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A sermon on grumbling

 

In this country there are a variety of hiking trails.

1.    In one park which contained several trails park rangers decided to put out comment cards.

2.    The officials were looking for feedback regarding the walking paths.

3.    Here are some of the comments which were actually written by hikers:

4.    “Make the trails wider so we can hold hands while walking.”

5.    “Trails have too many bugs, spiders; and leeches; spray to get rid of them.”

6.    “Pave the trails so they can be snow plowed in the winter.”

7.    “Install chair lifts so we don’t have to hike.”

8.    Here is my favorite.

9.    “Installing a McDonalds at the end of the trail would be nice.”

 

10.  Complaints are a big part of our world.

11.  In the opening of Acts 6 we read about a complaint.

12.  Up to this time there are few indications of problems with the first Christians.

13.  There is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, but this is about all.

14.  In Acts 6 the tone of the text changes.

15.  There are members of the congregation who are complaining.

16.  This is a fascinating fact because of how Acts 6 starts.

17.  In 1a the text says, “the number of the disciples was multiplying.”

18.  Normally church growth is viewed as very, very good.

19.  We do not normally associate growth with trouble.

20.  Here we find that growth can complicate things.

 

21.  As we look at our congregation we see signs of growth.

22.  Because of what we see it is a good time to consider the information in Acts 6.

23.  With growth can come difficulties.

24.  We hope that in regard to Goshen we will be able to avoid what these Christians experienced.

25.  If this is not how things go, Acts 6 presents us with some important pieces of information.

    

A GOOD STARTING PLACE IN REGARD TO THIS CHAPTER IS FOUND IN THE WORD MURMURING (GONGUSMOS).  THIS TERM IS NOT USED TOO OFTEN IN THE New Testament; IN FACT, IS FOUND ONLY FOUR TIMES.

 

A.   This term first occurs in Jn. 7:12.

B.    People were divided over how to view Jesus.

C.    Some said He was a good man; others believed He was a deceiver.

D.   The different viewpoints are described as “much murmuring.”

E.    The next occurrence of this word is here.

F.     We then find Paul using this same term in Phil. 2:14.

G.   He told the Philippians to “do all things without complaining” (KJV:  grudging).

H.   The last time the word is found is 1 Pet. 4:9.

I.      Peter joined it with hospitality.

J.      He said be hospitable and don’t complain about it.

 

2.     The basic definition for this term, especially here, is complain.

A.   Luke’s use of this word leaves no doubt that Christians in the past have complained.

B.    There was dissatisfaction in the Lord’s body.  There were brethren who felt neglected.

C.    A certain group believed their needs were not being met so there was grumbling.

 

3.     We are not to conclude that grumbling is good.

4.     We should, however, conclude that when gripes come we should not be surprised.

5.     If complaints were in the early church with the apostles, we will not be exempt from it.

6.     The complaints in this chapter almost border on being divisive.

7.     The matter was so serious it justified and required the apostle’s intervention.

A.   The grumbling in this chapter might be related to what is recorded in Acts 2.

B.    There were some Christians who had more than they needed to sustain life.

C.    Others were needy and received help from fellow church members.

D.   Acts 2 says Christians shared what they had with those who had need.

E.    Perhaps with the passage of time the sharing tapered off or became somewhat uneven.

F.     There may have also been a language problem.

 

8.     Grecian Jews spoke Greek; Hebrews spoke Hebrew.

9.     There was a definite problem and the apostles took charge of the matter – verse 2 – READ.

10. The reaction by the apostles provides us with several points of application.

A.   For instance, when a “grumbling” arises, who should Christians see?

B.    They should not go to other members of the church to air their gripes.

C.    Problems and complaints are matters that need attention.

D.   If there are difficulties, the right place to take the issues is the leadership of the church.

E.    In the first century, especially in Jerusalem, the leadership was the apostles.

F.     Congregations developed elders (Acts 14:23) and elders guide/rule/lead in a local congregation.

 

11. Today if we have gripes and complaints, the elders are the people we should seek out and see.

12. A second point comes from the fact that the complaint in this chapter was serious.

A.   There was some type of food distribution program and certain widows were being overlooked.

B.    People need to eat and being deprived of food results is a problem that needs to be addressed.

C.    The apostles understood this was a real problem and they took steps to solve the issue.

D.   Today when we have a complaint we should evaluate it.

E.    How important is it?  Is it something we do not like or is it a major issue?

F.     No matter where we worship there are going to be some things which are not exactly to our liking.

G.   After people have been married for a while they find out their spouse is not perfect.

H.   There are some habits and ideas we could do without.

I.      Considering the seriousness of our complaints is important.

J.      If we find our dislikes are relatively insignificant, we can probably learn to live with them.

K.   We might also be in a position to better things by doing some additional work.

 

