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HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY STOP COMPLAINING? (The Gospel According to Philippians)


A nagging wife is like a faucet that goes drip, drip, drip...
A nagging wife is like a faucet that goes drip, drip, drip…















Remember when Anne of Green Gables complains that God gave her red hair?


And she asks Marilla, “Marilla — don’t you ever DESPAIR OF LIFE?”


Marilla says: “No, I don’t. To despair is to turn your back on God.”



My husband was confident God was good, and that led to his joyful spirit, even in the face of great pain. Everyone talked of his laugh and his encouraging ways. Here is my daughter-in-law, Julie, sharing about Steve at his funeral:

Jessamyn Eve and Julie Brestin in 2009
Jessamyn Eve and Julie Brestin in 2009



Julie, as you can tell, is a gentle soul. Our son John, her husband, is a leader with a strong will. Like his mother, he is often very confident that he is right.

At their wedding, the pastor began to give a word of warning to John. He began, “John, I know you are strong-willed…” But before he could say anymore, Steve, seated in the front row, BROKE OUT into laughter, that contagious laugh, and  soon the whole congregation, John’s bride, and the pastor was laughing.

Then the pastor said, “I guess my point has been made.” John turned to his dad, shaking his head, a bit embarrassed, but laughing as well.

This next picture was taken when Steve was dying from cancer, but still having fun with his three girls and daughter-in-law, who had just done crazy things with their hair. He told them they looked like they should be in a rock band. (Annie is hidden, behind him, her dark hair thrown over his head.) He died four months after this picture was taken.

Dad and the Rock Band
Beth, Annie (hidden behind Steve) Steve, Julie, Sally (with dyed hair)

 At his funeral, Annie said, “I would call him when he was going through chemo to see how he was doing, and he’d say, ‘Oh Annie — I’m doing GREAT! Aside from the diarrhea and the vomiting, I’m doing GREAT!”

How do we possibly stop complaining?

Sunday/Monday Icebreakers

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

2. Have you experienced the truth of Proverbs 17:22 concerning a merry spirit versus a broken one? Share something about it.

3. What do you think is the difference between a lament to God and complaining? (This is challenging, I know, but important!)

Monday/Wednesday Bible Study

They forgot his works...and did not trust His saving power
He divided the sea and let them pass through it
But they forgot his works…and did not trust His saving power
Psalm 78:13 and Psalm 78:22

4. Read Psalm 78:1-6 and explain the purpose of this psalm.

5. If you are a mother or aunt or grandmother, what are some creative ways to obey the above?

6. According to Psalm 78:11-14, name a few of the miracles the Israelites forgot.

7. When the people grumbled and questioned God, why was God angry, according to Psalm 78:21-22?

8. Challenge question: How was the Exodus a foreshadowing of the crucifixion and our deliverance?

Optional: If you have never heard Keller’s classic sermon on The Exodus, and how to see Christ in the Old Testament, this is one of his best.

9. Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

A. What was the sin beneath their sins of sexual immorality and grumbling according to verses 6-7?

B. Why did these things happen to them, according to verse 11?

C. What promise is given in verse 13?

D. Challenge question: What do you think is the way of escape when we are tempted to question or grumble?

10. Read Philippians 2:14-18

A. If we carry out verse 14, what will we become — what light will grow in us, according to verse 15?

B. What do you think “the word of life” is in verse 16? (Compare John 1:1-4) How might holding  to this help you not to grumble or question?

C. Paul knew he was facing persecution and probable martyrdom. How do you see this in verse 17? How do you think, despite this realization, he was able to neither grumble nor question?

Thursday/Friday Sermon: Self-Control (LINK)

How do we develop self-control, whether it is keeping from grumbling, manipulating, or indulging?

11. Share your sermon notes — either from the free sermon or the sermon on self-control.


12. What is your take-a-way and why?

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  1. I didn’t have trouble getting the sermon once it was fixed earlier in the week. I have listened to it four times so far. It is so right for me. I want it to change me yet often I forget truths even though they so deeply affect me. Maybe I should write a prayer and put it in my list for a while. Anyway here are my jumbled notes. It helped me to listen several times before I tried to take notes.

    11. We develop self control by gazing into the beauty of the gospel, letting it change us to the point that our lives display it and then sharing the joy of our possession with others.

