A man joined the military, and he was issued his identification tag. It noted his blood type (Rh factor) and his religion. Following his name and serial number were the words “A negative Protestant.”
Here are some questions for you. Do you see dark clouds in every silver lining? Do you find the difficulty in every opportunity? Do you wear black just in case someone dies? If you smell flowers, do you immediately look for a coffin? Do you shake heads instead of hands? If you answered yes, you’re going to be seasick for the entire voyage of life.
There have always been two groups of people. Remember the First Church of the Promised Land relocation committee? One group came back with grapes, and one group came back with gripes.
Most gripers have a pained expression on their face. Charles Spurgeon was talking to some young preachers about the importance of maintaining a proper facial expression when they preach. He said, “Now, when you preach on heaven, you ought to wear a smile; joy ought to radiate on your face.” One of the young whippersnappers on the front row asked, “Well, Dr. Spurgeon, what’s your face supposed to look like when you preach on hell?” He said, “Just look normal, young man, just look normal.”
Where did we get the idea that the more religion you have, the more painful your face ought to look? One guy was asked if he was a minister. He said, “No, I’ve just been sick for a few weeks.”
Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the gripers are by their outside appearance. They have a religious smile until you’re around them for a while. I wish we could tell them apart so when I see them coming, I could run the other way. It would be great if God would turn all the negative people positive. But if He won’t do that, He could at least turn their ankles so we would know them by their limp.
The gripers are everywhere. In fact, a little bit of elder brother is in all of us — faithful, yet complaining. We are never satisfied.
I heard a great story about a grandmother taking her little grandson to the beach. He brought his little bucket and shovel, and she put a sun hat on him. After they were settled, Grandma went to sleep. All of a sudden she woke up and realized the boy was gone. “What’s happened?” she thought. She looked out and saw the boy had drifted far out into the ocean. People were in a panic, screaming and hollering. She got on her knees and prayed desperately for God to save him. Just then a huge wave came roaring in and the little boy was dumped right in front of her. She looked at the boy, then looked up toward heaven, put her hands on her hips, and said, “Lord, he had a hat on when I lost him.”
The gripers just look for a reason to be mad — like the guy who hadn’t kissed his wife in 30 years and then shot the first man who did. You ask negative people how they feel, and their answer sounds like an episode out of General Hospital. If people try to help, they just look disgusted. They don’t want a solution; they want to be miserable. Heaven has no sickness, no pain, and no problems, so people who enjoy being miserable won’t like it. I guess God will have to put in a suggestion box, or it won’t be heaven for these people. They’re against everything. If they drowned, you’d have to look for them upstream. They have the faces of joyless toads and live life with their lower lips stuck out. Some have been in a bad mood for 40 years. If the joy of Lord is their strength, they wouldn’t be able to whip a sick rabbit.
Gripers are also discouraging to be around. They say things like, “Nice suit. Too bad they didn’t have your size.” Or, “Great dress. Do you think that will be coming back into style?” One lady told me she never understood suffering until she heard me speak. Some people bring joy wherever they go; gripers bring joy whenever they go. When you see them coming, you wish you had an “invisible pill.”
Encouraging negative people to be positive can get very interesting. You tell them not to say things like “I will not succeed, I will not succeed,” but to say something positive. Then they come back with, “I will fail, I will fail.” Now they are not only negative, but they are also positively negative. They see the grapes, but they would rather gripe. You can’t talk negative people into being positive. It isn’t the facts; it’s their focus. Focus is like gathering evidence. Some gather for the prosecution, and others gather for the defense. What I have discovered is most people rarely switch sides. They rise and whine and then wonder why their life is a wilderness experience.
Here’s one more question. Is the land you walk on called “The Promised Land” or should it be called “Belly Acres”?