“If only...” Two words that without a doubt have passed over the lips of many of us. I found myself just recently whispering them. “If only I had that new iPhone, everything would be better, I could take better pictures, I could organize my life better:
I could easily fix all my scheduling, design, and planning needs, all with one simple fix.” When my wife saw the longing on my face she immediately said ”stop coveting!” Coveting? I’m not coveting; I’m realizing how much better I could do my job with that. Then a small shiver of guilt swept over me - covet: “to yearn to possess, to desire, crave, want or wish for.” Wow! My wife was right.
The truth is, all of us at times have seasons of discontentment; unhappiness with what we have, where we live, even who we are. Now don’t get me wrong, discontentment isn’t always bad. Unhappiness with your level of commitment to God or your degree of faithfulness - those are good things to be discontent with. But there is a dark side to discontentment and we’re all vulnerable to it. It’s a longing that says, “if only.” If only I had what they have, if only my church was like that, if only my volunteers were that passionate, if only the offering was bigger, if only I was in that situation... it can go on and on.
Sadly, discontentment is a regularly reinforced idea in our culture. All of us will never be content unless we get what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. Ultimately, if it’s not the right fulfilled desire, it will leave us unsatisfied.
Exodus 20:17 (NLT) addresses discontentment this way: it calls us out on coveting! “You must not covet your neighbour’s house... you must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
Some of us easily dismiss the tenth commandment because it deals with “ox, donkey, servants” and the like - I don’t want any of that! But look how interesting the last verse in that passage is; God closes the loophole that we might try to sneak through. “...or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” That’s a wide brush stroke, and it makes sure that we don’t just think in material terms. It could be other peoples success, abilities or the situation or career they’re in.
This commandment is just a bit different than many of the others because it deals with the heart. It deals with inward thoughts. For so many the answer to discontentment is to fill the void with something you don’t have. With this approach, we can be just as depressed, just as empty, and just as discontent as before when we don’t get what others have, and possibly even if we do. The problem: we’re looking for contentment in the wrong place.
A simple but often overlooked truth is this: the only place that we will ever find contentment is in Christ. Not in things, not in situations, not is success, not people and not even in ministry. True contentment can only be found in our convictions. Look what author Rob Kuhn in his book, “Christ Centered Contentment” says:
"The Bible calls us to allow our convictions not our circumstances to govern our sense of contentment. True Biblical contentment is a conviction that Christs power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity, believing in and experiencing Christs sufficiency. We have to choose to Rest on God’s promises despite what may be going on in our lives.”
If this understanding isn’t part of our DNA, we will always be in a season of discontent. When we don’t fall prey to this type of coveting, God offers opportunities to show us once again that HE, and only HE, fills our needs. I know that this is not how we see the culture around us respond to discontentment, but it’s our calling to be set apart and to show your church, your community, and your family a different way to think and act.
Romans 12:2 (NLT): “Don’t copy the behaviours and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person, by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know Gods will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
I never did get that brand-new iPhone. An older model will have to do, but better yet, my fulfillment, my contentment, my joy - it’s all in Christ.