Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

It’s a good idea for all of us to remind ourselves that God is looking for a thankful people, not a murmuring, grumpy, fault-finding or complaining people. If you are searching for a great study, check out the history of the nation of Israel. Israel, God’s chosen, battled constantly with a terribly negative attitude. Their thinking caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years before entering the Promised Land. It was so much more than merely being lost. If you look at a map, it wasn’t even that large of an area. A confusion and dark cloud fell upon them, causing them to almost literally move in circles like in a maze, all due to what God called unbelief.

God’s attitude is that if His people would take Him at His Word and promises, they would know that regardless of what they face they would be cared for and protected. No matter the circumstance, no matter the enemy; joy and peace are found only when we have faith in our Lord. The opposite is true if we go through life kicking a can — complaining about it with each kick. I know what keeps me from complaining or murmuring, and that is to remember His grace in my life every single day.

“Now to a laborer, his wages are not counted as a favor or a gift, but as an obligation (something owed to him.)” Romans 4:4.

Look at it this way. If a person works for his wages, when payday comes it doesn’t elicit a lot of appreciation — because he feels like he has worked and earned it, it is deserved. This is a great example of what the Bible calls “works.” Works are the exact opposite of grace — the unmerited favor of God poured over you when you have not earned it and surely do not deserve it! There’s nothing that can cause a person to become more haughty, proud, and unlovely than what he considers the rewards of his own works. And there is nothing that can cause your heart to overflow with gratitude and thanksgiving more than God’s free, undeserved grace poured directly over your situation.

A proud, self-righteous attitude can even cause people to look down upon and judge others.

Paul said, “I am what I am only by the grace of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:10. Everyone, Christians included, are subject to selfishness and ingratitude. It begins at birth. Have you ever watched a child receive a beautiful gift, only to whine that it was the wrong color or type? One of the first words infants speak is a resounding “NO!” We can pray and believe God for something, and even be grateful and thankful when we receive it. But it doesn’t take long to forget and start murmuring again or to cop an attitude if we don’t receive the same thing again, right when we want it. As His children, we do have blessings and an inheritance, but without humility and grace we will become unappreciative and even presumptuous. Our Father is a good Father, and now might be a good time to thank Him for those unanswered prayers.

If we only understood how dangerous murmuring is, we would understand it is opening door for the enemy. It doesn’t solve anything; it just creates a breeding ground for even bigger problems. We want the Lord to teach us how to let in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace and supplication, to come into our hearts and help us through every hour of every day. Thanksgiving is a lifestyle. A person who has developed an attitude of gratitude is grateful for every single thing God is doing in their life. Even Jesus told His Father in John 11:41, “Thank you that you have heard me.” We should all learn to end our prayers and petitions with, “Father I thank You, You have heard me.”

One reason I encourage you to do this is because, as John tells us in 1 John 5:14,15, when we know that God has heard us, we know that He has granted us our requests. The devil wants you to pray and then sit and worry whether God has heard you or not. You will never receive a busy signal with the Lord.

“Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.” Philippians 4:6.

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thess. 5:18.

I believe the point Paul was trying to teach us in Philippians 4:6 is that a lifestyle and attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude will bring Glory to the Lord for who He is — not only for what He does. Paul gave thanks for the free gift of grace more than anything else. He knew that it is by God’s grace that we receive every good thing that He longs to give us. Now that beats kicking a can any day of the week. We all have so much to be thankful for. We just need to learn to not get into the bad habit of taking them for granted.

“And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace or unmerited favor and supplication.” Zechariah 12:1-3, 8-10.

I think each and every one of us long to live a life pleasing to God — and the life He purposed for us individually before we were ever born. What makes our God, the One true God, different from all others is He is alive. His Word is alive. His Spirit dwells within you and He truly works all things together for good. But we need to remember to rely upon Him for everything, and not try to make everything happen on our own while stealing the glory and accusing God of forgetting about us when things go south.

Isn’t it amazing that you and I do not have to live under the law, constantly struggling, striving and straining to reach and maintain perfection without which we cannot feel assured of His love, or of receiving grace to help in times of need? We can come fearlessly, confidently, and boldly to God’s throne of grace — the throne of His unmerited, undeserved favor when we are in trouble? I was so blessed to have an earthly dad who, though not perfect, raised me to know and be assured I could run to him at any time I was in trouble — even if it was due to any of my countless bad decisions. How much more does our Heavenly Father want us to do the same?

How the Church of today needs to guard against murmuring and complaining! How many actually pick up that awesome book and read the living words contained within? That is when and how we receive the revelation of His steadfast love for us, and how He longs for us to enter into His rest, to know Him. I am shocked so often when I hear people say they never read the Bible, or worse yet feel they have no need. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? God says He will have to apologize to them for all He has allowed in these last days. If you were to ask someone what the sin of Sodom was, most would probably answer, “homosexuality.” Please read Ezekiel 16:49-50. God’s word says, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me.” Ouch.

This week, let’s put a watch on our words and thoughts. How often and how much do we murmur and complain? How often do we decide to do it “my way,” rather than praying, “If the Lord wills I plan on doing so and so, Lord lead me by Your grace.” God is not a man that He should lie. His Word says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve been asking the Lord to do some more housekeeping in my heart. If I’m bumped, I don’t want to be ashamed of what spills out. No more whining, complaining, or murmuring under my breath when things are not going my way. Instead I’m going to shout “GRACE!”

Ruminate on that.