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Posts Tagged ‘Acts 6’

Ah – human nature! We all have it. We are all weak and stumble in many ways (James 3:2). For instance, we all have opinions about everything from the best football teams to the best new fashions, and often think our view is the view.  

And then when we get together in a group this comes out. There will be things we don’t like – it might be a person, a point of view, or just the way things are done. And we know from experience that this often leads to failings on our part and the part of others as we get caught up in ungodly conflicts and division.

With regard to a local congregation we know that God calls us to be together and to love each other and to do the work of the kingdom together. But how do we then deal with the things we don’t like about the group or don’t agree with? I want to be really specific in our focus this morning – how do we deal with what we may not like about the direction the leadership is setting for the group?

The title this morning is The right way to express concerns – or don’t be a grumbler! Let me emphasize, you will never escape being unhappy with parts of what goes on in a group. It’s human nature and you take that with you to any group you belong to. You can’t get away from it. So sisters and brother, we might as well learn how to deal with this in a godly and healthy way.

I share this morning not just because I happen to be a leader here and don’t like grumbling and how it damages us when it happens, but because I am a part of other groups and don’t want to be a grumbler myself. And I haven’t been and won’t always be a pastor, so I need this just like we all need to be reminded of this.

An all too familiar story

There are a number of stories about grumbling in the Scriptures. One story that stands out is Numbers 14. If you will remember the spies have come back from scoping out the promised land and most of them have given a bad report. It’s great, but . . . we will all be killed if we try to enter it. Then comes vs. 1-4. 1Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ 4And they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’”

They are grumbling primarily against God here, but for our purposes I want to focus on the grumbling against Moses and Aaron. And we learn first of all from this passage how grumbling works.

First, something bad happened that caused them to be full of fear and negativity. In this case, they heard a bad report. And instead of trusting God, and dealing with the issue, they gave in to fear. ‘We have come all this way only to discover that there are giants in the land waiting to kill us and our families! And even though God has done all these miracles and has been faithful to us in the past, this is too much. It will never work.’

So they began to speak against Moses and Aaron. As v. 2 says, they grumbled. Grumbling is expressing one’s discontent; it is complaining; and it usually carries with it the idea of saying these things quietly to others in the group. They had a problem, they were fearful and negative, and so they blamed their leaders, complaining about them and questioning their leadership to others.

They do bring their concerns to the leaders (v. 2) but not with a right heart. That’s because grumbling against a leader comes from a heart that is in the process of rejecting the leader. Which is what happened next. 

The congregation rebelled against Moses and Aaron. Let’s choose another leader and go in a different direction (v. 4). This is how grumbling works, at least in the case of grumbling against a leader.

We also learn from Numbers 14 about the seriousness of grumbling. 1. That generation was excluded from the promises. They were not allowed to enter the promised land but wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they died (14:21-23). They did not obtain what God wanted to give them because of their grumbling.

2. Those who gave the bad report that led to the grumbling were killed by the Lord (14:36-37).

Grumbling brings judgment. Paul in talking about Numbers 14 says this in 1 Corinthians 10:10, we must not “grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” And he specifically says these things were written for our instruction to learn from (10:11). And James says in James 5:9, “Do not grumble against one another, sisters and brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” 

How should we express our concerns?

Well, certainly not with grumbling. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling . . . ” Instead of this, we should 1. have a right heart. That is, don’t be fueled by fear and negativity which undermines leadership. The Israelites spoke to their leaders, but it was too late. They were already planning on getting new leaders and going in a different direction. Their heart wasn’t right.

Rather, recognize that there will always be problems that we go through as a group. And we need to respond in faith that God will lead us through. If we have allowed our hearts to be full of fear and negativity, pray for the Spirit to change your heart before you speak about your concern. 

2. Go to the leaders. Follow the principle of Matthew 18:15 and go to them face to face. Don’t whisper or talk to others, go to them. II have had for a while now a policy of not receiving anonymous critical notes. And I will say now that I will no longer receive any second hand anonymous verbal criticisms. I don’t want to empower this kind of harmful behavior. If you have a concern put your name and face to it. This is what God wants, direct communication about concerns.

Follow the principle of Galatians 6:1 and go with gentleness. Don’t wait so long that it all explodes in a hurtful and harmful way. Be loving and kind. And as 1 Thessalonians 5:12 teaches go with respect for your leaders.

3. Make your concern known. Listening by all parties is the key. James 1:19 says, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

You may find that leadership has more information on the situation than you do, or are working with confidential information, or there might be bigger issues involved that have to be considered. Or, leadership may not have thought of your concern, or they may have a blind spot on an issue, and it is actually God’s purpose that you speak to them to help them.

Hopefully each one’s concerns can be addressed, but sometimes there will still be different points of view. And so as followers we need to let those that God has put in place to lead, lead – knowing that they are responsible before God for the well-being of the congregation and so need to make decisions they are comfortable with. And unless they have done something that warrants their removal, or it is an issue that is so serious that we need to leave the group – we should respect them and the office they hold and pray for them.

Let’s end with a –

A different story

 This comes from Acts 6:1-5. “1Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3Therefore, brothers and sisters pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ 5And what they said pleased the whole gathering . . .”

So there was a complaint, Some were being overlooked in the distribution of food – an alms ministry conducted by the church in Jerusalem for widows. It is interesting that the word for grumbling is used here, translated as “complaint” in v. 1, but it is not used in a negative way. And I think it’s because they had a right heart. They were not fearful or negative, or rebellious against the leaders. They moved forward believing that God would lead the congregation through this.

They went to the leaders, not to others. They didn’t grumble and undermine leadership. And they made their concerns known. They were aware of a problem, which the apostles had overlooked. And because they went the apostles came up with a solution to the problem. They appointed other leaders to oversee the alms ministry and give full attention to it.  

Let me end by just saying once again – in any group we are a part of we will always have disagreements and discontentments. It’s what we do with these that matter.

  • If we follow our natural human response, the flesh, we will grumble and complain to others behind the backs of our leaders. This is the model of Numbers 14.
  • But I would invite you to follow the model of Acts 6. Come so we can talk together. I believe you will find that your input is welcome and valued. And if it seems too intimidating I encourage you to find someone to come with you, and we can talk together.

Which path will you follow? The way of Numbers 14 or the way of Acts 6?

William Higgins 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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