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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Do Everything Without Complaining or Arguing
Text:Philippians 2:14-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-12-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  All songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 91
Hymn 82:3
Psalm 78:1,2,8,9
Psalm 46:1,5 & Hymn 65
Hymn 4

Readings:  Matthew 5:1-16, Philippians 2:1-18
Text:  Philippians 2:14-16
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

When was the last time you complained?  Sunday morning can be a busy and difficult time for parents with young children.  I’m sure there was some complaining in the last couple of hours.  Belly-aching is all around us.  It’s on the news.  Read the letters to the editor in the newspaper.  Watch the Facebook statuses or Twitter feeds.  Listen to the way people talk about their work.  Or their in-laws.  Sometimes their spouses and children.  It seems we always have something to make us unhappy.  Something that gives people around us reason to call the “Wahmbulance.” 

And what about you kids?  When was the last time you complained?  When was the last time you weren’t happy about something your mom or dad said and then you moaned about it?  What about at school with your teachers?  Grumbling and complaining are not just problems for older people.  We start when we’re young. 

What’s at the root of all this?  Well, do you think Adam and Eve grumbled in the Garden of Eden before the fall into sin?  Of course not.  That kind of thing only started after sin entered the world.  Whining and complaining exist because we’re sinners.  Our discontent is a symptom of a good creation gone off the rails. 

Our Saviour came into this world to deal with it.  He came to redeem us from discontent and from grumbling hearts and mouths.  But there’s more than that.  His redemptive work also includes the transformation of our lives.  Through his Word he wants to make us into people who are different.  People who reflect him.  As we’ll see, this passage has to do with belly-aching, and moaning and groaning about all the bad stuff in your life.  It has to do with discontent.  It’s addressing that common problem in our lives.  So I preach to you God’s Word this morning under this theme,

With the attitude of Christ Jesus, do everything without complaining or arguing

We’ll see:

1.      What drives this approach to life

2.      What results from this approach to life

There are two key things you need to know about the book of Philippians as a whole.  These two things have a bearing on how you understand our passage as well.  First, you need to know about Paul’s circumstances as he wrote this letter.  He was in prison.  We don’t know for sure where.  But wherever his prison was, he was in chains.  Moreover, he was uncertain whether he would live or die.  From a human perspective, we’d say that the situation was grim.  Paul had reason to grumble and complain.  But he doesn’t.  Instead this letter is characterized by joy.  Paul has a deeply ingrained joy that’s not determined by his circumstances.

That bring us to the second thing.  That has to do with Christ.  Christ is the reason why Paul can have joy in the midst of a miserable situation.  Christ is the reason why Paul can live with the fact that he might die any day.  His faith in Christ gives him stability when the world around him is falling apart. 

At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul encourages the Philippians to look to this Saviour.  He exhorts to them to see how Christ emptied himself of his heavenly glory and became one of us.  He humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross.  He did all this willingly, not grudgingly.  He didn’t have to be coerced.  His heart was completely in it.    And Paul says in verse 5 that his attitude is to be the Philippians’ attitude.  The attitude of Christ is to be our attitude also.  When you’re united to Christ through faith and the Holy Spirit, you begin to look like Christ.  That’s the natural outcome of being grafted into him.  Like a branch grafted onto a tree will eventually bear fruit, so also Christians united to Christ bear Christ-fruits.  Those are fruits that are like the fruit that Christ bears.  In fact, they are the fruit that Christ bears.  He bears fruit in us and through us.

That’s why verse 12 begins with a “therefore.”  Paul says to the Philippians:  because you’re united to Christ continue in your obedience, the fleshing out of your salvation.  Your salvation is not just about having your sin taken care of before the judgment seat of God, but also about seeing your life changed.  It’s also about seeing sin get put to death more and more.  It’s also about seeing the progress of holiness in your life here and now.

Verse 14 of Philippians 2 then follows on that and builds on that more.  This too connects to Christ Jesus.  It doesn’t come as a naked command.  It comes clothed with what Christ has done and what Christ will do in our lives as we look to him in faith.  As we look at Christ, we realize what our lives are to be like. 

So the Spirit says through Paul, “Do everything without complaining or arguing...”  The emphasis in this verse falls on the word “everything.”  Absolutely everything, no exceptions for dirty diapers, driveways with three feet of snow layered on them.  No exceptions for memory work or difficult school assignments.  Do everything without complaining or arguing.  The circumstances surrounding us don’t matter here either, whether its illness or the weather or people who make life tough or whatever other challenges you can think of.  Remember Paul.  He’s in prison.  But he’s still an apostle and he’s carrying out his apostolic calling by writing this letter.  Heavy chains weigh down his arms, maybe cutting into his skin.  He’s the one the Spirit chooses to say “do everything without complaining or arguing.”    

