Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, – Philippians 2:14-15 ESV
For the most part, people tend to want to fit in. We like to find our group and enjoy being with people that “get us”. As Christians, we believe certain things not only in the abstract theological sense of things, but we believe that what we believe changes us and these changes should impact our behaviors. As a result of these behavior changes, we stand out from the world, and our differences should point others to see God.
Apostle Paul gives one sure way to stand out from the world in Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Why is this so important? How do we go about removing these things from our daily words? While this may seem like a straightforward command, the process of doing it every day requires discipline and commitment.
In order to begin choosing to not complain, it can be helpful to keep in mind what Jesus said about our words, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). When we are grumbling and complaining, what is the abundance of the heart that causes those words to come out of us? The answer in every case, no matter how much you don’t want to admit it, is selfishness. You’re feeling bad for your circumstances and your troubles and what you’re going through: you, you and more you.
In the case of complaining, we say out of one side of our mouth (pun intended) that God is our provider and out of the other side that we don’t have enough money. We say we’ll serve the Lord, but then we whine about how hard our job is or how boring it is or how mean our boss is.
We are called to speak out of the abundance of a heart that’s fully transformed by God and the words that come from that kind of heart are never complaining or grumbling or picking a fight. This is much easier said than done, however. There are two things that we have to do and continue doing to keep our words in line with His Spirit.
- Be aware of what we’re saying.
As we go about our day, it is easy to stop being aware of what you’re choosing to say. Words come so quickly sometimes and by habit so that we can have entire conversations that we barely remember. We have to start choosing to listen to our own words. This doesn’t mean fear what’s about to come out of your mouth, and at first, maybe not even trying to change it. It simply means practicing thinking about your own words.
An analogy from another part of life is a food journal. Many diets recommend tracking all the food that goes into your mouth as a way to start seeing where changes need to be made. This is the same idea, but for words instead of food. Of course, it would be impractical if not impossible to write down every word you say in the day. That’s not quite what we’re going for. Instead, a simple habit of listening to yourself sets you for the next step.
- Choose to frame things positively
We’ve all heard a conversation that goes something like, “It’s all going to turn out terribly!” Another response, “Don’t think that. Be positive!” The first person responds, “I’m positive it’s all going to turn out terribly!” While that might be good for a bit of a laugh, it’s not good for changing your perspective to something positive.
Part of negativity that leads to complaining is a lack of perspective that includes God. We tend to forget His promises and His greatness. How else can we give up on ourselves or our circumstances so easily? We have to choose each and every time to frame our response to things with the goodness of God in mind. Even our thoughts need to in line with this. Changing the words we speak without changing our thoughts leaves us with a feeling of hypocrisy or ineffectiveness.
By choosing to be in a positive perspective, we prepare ourselves for the last step.
- Change the bad and keep the good
We often think that being positive means ignoring our circumstances, but that’s not right either. Our circumstances may be very serious and need addressing. Sometimes we we’re most tempted to complain it’s because there’s valid issues that need to be dealt with. There’s nothing wrong with making changes in tough situation. Simply complaining about things will never get the problems solved; we have to make the choice to change things.
Sometimes we can’t change the circumstances, but we can always change ourselves. We can either change our choices to give us more freedom or we can simply change what we think about it. Use this time to see more of the Spirit coming through you in the form of patience or long-suffering. Find reasons to celebrate God with you no matter what’s happening. We can also consider reaching out to others for help, whether that be friends or professionals. Sometimes, circumstances depending, others can help us see the solution we need to fix a problem.
Watch your words, and surrender both them and your heart to the Lord so that His righteousness will be the only thing that is seen in you.