We live in a land of plenty! We are blessed to live in a country where you can drive a short distance to have a meal prepared and brought right to your table in just a short time. Look at a typical restaurant menu and think about the wide variety of food choices available at our fingertips.  We have more options than many kings and royalty had a century or two ago, and certainly more than millions of people who live in third world countries today.  Next, reflect on all the people and resources that came together to bring the food to your table: farmers, ranchers, laborers, processors, shippers, inspectors, distributors, preparers, and servers.  We live in times of blessing and plenty.

Which brings me to my point: Lately I’ve been hearing more and more people complain while at restaurants. I’m not saying anyone should excuse poor service or food preparation, but I wonder if in this age we have become so accustomed to the convenience of restaurant meals that we become easily offended when our food comes a few minutes late or isn’t absolutely perfect. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve muttered under my breath when my meal took a few minutes too long to arrive or wasn’t exactly what I ordered.

It’s not just about food and restaurants either: From cars, houses, jobs, and even relationships there is an air of dissatisfaction that leads us to try to fill our inherent incompleteness with more new stuff. When we can’t get what we want, our hunger can quickly turn into bitter, futile longing.   The Bible has a word for this craving: Coveting. One definition of the word “covet” is the following:

“To desire, yearn for, crave, have one’s heart set on, hunger after, thirst for”

Somewhere in the land of plenty, we have lost sight of gratefulness and contentment. Through videos, ads, media, and more, coveting is not only condoned but also encouraged in our culture.  Even for Christ-followers, as we live in a land of plenty, it’s natural to feel the tug and effects of discontentment that can migrate into the minefield of coveting.

God, however, doesn’t leave us helpless. He desires that we experience contentment in whatever circumstance we are in. One of my favorite Scriptures—Psalm 37— speaks to the challenge of contentment in challenging times. A key verse in this powerful passage points to the solution:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

(Psalm 37:4)

The Psalm doesn’t say to delight in God so that we get what we really want— the temporary stuff of life. That would be putting God below our desires, which is a form of idolatry.  Instead, the Scripture simply states that when God is the focus and goal of our lives and affections, He gives us more of Himself.  As Jesus once said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be given to you” (see Matthew 6:34) . God takes care of everything that concerns us when He is the true delight of our life.

For us to experience real contentment, we need first to ask God to renew our minds and set our hearts on Him and His kingdom above the temporary things of this world.  Above the human pull to ungratefulness and coveting things, God desires to teach us the secret of being content in whatever we experience, as Paul wrote:

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

Contentedness begins by choosing a new way to look at life and circumstances.  As Paul stated, it is something we learn from God and is nurtured when we make a choice every day to:

1)    Choose thankfulness over complaining

2)    Put God and His kingdom first in our lives

3)    Delight in God in both good and hard times

4)    Entrust ourselves to God and ask Him to change us from the inside out

5)    Confidently tell God our needs— big and small—remembering He invites His children to bring all our cares and burdens to Him.

6)    Trust and take God at His word that He will always answer our prayers in the way that gives Him glory and brings His grace and blessing to our lives.

7)    Wait on Him as He brings about answers to our prayers

8)    Move ahead with confidence and delight in God.

God-given contentment always overcomes coveting!  When we allow God to teach us a new way to go through life we will build a foundation of hope and confidence in the One who loves you and me with an everlasting love and has a bright, eternal future in store for us.

God bless you!

Chris Atkins