A. When Daniel Webster wanted to give a person the impression that he remembered him, but could not recall his name or where they had met before, he would ask, “Well, how is the old complaint?” And nine times out of ten this worked. The person would begin to unfold some grievance that he had discussed with Mr. Webster on a former occasion, and thereby identify himself. —Wilbur E. Nelson
B. Sometimes it seems we would have nothing to say if we didn’t have something to complain about. We complain everywhere we go: in line at the store, waiting in the doctors office, in the car, at work, at home, and even on vaction.
C. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, Paul tells us of the lessons we are to learn from Israel’s mistakes, one of which was complaining.
D. Let’s examine why they complained.
I. They complained when times got rough, Exodus 15:22-26
A. They complained because their water was bitter.
1. This going to the Promised Land idea wasn’t as easy as they thought.
2. At every bad turn and disappointment they complained.
B. These complaints arose because they did not believe God, Psalm 106:24-25.
1. They didn’t believe God when He told them He would take care of them.
2. They didn’t believe God when He told them He would bring them into the Promised Land.
C. When our lives get tough, we too may complain because we do not believe God.
1. Matthew 6:25-34
2. 1 Corinthians 10:13
D. Hard times are no excuse for complaining.
1. If we truly believe God we will not feel the need to complain—we will feel the need to pray.
2. Someone once said: “When in deep water, it’s a good idea to keep your mouth shut.” Complaining is only going to make a bad situation worse.
II. They complained when they looked back, Exodus 16:2-8
A. Again they hit a rough spot, but this time they looked back.
1. They remembered the good things about Egypt—they had food to eat.
2. They reward of the Promised Land was growing hazy in their minds.
3. They were complaining about God.
B. People complain when they look back, because they have lost sight of the progress they have made.
C. We also may complain when they Christian walk grows hard.
1. “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
2. When you look back after you start plowing you get crooked lines. When you look back after becoming a Christian you get crooked lives.
D. When we complain about how things used to be, we fail to see the growth and changes in our lives—we loose sight of the goal.
III. They complained when they didn’t get what they wanted, Numbers 11:1-9
A. It was not that they were lacking food, it was that they were lacking the kind of food they wanted.
B. They complained because they were getting tired of God’s blessings, cf. Numbers 21:4-7.
C. Sometimes we complain when God doesn’t give us what we think we deserve, cf. Matthew 20:1-16
D. If we do not get what we want, we should not complain. Instead, we should be thankful for what God has given us.
Dr. David Soper, in God Is Inescapable, suggests that basically the difference between a prison and a monastery is just the difference between griping and gratitude. Undoubtedly this is true. Imprisoned criminals spend every waking moment griping; self-imprisoned saints spend every waking moment offering thanks. Dr. Soper says that when a criminal becomes a saint, a prison may become a monastery; when a saint gives up gratitude, a monastery may become a prison. —Ray O. Jones
IV. They complained when they were sick of God’s leadership, Numbers 12:1-9
A. Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses’ marriage in an attempt to discredit him as a leader.
1. His family that should have been helping him and standing for him, turned against him.
2. They thought they could do the job just as well, cf. Numbers 16:1-7.
B. People turn from God’s leadership when they know longer want His will to be done. Instead, they want their own will to be done.
C. Today, many Christians want to turn away from God’s word so they can have their religion their way.
1. Some want to turn away from Apostolic authority
a. The apostles spoke and wrote the commands of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 14:37.
b. The apostles expected Christians to follow their example, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.
2. Some will still attack God’s servants to discredit those who want to hold on to the truth.
3. There is an old story:
A farmer advertised a “frog farm” for sale, claiming that he had a pond that was thoroughly stocked with fine bullfrogs.
A prospective buyer appeared and was taken late one warm evening to the pond that he might hear the frogs. The “music” made so favorable an impression on the buyer that the sale was made.
Soon afterwards the purchaser proceeded to drain the pond in order to catch and market the frogs. To his surprise, when the water was drained out of the pond, he found that all the noise had been made by one old bullfrog.
Sometimes it seems like there are major problems, but often it is just the complaints of a few old bullfrogs
D. We must not complain about God’s way and God’s leadership. It is our place to obey, not to change God’s Word.
A. We need to do everything we can to avoid complaining, Philippians 2:14.
B. Complaining shows:
1. A lack of trust in God
2. A failure to see good in our lives
3. An attitude of selfishness
4. A desire to go our own way
C. Complaining is a sin and can lead to our destruction.
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted . . . nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 10)