his Sunday we kick off our series with the message, “I’m Done With Complaining.”
In this message we’ll look at the anatomy of complaining; we’ll walk through a time in the history of Israel when they had a big problem with complaining; we’ll look at why complaining is so destructive; we’ll do a self-assessment around complaining; and we’ll look at how we can be freed from complaining for good.
The apostle Paul said in Philippians 2, “Do everything without complaining.” This will be such a powerful thing for us as a church — to be known as a place that’s liberated from complaining.
Full Sermon Script:
Good morning and welcome to Blue Oaks in 2020!
If we haven’t met yet, my name is Matt VanCleave. I’m one of the pastors here.
I just want to say I’m excited about what we’re talking about today.
And I want to start with a little experiment.
In a moment, I’d like everyone on my right to express authentic gratitude for something.
It could be how your day is going.
It could be something you’ve done recently.
It could be a gift you received recently.
It could be your health.
It could be your spouse.
Anything, as long as it’s authentic.
And I’d like everyone on my left to complain about something.
It could be how your day is going
Probably not Jesus… but whatever it is you can authentically complain about.
Alright, everyone take a moment and do that right now.
Gratitude on my right. Complaining on my left.
If you’re in the middle, you get to pick which you would rather do.
Alright, I’m going to ask you to be done now.
Does anyone on this side (motion to right side) feel glad you just did that — do you feel a little more alive, a little more energized, a little more grateful to be here?
This side? (motion to left side) Probably not so much.
It’s a weird thing — I’ve never met anyone who says, “My goal in life is to complain more.”
No one thinks of that as their spiritual gift.
And yet we actually live in what one author calls — a culture of complaint.
If you’re thinking about being done with complaining, you picked the right Sunday to be here.
We’re starting this series today called “I’m Done With That.”
And we’re actually looking at what some of those things are that we need to eliminate from our lives to make space for God — to experience God’s presence going into what I think is going to be an amazing year.
This week is — I’m done complaining
I need to start today by confessing to you that God has shown me how important it is that I live what I’m teaching today.
Just this week, God revealed to me how much I need to follow what the writers of Scripture teach when dealing with things that would be easy to complain about.
He showed me how easy it is for me to be negative.
He showed me how easy it is for me to spiral down when I start complaining.
He showed me how easy it is for me to complain about people rather than going to the people I have a problem with.
He showed me how easy it is for me to be self-centered and blind to the needs of others.
This week, God revealed to me how much I mess up in this area of complaining.
In many respects, it’s been a painful week.
So now I get to pass on some of that pain to you.
Alright, there are two basic ways to be done with complaining.
One is to change your external world so there’s no circumstance left to complain about.
That means if you’ve been complaining about not being married — you have to get married.
If you are married, you have to improve your spouse into the kind of person who would never generate grounds for complaint.
You have to have one of those jobs where your boss asks you, “What hours would you like to work, and how much money would you like to make?”
You have to make sure 580 and 680 are always free of traffic.
You have to make sure your dates are cute, your grades are A’s, and all your relatives are in therapy.
That’s one way to be done with complaining — change your external world.
The other way is — change your internal world.
Ask God, “God, will you give me an inner attitude so I can receive from you every day? Will you show me what the apostle Paul talked about — learning the secret to being content in every situation?”
That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Here’s the thing — we still live in a world where pain and difficult things happen to us all the time.
God is not asking us to be flowery or inauthentic.
So how do we actually pursue being done with complaining?
This is what I’m so excited to talk about today.
There’s a distinction between two key words in the Bible.
I never thought about this until last week.
A great Old Testament scholar named Tremper Longman writes about these two words… so we’ll just unpack two words in this message.
They both start with the letter G.
They’re both things people do when bad things happen to them.
One of them is the word
From the very beginning of the history of the people of Israel — we’re told:
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham,
with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. Exodus 2:23-25
This gets remembered.
And God, through Moses, goes back and speaks to the Israelites.
Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. Exodus 6:5
This practice of groaning is so important, that it actually got included in their sacred literature — in the Psalms.
