Thou Shalt Not Murmur
A key to high morale

Are you a complainer? If so, you have company.

Our predecessors, the ancient Israelites, were masters at murmuring. Remember, God was personally, directly guiding their lives. He sent Moses to liberate them from soul-crushing slavery. He wrought miraculous plagues, delivered freedom, parted the sea, destroyed the pursuing army, and led the way in a supernatural pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

But when the water supply ran low after three days, what happened? (Exodus 15:24). And when they were wearied from their travel a few days later? And when they ran low on water again? And when they craved meat? (Exodus 16:2-3; 17:2-3). And when they were staging to enter the Promised Land itself? There, under the cloud of God’s presence, eating miraculous manna from heaven, even overlooking the Promised Land, “the people were as complainers” (Numbers 11:1; Companion Bible).

What was the reaction of the God who was giving them all these blessings? He told Moses, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me” (Numbers 14:27).

The spies who had scouted the Promised Land doubted God, slandered the land, and “made all the congregation to murmur against him” (verse 36). Their murmuring depressed the morale of the whole nation, and an entire generation missed the opportunity to enter the land God was presenting them. What a tragedy!

That same God is working in your life. Do you murmur against Him?

In 1 Corinthians 10:10, New Testament Christians are warned, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” Those Israelites died physically, but Christians are in danger of being destroyed by Satan, spiritually!

Murmuring is often subtle and half-suppressed, but it is always muttered with discontent and hostility. And it is embarrassingly common.

As in Old Testament Israel, living God’s way in the New Testament Church requires waiting, enduring, suffering and correction. You sometimes run low on resources. You sometimes miss the things you had to give up. You sometimes don’t know what lies ahead. And it is so tempting and so easy to quietly complain or ungratefully grumble.

But God hears. And He considers that criticism not truly against the minister who instructed or corrected you, or that policy that inconvenienced you, but against Him! (Exodus 16:7-8). Realizing this should stop us in our tracks.

God commands us, “Do all things without murmurings [complaining] and disputings [arguing]” (Philippians 2:14).

Murmuring is a leaven: It spreads—within you and to others. It discourages families and congregations as readily as it did ancient Israel. It demoralizes and endangers your spiritual fellow soldiers.

In spiritual war, we need high morale. “If you really have the spirit God wants you to have, the high morale, you are going to win three battles where you would normally win one,” Gerald Flurry writes (How to Be an Overcomer).

Replace the leaven of murmuring with the unleavened attitude of “[g]iving thanks always for all things (Ephesians 5:20). “[B]e content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5; Revised Standard Version). Be like Paul, who said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Yes, sometimes we suffer. But this must drive us not away from God but closer to Him, His ministers and His Family, with an attitude not of complaining or accusation, but gratefulness and humble supplication. As with the Israelites, God will put us through trials, but He also will miraculously deliver us out of them all!

Don’t make a trial worse by succumbing to murmuring. When someone else with drooping morale murmurs to you, seek to energize that fellow soldier. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2); “[S]o labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Respond with positivity toward God, His government and His Family.

Shine the light of a godly attitude to the Church and to the world by focusing on the joy of living God’s way, by God’s law under God’s government. In John’s Gospel—The Love of God, Mr. Flurry writes, “[T]oday, we should shine with a certain glory. Our faces should shine with happiness! Isaiah 3:9 describes how, because of Israel’s sins, ‘The shew of their countenance doth witness against them ….’ Look around, and you see many unhappy people in this world—people in the bonds of sin. We in God’s Church should radiate something entirely different! I believe that, in a general way, we may be able to determine how much star quality and brightness we will have in the future by how much our face shines today in happiness and joy. God wants to make you happy. He has commanded that you be happy! And He has instructed us in exactly how to achieve that: ‘If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.’ Conducting your life God’s way makes you happy!”

Avoid murmuring, and keep morale high in spiritual Israel. Follow this command of God, and your future will be bright.