Jealous of a Complainer

How do you know that God is willing and working in you for His good pleasure? As you are working out your salvation with fear and trembling what is the result? If you could choose just one act of believing obedience to make a dent in the world, what would it be?

It’s possible that one thing answers all those questions. Though he doesn’t use the word, it connects Paul’s thoughts in Philippians 2:12-16. He called the Christians to work out their salvation (verse 12), remembering that God is at work in them (verse 13), and then reminded them that they are 
“children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights of the world” (verse 15).

Certainly the Philippian believers stood out for their morality (“blameless and innocent”) as well as for their different authority (“holding fast to the word of life”). But the way they became these bright lights is by obeying Paul’s command at the beginning of verse 14: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Stated positively: they were thankful. God wills that we give thanks always. Saved people are thankful people. And thankful people stand out in a crooked and complaining generation.

We should be Christians living in the world and with one another in such a way as to provoke good jealousy among others, eventually all Israel (see Romans 11:11, 14), who will want what we have in Christ. But have you ever heard of someone being jealous of a complainer? “Wow, you see all the bad things so accurately. You really put into words all the grumbling feelings I have. I wish I could have your spirit of fussiness.”

There could be someone who hears us complain and is jealous of all our blessings that they see better than us that we aren’t giving thanks for. In that sense they are jealous of a complainer, but not of our complaints. Let us repent and recount our blessings in thanks.

The Problems with Blessings

Those Christians who are gospel-centered are in great shape to see blessings in context. Good things do not ever exist in a vacuum.

The closest it’s ever come to having good things without problems was in Eden. But even there, everything good was given. No man has ever had anything good from and by and for himself. He has always needed to give thanks. It wasn’t a trial, but it was a test.

After the fall, this is what man naturally hates to do: give thanks. He wants good things that will make him happy, but he doesn’t want them in the real world. He doesn’t want to be in love, he wants to be in love in a movie. He wants to make an idol, have that idol bless him without requiring anything, and then also not to have to deal with the nagging sense of silliness about the process. The last part may be the most difficult.

But, someone might say, what about in heaven? Won’t the blessings there be removed from all problems? In one way, but not in all ways. The blessings may come unattached to new problems, but not from the remembrance of problems. We’ll still have questions such as How did we get there? Who paid for all of this?

In John’s vision in Revelation he “saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5;6). We will always worship God for His love for us, love shown when Jesus died on the cross. Every blessing we enjoy forever is only any good as it is on context of our sin, His sacrifice, and salvation. Blessings don’t come in a vacuum. They come at a cost.

At the Lord’s Table we’re already learning to receive the good from God in the context of trouble. But even those troubles are good in so far as God uses them to keep us dependent on Him for good.