The psalmist said:
I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. Psalm 38:8
I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. Psalm 6:6
The psalmist is actually experiencing groaning fatigue.
You probably wouldn’t know this, but groaning is actually commanded in the Bible.
In the Old Testament book of Lamentations.
It’s not a book that gets read at a lot of weddings… but the writer of Lamentations says:
Arise, groan in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lamentations 2:19
The writers of Scripture say people do that in real life.
And it’s actually commanded in the Bible.
The other word that also starts with the letter G in the Bible is
Sometimes people grumble.
We see this way back in the history of Israel.
So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Exodus 15:24
Moses reminds them about this part of the history also.
You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us.” Deuteronomy 1:27
Remember that phrase — “You grumbled in your tents.” We’ll come back to that.
This word, grumbled, also makes it into the Psalms.
They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord. Psalm 106:25
Notice, grumbling is paired with disobedience.
Which is why grumbling is actually forbidden in the Bible.
The apostle Paul was writing to the church at Philippi, and said:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing. Philippians 2:14
Does anyone here, besides me, ever grumble?
Let’s do a mass confession kind of deal on this one. And I want to ask you to raise your hands on this one.
Think about whether or not you grumble. Think back over a period of time. Let’s say the past month.
I’ll give you a few categories just to jog your memory.
If over this last month, you grumbled:
about your weight
about your in-laws
about your in-laws money
about your in-laws weight
about your health
about a relationship
How many of you have grumbled at least once in the last month?
How many of you would say, “I’m not putting my hand in the air. This is a stupid idea and I’m just not going to do it.”
You might think grumbling sounds like a trivial problem — like it’s not a very serious sin — but you would be wrong.
I want you to see how seriously God takes this.
Paul writes to the church at Corinth, and says we ought to avoid the sins Israel committed while wandering in the desert.
He talks about four mistakes, and I want you to notice them.
1 Corinthians 10:6
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”
We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes.
And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 1 Corinthians 10:6-10
That’s kind of scary, isn’t it?
Alright, so first is idolatry.
Then sexual immorality.
Third, “We must not put Christ to the test,” and the idea of this is deliberate, willful defiance. We must not deliberately, willfully defy God.
And lastly, do not grumble. Do not complain.
So we have idolatry – sounds pretty serious. Sexual immorality – sounds pretty serious. Willful defiance of God – sounds pretty serious. And then at the climax of the list, the awesome destructive power of grumbling.
You see, we have these two words — groaning and grumbling.
Groaning is encouraged by the writers of Scripture, but grumbling is forbidden.
So what’s the difference between them?
Groaning is something I say to God; grumbling is something I say about God.
Groaning I do to God’s face; grumbling I do behind God’s back.
The place where Israel would groan is on their knees in prayer to God.
The place where they would grumble is in their tents, in isolation, where they were free to exaggerate or make up whatever they wanted about what they were not happy about.
Grumbling can be so destructive.
One of the things we’ve talked a lot about as a staff is when there’s a problem, we want to talk TO each other… but not ABOUT each other, which is at the heart of grumbling.
So what I want to do in the rest of this message is talk about the anatomy of grumbling.
I want to walk through a time in the history of Israel when they had a big problem with grumbling.
And I want to look at why grumbling is so destructive.
And I want to do a little self-assessment around this.
And then talk about how we can be done with it — how we can be freed from grumbling or complaining.
This will be such a powerful thing for us as a church — to be known for our gratitude… and to be known as a place that’s liberated from complaining.
Way back in Israel’s history… God delivers them from slavery. He literally parts the Red Sea, sends 10 plagues, and destroys Pharaoh’s army.
The very first hymn is sung in praise to God, and they’re on their way to the Promised Land.
You would think the Israelites would be grateful for the rest of their lives, right?
Not so much.
It was a couple of days into the wilderness, and they can’t find water.
So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Exodus 15:24
God miraculously supplies water for them.
So now they have freedom… and water.
