Stop Whining and Start Winning

November 17, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I can still feel Colorado when I think about what it was like to live there.  Unfortunately, I don’t mean how I felt seeing how beautiful it was or the cold moutain air or anything awesome like that.  When people ask me how was it living in Colorado, I tell them that I wouldn’t know.  I lived at seminary, the Chick-Fil-A where I worked and the church where we attended and volunteered.  Those things happened to be in Colorado, but I was way too busy to notice.

be strong and courageousWhen I say I feel Colorado, I mean the pain that I felt in how hard that season was.  It started bad and got worse.  The reason I was there was to finish seminary, but I had hoped to do that remotely with my new small groups pastor job at my church in Conway.  I didn’t get the job.  I actually didn’t even get interviewed.  It was hard and hurtful.  The first real disappointment in my life.  Then we moved…in with my in-laws.  They were great and generous to do that, but it’s a shot at the manhood regardless.  I was delivering pizzas for a boss 10 years younger than me.  My car broke down and couldn’t be fixed.  The car we replaced it with stranded me 6 times in a year.  Right before we were about to sell it, it literally blew up.

How did I respond to this? Short answer: poorly.  Another short answer: whining.  I was so good at having a pity party.  I cried a lot and I yelled a lot.  At 28, I was unprepared for this level of disappointment.  I lacked the courage that was needed to face adversity and learn from it.  Rather than allowing God to use it in my life, at least for a season, I allowed it to wreck me.

I take comfort that I can say that I was like Joshua, one of the greatest leaders in the Bible.  Unfortunately, I comparing myself to his worst moment, but at least I can say that I am like him.

Joshua and the Israelites had just seen God do an incredible miracle at Jericho.  Now they were on to Ai.  Unknown to Joshua, Achan had stolen some of the treasures that God had forbidden.  As such, when they attacked Ai, God wasn’t with them.  (A fact that Joshua could have known, if he had consulted God before the attack on Ai.  Instead, he rushed in and attacked, forgetting that it was God that had brought them victory, not their soldiers or his military acumen. Another great lesson for another day.)

After their defeat at Ai, Joshua goes straight to whining and complaining mode.  He tells God that it would have been better if they had never come to the promised land at all.  He questions God’s integrity and wonders why God brought them all this way just for them to be wiped out.  Questioning God’s integrity is never a great option.  God, however, is gracious with Joshua and explains Achan’s sin and the solution for Joshua.

What should Joshua have done? Said another way, what should we do?  When a plan we are convinced is God’s plan goes wrong, what is the right response? When severe disappointment comes, what do we do?

1) Remember what God has already done. One disappointment does not negate what God has already done in your life.  God had just brought down the wall of Jericho.  He is still the same God.  The same God that has brought you to where you are and loved you and served you is the same God that is with you now.  You may not understand the what or the why of what’s happening now, but the character of God is the same.

2) Stop and ask God what’s going on.  The question is always asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?’  The answer is both simple and complicated.  The simple answer, as with most deep questions, is that it depends.  The complicated answer:

  1. It could be sin.  That was the problem for Joshua.  This is where the phrase “sin in the camp” comes from.  God was opposing them because of sin. The drunk driver should not complain to God about why he is jail.  The man who neglects his wife should not complain about her affair.  God shows us tremendous grace but that doesn’t mean that the trial isn’t a result of sin.
  2. It was never God’s plan. We become convinced that God wants us to do something, but we never really asked him.  We confuse what we want with what God wants.  This is also in play here.  Joshua never asked God if it was time to attack or how.  Why didn’t I get the job at my church? Because, for a lot of reasons, it wasn’t right for me.  What I took as disappointment and a trial was God protecting me from what would not have been a good situation for me.
  3. Your plan is off. I firmly believe that God is calling me to reach people in NWA through The Grove Church.  We have seen some success.  We also have had some things we’ve tried go wrong.  Why? They weren’t good ideas.  The solution is stop doing that and start doing something different. Why was God not with us? It was a bad idea.
  4. You live in a fallen world. Sometimes the answer is bad things happen to good people because those good people live in a bad place.  Don’t let the overwhelming blessing you live under blind you to the fact that we live in a broken world where bad things happen.