13. In verse 2 we read about the leadership of the church responding to a complaint.

14. This is an appropriate reaction by elders in any congregation.

15. Issues and problems need to be addressed.

16. The benefit of doing this is found in verse 7 – READ.

A.   What is described in this account is communication.  There was a problem.

B.    This matter was directed to the right source:  church leaders.

C.    The leaders responded and harmony was restored.

D.   Not only was harmony restored, the church continued to grow.

E.    In Acts 6 we have a win-win situation.

F.     God was pleased because the church did not split.

G.   The widows were pleased because they got fed.

H.   The members who were complaining were satisfied because their gripes were tended to.

I.      The apostles were pleased because they could continue to do their jobs.

 

17. This account provides us with a model to follow in our day and time.

18. Not every problem will be solved as quickly or as easily as this one.

19. There may be complaints which we deem to be big but the elders do not.

20. They may offer a solution which is not what we had in mind.

21. At a minimum there can be communication between members and elders and this is necessary.

A.   The apostles might not have known about the problem if they had not been told.

B.    The same is true for elders in local congregations.

C.    More than once I have heard elders say, “I/we didn’t know about the problem.”

D.   This goes back to communication.

E.    For a congregation to stay unified and peaceful, communication must exist.

F.     This is certainly true as a congregation grows.

 

WHEN WE CONSIDER WHAT IS FOUND IN THE FIRST PART OF THIS CHAPTER WE FIND CHURCH LEADERS WHO SOLVED THE PROBLEM BY USING OTHERS.

 

A.   In other words, the complaint was dealt with by delegating the solution to others.

B.    There were seven men who were selected to take care of the widows – verse 3 – READ.

C.    Who were these 7 men?

D.   Some identify these men as deacons but this description is not given in the text.

E.    Neither are we told if these men did this task and continued in some type of special service.

F.     All we can say for sure is that they functioned in a manner consistent with a deacon’s work.

 

2.     There was a special way to serve in the local congregation and 7 men took on this job.

3.     Instead of trying to figure out what we should call them, our time is best spent elsewhere.

4.     The example before us indicates that elders have the right to delegate certain tasks to others.

5.     They may solve problems by asking others to come forward and do certain things.

6.     It should be noted that elders cannot delegate what is beyond their authority.

A.   I once had someone in a foreign country ask me about women preachers.

B.    The question was something like this:

C.    “Suppose elders delegate the task of preaching to a Christian woman; would that be okay?”

D.   This is not permitted because elders have no authority to appoint women evangelists.

E.    If you get a speeding ticket and bring it to me I could take your money and give you a receipt.

F.     My receipt would be worthless because I do not have the authority to acknowledge the fine.

 

7.     Elders can only delegate what is within their power.  They are limited by God’s word.

8.     When the eldership stays within these limits they have the authority to delegate matters.

9.     Delegation frees them to do other things as well as allows them to better involves other members.

10. These two points are explicitly seen in the text.

11. Verse 4 – READ.

12. The apostles needed to continue with other work so 7 other men became more active in the church.

A.   This congregation worked out its problems and the gospel continued to spread.

B.    Notice that the first Christians did not panic when a difficulty arose.

C.    Problems can arise in a congregation and some think, “The ship is sinking.  We’re done.”

D.   “Before things get worse with the congregation water we are going to leave.”

E.    The elders and deacons resign, the preacher quits, an half the congregation goes elsewhere.

F.     Acts 6 describes a congregation that worked through its problems and again began to grow.

G.   I hope this congregation never faces the kind of congregational crisis described here.

H.   If we do God has given us a plan.

I.      If we remember this and use it, we will be triumphant.

 

13. A study of this matter also shows the importance of church leaders.

14. Earlier it was noted that God has arranged for elders to guide local congregations.

15. Acts 6 shows the value and wisdom of Biblical leadership.

16. Using the leadership designed by God is the best plan.

A.   As Christians we need to pray for our elders.

B.    We should pray for their health, wisdom, spiritual knowledge, and their making wise judgments.

C.    This morning we asked for prayers on the behalf of an elder in the state of Kentucky.

D.   This is the right thing to do.

E.    Here we currently have three elders.

F.     We are fine for now, but they, just like the rest of us, cannot live forever.

G.   Who will replace them when they can no longer serve?

H.   Assuming the world will continue to exist, I will no longer be able to preach.

I.      Someone else will be needed.

J.      We need to be praying for our future elders, deacons, and preachers.

 

17. Acts 6 shows us the importance of good leaders and this should be one of our frequent prayers.

18. We should pray that this congregation will never be without a good and godly eldership.

19. Let’s pray that we will grow, be strong, and have sturdy leadership.

20. These should be our commitments if we are a Christian.

21. Tonight we hope that you wear the name of Jesus.