Have you ever heard of onomatopoeia?  This is when a word makes the sound that it means.  For instance, in English we say that bees buzz.  The English word “buzz” is an example of onomatopoeia.  Greek has onomatopoeia too and one of the most vivid examples in the New Testament is here in Philippians 2:14.  It’s in the word that gets translated as “complaining” in the NIV.  In Greek the word is gongusmos.  You can hear the grumbling in that word, gongusmos.  It’s like “grrr...I hate this, I hate that, grrr, gongusmos.”  See it’s that kind of thing where you’re angry and unhappy with something or someone or maybe everything and everyone.  You may do what you need to do, but you do it grudgingly and with no joy.  It would be like me waking up this morning and saying to my wife, “Oh brother, I have to go and preach again.  Man, I hate preaching.  I can’t wait till this day is over.  I wish I could have a day off.  Poor me, I have it so hard.  Grrrr....”      

Then there’s the arguing that Paul mentions.  That refers to doing what needs to be done, but not without backtalk and trying to get out of it.  “Dad, why do I have to do this?  Mom, why can’t someone else do it?”  That sort of thing.  It involves another person, or maybe even God.  There’s another party involved and you’re interacting with them in a negative way about the job that needs doing.  This is the sort of thing that the people of Israel were doing in the wilderness.  We sang about that in Psalm 78.  They complained and argued with Moses and Aaron.  In the end, it became clear that their real argument was with God.  They weren’t happy with what God was doing.  And arguing with God in the way they were doing is always a bad idea. 

Through Paul, God says that grumbling and arguing like that have no place in the lives of those united to Christ.  These things are out of place for us.  They just don’t fit with who we are in Christ.  Loved ones, we need to see that too.  The world around us is filled with people who are unhappy about nearly everything except the weekend.  Christians are to be different.  We’re to be counter-cultural.  We’re to be known as people who are content, not whiners and complainers.  People who go about their work with joy and a positive attitude.                      

But what drives that kind of counter-cultural approach to life?  I’ve hinted at it already.  We’re driven and motivated by Christ.  As we look to him in faith, we see a Saviour who has done a glorious work of salvation for us.  He’s paid for all our complaining and arguing.  On the cross, he took God’s wrath against our belly-aching.  In his life, he did what we should have done:  do everything without complaining or arguing.  He was perfectly content to do God’s will and he didn’t do that for himself, he did it for you and me.  His righteousness is ours, loved ones.  That drives us to look at these words in the light of love.  This is your Saviour speaking, the one who loves you so much:  do everything without complaining or arguing.  This is your Saviour speaking, the one who has a claim on your gratitude.  This is the One you want to please.  This is the one that you’re grafted into by the Spirit.  So, what drives this approach?  Love, gratitude, a desire to please our Lord, and our union with him – because we aim to have the attitude of Christ Jesus.     

Now what results from this approach?  Verse 15 gives us one answer to that question.  It’s so that we would “appear blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.”  This is not about our standing with God, but about how people around us see us.  When we take the approach of Paul, no complaining and arguing as we do everything, when we take that approach, we’ll give no reason for people to fault us.  The world around us is a crooked and depraved generation.  They’ve departed from God’s law.  They delight in discontent and moaning and groaning about everything and how bad their lives are.  If you work with unbelievers, you know it’s true.  But then there’s us working or maybe studying alongside them.  The worst thing an unbeliever can ever say to you is “Oh, I didn’t even notice that you were a Christian.  I didn’t notice anything different about you.” The differences have to be evident here too.  We have to be blameless and pure, without fault because we are children of God through Christ.  That means we can give no one a reason to criticize us:  “Oh yeah, that guy over there, he’s the holy-roller who won’t work Sunday, but on Monday morning he’s just as cranky going to work as we are.  No different.”

The world around us is in darkness.  It’s a darkness that speaks all kinds of negativity.  It fosters bad sinful attitudes towards work, family, our government, and much else.  Paul says that believers are in the midst of this darkness.  We live in this world.  We work with unbelievers, we study with them, we live next door to them.  No where in Scripture does it say that Christians should have it any other way.  The Bible doesn’t tell us to go and set up our own little Christian commune in the remote wilderness somewhere.  We live in a crooked and depraved generation, in a dark world. 

And our positive approach to life in this context results in what Paul says at the end of verse 15, “in which you shine like stars in the universe.”  With these words, Paul draws on some Old Testament imagery.  In Daniel 12:3, believers are said to be the wise who will shine like the brightness of the heavens.  They will be like the stars for eternity.  Our Lord Jesus also drew on that imagery in Matthew 5 when he spoke about believers being a light.  It’s possible that Paul also has Christ’s words in mind.   This is what happens when we live out of union with Christ:  we shine brightly in a dark world.  The antithesis is revealed between the children of God and the children of Satan.  By our obedient walk of life it becomes clear that we’re set apart from unbelievers.  It becomes clear that we belong to Christ and we are united to Christ through our faith.    

