Throughout the story of the Exodus, there has been one consistent response of the children of Israel and that is to complain. From accusing Moses when their work got harder under Pharaoh, to their fear at the Red Sea, to constant complaints about food and water, the complaining never ceases. As we read in Numbers 11, it continues:
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. 3 So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.
Even after that judgement they continued…..
4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
Free food, every day provided by a miracle from God and they complained.
It’s so easy for us to do the same things
Each day air fills our lungs, most of you reading this have clean water, and probably more food than you need, but how easy it is to slip into complaining. But our Lord doesn’t like it when we do that and following are some reasons why we shouldn’t complain about the trials in our lives.
We don’t realize trials are a gift from God
It never seems like it at the time, but James 1 tells us:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
How can we consider trials joy? It’s because of what they can do in our lives. If we don’t consider them joy, but complain, we will miss out on these opportunities for growth because. . .
Trials make us spiritually stronger
Easy times don’t develop perseverance in our faith—only hard times do that. Often the analogies of weight lifting or running are used to show how we only get stronger by pushing ourselves and these are appropriate examples. No one became strong sitting on a couch watching TV for hours.
It’s hard to see the benefits when we are in the middle of a trial, but that’s where we develop our trust in God. This is vitally important because. . .
The benefits of trusting God are cumulative and so are failures of trust
This is one of the saddest, but most important lessons we can learn from the Israelites. It may not have seemed like a big deal to many of them to complain about food and water, but they developed a pattern of not trusting, of always looking at the negative.
When the big test came, when the spies went into the land, ten of them fell back into the habit of complaining, only seeing the problems and not trusting God.
But this test had life-long, life-altering consequences that resulted in a generation wandering in the desert for 40 years. There were no second chances to do over.
We never know what God may be preparing us for in the small trials that he blesses us with today. But we do know that what we decide in the little things will have magnified consequences when the big trials come. It’s a little like a good student who prepares diligently for a major exam—a little study every day makes it easy to pass the test. Complaining about homework, putting it off, not doing the needed preparation is a sure path to failure when the test comes.
Today take the opportunity to decide to be thankful in difficulties and to not complain—you never know what you are being prepared for. You may not have a chance to do over if you fail the test.
Complaining forfeits the opportunity for witness
The ancient world was watching Israel. They knew God had brought them out of Egypt. God was waiting to display his power as he brought them into the land, but they missed out on participating in that blessing not trusting him to work for and through them.
More than our own personal spiritual development is on the line when we don’t complain because the world is watching us as Christians. Eph. 2: 14-16 reminds us:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.
If we don’t grumble or complain we can be a beacon, a star in the sky to help people see Jesus. Or we can cloud the issues and confuse ourselves and others. It’s our choice.