oppose godliness. Because of this our lives will often involve suffering:

Philippians 1:29-30 (NKJV) For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

These verses follow right after 27, which says we are to live consistent with the gospel. And when we do, we will have adversaries who will persecute us. When they do persecute you, don't complain. Look at:

Philippians 2:8 (NKJV) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Christ suffered without complaining and disputing and so should we if we want to reach this world. We are to reach this world by who we are and by what we say.

Who we are-- "among whom you shine as lights in the world." The word "lights" is phoster, it means: "to give light." This word is also used in the Septuagint in Genesis 1:14 & 16 to speak of the sun, moon, and stars. You live in a dark world and your purity of character will make you stand out as lights. A thankful, grateful, content person will stand out in a complaining disputing world.

Isaiah 60:1-3 (NKJV) Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.

God's light is to be reflected in our lives. The word "shine"is from phaino, which means: "to shine or give light." We are to demonstrate the life of God. Just as:

Psalms 19:1 (NKJV) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

We, too, are to declare His glory.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Our light shines by our character and conduct. When we complain and dispute, we vale God's glory in our lives.

You affect and impact people in one way or another for good or for bad. The quality of your life is the platform of your personal testimony. By the kind of life you live, you build a platform on which what you say is made believable. A complaining and disputing Christian isn't going to have an impact in a positive way. Because complaining is a failure to trust God. When we trust Him, we don't complain because we know that he gives us only good and perfect gifts.

James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Trusting God in the midst of trials and persecutions is a powerful witness to the world. How many people know that there is a God because they watch you shine with his glory? How we live is so important. But it is not only how we live, it also involves what we say.

Philippians 2:16 (NKJV) holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

Remember, Paul has stressed first their character, then he talks about their message.

"Holding fast the word of life" -- there is a lot of debate as to whether this means holding "fast" or holding "forth." From the Greek it could be interpreted either way. I think that the idea here is "holding forth." It seems like verse 15 dealt with "holding fast" -- living righteously and godly. Now he is talking to them about offering to the world the message of life. When our lives are light people are inclined to listen to our words.

What is the Gospel? There is much confusion about this, we must make sure that our answer is biblical. Let me share with you briefly the Gospel. 1. All men are sinners. 2.The wages (payment) for our sin is death, (separation from the Father) eternal damnation. 3. Christ died for our sins, his death was substitutional. 4. You must personally trust what Christ did for a payment for your sins. You must trust his work alone to get you to heaven.

The gospel is not "Ask Jesus into your heart." Nowhere in Scripture is anyone told to "ask Jesus into their heart." Nor does it say that Jesus comes in our heart. What we are told is to "believe" in Christ with our heart -- to the Hebrew mind, the heart refers to the thinking process.

Acts 8:37 (NKJV) Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
Romans 10:10 (NKJV) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Nor are you saved by praying the "sinners prayer." WE are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone. In order to believe in Him, you must know who he is and what he has done. Before you can believe, you must have knowledge. You can't believe what you don't know.

So, we are to build a platform by our godly lives from which we can share the gospel. We are to stop complaining for the sake of our testimony. We are a light in a dark world.

Then Paul says, "So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain."

The word "rejoice" is kauchema, it means: "to boast or glory." "That I may rejoice in" -- literally, "with a view to (your being) a subject of rejoicing to me against the day of Christ"

"In the day of Christ" -- this is a reference to the second coming of Christ. This is made clear in:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NKJV) Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.

Paul calls the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" the "day of Christ."

It is clear from all his letters that Paul expected Christ to return in his lifetime. He believed that Christ would return in his lifetime because Christ had taught his disciples that he would (Matthew 16:27-28).

The return of Christ was a time of judgement on national Israel for their rejection of Christ and it was the time when the church entered into the fullness of the New Covenant. Paul wanted them to live godly lives in the midst of the generation of Jews that had rejected Him. Christ's return brought judgement to the Jews and rewards to the Christians.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (NKJV) since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,

Who was it that was troubling them? It was the Jews:

1 Thessalonians 2:14-20 (NKJV) For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost. 17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. 18 Therefore we wanted to come to you; even I, Paul, time and again; but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

Paul anticipated great joy over the believers at Christ's coming. To the believers, His coming was joy but to the Jews, it was judgement.

2 Thessalonians 1: 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Christ returned in A.D. 70 just as he said, and destroyed the Jewish nation. Clearly showing that they were not his people any longer. The Old Covenant was ended and the New fully consummated. The Philippians living blameless and harmless lives would be a cause of great joy to Paul at Christ's return.

"That I have not run in vain or labored in vain." The word "labored" is kopiao, it means: "to labor to the point of utter exhaustion." The word "vain" is kenos. Does that ring a bell? We saw a form of it in 2:8, the word "keno." "Christ emptied himself." It means: "empty or vain."

Paul's prayer is that he may not be like the athlete whose training and effort have gone for nothing. For him, the greatest prize in life was to know that through him others had come to know and to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is telling the Philippians in 2:14-16 to avoid the faults of Israel. The history of Israel is indeed a record of failure, especially in avoiding complaining and disputing. As a result, they failed to be a light in the darkness.

As we live a godly life without complaining in the midst of trials, we will be a light that shines in the darkness of a crooked and perverse world.

The command is simple: don't complain or argue. Obedience is not so simple, it's natural for us to complain. We must work at this in dependence upon the Lord. Only through "dependant discipline" can we do all things without complaining or arguing. Our constant prayer needs to be like that of the Psalmist:

Psalms 141:3 (NKJV) Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.

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