3. Listen to God and trust him. Too often we can pray and ask God a question but we fail in the obvious next step–listening.  God will answer you.  I can make no guarantees on his timing, means, or favorability, but I can guarantee an answer.  When faced with disappointment or a trial, reach out and then listen.  Then trust whatever he says.  Don’t go where Joshua went.  He led with a distrust of God.  He believed the worst first.  Even in that, God met him and gave an answer.  Then we see Joshua choosing to trust and follow again.

I am walking through a lot of trials with different people right now.  Some are doing well and some are not.  The difference between them is simple–they have the courage to trust and follow God.


2 Responses to “Stop Whining and Start Winning”
  1. Carolyn Loften says:

    Good stuff. It hits right where people live. It’s a wake-up call and it is a get going with God call.

  2. Nicole says:

    Good word!
    I think that sometimes there are trials that are chronic, and that is sometimes not taken into account in a lot of teachings.
    It seems to mostly be with family, or with a disability. Mine was with family, as a child, growing up in a verbally/emotionally abusive home, and going through that as a person doing everything in their power to follow Christ; to be obedient; to be a peacemaker…and from the voices around me just hearing condemnation, disrespect, and mockery…it was a very difficult time.
    I started taking my faith seriously about 11 or 12, and the following years up until really the last couple months….were really hard. My family, who claims to be Christian but don’t live in the truth, or in love, has went through the final spirals of destroying itself…and while I’m very grateful to not be in that negative environment…and also very heartbroken that things did not change….sometimes, the situation is not your fault, and the hearts around you are very hard, and you just have to endure it, and live in love regardless of whether anyone is following you.
    I know God used those hardships to make me who I am today, but despite my many prayers, and living by the Spirit…the situation really did not change, and actually only got worse and worse. It ended in my parents divorce, (my mom left) both my Dad & my sister (who claim to be Christians) living in sexual sin (as of now), and my one little brother addicted to drugs and totally against God in every way, and an entire family (including myself) who does not speak to the mother in the picture. (And please note, I am at peace about this decision. It was not made out of bitterness or anger, but out of respect. Maybe someday things will be different, but right now its for the best for everyone.)
    Add into that the Churches I attended (not the Grove) when I was younger did not accept me or my family, and did nothing, did not speak out…even when things were obviously bad…and never really cared.
    I’m in a good place now. I have good, godly women in my life who encourage me toward Christ, and I’m attending a small group and a Church (Cross Church Fayetteville)…but for many years, it wasn’t that way. It was just me & Christ in a very dark hopeless valley…his word sustained me and he truly was my only hope. I went to Church but I was not loved at Church.
    I would have jumped of a bridge years ago if it were not for Christ holding onto me and keeping me here.
    That was really more than I meant to say, but my point is, sometimes you just have to stand. Sometimes the only word to be heard is, God still loves me even though that’s not what I’m hearing from the voices around me. God still has a purpose for me even if I can’t see it. God is still Sovereign even though nothing is changing. And through it all…God’s grace is sufficient for me…his power is made perfect in my weakness.
    I’m 22 now, and really, I would say nearly my whole life was lived in that very destructive environment (with some respites, thank God), but it was particularly hard for 10 years…but God never gave up on me. He also didn’t take me out of the situation for many years. (Until really the last 2 or 3 months has been the finish line for that trial) Suffering isn’t always because of your sin. Sometimes you suffer for doing right.
    I don’t know what he is going to do now, but I do know his love and faithfulness holds me here. “Surely his goodness and unfailing love will follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
    Anyway, this isn’t a critique, but its just what I thought of after reading this. Sometimes, suffering is chronic and out of your control, and harder and more devestating than anyone told you it would be. But God is still good. He is faithful. Even if I had never seen the end of that trial, I know God had already saved me for a wonderful future in heaven. I couldn’t see it then, not like I can now, how much he loves me, and how deep his grace still runs for both me and my family.
    His Grace covers all my mistakes, and all the situations I really couldn’t handle then, from lack of knowledge, being young, to just mentally not having anything left….He filled in. I’m not a perfect person and won’t be for awhile now (haha ;) ) but He was and is enough for me. I still hope for my family to turn back to God…for them to trust in him again. It seems impossible and a long way off, but I know nothing is impossible with God.
    I look forward to heaven with all my heart (don’t we all!), and I’m also learning to be thankful for this life here.
    Anyway, just my thoughts and story about suffering.

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