    I Cor 9&10
    Run for the crown of sharing in the gospel with others
    Traits of supernaturally changed heart are fruit of spirit
    Self control is one of these fruits
    Self control exercised in all things
    It is self command
    Synonym for freedom
    We all have trouble with self control
    Paul gives us his secret
    He tells us what it is, how it is born and how it grows
    Self control of athlete is Paul’s metaphor
    Greeks thought body (emotions) were bad
    Newer approach see suppression of emotion is problem
    Illusion of self control can be in a single driving desire
    When there are more than one driving desire the heart is divided
    Freedom and self control come from rightly ordered desires
    Augustine said that sin is disordered love
    Self control not mind over body but of loving supreme things
    Crown that will last forever is not salvation
    Our salvation is free, we do not work for it
    Goal that brings self control is found in verse 23
    Share means to share with others something you already have
    To enjoy it with others
    Word can also mean to participate
    It is not simply evangelism but for the gospel to be displayed in Paul’s life, our lives
    If that is the supreme passion of life it brings everything else under control
    How do I get started in that?
    Not with asceticism, with run in life
    Life is like a race and Paul desires to run for the prize
    We keep our eyes on Jesus as we run
    Jesus ran the race of life perfectly
    Gospel was also His goal. We are His crown, His glory and his most precious possessions
    This is a thing of beauty that we want to share with others
    A friend’s joy of enjoying a thing of beauty completes my joy in this thing
    Looking into the beauty of gospel will unite our divided hearts and bring all things under control
    The Bible, community and trouble will press us to look into the gospel
    Jesus handled every temptation by quoting scripture
    Scripture must come to mind because we know it.
    Open heart to a few other Christians who can hold us accountable
    No one can grow without tests
    Problems test our self control and help us to see when we don’t have it
    Jesus make thyself more a bright reality
    Search my heart, don’t let it be dark

    1. I have listened several times as well, anne. I am still chewing on this sermon. Lots to think about.

  2. 10. Read Philippians 2:14-18

    A. If we carry out verse 14, what will we become — what light will grow in us, according to verse 15?

    We will be blameless and pure; faultless. People will notice; we will stand out.

    B. What do you think “the word of life” is in verse 16? (Compare John 1:1-4) How might holding  to this help you not to grumble or question?

    The Word is the guide. It has always been here with us and always will be here. There is a plan for each of us; God has us under his wing. We should not grumble or question because His plan is being worked out all the time.

    C. Paul knew he was facing persecution and probable martyrdom. How do you see this in verse 17? How do you think, despite this realization, he was able to neither grumble nor question?

    He says he was being “poured out” as a sacrifice. He got to really know Jesus and understand His love up close and personal. He knew what was Important in life and kept focused on it without distraction. When he focused on the love of Christ he didn’t feel the need to complain or grumble.

  3. My take away is that I just keep thinking about Paul, and how sold out he was in his faith. I remembered this passage from Deuteronomy 15:
    “12And if your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13And when you send him out free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed. 14You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress; of what the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15And you shall [earnestly] remember that you were a bondman in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I give you this command today. 16But if the servant says to you, I will not go away from you, because he loves you and your household, since he does well with you, 17Then take an awl and pierce his ear through to the door, and he shall be your servant always. And also to your bondwoman you shall do likewise.”

    I read that these bondservants were more trusted than normal slaves and became like part of the family.
    That the word here for bondservant clearly meant a slave, and that because of the negative associations with slavery the English translations almost always use the word servant instead.

    It is clear that Paul had become a slave for Christ, he loved Him and had in total devotion tied his life to Christ. I wonder at this and thought about his contentment in any circumstance, being a slave he was content to be near his master and let the decisions and the provision come from Him. The slave who has chosen his bondage doesn’t feel entitled and thereby does not grumble, he is content.
    Somehow this illuminates much of Paul’s teaching for me.
    I want to be the slave who because I love Him will not leave the master, who will take the awl through my ear and through all of my life, loving and serving the Master who loves me. I am weak but He is strong.

    1. Oh me too Chris! His bond servant of love.

      1. An awl through my life. That is powerful.

  4. 12. As I think about what I want to take away from this week I sense a dissatisfaction in myself. It is time to change. The sermon was a real confirmation of that sense in my heart.

    I sat under JD Greear’s teaching for several years. I loved the truth, soaked it in like a sponge, but came to a place where I realized that it was not really changing me. I’m sure that it did change me but, it is hard to explain. I have been so content with all that I have learned about Him that I fell asleep. Now I am waking and ready to move into the deeper relationship of love with Jesus. I have been afraid of this until now.

    Many of these thoughts come from a reading that I found on line. I watch it often because it helps me to see the stages of relationship we go through with The Lord. It gives me hope for where I want to go. I see the beauty of His grace and it is mesmerizing.

    Chris, you mentioned how changed Paul was. I think about this a lot. He was a hate filled murderer until he met Jesus on the Damascus road. When we studied Acts I marveled at a man whose love was rivaled only by that of Jesus. Then I think, of course he was changed, he met Jesus in his glory and did not die. That was the awl through his life.

    So my take-a-way is that I want to look fully in Jesus’ face. I want desire for Him to order my loves. I can see how my life has been so fractured.

    Lord, I am speechless before You now. I don’t know how to pray. Maybe it is only that I be able to see You and Your deep love for me. Help me to move forward into the unknown. Help Lord.

    Here is the link for that reading. http://vimeo.com/7253613

    1. Anne, I listened to the reading today-and read your post..WOW..This.is.amazing.. I am so grateful you shared. I am saving this.

    2. I’m so glad you were both blessed. Feeling a bit sheepish that I did not share before. But I think this is also a good time.

