The Evil of Murmuring and Complaining

God’s people should comfort themselves in whatever befalls them, by resting quietly and submissively in the bosom of God. Consider that whatever comes to pass proceeds from the decree of their gracious Creator and loving Father. Only He knows what is best for them and will make all things work together for their good. Thomas Boston says:

Whoever may be the instruments of any good to us, of whatever sort, we must look above them, and see the hand and counsel of God in it, which is their first source, and be duly thankful to God for it. And whatever evil of suffering or afflictions befall us, we must look above the instruments of it to God. . . . We should be patient under whatever distress comes upon us, considering that God is on our side. Job 2:10 “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” This would be a happy means to quiet our complaining at adverse dispensations. Hence David says, “I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was you who did it.” Psalm 39:9

See here the evil of murmuring and complaining at our lot in the world. How apt are you to quarrel with God, as if he were in the wrong to you, when his dealings with you are not according to your own desires and wishes? You demand a reason, and call God to an account, Why did this happen to me? Why am I so much afflicted and distressed? Why am I so long afflicted? And why such an affliction rather than another? Why am I so poor and another so rich? Thus your hearts rise up against God. But you should remember that this is to defame the counsels of infinite wisdom, as if God had not ordered your affairs wisely enough in his eternal counsel. We find the Lord reproving Job for this, chap. 40:2 “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” When you murmur and brood under cross and afflictive dispensations, this is a presuming to instruct God how to deal with you, and to reprove him as if he were in the wrong. Indeed, there is a kind of implicit blasphemy in it, as if you had more wisdom and justice to arrange your circumstances, and to carve out your own portion in the world. This is what you really mean when you say, “If I had been on God’s counsel, I would have ordered this matter better; things would not be with me as they are now.” Oh presume not to correct the infinite wisdom of God, seeing he has decreed all things most wisely and judiciously. (“Important Lessons Drawn from the Decrees of God”)

Learning From Injuries

The vanity and sinfulness of the mind appears the utmost in the ungodly. Yet, they may entertain good thoughts, but their minds will not dwell upon them very long. Thomas Goodwin elaborates:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

A heart sanctified, and in whose affections true grace is en-kindled, out of all God’s dealings with him, out of the things he sees and hears, out of all the objects are put into the thoughts, he distilleth holy, and sweet, and useful meditations; and it naturally doth it, and ordinarily doth it, so far as it is sanctified. So our Savior Christ, all speeches of others which he heard, all accidents and occurrences, did still raise and occasion in him heavenly meditations, as we may see throughout the whole Gospels. When he came by a well, he speaks of the ‘water of life,’ John IV. &c. Many instances might be given. He in his thoughts translated the book of the creatures into the book of grace, and so did Adam’s heart in innocency. His philosophy might be truly termed divinity, because he saw God in all; all raised up his heart to thankfulness and praise. So now, in like manner, our minds, so far as they are sanctified, will do. As the philosopher’s stone turns all metals into gold, as the bee sucks honey out of every flower, and a good stomach sucks out some sweet and wholesome nourishment out of what it takes into itself; so doth a holy heart, so far as sanctified, convert and digest all into spiritual useful thoughts. This you may see, Ps. cvii. 43. That psalm gives many instances of God’s providence, and ‘wonderful works which he doth for the sons of men;’ as deliverances by sea; where men see his wonders; deliverance to captives, &c. : and still the foot of the song is, ‘0 that men would therefore praise the Lord for the wonderful works he doth for the sons of men.’ Now, after all these instances, he concludes, that though others pass over such occurrences with ordinary slight thought; yet says he, ‘The righteous shall see it, and rejoice,’ that is, extract comfortable thoughts out of all, which shall be matter of joy; and ‘whoso is wise will observe these things,’ that is; makes holy observations out of all these, and out of a principle of wisdom he understands God’s goodness in all, and so his heart is raised to thoughts of praise, and thankfulness; and obedience. Now, compare with this the 92d Psalm, made for the Sabbath, when, in imitation of God, who that day viewed his work; we are, on our Lord’s day, still to raise holy praiseful thoughts out of them to his glory, which he that penned that psalm then did, ver. 1, 2, and ver. 5, 6, ‘How great are thy works!’ &c. ‘A brutish man knows not, nor will a fool understand this;’ that is, he being a beast, and having no sanctified principle of wisdom in him, looks no further than a beast into all the works of God and occurrences of things; looks on all blessings as things provided for man’s delight by God; but he extracts seldom holy, spiritual, and useful thoughts out of all, he wants the art of doing it.

If injuries be offered us by others, what do our thoughts distill out of those wrong; but thoughts of revenge? We meditate how to requite it again. But see how naturally David’s mind distills other thoughts of Shimei’s cursing, 2 Sam. xvi. 11, ‘God hath bidden him,’ and it may prove a good sign of God’s favor, ‘God may requite good for it.’ When we see judgments befall other; severe thoughts of censure our minds are apt to raise against our brother, as Job’s friends did. But a godly man, whose mind is much sanctified, raises other thoughts out of it, Prov. xxi. 29, ‘wisely consider.’

So when outward mercies befall us, the next thoughts we are apt to have is to project ease by our wealth, ‘Thou hast goods for many years;’ and when judgments befall us, we are apt to be filled with thoughts of complaint, and fear; and cares how to wind out again. But what were the first thoughts Job had upon the news of the loss of all? God hath given, and the Lord hath taken, blessed be the Lord for all.

