Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Readings:
Psalm 113
Genesis 30:1-24
Romans 8:18-30

First World Problems

Years ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with a woman in my church, a former school teacher, who was 100 years old. Having been born in 1908, I thought it would be fascinating to hear what her life experience was in comparison to mine. I asked her what the biggest struggle teachers had back then. Her answer was both immediate and shocking, “children chewing bubblegum during class”. If only that was our biggest educational obstacle today....
 
A survey, compiled by animal charity SPANA, asked 2,000 adults in Britain to share problems they experience on a daily basis. From this survey, they developed the top 50 list of “first world problems”. Among them include:
  • A runny nose.
  • Receiving a phone call from an unknown number.
  • Being on “hold” too long when calling customer service.
  • Being in a place with no wifi.
  • Door to door sales persons.
  • Forgetting a password.
  • A cup of tea going cold (I mean, these are Brits that were being surveyed)
 
If we’re honest, our British friends aren’t the only ones that struggle with “first world problems.” Being without a 4G signal, sitting near crying children on a plane, or waiting in air-conditioned traffic too long, we all have daily grievances that would fall under the first world problem category. Poor us. 
 
When we joke about our “First World” problems, we do so with the unspoken acknowledgement that there are actual “third world” problems in existence. This reality is what makes our complaint both funny and ridiculous.
 
While the Apostle Paul certainly didn’t have the privilege of experiencing first world problems, he did experience an abundance of what he called “present sufferings”. These sufferings included (2 Corinthians 11):
  • Imprisonment
  • Flogged (5 times!)
  • Beaten with rods (3 times!)
  • Pelted with stones
  • Shipwrecked (3 times)
  • Constant danger
  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Nakedness
 
Most of these sufferings came as a direct result of his calling to promote the gospel. So, what does Paul “tweet” to his friends when speaking about his trials? 
 
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
 
In other words, the pain of the moment will be eclipsed by the pleasure of eternity. There is something coming that is bigger and better than the sum of our frustrating (even difficult) daily experiences. There’s a glory that will be revealed in us that will be worth the price of all the suffering.
 
Paul continues sharing with his readers a higher perspective,
 
What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:31, 35-39)
 
And that, my friends, is good news this holiday season. As you experience your next first world problem, remember that this present suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is coming. It is coming. Keep your eyes on the Prize, not the pain.

Rod Arters
Director of Student Ministry, Huntersville UMC
14005 Stumptown Rd.
Huntersville, NC 28078
(704) 875-1156
3910 North Highway 16
Denver, NC 28037