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 4:11–13)
In the race of faith, it is crucial to remember that our contentment is not determined by our circumstances. We often want to blame circumstances for our discontent, but that’s barking up the wrong tree.
Contentment is determined by what we believe. And our belief is fueled by what we’re seeing. So if you need to lay aside the weight (Hebrews 12:1) of discontentment today—the sinful kind that stems from disappointment and leads to grumbling—begin by looking at what you’re looking at.
Contentment Comes by Seeing the Treasure
When Paul wrote the words above, he was in prison (again). Prisons were nasty places in Paul’s day and he knew he could potentially die. The death he contemplated would not be pleasant. That’s why he wrote,
…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20)
How could Paul sit in prison, suffering regularly from hunger and exposure, knowing he might be killed, and say, “in whatever situation I am… content”? Because he saw the Prize:
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)
Jesus was a treasure to Paul. What Paul saw in Jesus was what the man in Jesus’s parable saw in the field:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
Fifteen minutes before the man saw the treasure, would he have been content to sell everything and buy the field? No way. Fifteen minutes after he saw it he was off to the auctioneer. What was the difference? He saw the treasure.
The secret to contentment in “whatever situation” is seeing the Treasure that trumps them all.
Three Steps to Get Your Eyes on the Prize
Sinful discontentment is a weight to lay aside. But you can also think of it as a gauge in your heart that tells you when your spiritual eyes have strayed from the real Prize. When it shows up, stop what you’re doing, look at what you’re looking at, and redirect your mind to the real Treasure.
When you recognize discontentment, the first thing to do is stop what you’re doing. Stop grumbling and complaining. Stop sulking or stomping around the house. Stop the critical tongue toward others that often comes from the abundance of a discontented heart. Stop looking at the covetousness-producing catalogs, Tweets and Facebook pages. Stop and…
Look at what you’re looking at. You’re discontent because you perceive an obstacle between you and your prize. Name the prize you want. It’s probably not Jesus since Romans 8:38–39 tells us that nothing can separate us from him.
Getting our spiritual eyes back on the right prize only comes by thinking. What we ponder is what we perceive. We’re discontent because we’ve been meditating on the wrong things and become weighed down with lead-like frustration. It’s time to pick up the easy yoke (Matthew 11:30) of delight in Jesus by doing what Paul instructed the Philippians to do:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Don’t let discontentment govern you today. Lay aside this heavy weight by fixing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), whose surpassing worth, when you see it, makes the worst circumstances this world can throw at you nothing but rubbish.