You would think, “Now they’ll be grateful for the rest of their lives.”
Not so much.
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!
There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:2-3
These people have raised complaining to a whole new art form — “If only we had died in Egypt,” they say.
In other words, “We’re not asking for much. If we just had bread, we’d be grateful forever…
“We’re not asking for much. We would even be willing to settle for death. Anything would be better than this.”
Again, God hears their grumbling, and again, God is gracious, and miraculously provides bread from heaven.
You may know about what the Israelites named it — What is it?
Manna. What is it?
Literally the word manna just means, “What is it?”
It tasted like a cracker with honey, so it was good stuff.
Now look at verse 23. It’s a food that can be fixed in a variety of different ways. In verse 23, God’s telling the people about preparing it for the Sabbath so they don’t have to pick it up on the Sabbath.
He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’” Exodus 16:23
And there are other instructions given later on. It’s a very versatile food.
I don’t know if you remember the scene in “Forrest Gump” when his friend Bubba is telling him about all the different ways you can fix shrimp.
Manna is kind of like that.
You can have baked manna, boiled manna, barbecued manna, manna on a stick, manna burgers, manna salad, mannacotti.
Pretty much anything.
Now they’ll be grateful for the rest of their lives, right?
God has given them freedom, water and miraculous sweet-tasting bread.
Not so much.
They got tired of manna.
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.
But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6
Okay, now we start to see part of what’s so destructive about grumbling and why God takes it so seriously and how it can just destroy a soul and our joy in life.
For one thing, it’s incredibly contagious.
It starts with the crowd (the rabble among them), and then it spreads.
Grumbling is just that way — emotions are unbelievably contagious. They’ve got to be one of the most contagious things in the world.
There was a fascinating study done a while ago.
Researchers took two people and had them sit in chairs facing each other for five minutes. They were not to say a word to each other.
Interviewing them after that experience, they found that if one person was depressed — at the end of those five minutes — the other person was significantly more depressed than they had been before, just from sitting in the presence of someone who was depressed.
Just to be sitting next to a negative person will make you more negative.
Now that you know that… how many of you would like to move seats right now?
It’s an unbelievably contagious thing. Pretty soon everyone is whining.
I learned this week — the reason I grumble is it reinforces my sense of superiority.
When I’m grumbling about something or someone else, I don’t have to look at myself. I don’t have to look at my problems.
Grumbling is incredibly toxic.
It can destroy a family.
It can destroy an office.
It can mess up a church.
I was talking to a friend recently who attends another church. He’s a really good person, a high-functioning person, but he said the sheer amount of grumbling in his church has made him want to start looking for another church.
Grumbling is destructive because it’s incredibly contagious.
Another aspect of grumbling is it distorts our perspective.
What the Israelites are grumbling about is, “Why can’t we have meat?” They’re just talking about, “What’s on the menu?”
They say, “Remember in Egypt, we had fish at no cost!” There was a cost.
Do you remember what they were doing in Egypt?
They were slaves for crying out loud!
But when they’re grumbling, they think, “Man, we had it good back then.”
You see, when I’m grumbling, it causes me to ignore or dismiss all of the good things God does for me… and exaggerate whatever is difficult in my life.
A few months ago I got to meet with a bunch of Bay Area pastors in San Fransisco on the subject of church planting. It was a very stimulating conversation with a group of very bright, very passionate people.
Then I started driving back to Pleasanton from the city and I started grumbling in my spirit because I hit traffic.
Then I realized I didn’t have my phone. I must have left it at the restaurant.
I had to turn around and go back to the city to get my phone, so I was grumbling about that.
I went to where we were sitting and looked everywhere. I was looking under the table when a food server asked me if I needed help. I told her I was looking for my phone.
She said, “Did you have your computer bag with you?”
I said, “Yeah but I’m not stupid. I looked all through my computer bag.”
I went to the restroom because I remembered going there. It wasn’t there.
I came back to where I was sitting.
The food server said to me again, “90 percent of the time, the phone is in the computer bag.”