Such thoughts as these, which all opportunities hint unto, a good heart is apprehensive of; and doth naturally raise for its own use. So far barren as our thoughts are, so far vain. (“The Vanity of Thoughts”)

What Power Does God Have Over Evil Actions?

B.H. Carroll

Providence is an effective, all-comprehensive, divine agency that touches every event in the physical and spiritual world. Many of God’s saints, in the hardest and darkest times of their lives, have had peace by their understanding of and faith in the Lord’s providential care. The Lord God omnipotent reigns! B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) explains further:

If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

The providence of God is not only preventive and permissive of evil but is also directive. What do I mean by directive? I mean that God so directs evil actions as to disappoint the purpose and expectation of the sinner and his tempter. Let us get that very clear. Two scriptures will serve to show that God’s providence is directive with reference to the actions of evil men when it so operates that this evil action shall miss its issue, shall come to another issue neither intended nor desired by the perpetrator.

The first scripture is from the book of Genesis. The wicked brothers of Joseph, who had sold him into Egypt, are now in trouble in that very land. Their consciences accuse them:

“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother,in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.” (Genesis 42:21, 22.)

This was the human side. On the other hand, hear Joseph: “I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life *** to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” That is, you meant evil. God directed that action so as to change it into an issue that was not foreseen nor purposed by you. The other scripture is from the fourth chapter of Acts. These two will answer for a thousand. They equal in importance any in the Bible:

“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou has anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:24-28.)

Now here was an entirely independent purpose and expectation on the part of Herod, on the part of Pilate, on the part of the Jews. They meant death and ruin and yet God’s providence governed their very malice to an issue neither foreseen, desired nor purposed by them, in that it accomplished not only His own predetermined purpose, working not for the ruin but for the salvation of the world.

Yet another term may be employed to show how the providence of God touches evil actions, to-wit, determinative. Terminus means a boundary, a limit, and to determinate is to set a boundary. The providence of God then touches evil actions by putting a limit upon them. An illustrative case or two may be rapidly stated. The devil wanted to get hold of Job, to worry and destroy him. He asked the Lord for an opportunity. God, having purposes of His own to accomplish concerning Job and others, gave the permission but set a limit at Job’s life: “You may take his cows; you may take his camels; you may take his children so far as their earthly health and existence is concerned; you may touch Job himself and cover his body with loathsome ulcers, but the life of Job, the soul of Job, the spiritual standing of Job in the sight of God, oh, devil, you cannot touch.” There God puts an impassable barrier.

In the same direction are the words of the Psalmist:

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say: If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; then the proud waters had gone over our soul; blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are escaped. . . .” (Psalm 124:1-7)

Leave out the determinative providence of God, that feature of God’s providence that sets a limit to the wrath of evil men and the devil, and the foundation would be removed, and then what could the righteous do?

The Crooked Things Of Life

There are problems that occur in everyone’s lives that make you feel that circumstances are just not right or fair. Sometimes you feel you have just managed to get through a difficult time when suddenly you are blind-sided by an even greater problem. These are the “crooked things” of life. Rev. Maurice Roberts shares more on this topic with us:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

Crooked things occur in our lives, don’t they? What’s meant by ‘crooked things’? Well, it means problems we can’t understand, and we’ve all got those, haven’t we? Haven’t you got problems in your life? You may say, “Why did my dear husband have to die?” “Why did my dear wife have to get ill?” “Why is my child laid in bed?” “Why has my uncle got to go to hospital?” “Why have I lost my health?” “Why did they have that car smash and their bodies are now ruined for the rest of their lives?” These are crooked things. . . .

Let me tell you about the Book of Job. Job was a rich man. Everything was going fine for years and suddenly everything went wrong. His children were killed, his house was smashed, his health broke down, and all the rest of it. It couldn’t have been much worse. And he was sitting in the dust, scraping himself because he was covered with boils from head to foot. Now that’s a tremendous change from being rich and powerful and influential, to being ill and lost property, lost money, lost children and so on. And he couldn’t understand it. It was a tremendous problem. “Why has God done this to me?” was the question. And maybe you have a question like that. But when you read the Book of Job you’ll see God was working everything out wisely for Job’s good. So Job had twice as much in the end, twice as much as he had before. And that’s what God does to his people; he brings them down so as to bring them up again, higher than ever. . . .

[T]here are plenty of people, who have known the gospel for years, but maybe the only way God will get you to listen to the gospel is when he puts you in a sickbed, or you’re carted out in an ambulance. . . . And there in the quietness of a hospital ward you say to yourself: “Am I going to die?” And then maybe you’ll see the need you have of Christ and the gospel and eternal life, because many people die, and they die without Christ and they go into eternal death. I hope you know that, dearest friends.

So this is what God means here. “I will bring them through crooked things and make them straight for them.” You know, the cross of Christ is a crooked thing. . . . And the cross of Christ is crooked to so many people. They say, “Why did Jesus Christ have to die? He was such a wonderful man. . . . It’s a crooked thing, you see. They can’t understand the cross. And the explanation is that God cursed Him for your sake and my sake. He died on the cross for our sake. He died in the room of the wicked – the just dying for the unjust, suffering our penalty, that we might be saved. That’s the wonderful thing about the gospel, that’s the amazing thing. God is making this crooked thing to be straightforward. (Sermon: “God’s Grace to Blind Sinners”)

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