“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” ~Philippians 4:11-13~
Are you satisfied? It is pretty obvious that the answer is often no. I am not saying it is wrong to want things in this life, but why do you find yourself so frustrated with the absence of those things? The problem is not that you want evil things. The things you want are generally good, or at least harmless in themselves. But more than wanting, you become frustrated by not having. You beome jealous, envious, and discontented with your life. It is true; you need what you lack, but what you lack is satisfaction in Jesus.
When you find your deepest satisfaction in jesus, you are protected from bitterness in times of want and pride in times of abundance. The world and all good gifts within it are temporal blessings. For you, Christian, their presence should remind you of the Giver, and their absence should remind you of that which never fades nor can be taken away.
Paul models this well for you. He knows the secret of being content whether he has abundance or nothing at all, for he has found his ultimate satisfaction in Jesus. On the one hand, you know what it is like to have an abundance and then struggle with the extremes of guilt and greed. Both of these responses stem from your focus on the worldly gifts themselves instead of on the generosity of the Giver of such gifts. False guilt rises up in times of abundance as you focus on your unworthiness. But this gift only leads you deeper into an unhealthy kind of spiritual navel-gazing that ignores the goodness and generosity of God. He gives lavishly in many ways–in this life and the life to come–and all forms of his goodness to you are grounded in your union with Jesus. Greed rises up in times of abundance as you develop a sense of entitlement.
Both guilt and greed in times of abundance are the responses of your heart when Jesus is not more glorious to you than the worldly gifts God has also given. If Jesus is your greatest treasure, you respond to God’s generosity in all areas of life with great joy and the desires to share what God has given you–both the worldly goods and the heavenly gospel.
On the other hand, you know what it is like to have little in this world and then struggle with jealousy and bitterness. But the root of the problem is the same–Jesus is not your greatest treasure. Jesus is enough. Do you believe that? Can you say, with the author of Hebrews, that you can be content with whatever you have because God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)? This is a promise made to us in Jesus. Jesus is enough, but what kind of satisfaction is only experienced when we understand our greatest needs to be redemption and restoration. God in Christ has reconciled us to himself, is renewing our minds, and promises to raise us from the dead, and we will dwell in righteousness and peace forever. If you have this, what more do you need?
From A Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn