It has been a strange autumn for me in several respects. For the first time in my life, I was hospitalized with that crazy pulmonary blood clots surprise; but also it is odd since it is the first year that I’ve not been coaching cross country runners in a very long time (and for many years before that, I was a running news sportswriter).
I had the great privilege of coaching a lot of “star” runners – having 27 different kids achieve all-state status a total of 50 times. But the athletes that most stand out in my memory are those who were the most serious about the sport, yet remained also cheerful and compliant along the way as evidenced by the manner in which they diligently did their work each day.
There was one day when I was really pushing that great three-time state champions girls team through a very difficult workout. It was quite grueling, without doubt! And they did not like it and were not very happy with me – even uncharacteristically argued that I was killing them! As a group (I learned later), they decided they were going to ice me out by not talking to me anymore that day. Being a very verbal bunch, it did strike me that they were unusually focused on just running fast. After the last element, I was so excited that they hit all their target times that I went running across the WHS athletic fields to heap praise and congratulations upon them … which I did. But they did not turn their heads to even acknowledge me … instead, just went walking toward the locker room. I’m not sure what I said or did, but one of the girls just couldn’t hold it together. She broke from the pack and came back to me in tears saying she was sorry for ignoring me and just could not do what the others had agreed upon. It was so sweet of her, and also a very humorous moment. But she was such a great kid who always indeed did everything without grumbling or arguing.
Coaches don’t like grumblers or complainers … neither does the boss, nor does a parent. And you can add God to that list also!
As the Apostle Paul continues to speak to the Philippians about some of the attitudinal situations that were creating strife in the church in that city, he tells them to be serious about the execution of their faith and to do things without grumbling and arguing. Doing this would make them a “star” – for they would stand out like a bright dot of light in the dark night sky. The natural proclivity for mankind is to be self focused and to easily be personally annoyed – expressing that with complaints and wrangling with others. To be different from that tendency would cause them to particularly shine in an exemplary way, being also in accord with God’s Word. And that is a timeless truth that extends to our day.
As you read the passage, recall that Paul is writing this letter to them from a time when he was a prisoner. He could not be with them, and he appeals to them from his precarious position. Paul was uncertain if he would be released; and though he had an underlying tone of optimism, it was not certain. So we see him thinking even in terms of his legacy with them – hoping his efforts were indeed fruitful among these Philippians. He desired to be pleased that they were obedient and moving forward in their faith.
Grumbling, arguing, and otherwise participating in discord in the church family is really such a waste of time and energy. There is so much work to be done. And we all need to check ourselves regularly in this regard, to be sure we are not losing focus on what is most important. But we can be pleased also in the knowledge that it is God who works in us as we yield to him – not only to fulfill his purposes for us, but to also build in us an increasing desire to do so.
So, go be a “star.”
Philippians 2:12-18 … Do Everything without Grumbling
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.