So I went out to my car and got the computer bag to show her it wasn’t in there.
And she pointed in my bag and said, “What’s that phone-like object in your bag?”
It was my phone.
My prodigal phone had come home.
Do you think that made me happy? Do you think I’d kill the fatted calf because of that?
No! I was upset that she was right and I was wrong.
Now here’s the thing. I was thinking about this.
Imagine that one of those grumbling Israelites from thousands of years ago could have been magically teleported to me in that moment in San Francisco.
They would say to me, “Do you mean to tell me that you got to be part of a conversation about church planting? We never dreamed of a conversation like that.
And you have a home where you have a wife, and kids you love. The way you got there, the way you traveled, was you got into this contraption called a vehicle and sat in a seat for a hour.
You got to order food off of a menu and eat as much as you want, then drive in a car that takes you 70 miles an hour.
Then you had lost this amazing object that enables you to talk to anybody anywhere in the world and write anybody anywhere, anytime in the world and look up information that didn’t even exist when we were around.
And you’re grumbling because a total stranger was kind enough to help you find it when it was lost?”
I sometimes think if there’s one verse that’s not in the Bible but should be, it would be — “‘Suck it up,’ thus saith the Lord.”
Here’s the thing, when I groan, I do so in the presence of God.
You see, groaning in the Bible is God-centered. It comes on people who are in deep pain or deep sorrow, but they’re very aware of a broader context.
When people groan, they’re very aware of their own sin.
This is why there are what are called “Psalms of lament” or Psalms of complaint. They’re groaning psalms.
And they very often include the confession of sin… because awareness of and confession of my sin is very much a part of the process of groaning.
Groaning is God-centered.
Grumbling is self-centered.
It’s just all about me… what I want.
“Why am I not having the fish I want or the meat I want or my pleasure or my success?”
It’s all about me — very self-centered.
And it’s always destructive to the soul.
And it’s always contagious.
Look what happens. It starts with the rabble — the crowd. Then it goes to the whole people of Israel.
Now look at this. This is the leader.
Grumbling can kill a leader.
Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant?
What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth?
Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?
Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.
If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me.” Numbers 11:10-15
That’s not the most spiritually-sounding passage you’ve ever heard, is it?
That’s some pretty serious complaining against God — “God, you’re doing a bad job. I’m giving you a bad performance review. You’re not getting any merit pay increase at all this time.”
Moses just gets one thing right. He complains TO God… not ABOUT God. He goes to God’s face, not behind God’s back.
I have to tell you reading through that, one of the convictions I came to is I actually need to do more groaning with God.
His honesty with God, the edginess of his language with God — there’s nothing polite.
I think Moses must have had such a deep, authentic, alive, real, honest life with God.
If you ever find your prayers feel kind of boring or dull or there’s no life in them, maybe it’s because not enough of that reality is going on.
See, God can work with groaning. God wants us to go through life without grumbling… so here’s the thing.
The idea of, “I’m done with complaining” is not, “I’m just filled with as much negativity and sourness and pessimism and ingratitude as ever, but I’ll try to suppress it by an act of will… and act cheerier.”
That’s not God’s will for our lives.
God’s will is that we actually be transformed so that I learn to experience this day, this moment, this place, being with you, as a gift from God, a gift of God’s grace.
Now that’s going to take some transformation for me and you — for us to be the most grateful church around, because I’ll tell you what. We’re definitely a blessed church.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if the level of our gratitude achieved the level of our blessing? Wouldn’t that be a cool thing?
Well, there are tools and resources for us to practice this week through which God can begin to transform us into people who are genuinely grateful.
One of them is that we actually practice the expression of gratitude, whether or not we’re experiencing the emotion.
This is so powerful.
I remember recently visiting the mom of a woman in our church. She was in a very bad physical condition. Physically speaking, humanly speaking, there was no hope.
We chatted for a while, and then I asked her, “How are you doing, really?”
