by Pam Farrel
Do all things without grumbling or disputing… Philippians 2:14
As Covid lingers on, I sometimes pause to reflect on the life lessons that God pre-planned for all our lives. It can help us navigate this pandemic that appears to have no end in sight.
As youth ministers, we led a bike trip from Northern California, along the ocean to Santa Barbara. The scenery was breath-takingly beautiful, but rigorous: a series of rolling mountains that escalated ever higher and steeper in elevation. We leaders knew this could be quite physically challenging to most of the students, so we designed shirts to have the week’s motivational motto on the back and shoulders, so the cyclists could see it bold before them on the rider in front of them:
Nothing’s too tough to make me complain!
That phrase capsulized Paul’s command: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2: 14-15 ESV).
The best way to integrate truth is to live it out. However, while reading a verse is easy, living a verse can be HARD!
On this arduous bike trip, I was hot, weary, and faint, (but NOT complaining out loud!). My repeated question to my co-leader spouse was, “How close are we to the finish?”
With optimism, Bill, would reply, “Closer than it was. Perhaps just around the next bend.” Then we would sing some worship song as we peddled up, up the endless steep grade. Finally, at the mountain peak we paused for a majestic moment, with a bird’s eye view of the ocean stretching out, wrapping us in 180 degree beauty. Sweet victory!
But my most lasting inspiration of this trip was forged by a few of the students. Before one of the narrower bridges, we loaded the bikers on the bus and their bikes in a trailer a truck was pulling. The trailer came unhooked from the truck and banged into the guard rail sending three bikes and a couple suitcases over the rail, down into the Pacific Ocean—never to be seen again!
The amazing attitude of these three teens was stellar! They DID NOT COMPLAIN! Most adults would have caved and whined but not these three brave hearts! One of the reasons they were able to keep hold of their positive attitude in face of this unexpected loss was all the rest of the youth group swiftly rallied to meet their needs. There were just over 50 teens on this “Nothing’s Too Tough to Make ME Complain” tour—and the vast majority are still walking with Jesus faithfully now forty years later. Today more than 75% of that group hold leadership positions in churches, community groups, mission organizations, pastors, counselors, government officials, and non-profit leaders. We were all transformed by this stalwart commitment to praise instead of pout.
Years later, we began our family, and vowed to raise children who could maintain a sense of strength and courage no matter what life might send their way. We hung a six-foot wooden sign carved into it; “Though shalt not whine”. If the boys were tempted to moan and whine over chores, mere inconveniences, or minor setbacks, we just pointed to the sign. When real pressures and traumas entered their lives, we would gather as a family to pray Scripture over that son often under that same sign. We would acknowledge feelings, process them with an attitude of faith, then stand strong on the promises of the Word. The boys took this “Can do” attitude into their futures. Now as leaders of their families and communities, these young men help others cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Begin your own Powerful Praise journal. Note verses that have carried you in the past, turn them into memes, verses to study deeper, and Bible art to help you navigate your future LOOKING AT WHAT YOU can DO, NOT WHAT YOU CAN’T. I daily remind myself, as I reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past, meditate on His promises, God will be the power to keep peddling forward.
About the author: Pam Farrel is the Co-Director of Love-Wise, author of 50+ books and co-author of the Discovering the Bible Creative Bible Study series. Go to Love-Wise.com to download your free 30 Day Infectious Joy Bible devotional .
Join the conversation: How do you keep from complaining?