    3. I like the drawings (paintings?) with this.

  5. 11. Share your sermon notes — either from the free sermon or the sermon on self-control.
    My notes are very choppy, but these parts hit me most:
    **whatever I most love, whatever my heart is most passionately trusting and loving in, sets the course for everything else

    **if my heart is divided…and I don’t have one single, over-mastering passion, then my life is chaos. (a few of you know I fear chaos!)

    Paul tells us “The great passion of my life is not to get salvation, I’ve already got it, but to share the blessings that I’m having.”

    **If you want to run well, look to Jesus

    Saturday: 12. What is your take-a-way and why?

    This week has been a roller coaster. The house stuff has been a whirlwind, but also a fun distraction—amazing how I haven’t worried much about my kids because of all the other stuff going on! I know there’s a lesson in that—even relates to the sermon in a way.

    But then yesterday I was thrown a curve-ball, a bomb really—that disrupted my past, my old wounds…oh way too much pain to write more. It will take a while for the pieces to be restored. I am thankful that my husband has known me since I was 16—and well, it helps that he knows truth and reminds me of it. I could dwell on what was dug up—but no.

    The sermon has spoken to me. Look to Jesus. I am His beloved, and He is mine. Oh, I am very emotional and must stop. Love you all

    1. Still praying, Elizabeth. Remember how much Jesus loves you. You are His passion and delight, as Keller said in his sermon on Self-Control.

    2. Elizabeth, I am praying too. I know that The Lord will Take this thing and use it to bless. I am praying that He will allow you to see it.

  6. Well, Ladies, now is the time to give our take-aways; and I am feeling pretty hypocritical at this point! I think I have been tested this week — and many times proved lacking! I was sitting in a line to buy gasoline on Tuesday afternoon, when I got a cell phone call from my daughter, Wendy, age 43. She had fallen at work, and now could not put her weight on one foot, she told me. Fortunately her workplace was relatively near the gas station. I went and picked her up and took her to the ER. They say her ankle is sprained, but a hairline fracture wouldn’t show up on X-rays for 8-10 days. Meanwhile I find myself hauling her around (oh, I neglected to say, it was her driving foot!) She does PR for a school system, and needs to take photos of everything that happens at the end of the school year. Now here is where my hypocrisy comes in: This is the week that I am supposed to be removing grumbling and complaining from my life. How ironic that I found myself grumbling under my breath, and complaining to my husband about how I didn’t have a life this week because I was having to meet Wendy’s agenda and not mine! I won some heart/character battles, but I lost a bunch more. So my take-away I’m afraid is that I need another week on the same topic!!

    1. Right there with you Deanna 🙁 as I grumbled and complained I caught myself and felt guilty. I will also work on it next week.

  7. I loved the sermon on Self – Control. It is so amazing to think that I am his “Rachel”. He endured the Cross for the joy of saving me. I know I don’t really “get” this or I would be able to endure all things because I am so deeply, unconditionally, enthusiastically LOVED! Wow!

  8. Oh my. Talk about a timely Bible Study week and sermon! I have had a weary week, but He is good. I have one ongoing trial and it comes in waves-but kind of exploded today. I am grateful because He has met me on this blog. I am grateful..God has brought the verse in Philippians I am memorizing to mind-and I am trusting He will move in me to align my desires with His in this-It is just so hard, yet strangely wonderful for this trial is His stone cutting tool to transform me. Instead of closing up I am honestly asking Him what is going on inside of me. I so want to fly free with Him and this trial can be a stumbling block-so it isn’t really the issue that needs to be removed rather it is the weed in my heart that needs to be pulled.

    So pray for me this week that as He is bringing this to the surface that I would listen and humble myself and yield-HE is passionate for me and delights in me, and I am HIS! I have been clinging to that more and more as I confess my wicked heart to Him.

    1. Praying for you as you go through this trial. May you come forth as gold. Yes, “HE is passionate for me and delights in me, and I am HIS!” Amen.

      1. Diane, He is using you to inspire me-I so see Him in you.


    She is out of money with no healthcare other than Medicaid now. “They” say she can no longer have physical therapy because she has run out of days. Her head wound is all better and she is very cognizant (smart woman). The problem is that THEY let a pressure ulcer on her bum get to be as big as my fist. She did not have this going into the hospital last October. It is a vicious cycle; if we try hard to heal the wound but have no PT, she wastes away physically. We can’t heal the the wound without her being able to stand and start to walk to get things flowing. I am so frustrated because I am 1000 miles away from her and can’t do much. I don’t have enough money to hire a private PT, and the rehab probably wouldn’t let me anyway. It is hard to sit by and not be able to help your mother. I am going to be with her for the month of July but not sure how much help I will be. I will take Sarah and we will force her to get up if we have to every day. I just hope we have the strength to do it. I am an excellent pseudo physical therapist because of my dance background, but there is a set way to pick people up without hurting them. That is what I am afraid of. Please pray for us.

    1. Oh, this is hard, Laura – dancer. Praying for your mom and for wisdom for you.