We sat together over a meal. The person I was with criticized, complained, belittled, and griped for 50 minutes of the hour. Yet, the life that he has is one of comfort. He makes loud claims of faith and is not shy about declaring that he enjoys a real spiritual maturity. I admit that I felt oh so glad to escape his company. Shocked? Let’s get some context for that illustration.
I am sure you have heard the term “1st world problem.” Merriam Webster defines the phrase this way – “annoyance experienced by people in relatively affluent or privileged circumstances especially as contrasted with problems of greater social significance facing people in poor and underdeveloped parts of the world.”
1st world problems are things like slow Internet, a temporary lack of cell coverage, or a late Amazon™ delivery. It makes me embarrassed to admit how often I gripe about things like that when in reality those things are not problems at all. Does it weary you to be around a person who is obviously enjoying a good life who complains constantly about people and circumstances? I know there days when I do it and probably you do it too. It wearies God, too, for that attitude reveals self-absorption not God’s love!
Even Christians sometimes slip into confusing minor annoyances with true life problems even questioning God’s love and care for them because of the normal ‘issues’ of life that are part of being in this world. Let’s be clear. There are real problems and situations that cause real distress. I am not suggesting that we have to always smile, always be happy, to please the Lord. There is a place for tears, a time for anger, a need to make changes … but, I’ll say it again … we are too often angry about things that do not really merit the emotion we put into them! I am convinced that knowing God’s love and deeply trusting Him with each day will relieve us of much angst and create a heart of gratitude.
In our recent Bible studies at Faith Discovery Church we took a deeper look at the little book of Jonah. Remember him? He was a preacher that God called to go to Nineveh. He hated those people and decided to reject the call of God. His rebellion landed him in the belly of a ‘great fish.’ After he was sort of repentant, the fish puked him up on the shore and he went to the city where he preached a half-hearted sermon. The people responded. God ‘relented’ from the threat of their destruction.
Jonah was not happy about the salvation of over a 100,000 people! He sulked and complained. Three times in four short chapters he even asks to die! Talk about a miserable person, a self-absorbed man. Yet, the real ‘hero’ of the story is God Who keeps on trying to redeem this small-minded man, allowing him to experience hardship after hardship with the aim of enlarging his heart to greater faith.
Here is my core truth today.
Don’t try to minimize your problems.
With faith and praise, maximize your God!
The Word practically instructs us about the choice to live in rich faith. Soak in this truth. “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:15-17, NLT)
The ‘peace’ of which the Spirit speaks is not just the absence of conflict with others. It is a genuine tranquility that grows out of a profound trust in God’s care. As we lean into the care of our Father, we choose gratitude, real thankfulness, not just empty phrases that sound good. Then we are instructed to ‘let the words of Christ live in us.’ Our fundamental attitudes, our basic understanding about the world, can be formed by the Truth of Jesus – love always, forgive deeply, pray about everything! That creates a life that is characterized by worship, seeing God at work and adoring Him for His amazing grace and goodness.
The closing phrase of that passage challenges our complaining reminding us of a greater mission – whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus. We represent Him best when we gladly do what He asks, truly choose to serve selflessly, and trust Him in the depths of our heart to care for us, come what may.
Let’s choose faith so that we can experience the ‘joy of the Lord.’ Here is a word from the Word.
“It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. …The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15, NIV)
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains
Your love Your love Your love will never change
Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me
On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains
One thing remains
In death in life I’m confident and
Cover’d by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that
Can separate my heart from Your great love
Brian Johnson | Christa Black Gifford | Jeremy Riddle
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