As we read the historical accounts in the Bible, we get to learn about who God is and what he values. We can also learn about human nature and what to avoid in our own lives. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul reminded the Corinthian church that history is a valuable teacher. He pointed out how specific historical accounts were recorded in the Bible for teaching purposes. Paul said, “These things happened to them (the Israelites) as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”(11) Paul didn’t want them to be ignorant about the stories because their ignorance could hurt them. Ignorance is simply….not knowing. The Corinthian believers couldn’t learn the lessons from the stories if they didn’t even KNOW the stories! In verses 9-10, Paul warns all believers not to test the Lord and not to grumble. He says, “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….”(9-10) This is super important! Grumbling and complaining tests God’s patience and makes him angry. Paul referenced a story from Israel’s history when God used snakes to discipline his people. The Israelites were traveling with their leader, Moses, in the desert…. “But the people grew impatient on the way: they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert?’” There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes against them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.” (Numbers 21: 4-7) The people got the message because they went to Moses and confessed, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” (Numbers 21:7) God was angry, but he heard Moses’ prayer. It is so easy to get focused on ourselves and our own comfort. When things don’t go our way, we can quickly play the blame game and put people in our crosshairs…..especially leaders! The truth is, complaining drags everyone down and drains the life out of people. Don’t be that guy or gal! When the going gets rough, most of us tend to give way to fear and anxiety. Believers should, instead, strive to walk by faith and trust God in all circumstances! God’s ways are not our ways, so there is a learning curve. The day we become a follower of Christ, our transformation begins. Over time, with God’s help, we can adopt a new way of thinking, speaking and acting - “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”(Phil. 2:13) God changes his people from the inside out….for his purposes. Paul reinforces the same message again in Philippians when he says, “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.”(Phil. 2:14-15) Followers of Christ should shine like bright stars in a dark world! How are you shining when it comes to grumbling and complaining? As you travel through your day, are you pulling others around you up or down? Maybe it is time to ask God to help you practice an attitude of gratitude? Maybe it is time to find a friend and work on this together? Change is hard, but God has the power to help us get there.
One of our favorite group activities this year at camp was a tubing trip on the James River. The weather was perfect and the scenery was beautiful. At the end of the float, we got out of the water and loaded all the tubes into a big yellow school bus. Then we all got into a second school bus to ride back to camp. Everyone was in a great mood and agreed that we should do the float again next year! We sat on the bus for a while talking. It started to get hot inside the bus, and we realized we hadn’t even left yet. Apparently, the camp leaders messed up, and we didn’t have a bus driver. The two lifeguard staffers that floated down the river with us weren’t certified to drive the bus. They didn’t have a walking talkie to communicate with camp either. We were stuck with no way to communicate! Everyone was getting hot, thirsty, and tired. Some of the youth handled this challenge by singing songs and trying to be upbeat and encouraging. Others lost their cool and made a bad situation worse by complaining and dumping their frustrations on others. The camp counselors were stressed out and unhappy. The leaders in our group were frustrated as well.
A driver finally showed up and we got back to camp. The next day our group was still out of cinque. God reminded us of a verse from our lesson the day before, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). We took some time as a group to think about what happened the day before and explore the possibility that God may have wanted us left at the river to test us on the verse we covered the day before. It is one thing to say we shouldn’t complain or argue. It is something else entirely to live this out when things aren’t going our way! “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”(proverbs 24:10). Problems aren’t fun, so it is easy to quickly move on and just try to forget. We need to look for God in the midst of circumstances. If we hadn’t hit the pause button and asked some important questions, we could have missed some important lessons. If someone were to describe you, would they use the word “teachable”? Would they say you are humble and willing to listen?
Director of Small Group & Lay Counseling Ministries