Leadership And Grumbling

It seems like these two things go together: leadership and grumbling. Sadly, it is usually an ugly, downward spiral: people grumble against those in leadership, the leaders feel the need to defend themselves and typically respond angrily, which causes even more grumbling against those in leadership. And down goes the spiral!

It doesn’t have to be this way. And it should never be this way among Christians!

Moses reminded those who grumbled against him that they were really grumbling against God. Moses didn’t have to respond, but he let God take care of it.

Grumbling can be deadly for grumblers, but it doesn’t have to be for godly leaders.

(What does it mean to be a “godly leader”? I have an ongoing series of posts with the consistent theme “A mark of a godly leader is…” catalogued here.)

Handling Personal Attacks

So the people grumbled against Moses … The people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:24; Numbers 20:2). 

People with limited vision have limited faith too. As a result, they frequently grumble when things don’t go their way. Ironically, their grumbling is almost always directed at the leader who does have far-reaching vision and God-honoring faith! 

For most of his tenure as leader, Moses handled the grumbling of the people well. Sometimes, though, the complaints seemed more personal:

  • …in opposition to Moses and Aaron
  • …they quarreled with Moses
  • …“Why did you…?” 

These complaints may seem like a personal attack, but in the end, we find out that these attacks weren’t really against Moses at all—“the Israelites quarreled with the Lord” (Numbers 20:13). 

God tried to help Moses and Aaron see that this was not a personal attack on them. He instructed them to “speak to that rock” so that water would be provided for the grumbling people. But sadly, Moses and Aaron missed this point. They said to the Israelites, “must we bring you water out of this rock?” And then in total frustration with the quarrelsome Israelites, Moses “struck the rock” instead of speaking to it.

Moses made himself the focal point, not God. God responded: “you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites” (v. 12).

A mark of a godly leader is one who doesn’t take personal attacks personally.

Previously, Moses responded to the grumblers better—

  • He “cried out to the Lord” and received directions
  • He obeyed God’s directions to the letter
  • He reminded the people that their grumbling was really “against the Lord” (Exodus 16:6-8)
  • He humbled himself before the people and pleaded with them not to rebel against God
  • He humbled himself before God and interceded for the people

If God has called you to lead, people will bring their quarrels and complaints to you. It will feel like a personal attack, but it’s not. When attacked or when people grumble, you need to humble yourself before the Holy Spirit and ask, “Did I do something wrong?” and then listen attentively for His answer.

If the answer is yes: repent, ask forgiveness, make things right.

If the answer is no: don’t take it personally, stay humble before God and the people, and obey the specific directions God will give you. Don’t get frustrated and cut short your tenure as a leader.

This is part 44 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Like Jesus Or Like “They”

It’s amazingly sad to realize the devaluation the crowd puts on people who are different from them 😔

In Luke 18, the crowd devalued the blind man because he was poor and blind.

In Luke 19, the crowd devalued Zaccheus because he was rich and a tax collector for the Romans.

Both men—in the crowd’s jaded eyes—weren’t worth much to anyone.

But Jesus sees people so differently!

He was moved by compassion to heal the son of Timaeus of his blindness. He was moved by compassion to redirect the hostility of the crowd away from Zacchaeus and put it on Himself.

Jesus invited Himself to lunch at Zacchaeus’ house, and “when they saw it, they all began to grumble.” 

What will my response to be to the sick, the beggars, the rich, and the schemers when they want to come to Jesus? Will I (like Jesus) be moved by compassion to bring them close to Him? Or will l (like “they”) grumble about their unworthiness?

Will I be like Jesus or like “They”?

Overcoming Unbelief Before It’s Too Late

Unbelief can shut down the “Shalom Cycle” that God intends for our lives. Even worse, unbelief can put us on a slippery slope that could be disastrous for our future! So it is vital that we understand what unbelief is, how we can recognize it in our own lives, and the steps we can take to recover from unbelief. 

First of all, let me remind you of what the Shalom Cycle looks like—

Quite simply, when we are grateful for what God has already done for us it fuels our trust in God’s future grace to meet our needs. 

But when we forget to be grateful and gratitude turns to grumbling, unbelief displaces trust.

A good way to remember how unbelief works is thinking of it as an un-complete faith. An un-complete faith is lacking power to trust God because of one of two reasons:

  • Either we don’t know there is a promise available to us,
  • Or we know of a promise but don’t think it applies to our circumstance. 

J.C. Ryle pointed out that, “Unbelief has a power to rob man of highest blessings.” 

Hebrews 3 shows us that left unchecked and uncorrected, unbelief can turn into disbelief. You can remember this word by defining it as a complete disintegration of faith. Notice in Hebrews 3 how quickly the word unbelieving becomes turns away from God, and how closely associated are the words unbelief and disobeyed (Hebrews 3:12, 19-20). 

