OCT 2, 2016 sermon: "Are You Complaining? - keep up your faith and keep up your good work"
Today's message is based on all four readings - Habakkuk 1:1-14, 2:1-4....Psalm 37:1-9....2nd Timothy 1:1-14 and Luke 17:5-10
Let me ask a question - Does anyone have anything to complain about today?
It could be about your job,….or bills and your financial situation,….about church?
It could be about people - Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton….a family member or a friend or a partner or spouse?
It could be something simple, like the weather,…. or just life in general.
Merely watching the news every day gives us plenty to complain about.
The world seems full of problems;….war and destruction of lives and homelands.
People disrespecting, abusing or doing even worse to each other all the time.
Each day offers a new story of some event or action by people that cause us to vent our seemingly never-ending complaints.
Now, to complain is not altogether a bad thing.
When you complain to someone who can effect a change in circumstances, then you can take part in helping to resolve the complaint and make things better.
So, for example, if your job is causing you to complain,…. you can speak to your boss and suggest how it might become a better situation.
But generally, complaining does nothing to help fix a problem and mostly just helps tear you down and put you in a foul mood.
And, the truth is, that many things we complain about are just beyond our control.
Mark Twain once said “Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it”.
That’s sort of a joke, but the truth is that nobody can do anything about the weather, except maybe the one we believe is in charge of everything - God.
Which brings us to the point of today’s bible readings.
From the Old Testament, we hear the prophet Habakkuk complaining to God.
He complains about the violence he sees;….about the wrongdoing that goes on.
Destruction and strife are all around him, so the law of ‘what’s right’ is ignored.
The wicked prevail over the righteous and no justice is forthcoming, he says.
Habakkuk is not concerned about petty problems,…but big things that are wrong.
What he is seeing is kind of like what we see on the news all the time.
And, as one who is called by God to speak on behalf of God,….he’d really like, and appreciate, some back up and support.
When things look so bad all around us,….we not only want them to be right, but we want the One who can supposedly fix them,….to make them right.
So, just like the prophet Habakkuk, we too often will lift up to the one in charge, a litany of our complaints to Him.
Complaints about things going on in the world, but also (and maybe even more so) complaints about things going wrong in our lives.
We sometimes call them prayers,…and, actually, its OK to complain to God during our prayer time or when we just generally talk to him.
But the scriptures tell us that, in the long run,…. complaining does no good.
The scriptures tell us basically to stop complaining and start trusting in God.
Have a patient faith that God will address and fix what’s wrong.
And otherwise, beyond that,…. just do your job.
The Psalm we read this morning gives us good advice in this area.
It says “Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers”.
“Trust in the Lord and do good”.
“Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”.
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will…make your vindication shine like the light and the justice of your cause like noonday”
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”.
The Psalmist basically says -
Stop complaining about wrongs in the world or your life,…
and just do your work on behalf of the Lord,…
and trust that God will handle things and make them right.
In the Gospel lesson from Luke, Jesus kind of says the same sort of thing.
When the disciples complain over their lack of faith, he tells them trust in God.
“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed”, he says,….you could change things.
Then he tells a parable which says that your duty is not to complain about problems or even your lack of faith.
But to just do your jobs for God, like a good servant does their job as their duty.
Focus on your responsibility towards, and work for, God, and let Him do the rest.
All of these readings seem to echo the same sentiment and advice.
Instead of complaining,….keep up your faith and keep up your good work.
We also had a good reading from 2nd Timothy where we are told “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline”.
Complaining is maybe a form of cowardice.
Fear that circumstances have, or will, overcome us and that we will be powerless to defend ourselves against our complaint and fears.
It is that fear of helplessness and lack of power or control that often causes or leads to our complaints.
I saw a movie the other day called ‘The 33’,… a true story about 33 miners trapped over 2000 feet under a mountain in Chile in 2010.
They all ended up being rescued, but while they were down in the mine for 69 days, it is no surprise that some of them complained.
That did no good for them or for the others, and in fact, was detrimental to their efforts to survive and come out in one piece mentally.
But others, either did what they could to address the issues causing the complaints,… or,…. they simply trusted in God’s grace.
Last, but not least, we heard the prophet Habakkuk respond to God after complaining to him.
After his lament, the prophet ends up saying;..
“I will stand at my watch post and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will have to say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint”.
The prophet has tuned into the wisdom of God which has told him to just man his post and watch, and listen for, and trust in the Lord.
God then answers him, saying all things will be well “at the appointed time”.
What Habakkuk ends up doing is good advice for us too.
Focus on being a servant of the Lord and,….and all the while,…listen and look for him to speak and act.
To hear him speak to us and assure us about our complaints and laments,…
and to watch for ways he will fix what’s broken and make right what’s wrong.
That reading from 2nd Timothy says;… “I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day when I have entrusted to him.”
What faith does for us,….is enable us to entrust ourselves to the Lord.
To the God who rescued Jesus Christ from the shame of the crucifixion and from the grave and permanent death.
So let us entrust ourselves to God on that last day of our life, but also everyday of our lives, and let him handle every complaint we have.
And, in the long run, we will be guarded and protected and OK.