I’ll never forget this. She just looked at me and said, “I’ve had a wonderful life, and I’m surrounded by people I love. I have my family right here. The pain isn’t bad. I know it might be, but the pain is not bad. I have so much to be grateful for.”
That’s what she said — “I have so much to be grateful for.”
I have to tell you… I want to grow into that.
And the place it starts really is just to express gratitude.
In Psalm 100, the Psalmist says:
Make a joyful noise to the LORD. Psalm 100:1
I was thinking about that this week. That’s kind of an odd phrase. “Make a joyful noise…” Anyone can do that — a joyful noise. It’s not very specific.
Part of what’s interesting is he doesn’t say, “Have a joyful feeling.” He says, “Make a joyful noise…” Why?
Well, because I can do that.
It’s easier to act my way into my feelings than to feel my way into my actions.
I love how Eugene Peterson translates Psalm 100 in The Message Bible. This is how he translates it.
On your feet now — applaud GOD!
In our day, that’s the joyful noise.
I grew up in a baptist church, and we were generally not very expressive.
I remember singing a song, an old song — some of you may know of it — “I stand, I stand in awe of you.”
We did the whole thing sitting down!
No one even thought about it! We were just that way.
But the Psalmist says, “On your feet now — applaud God!”
That’s why Michaela says, “Put your hands together.” She’s encouraging us to applaud God.
Then he says:
Bring a gift of laughter,
When you come to church, when you gather with friends, bring a gift of laughter.
sing yourselves into his presence.
That’s why singing is such a good thing. It expresses the heart.
Then he says:
Enter (the presence of God) with the password: “Thank you!”
I love that — password.
Does anyone have a lot of passwords in your life these days? Does anyone ever grumble about passwords?
I have so many passwords.
I have passwords for online accounts. I have passwords for financial accounts, bank accounts, everything nowadays has a username and password. I have security passwords.
I have a whole file of my passwords that’s password protected… and I forget the password to that file. So then I grumble about that.
The password for going into God’s presence is, “Thank you.” It’s gratitude!
Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Do me a favor if you have your bible. Underline the word “in” in that verse. That’s one of the most important words to keep us from misinterpreting this verse.
He doesn’t say “Give thanks FOR every circumstance.”
That’s a common misinterpretation.
Some people say, “The Bible teaches that you should give thanks for everything.”
You failed your class. “Thank God.”
I just had a car wreck. “Praise the Lord!”
My friend started drinking again and got his girlfriend pregnant. “Thank you Jesus.”
God does not want you to give thanks for evil in the world.
If one of you were to be murdered I would not be thankful. If my wife got cancer, I would not be thankful. When there’s war, I’m not thankful for the war.
The writers of Scripture do not say be thankful for evil. They say “IN every circumstance give thanks.” Not FOR every circumstance.
So what’s the difference?
It’s that even out of bad circumstances, God can bring good.
IN every circumstance, no matter how bad it is, you can give thanks to God because, first of all,
God has a purpose bigger than the problem.
Second, God will give us the power we need to overcome the problem.
And third, we will grow through the experience if we allow it to help us grow.
IN every circumstance. Even in the evil that happens in the world I can be thankful because I know God is greater than the evil.
This passages is one of my favorite passages of scripture – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Because a lot of people ask the question, “How do I know what God’s will is for my life?” It’s right there in 1 Thessalonians 5 — “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
What’s God’s will for your life? “In everything give thanks.”
I read this week that the healthiest human emotion is not love… but the healthiest human emotion is gratitude.
It actually increases your immunity. It makes you more resistant to stress and less susceptible to illness. It’s the healthiest emotion.
In other words, it’s healthier to eat a box of chocolates with gratitude than to eat a plate of broccoli while complaining.
People who are grateful are happy people.
People who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy. They’re never satisfied. It’s never good enough.
So if we learn to be grateful, to be thankful in everything, it reduces the stress in life.
So when are you going to start?
See, we live with this illusion that someday something good is going to happen to me, something good enough to make me feel grateful.
If we were to take a hungry little child from a developing country and put them into your life, they would tell you they would be grateful for the rest of their lives.