As we do that, verse 16 says that we will be holding out the word of life.  What that means is that we’ll be showing that the gospel has had an impact on us.  It’s not that our life is the gospel, but that the gospel shows its power in our life.  Christ has not only redeemed us for heaven, he’s also transforming us here on this earth right now and right here.  That transformation can’t be hidden.  It’s going to come out, it has to and as it does, we are holding out the word of life – showing that with God’s help, we are truly alive.  We’re starting to live according to the original design from the beginning and some day we will completely live out that design.  We’ll do that in the age to come, in the new Jerusalem.    

Now our hope is that our holding out this word of life will result in the advance of the gospel.  We want the unbelievers around us to get curious about our approach to life.  We should be praying that they would ask us, “Hey, why are you so different on a Monday morning?  Why is everybody else complaining and you’re not?”  Brothers and sisters, we should look for those golden moments where we can speak about our faith in Christ.  We can tell them, “It’s all about Jesus and the difference he makes in my life.  He gives me joy.  He gives my work purpose.  I’m thankful to belong to Christ and live for him.  By God’s grace, I have his attitude and that’s what makes me different.” 

That brings us to the last result in our passage.  It’s at the end of verse 16.  Paul encourages the Philippians to do this “in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour for nothing.”  He asks them to think about him, about the one who brought them the gospel in the first place.  He’s laboured among them for the cause of Christ.  He worked hard so that they would believe the good news and that they would then live in a way that pleases God.  He asks them to think of him and think of the day of Christ.  The day of Christ is the day that Christ returns.  Paul wants that day to be a day of rejoicing.  A day in which he will delight to see all the Philippian believers welcomed into the new heavens and new earth.  He says, “Don’t you want to see me with joy on that day?  Please think of me too, dear brothers and sisters.  Don’t let it happen that I find out that all my work among you was in vain.  Don’t let it happen that you’re among those who will be absent at the marriage feast of the Lamb.” 

Some day we will all be standing before Christ.  Some day he will return to judge the living and the dead.  We will all be there, every single one of us.  Regardless of our spiritual state in this life, all human beings will stand before the throne of judgment at the last day.  I will be there.  So will you.  I’ll watch and hear what happens, just like we all will.  I care about what happens to you on that day.  I’m sure I’m not the only one that cares.  See, you’re being called again to embrace the gospel message.  Dear brothers and sisters, don’t take it for granted, and don’t ignore it.  There is a dark world that lives in lies and dwells in death.  There is light, truth, and life in Jesus Christ.  Look to him, rest and trust in him.  Live out of union with him, and as part of that, indeed, do all things without complaining or arguing.

There was this dear older sister from my last congregation who gave a beautiful example of this.  She’d had a hard life.  There were troubles galore.  She had immigrated to Canada with her husband and children and they’d had a rough go of it.  Sickness, poverty, and death confronted them.  They’d never had it easy.   When I first met her, she was in the sunset years.  Her husband had died many years earlier.  Most days she spent in bed in the nursing home.  But she lived out the words of our text.  Throughout her life she had done all things without complaining or arguing.  Her family attested to it, so did her friends.  She was the woman everyone loved to visit at the nursing home.  She was always encouraging, never complaining.  If you were to ask, she’d give a realistic appraisal of her health, but she would always quickly add, “But I’m not complaining, I have so much to be thankful for.  The Lord is so good to me.”  She was a joy to visit, a saint who had clearly grown in grace and knowledge through the course of her 92 years.  If I get to be that old, I want to be like her.  I think we should all want to be like her.  She exemplifies exactly what God’s Word teaches us here in Philippians 2.  She shone like a star when she lived on this earth and now she shines like a star in heaven with Christ.  And brothers and sisters, it was and is because of Christ in her.  Because she looked to him with a humble faith and lived out of union with him.  Go and do likewise – do it for the love of Christ and for the glory of God.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Father in heaven,

Thank you for your Word which again has given us the light we need for our lives.

We confess to you our sin again.  We confess to you the particular sin of grumbling.  Father, so often we just do this mindlessly without thinking about our walk with you.  Please forgive all our sins of complaining and griping.  Please wash them away with the blood of the cross.

Thank you that Jesus our Saviour came into this world with a humble attitude.  We thank you for his ungrudging obedience to your will.  We praise you that we have a Saviour who’s paid for all our moaning and complaining about everything.  We’re glad that Jesus also lived a perfect life of contentment in our place.  Father, please help us now to continue looking to him and to live out of our union with him.  Please help us with your Spirit and Word to put complaining and arguing to death in our lives.  Father, please let us be known as people who are thankful and content and joyful to be your children.  We pray that this would give us opportunities to speak about the gospel with those who are lost.  Father, please let us all stand at the last day before your throne unafraid.  May we all have joy at the day of Christ, a joy that will echo into eternal praises in the new heavens and new earth. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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