In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul exhorts the Philippian Christians to keep on working out their salvation with fear in trembling. By doing so, they will joyfully discover that through their efforts, God is working in them for his good purpose.
Then in Philippians 2:15, Paul promises that a very specific and practical application of working out their salvation will result in them becoming “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”
Wow! What spiritual activity can transform a human being into such a person? Hours of prayer? Intense fasting? Reading massive quantities of Scripture? Surely it must be something that only the elite percentile of Christians can actually do?
Well… the answer is in verse 14:
“Do everything without complaining and arguing.”
That’s it? Learn to be content and agreeable and I’ll become a faultless and pure child of God? Yup.
But remember that Paul is speaking more of just holding one’s tongue (although that’s probably a good start). He’s talking about becoming a person in which complaining and arguing are like a foreign language because we have become so fluent in God’s faithfulness and love.
In other words, why complain about the driver in front of me, or about my finances, or about my spouse, or about my work situation, or about… well about anything when God’s sovereignty covers all? Simply, I complain because I’m not getting my way.
Also, why argue with my kids, my spouse, my boss, my friends, or with… well with anyone when God’s sovereignty covers all? Simply, I argue because I’m not getting my way.
Do you notice a common theme? Complaining and arguing flow from an inflated self-will. When my position as the center of the universe is threatened because others don’t do things my way, believe what I believe, take my advice, or live as I would live, then I am compelled to complain and argue with them. I mean, come on, you would think people would have learned my will for their lives with all the WWJD paraphernalia around (What would Jason do?).
Now having said all of that, here’s an Eastern Orthodox prayer that I’m beginning to use daily to help me become a person that isn’t inclined to complain and argue by becoming a person re-envisioned with God’s full sovereignty and caring love.
“O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray. And, You Yourself, pray in me. Amen.”
St. Philaret of Moscow