It’s possible for human beings to live their whole life saying, “I will be grateful when…”
We can say, “I will be grateful when…” and you fill in the blank. “…when I get whatever it is that I want.”
We can say, “I will be grateful when…” or we can say, “I will be grateful now.”
You can say, “I will be grateful when…,” and people, maybe most people, live their whole life saying that. Or you can say, “I will be grateful now.”
See, we live with this illusion – if I just had _________. You fill in the blank.
The house I want
The car I want
The clothes I want
The spouse I want
The marriage I want
The kids I want
The career I want
The success I want.
If I just had that, then I’d be grateful.
It’s not true, and it’s especially not true for followers of Christ.
I just want us to think through this one for a moment so we really get this.
Because if we’re not grateful now and we’re followers of Christ, here’s what we’re saying:
“When I woke up this morning, it wasn’t a coincidence. God woke me up. God put me in my right mind.
“I have a table, and I had food on it. I have clothes to put on. A lot of people in the world don’t.
“There’s this fabulous planet I get to live on. Not just on a great planet with sunrises and sunsets and trees and birds that sing, but I get to live in California, the best part of the great planet, with oceans and mountains.
“Not just that, I have a family, and I have a church family, people who care about me.
“Then there’s the Bible. I get to actually learn about who God is.
“Then there’s the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in my life. I don’t have to be alone.
“I have a spiritual gift I can use to make a difference in the world.
“Then best of all, God gave me Jesus, the Master of life, whose teaching still changes the world and whose life is a matchless piece of goodness and beauty.
“Then he died on a cross, and I have the forgiveness of my sins. Not one of them is counted against me by God.
“Then Jesus rose from the dead. I have the resurrection at work in my life, in my body, in my words right now.
“Then I have heaven to look forward to. I don’t have to worry about dying, because I’m going to be with God forever.”
But here’s the illusion:
“If I had all of these things — plus a really cool car, plus a really nice house, plus whatever.”
The illusion is — then I would be a grateful person.
You really need to think this one through. You can go on filling in the blank for the rest of your life, and it will never be enough.
Circumstances and a whole lot of nice stuff cannot create a grateful person.
I must learn, I must humbly become a student of Jesus and learn to give thanks at all times, to become a grateful person.
I’d like to ask you to do something right now.
Look down at your left hand for a moment. Just look at your left hand.
Don’t grumble about it, just do it.
Notice it for a second. Move it around a little bit. Notice that it works. It doesn’t have to. There are a lot of people who don’t have one that works. That’s something to be grateful for.
Some of you have a ring on that hand. That’s an expression of another gift in your life.
Some of you have a watch on the wrist of that hand, and it keeps ticking. Every time it ticks, it’s another gift. Every tick is a gift from God. You didn’t manufacture a single one. It’s just sheer grace ticking and ticking and ticking and ticking.
Maybe sitting real close to that hand is another person, maybe someone that you can be thankful for. Maybe it’s a good friend or a spouse or family member.
Do me a favor an just touch the arm of that person with your hand.
Now, if you’re sitting next to a stranger, that might not be a good idea.
When we’re done here and you walk out of this building, take a moment and just think about this building and think about how we live in a place where we can meet in a public high school to worship God.
There are Christians all over the world who have to meet in secret behind closed curtains and locked doors that are under persecution.
Just be thankful. Don’t feel guilty about it; just be thankful.
Get in your car and just be thankful that you have one. Over 90% of people in the world don’t have one.
And when you drive out of the parking lot, be grateful for that gift.
We can grow into gratitude. We just have to express it.
Now, I want to say a word especially to those of you who are really hurting… because that will be a fair number of people in our church.
If it’s not you today, it will be you someday.
When you’re hurting — groan — cry out to God.
I’ve been eager to tell you about this.
One of the most amazing passages in the Bible is about groaning. Groaning goes way deeper. The writers of Scripture don’t talk about a human “be happy” deal. Groaning goes right down to the core.
