A Christian Cure for Discontentment Pt. 2
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13, ESV).
In part one we looked at how the foundation of Christian contentment, the contentment instilled in the Christian by God, is grounded in who God is. Namely, that he is sovereign, good, and wise. Everything that happens is directed by God for good and wise purposes.
But how else does the Christian grow in godly contentment? What else does God teach the Christian in "the school of contentment"?
Desiring God’s Will to Be Done
The contented Christian learns and understands that God's will above all else is desirable.
Critical in understanding how this leads to contentment is the fact that the contented heart desires what it already has and has what it already desires.
A heart will never remain content when it seeks contentment in getting what it doesn’t have.
We’ve all experienced the never-ending cycle of this. I think it’s best illustrated by Christmas morning. The satisfaction gained from getting the present we want quickly fades and is replaced by a heart longing for something else.
However, a contented heart is not fixated on what it does not have. The contented heart is one that desires what it will always have, God’s will being done.
Paul declares to the church at Ephesus that God “...works all things according to the counsel of his will...” (Eph 1:11, ESV).
God’s will is always being accomplished. If a person desires God’s will to be done above all else, then they already have (and will always have) what they desire. In always having what they desire, they can always be content.
I think this is best seen in the life of Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ praying to the Father desires that he would not have to endure the cross. But he desires something even more than that – he desires that his Father’s will be done.
And so, let’s say a person finds out that a loved one has cancer. They can be sorrowful, as Christ was in the garden, they can desire healing, they can urge and plead with God for healing, all while desiring more that God’s will be done.
Then whatever happens, whether they are healed or not, a person can be content (even while sorrowful) because what they desired above all else was God’s will and God’s will happened.
God is the Source of All Blessing
So far we have seen that God teaches the Christian contentment as they grow in their desire for God’s will to be done above all else.
God also teaches the Christian contentment through an understanding that God is the source of all blessing.
When I was a child, my family used to go to this restaurant called Sweet Tomatoes. I loved going there because they had a soft-serve ice cream maker with a topping bar. You could have as much of it as you wanted for free. Now, imagine a child made a cone. They start walking back to the table and drop it. They then proceed to throw a fit. How would you as a parent respond? Well, you will likely remind them they have free access to the source of the ice cream.
In this world, God communicates his goodness to us often through things. We enjoy his creation, an ice cream cone, health, loved ones, nature, and many more things.
Ultimately, what is the source of our enjoyment of these things?
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).
God. God is the source of all goodness, enjoyment, and fulfillment – the things are not in themselves, ultimately the source.
For the Christian, we have the source; we have a relationship with the fount of all blessings. And so, if our health diminishes, if we lose a job, if things don’t work out in life the way that we had hoped, what do we still have? The source of all goodness, all enjoyment, all fulfillment – God himself.
A stream may be blocked up, but need we be discontented if we have the water source?
Weighing What I Deserve and What God Has Given Me
The contented heart not only considers who God is, desires God’s will, and looks to him as the fount of all blessings; the contented person also understands what they deserve and what God has given them instead.
Often, at the heart of discontentment is the belief that we deserve something better. It’s a belief that something isn’t fair. Why do they get x,y,z, and I don’t?
But what is it that we deserve in this life?
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
What is it that you and I have worked harder to earn in this life than anything else? Death, eternal death, the wrath of a God who loves goodness and hates evil poured upon us for our sin against him. This is the only thing we truly deserve—eternal punishment.
Anything other than this, for believer and unbeliever alike, is the grace of God giving us what we don’t deserve.
That we should be able to enjoy the taste of food, enjoy friendship and family, that we can fall asleep at night after a hard day, that we can put our sin tainted feet on God’s good creation for even a second is a grace of God.
These things are all God’s common grace shown to humanity. What about the special grace he has shown the Christian?
Instead of giving us eternal death, what has he given us? Eternal life. Instead of giving us his infinite just wrath, what has he given us? His infinite gracious love.
And how was grace purchased for us? Through the life and death of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. That Christ obeyed perfectly where we have disobeyed. That Christ was perfectly content with God the Father’s will where we have been discontent. That Christ perfectly desires the Father’s will to be done even when it meant his death on the cross, even if it meant the wrath of God for our sin poured upon him. We enjoy the infinite blessing and favor of God upon our life because our sin is paid for, and Christ’s righteousness is in our account.
And so if God’s infinite, good, wise plan for our life includes much loss, sorrow, want, and suffering, does it ever displace his infinite grace towards me? No.
Even amid great loss, sorrow, want, and suffering, we can have hope that the God who has been infinitely gracious toward us has ordained those things for our good.
The Christian, above all others, can be content knowing who God is, desiring his will be done, and remembering his grace toward us.
Stephen Duarte (ME, National University; working on MATS, Reformed Baptist Seminary) is a pastor at Parkside Bible Fellowship in Fallon, NV. He is husband to Debbie and father of two. You can follow him on Twitter @stephencduarte.
Note: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors on this site.