We need to correct and reverse unbelief as quickly as possible. We do this through capturing our thoughts—or thinking about what we’re thinking about—and identifying three warning signs: 

  1. Worrying all the time—God wants you to enter His rest, not wallow in worry (Hebrews 3:11) 
  2. Making contingency plans—the Israelites forgot to be grateful and they grumbled instead. The next step (since they didn’t trust that God’s future grace would take them into the Promised Land) was to disobey by concocting a Plan B: “Let’s go back to Egypt.” 
  3. An inward focus on self-preservation—we no longer encourage others but think only of ourselves (Hebrews 3:13). 

If you detect any of these warning signs, quickly repent (Revelation 3:2-3) and then run to Jesus for help. One of the most honest prayers you can pray—and one of the prayers Jesus answers the quickest—is “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24). 

“Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 

Take control of grumbling by gratitude
Take control of unbelief by repentance and running to Jesus for help
Then help others take control of their unbelief by encouraging one another daily

Join me next Sunday for the final message in our 4-part series on God’s Shalom. 

The Dangers In Grumbling

God wants to give us His peace. The Hebrew word is shalom and it means a deep tranquility found in a personal relationship with Jesus that is greater than all external circumstances. Sadly, many people block the shalom God wants them to have. 

The “shalom cycle” looks like this…

Our gratitude for the things God has done fuels our faith in God’s future grace. That faith-filled expectation serves as fuel for our prayers, and answered prayer gives us even more for which we can give thanks. 

But the shalom cycle can break down when we forget to be thankful. My friend Scott Troost says that ungrateful people are usually characterized by—

  • Being bitter and unforgiving
  • Constantly attending their own pity parties 
  • Struggling with low self-esteem
  • Being greedy and covetous for the things they don’t have

Scott goes on to explain how we can stop the grumbling ingratitude from derailing the shalom cycle. 

  1. Be thankful for what you have, instead of wishing for things you don’t have (Philippians 2:14).
  2. Keep a gratitude journal of all that God has done for you (Habakkuk 3:2). 
  3. Notice how God has given you strength to make it through challenging times in the past (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). 

“There’s a huge difference between being thankful for something and being thankful in something. We are to be thankful always.” —Scott Troost 

As I talked about last week—we need to think about what we’re thinking about. This is the key to spotting those grumbling, ungrateful thoughts before they derail the cycle and rob us of God’s shalom. 

Join us next week for the third part of our 4-part series in which we will be uncovering another way that the shalom cycle can become derailed. Please join us either in person or on Facebook Live. 

Billy Graham On Gratitude

BillyGraham“We hurt people by being too busy. Too busy to notice their needs. Too busy to drop that note of comfort or encouragement or assurance of love. Too busy to listen when someone needs to talk. Too busy to care.”

“The smallest package in the world is a person who is all wrapped up in himself.”

“Gratitude is one of the greatest Christian virtues; ingratitude, one of the most vicious sins.”

“Grumbling and gratitude are, for the child of God, in conflict. Be grateful and you won’t grumble. Grumble and you won’t be grateful.”

Poetry Saturday—“A Man” by Edgar A. Guest

Edgar A. GuestA man doesn’t whine at his losses,
A man doesn’t whimper and fret,
Or rail at the weight of his crosses
And ask life to rear him a pet.
A man doesn’t grudgingly labor
Or look upon toil as a blight;
A man doesn’t sneer at his neighbor
Or sneak from a cause that is right.

A man doesn’t sulk when another
Succeeds where his efforts have failed;
Doesn’t keep all his praise for the brother
Whose glory is publicly hailed;
And pass by the weak and the humble
As though they were not of his clay;
A man doesn’t ceaselessly grumble
When things are not going his way.

A man looks on woman as tender
And gentle, and stands at her side
At all times to guard and defend her,
And never to scorn or deride.
A man looks on life as a mission.
To serve, just so far as he can;
A man holds his noblest ambition
On earth is to live as a man. —Edgar A. Guest

Dirty Dishes

My folks came to our home for dinner after our Sunday church service. It’s always great to have them around.

Aside from the good fellowship and great food, I noticed something else: there were a lot of dishes to be cleaned. Not only was the dishwasher filled and run twice, but there were other dishes that had to be washed by hand. At first, I began to grumble about all of the extra work to do, but then I thought, “Dirty dishes are a good thing.”

Lots of dirty dishes means that lots of people graced our home.

Lots of dirty laundry means that my kids are running around and enjoying life.

Lots of trips to the grocery store means that friends and family are coming over to hang out with us.

Lots of studying means that I have lots of opportunities to invest in others.

There are so many things that I could choose to grumble about, but instead, I’m choosing to focus on the blessings. I’d much rather have dishes to clean, clothes to wash, errands to run, and hours to study than the alternative, wouldn’t you?

Look on the bright side this week: turn those grumbling opportunities into opportunities to give thanks.

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