This is what Paul wrote to the church at Rome. These are amazing words.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:22
This planet, this earth we love, it’s all messed up. It’s all polluted. It’s torn about with violence. “The whole creation has been groaning.”
All of creation is groaning.
See, groaning is what you do when you hurt so much that words can’t express it.
We want to protect people we love from it, but we can’t.
When our daughter Amryn came to the US she was just over a year old. She had to get vaccination shots. She hadn’t gone through that yet.
I’ll never forget holding that little body. The doctor came, and there was this needle that just looked huge to me. Amryn was terrified. And when that needle went into her arm, she groaned. And then she let out a cry.
Her eyes got really big, and she looked at me like, “How could you do this to me? Every moment up until now, you’ve just protected me from pain. You’ve never hurt me. Why did you hurt me now?”
I looked at her and said, “Oh, honey. This was Mommy’s idea. I would never do this to you.”
See, groaning goes way deep.
Things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.
Death and sickness and pain and suffering — it’s all wrong.
A happy attitude cannot paper over that. It’s not supposed to.
Then Paul goes on:
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly… Romans 8:23
We all, as human beings, do this.
Those of us who know and love and seek to follow God, who name the name of Jesus, who have been given the Holy Spirit, we’re not exempt from groaning.
See, this ought to be a place of great gratitude where we’re just lavishly grateful to God, where we stand to our feet and applaud God. This ought to be a place where groaning is welcome and honest and real.
So many people get confused about this. They think if something bad happens and they’re sad, they’ve done something wrong, or God has done something wrong, or we’re supposed to be part of this bargain where as long as you follow Jesus and you’re obedient, everything will be okay. Not so much!
Not since the time of Job. Not since before that.
“…we… who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly…”
Not just that. Not just that! This is the great mystery. This is amazing. This gets us to the heart of God.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness, not by making things okay, not even by making us tough.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
Who else groans? God groans. Do you understand? Our God, the holy, matchless, wondrous, powerful, joyful Creator of all that is… is a groaning God.
Only the God of the Bible is a groaning God. Only the God who Jesus made known to us is a groaning God.
The most mysterious words Jesus ever spoke on the cross, when he was in anguish — physical anguish, spiritual anguish — he groaned a cry that’s come to be known as the Cry of Dereliction.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In Jesus, God groans with you so that one day you can reign in love and power and joy with God. That’s our God, a groaning God.
That’s why we stand up and applaud our God.
There is no other God like that.
He will be with you, and he will give you through his Son Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus the power to live a life that far transcends the kind of grumbling after stupid stuff that we all want to be done with.
That’s what we’re doing so we can come into this world, so we can come into this new year together. I think it’s going to be our best year ever by far… you know, with more of God in us than we’ve ever been able to hold before.
Alright, next week we’re going to look at the one thing that if we’re not done with it, will make us more unlike Jesus than anything else.
Next week we’re going to look at being done with the one thing that may make you more miserable than anything else.
I’m not going to tell you what it is. You’ll have to come back for that.
Don’t grumble about it… but don’t miss next week.
Alright, let’s pray.
Let’s just take a moment before God.
Maybe you’re here and you’re just aware of so many things that maybe you often take for granted, get complacent about.
Now is your time to be grateful.
If that’s the case, do that right now without guilt or without apology.
You don’t have to say to God, “I don’t do this often enough.” Just tell him right now, because our Father loves this like a father loves it from any child.
“Oh God, thank you. Thank you for all you’ve given me. Thank you for your goodness to me. Thank you for my life. Thank you for my friends. Thank you for what I have.”
Just tell him thank you. We have 10,000 reasons to be grateful.
If you’re here and your heart is in pain, if you’re here and there’s something broken way down in your soul, then take some time right now and groan.
Name it as best you can.
“God, my heart is broken. God, I’m afraid. God, I’m alone.”
Then you know as you do that, the Spirit of God is interceding for you with groanings too deep for words.
God knows, and God cares all about you.
God, hear our prayers. We offer them in Jesus’ name, amen.