Philippians :: Week 6 :: Complaining is Not a Spiritual Gift

My little ones copy me. And if I’m not diligent, I copy those Israelites of old who complained about what wasn’t. It comes so natural — the complaining and questioning — but ultimately it reflects a deeper soul conflict. It reflects distrust and disbelief.

“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…”
(Philippians 2:14-16)

I’m pretty sure that Paul meant all things. Do all things without complaining. Do all the wife-things, do all the mommy-things, do all the house-things, do all the job-things, do all the life-things without grumbling and questioning, so that we can shine as lights in our homes, in our workplaces, in the grocery store, and in our church buildings.

It’s grace words that reflect our Lord — blameless and harmless. But for grace words to spill from our lips, grace thoughts have to fill our minds.

For too many years a complaining heart stole my joy. And the grumbling spilled out. But God so faithfully opened my eyes. He tenderly began transforming my mind.

I'm starting a new series on the thought life over at my personal blog because in Christ we have been given the tools — the weapons — to think grace thoughts even when life seems to be spiraling. Even when the laundry piles and the kids whine. Even if, as in Paul’s case, the chains have us bound and our very tomorrow sits with grave uncertainty.

As we meditate upon the truths of our God, as revealed through his word, victory comes. In verse 13 Paul lays out a key truth. He tells us “why” we can live without complaining, regardless of our circumstance. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) God is working in the lives of his children. He wills and does for his good, holy pleasure. He transforms us and gives life abundant. Our call is to believe him.

We can live these moments apart from complaining as we meditate upon the sovereign love of our Maker. As we trust that he is indeed working, even through this. As we choose to think on his promises and believe his claims, then the words that fill our mouth will be peace words. Praise words. Grace words.

Do all things without complaining and disputing. Our God is reigning secure.

The #hellomornings group is studying Philippians 2:12-18 this week. What from the text spoke to you?

How do you stay diligent to do life without complaining?

Speaker and writer, Lara is passionate for the Word of God. She is a wife and mom who has walked through valleys of death, addiction, and betrayal, and experienced the miraculous ability of God to bring victory in spite of circumstance. You can find her online by visiting her website or read her blog at


  1. These verses were just what I needed to read each morning this week as I prepared to teach 2-4 year olds at Vacation Bible School. All things definitely includes VBS. When I started to have a complaining thought about a child, I prayed over them, and watched as he transformed my thoughts. What a great week of studay and VBS!

    • Payton, that is so key. Praying instead of complaining. Thanks for sharing. (And thanks for serving those little ones — planting seeds of truth in their little hearts.)

  2. I mediate on the scriptures when I start feeling like I have a right to complain. My mind always seem to travel too Hebrews 12:4 (NIV) In my struggle against sin, I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. There is comfort in knowing I do not have to shed blood to take control of my thoughts, I just have to fix my eyes on Christ because I know (2 Corinthians 5:14 (NIV)) that Christ’s love compels me, to take my thoughts captive when they are not helpful and uplifting. If what I am thinking will not help another person I need not be thinking it. Thanks for the reminder this morning. I Starting to have a bit of a cold and all three of My Boys are sick.

    • Eileen, hope you are feeling a bit better this evening. I love what you said, “If what I am thinking will not help another person I need not be thinking it.” Oh, that’s convicting. I desire that even my thoughts lift and bless others. Only by his great grace and strength. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow. I needed this yesterday. I read the scriptures, but I guess I didn’t ‘READ’ them. I am struggling at work and complaining. I will print this where I can see it. Thank you for answering my prayers this morning! It gave me chills and made me feel ashamed. Thank you.

    • Laura, Wow. God is so amazing how he weaves it all together, using even a blog post to convict us and lead us. That humbles me. Praying for you tonight, that his word would be stirred afresh in you as you battle the struggle at work.

  4. Remember yesterday on twitter when I said that when my boys complain I have them repeat verse 14? Well, after reading your post it dawned on me that I should explain to them that God is in control and He is working on them. Not just focusing on “don’t complain” cuz God said “don’t complain.” Thanks!

    • Kelly, that’s funny. I thought the same thing. In fact, just tonight I talked to my daughter about the “why” behind not whining. God is in control and his love is over us. When we whine it is like saying, “I don’t trust you or believe you.” Thanks for commenting!

  5. I like how so much comes together in these verses:
    * We’re to cultivate our salvation with phobos and tromos (fear and trembling).
    * We do that by obeying, whether anybody else is looking or not (but they are looking) because we know God is behind it all.
    * We remain spotless in a spotted world when we refuse to grumble and whine like the world.
    * We can do that if we stay true to the word of life (the Logos of Zoe).
    * Then we can choose joy, like Paul did, regardless of the cost.

    Lara, I appreciate your encouragement for us to use “peace words. Praise words. Grace words.” Beautiful. Thank you.

  6. Lara, thanks for your insight and reminder to fill out mouths with peace words. praise words. grace words… love that!

    In my study, the words “work out your salvation” kept jumping out at me…

    Salvation and living the Christian life is a partnership with God. The gift of salvation is free to to accept because of the saving work of Christ on the cross, but it doesn’t end there. We have to katergázomai: work out our salvation. It is the idea of working hard to the end. We are not saved just to be saved. With salvation comes a responsibility to fulfill the purposes of God, to persevere, to be involved. We cannot earn our salvation through our works, but we are to carry out the work of God once we are saved… and it is serious business, not to be taken lightly!

    I shared a little more of where God lead me on my blog…

  7. Yes, this: “But for grace words to spill from our lips, grace thoughts have to fill our minds.”

    That’s what kept going through my head as I read this passage over and over. It’s by GRACE that we are allowed to be God’s children and have the opportunity to shine like stars. It’s by GRACE that God works through us “to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

    Grace that I don’t deserve. Grace that I so easily forget when I complain, argue, distrust, dislike someone.

    I’m praying for God to cause me to see only Him so that I can act with His strength and love, not my faltering own. Praying for unwavering, Paul-like obedience.

  8. Crystal says:

    Okay, so mine is a question about this week’s. And it’s really just to understand something, maybe the context of what Paul is saying/meaning in verse 16. So, he has just encouraged the Phillipians to do everything without complaining so that they can shine like stars…and then he says “And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain” – but Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”

    I’m assuming he is just trying to express how proud he is of the Phillipians for holding fast to the faith, and encouraging them in how to act so that they can stand out from the world…but just wanted to hear others opinions on it.

    Thanks! :)

  9. Crystal says:

    Also – an update that KJV uses the word “rejoice” instead of “boast” (NIV).

    Greek word is kauchēma:

    1. that of which one glories or can glory, matter or ground of glorying
    2. a glorying or boasting

    Translated Words

    KJV (11) – boasting, 1; glorying, 2; rejoice, 1; rejoicing, 4; to glory, 3;

    NAS (12) – boast, 3; boast about, 1; boasting, 3; proud, 1; proud confidence, 1; reason to be proud, 1; reason to glory, 1; something to boast about, 1;

    I love that we go through each passage for a week – it really helps pick it apart.

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