The Cost of Complaining

The people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled. Numbers 11:1

There should be no place for grumbling in the Christian life.

That was a lesson that Israel learned the hard way (and learned slowly). After God freed them from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites received His law, were given His commands, and knew their destination. They eagerly set out to reach the promised land, but they hadn’t gone very far at all—barely around the first bend in the road—before they began to complain. They wanted meat to eat instead of manna, and they even wished they were back in Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6). Where once they had thought God’s daily provision of manna was a wonderful indication of His love for them, now they complained about having to eat the same old thing.

Grumbling seems to be a small thing, but it is a sign that gratitude is missing. Whenever unbelief and a lack of thankfulness mark the lives of God’s children, consequences are inevitable. We may not end up like the Israelites, who wandered in the desert for 40 years, but our own grumbling is not without a cost.

Do you remember when you first felt the excitement of your newfound faith? Maybe you bought your first copy of the New Testament and thought all you were discovering was fantastic. You read it everywhere. Then, perhaps, something happened along the journey; now it seems to be just “the same old Bible,” and you wish God would do something more dramatic, something better? Do you remember a time when sharing your faith seemed to be an exciting privilege—but now it feels like a burden and a duty? Do you remember a time when you were overflowing in gratitude for the cross—but now you find you focus more on the ways that God has not led you along the paths or to the places you would have preferred?

When the apostle Paul wrote to the early church, he reminded them of Israel’s story as a warning: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Corinthians 10:9-11).

If we have faith in Christ, we’ve been set free from slavery to sin—even our complaining! We’ve been liberated by a sacrifice: the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. And we too have set out on a journey, not to Canaan but to heaven. In light of that, God has given us both wonderful promises and necessary warnings. Do not presume upon His provision or grumble about the route He leads you on, but instead be filled with gratitude for all He has provided materially and spiritually. The cross lies behind you, heaven lies before you, and the Spirit dwells within you. There is no need, or excuse, for grumbling. 

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.

The Privilege of Prayer

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ Luke 11:1

Our fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is principally expressed through our prayers. They give evidence of our relationship with Him. He not only speaks with us through His word but has also entrusted us with the amazing privilege of communicating with Him in prayer.

Scripture provides us with multiple accounts of Jesus’ own prayer life. The better acquainted we are with these records, the more we realize that Jesus treated prayer as a holy habit. He regularly prayed in the early-morning hours to lay the day’s plans before His Father. Praying in a quiet and solitary place enabled Jesus to then follow His Father’s voice over the noise of the crowds and even the requests of His disciples. Prayer formed the context or framework of all the decisions He made. 

Jesus’ prayer routine prompted His disciples to plead, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They were apparently struck by His intensity and focus, which created a hunger in their hearts for similar intimacy with the Father. 

In response to their request, Jesus instructed His disciples not to “heap up empty phrases” or to “think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7). In other words, in praying we are not to babble or drone on. Instead, in the example that Jesus then gave—namely, the Lord’s Prayer—we discover that God’s spiritual children are free to address God simply and directly as their heavenly Father. 

And what are we to pray for? To begin with, we are to ask for God’s name to be rightly honored, for Him to bring His kingdom in us and around us, and for Him to supply our daily needs. We are to admit our need for daily repentance, the necessity of extending forgiveness to others, and our dependence on God for dealing with temptation. In our prayers, Jesus explained, we are to seek and ask to see God’s glory and grace in the midst of everyday life.

In our Christian pilgrimage, there is arguably nothing more important—or more difficult to maintain—than a meaningful prayer life. But here is help. If Jesus, the divine Son of God, needed to pray, then so do you and I. That humbling thought should drive us to our knees. And once there, we can freely employ the Lord’s Prayer as an aid in our own prayer. God has given you the great privilege of approaching Him in prayer and addressing Him as Father. He stands ready to listen and to help. Be sure to treat prayer as a holy habit and never as an optional extra.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.