My sister sent me pictures of her family’s new house. This was the first time they were home-owners, and I was ecstatic for them. As I scrolled through photos, I was astonished at the great work they did remodeling, decorating, and making the house their home. I was thankful with my sister for such a great blessing.
Until I saw her sink.
When I saw her sink, something happened inside of me. It was a large, farmhouse sink, and I found myself spending an excessive amount of time on the picture of the sink. I enlarged the sink; I looked at all of the sink’s details apparent in the photo; I drooled over the sink, and then I promptly texted my husband and informed him that we needed a new sink.
“Why? Our sink is perfectly fine.”
“Because. We need a new one.”
“What kind of sink?”
“A farmhouse one. I’ll send you a picture…”
I literally pulled out the measuring tape and began measuring the countertops to see how complicated it was going to be to install my new sink. It wasn’t until later that evening, after googling over an hour “how to install a farmhouse sink,” that I had a convicting realization: I’m being ridiculous.
But envy does this. It sneaks in deceptively, though often quickly, and entices us to want what we don’t have. Whether or not we actually need it becomes a moot point because our desire to have better – to have more – overtakes our ability to be content with what is right in front of us. It’s a beast that is difficult to overcome, but if we don’t fight against it, we hold contentment at bay and settle for a spirit of dissatisfaction.
Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Paul experienced times of plenty and times of want, and in either place, contentment can be hard to find. Envy lures whether we have more than we need or whether we wonder how we’ll make it financially to the end of the month. Simply scrolling through social media can tempt our hearts to covet. We want what’s in front of our eyes: better vacations like those families, kids who are successful like them, and work that fulfills like hers.
So, tell us, Paul. How do we find contentment?
The apostle continues in the next verse saying, “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.” Paul learned contentment. It wasn’t something that happened magically; it wasn’t something that he was born understanding, but he learned it. His words reveal a lesson that was absorbed over time but that will remain a part of his life forever.
To learn something takes discipline. We don’t become content by our own power but through the power of Jesus working in us. Every day we need the help of Jesus in making the changes necessary to fight off envy. We choose to sit in a state of want when we have enough and disquiet when we don’t have much. Paul himself makes the disciplined choice to not grumble and complain about his own needs.
What areas of life do you need to seek the Lord’s help in choosing contentment over envy? Where are you most often tempted in this way? We can let our minds wander and spill over all we wish we had; our tongues follow suit with complaint over what we do have. Ask the Lord to help you stop glancing at your neighbor’s plot, and instead look around at what he has provided for you right here and right now. When we choose contentment, we realize just how much we have to be grateful for.
Trusting the Provider
Paul continues with words of assurance in verse 19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” It’s not that the Lord might supply our needs, but in unabashed trust of His Savior, Paul says what is true about God: He WILL provide for His children. The provisions may not look how we imagine them, but our faithful Savior knows our needs better than we do, and His loving hand will provide according to His will.
And not only does God provide, but He will give us the strength needed to be content in our circumstances. Paul affirms, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This is not some superpower God gives us to climb walls and do the unthinkable, but it’s a unique strength that God gives in order to be content in Him and in the place He has called us.
Notice that Paul does not say, “I can do all things because God strengthens me,” but he says I can do all this, I can be content “through him who strengthens me.” Because we are in Christ, we share in all the blessings that Christ does, including his strength. It’s that power, that strength at work within that allows us to trust the Lord no matter what our circumstances and overcome the enticement of coveting what someone else has.
The more we lean into Jesus and learn to trust Him, the more our soul will feel settled by Him. There is no possession on this earth, including a farmhouse sink, that can fill our soul to overflowing. And there is not a person or a place in all of the world that can give us true contentment. But Jesus can. And the beautiful reality is that He is all we truly need.
About the Author:
Katie is wife to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in Kirkwood, MO, and together they have three children, Ella, J-Rod, and Lily. Katie works as the music director at Trinity and serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee. She also spends much of her time writing, playing piano, leading women’s Bible studies, and speaking to women’s groups about the joy she has found in Christ. Katie graduated from Covenant College with a BA in English Education and has served on the board of Covenant. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. For more information, as well as various blog entries, you can visit her website at www.katiepolski.com