Philippians 2:14-16, “ Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (NKJV)
It happens with my kids all the time. Specifically, my three-year-old. Everything’s smiles and rainbows until he doesn’t get his way. What happens next is a strange mixture of PeeWee Herman and the Incredible Hulk. This once sweet-natured little momma’s boy transforms into a wrecking ball of sheer will. Combine this with a high-pitched squeal and the severity of his complaint can be heard all over the neighborhood and by dogs miles away!
A little whining is to be expected. He’s three and the youngest of four siblings. He’s learning the right way to get his way. At this point his complaints and disputes revolve around simple things like video games and basketballs. But he will grow older and his complaints will one day become something you and I are more familiar with as adults. My prayer for him as he matures is that he would internalize these verses. I pray that he would learn to do all things without complaining or disputing.
I don’t expect him to be passive. I don’t expect him to just shut up and take it. God doesn’t call us to be anyone’s door mat. In moments when things aren’t going our way God does for you and me what I hope I can do for my kids. He trains us to find a better way.
Life is full of moments where you don’t get your way. Your job will come with people and circumstances that aren’t fair and tasks no one wants to do. Sometimes you’ll get what you deserve. Sometimes you won’t. Philippians 2:14-16 are clear. How we respond when we don’t get our way reflects the influence our Father has on us.
I encourage my three-year-old to find a better way. Hitting, biting, pushing, screaming, wailing – these tactics virtually guarantee he won’t get what he wants. We may be adults, but when we don’t get what we want we still struggle with our own inner three-year-old.
Philippians 2:14-16 tell us the reason we should we respond without complaints or disputes. It’s because it will set us apart. It takes little effort and even less thought to complain. To find a solution takes something more.
Earlier in Philippians 2 we see Jesus lifted up as a remarkable example of humility. He was treated unfairly and punished for a crime he didn’t commit. He gave up his position in heaven. He gave up his authority as God. He gave up his rights as a man. He gave up his life on the cross. Yet he never complained. He never argued. He gave up without giving in and got exactly what he wanted.
I’m going to say that again. Jesus gave up without giving in and got exactly what he wanted. Without dispute. Without complaint. Jesus found a better way. It led to salvation for you and me.
We need to learn how to do all things without complaining or disputing. It’s not about giving in. It’s about giving up. Giving up what we think are our ‘rights’ or what we ‘deserve’. Like Jesus, we need to learn to give up without giving in. We need to find a better way.
I’m trying to train my three-year-old. Here’s what I tell him.
- USE YOUR WORDS – squealing may get my attention, but it’s not going to convince your six-year-old brother to play with you. The right thing said at the right time in the right way can make miracles happen. Sometimes brothers like to hear you squeal. Don’t give them the pleasure. Use your words.
- MAKE A DEAL – The art of deal making is about relationships. I want something from you. In order to get it I need to know you. I need to understand what makes you tick and what ticks you off. Armed with that knowledge I don’t complain. I convince. Yes, there’s a problem that needs solved. I could complain about it or I could convince you that I have the solution and that solution is good for you and me both.
Both of these are tough enough for me – imagine how difficult they are for a three-year-old. So I always fall back to the most important principle of the training.
- TRUST YOUR FATHER – When words don’t work, when I’m in no position to convince I can bring my complaints to my Father and trust that he will rightly judge. He will give what I need. He will provide. He will open doors no one can close and close doors no one can open. I can trust him to do what’s right and what’s best for me. I may not always get my way, but I can trust that what I get will be what’s best.
For my three-year-old this is tough. It’s tough for me too. Sometimes he gets the ball. Sometimes he doesn’t. Either way, as his father, I protect him from things that would harm him and provide him with things that will help. He’s learning to trust me.
It’s fun to see these principles at work in my older children. As they’ve grown, I find myself the arbitrator of fewer and fewer sibling battles. They’re learning to work things out. I hear them practice these things with their friends. They come to me now with fewer complaints and spend more time trying to convince me their solution is right. We’re far from perfect, but the squeals heard round the world are gradually becoming less and less.
I’m thankful that I can trust you. When life seems unfair, when I don’t get my way, I’m confident you’re the one guiding and protecting me. Build Philippians 2:14-16 into my heart, mind and choices. Help me find solutions. Teach me to use my words, to convince instead of complain and to trust you. Help me to do all things without complaining or disputing so that I will be found a blameless and harmless child of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation where I can shine as a light to the world. Like Jesus, help me to give up without giving in and still get exactly what you intend for me to have.
I love you, in Jesus name –