Robert Jeffress - Choosing Contentment Over Comparison
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. What do people want more than anything else in the world? Money, health, comfort? Well, all of those things are just a means to achieve happiness, or so people think. Society has taught us to believe that contentment comes from being completely comfortable and lacking nothing. But what most people don't realize is that contentment has nothing to do with what you have or don't have. It all comes down to how you think. My message is titled choosing contentment over comparison on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Today, we're going to talk about the attitude choice that perhaps, more than any other, determines your level of happiness in life. It's choosing contentment over comparison. Nothing will rob you of joy in life any more than comparing yourself to other people, and yet we do it all the time, don't we? We compare ourself to other people. Now when I talk about comparing yourself with other people, I'm not talking about noticing that people have more or different than you have. Obviously, that's true. There are people with bigger homes, larger salaries, finer automobiles than we have.
I'm not talking about noticing that. Nor am I talking about trying to quench that desire, a God-given desire we all have to excel in life. But here's what I'm talking about when I talk about comparison. comparison, write this down, "Is an attitude of dissatisfaction with God's provisions for my life that leads to an obsession with having more". Let me say it again. "comparison is an attitude of dissatisfaction with God's provisions for my life that leads to an obsession with having more". In the Old Testament, the word for comparison was covetousness, covetousness. And it's interesting that the climactic command of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 is not thou shalt not commit murder or adultery or lie.
You know what the climax of the Ten Commandments is? "Thou shalt not covet". In fact, God said in Exodus 20:17, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor". You know why that's the final climactic commandment? Because every other sin flows out of that sin. Whether you're talking about idolatry that God condemns or adultery or murder or theft, every sin flows out of a dissatisfaction with what God has provided for you.
Micah the prophet understood that. In Micah 2:1-2, listen to this. "Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who work out evil on their beds. When morning comes, they do it, for it is in the power of their hands". Look at this. "They covet fields and then they seize them and houses and take them away. They rob a man of his house and a man of inheritance". In other words, stealing, murdering other people comes out of covetousness. Coveting what somebody else has is the basis of all sin.
In fact, did you know it was covetousness, this dissatisfaction with what God has provided, that was the very basis for the first sin committed in the universe? You know what the first sin was that was committed in the universe? It's recounted in Isaiah chapter 14. Turn there for just a moment to Isaiah 14 verses 13 and 14. It's the story of the fall of Lucifer. Remember, Lucifer was a part of God's highest angelic order. God had given him vast responsibilities over creation. He was God's number two guy in the universe. But one day, Lucifer decided he wasn't content with being number two: he wanted to be number one. He started looking at God and the respect and reverence that he had from the angels. He started looking at that throne upon which God sat, and he said, I could do that. I want what he has. And because of that, God cast him out of heaven, and he became Satan.
In fact, in verses 13 and 14, you find God's condemnation of Lucifer. Verse 13: but you, Satan, said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High". After God casts Satan down to earth, it is no accident that Satan chose to use as his basis for tempting the first couple that dissatisfaction that had formed in his own heart with God's provision. That's how he lured Adam and Eve into temptation.
Remember, God said to the first couple, "I've created this beautiful garden, and of any tree you can eat except one". And what did Satan do when he talked to eve, Genesis chapter three? Instead of reminding eve of all of God's provisions, he instead pointed her attention to one prohibition. God said, "Do not eat of this tree". He does the same thing in our life. Satan wants to distract us from thinking and thanking God for all of the provisions he's given us into the things that are forbidden. He did that with eve, and he said in Genesis 3:5, the reason God doesn't want you to eat of that tree, "For he knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil".
Covetousness, a dissatisfaction with what God has already provided us. And you look in human history, it is that desire for more or different that leads to all sin and rebellion against God, and it produces continual chaos in our lives. The Bible says in John 8:44, "Satan is a liar. He is the father of all lies". Let me share with you two myths that we often buy into that fuel our desire for more.
Myth number one: I can have it all. That's particularly popular in our American culture. Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. That is if you work hard enough, there is absolutely no limit to what you can achieve. You can have it all. No, you really can't. The fact is there will always be somebody who has more than you have.
Myth number two that fuels our dissatisfaction: I could be happy if only I had blank. I could be really happy if only I had blank. There's something out there that could fill the hole in my heart. Some people fill in that blank with a different job, a bigger house, more time off on a vacation, perhaps a different mate. We all think there's something out there that would really make us happy. But you know how most people fill in that blank? I could really be happy if only I had more money. For us, money is a passport that allows us to experience the things we truly think will make us happy, and that's why there's so many warnings in scripture against the love of money.
We read one of them just a few moments ago in 1 Timothy 6:10. Paul said, "For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and have pierced themselves with many a pain". Jesus said, "It is impossible to serve God and money". It's interesting. He didn't say it's impossible to serve God and sex or God and your job or God and recreational activities. All of those things can become idols, no doubt about it, but there's something unique about the allure of money.
And again, what it is is money is the passport, the key to purchasing the things we think will make us happy in life, but it's all an illusion. There is nothing that will rob happiness in life from you more than comparing ourselves with other people, falling under the myth of more, that there's something in life that could make us happier. Well, what is the alternative to covetousness, comparison? In a word, it is contentment. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, Philippians chapter four, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am in".
This word content is not a synonym for lazy or couch potato. And so let me give you a definition of contentment that I use in my book, "The road most traveled". "Contentment means being at peace with the unchangeable circumstances, choices, and even mistakes that shape our destiny". Let me say it again. "Contentment means being at peace with the unchangeable circumstances, choices, and even mistakes that shape our destiny". Contentment is the attitude that says I'm going to be satisfied with what God as given me.
It's interesting. When you look at the apostle Paul, he was never satisfied with what he was, but he was always satisfied with what he had. He was never satisfied in his relationship with God. In Philippians 3:14, he said, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus". But he was content in his material possessions. In fact, in Philippians 4:11-13, he wrote, "Not that I speak from financial want, for I have learned", underline that word learned, "To be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I 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 Christ who strengthens me". Paul said contentment doesn't come naturally, certainly not in our culture. It's something we have to learn. How do you learn how to be content? How to be satisfied with what God has given you?
Very quickly, let me share with you three secrets for learning contentment. Number one: "Compare yourself to God's standard of success rather than human standards of success. Compare yourself to God's standard of success rather than human standards of success". Before Paul met Christ, he was in the rat race. He was comparing himself to other people. He wanted to be the Hebrew of the Hebrews, and he was. He was taught in the school of gamaliel. He was circumcised on the eighth day. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. He measured his success in terms of other people. But the moment he met Jesus Christ, that standard changed.
He says in Philippians 3:7, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus my Lord". He said, "All I concentrate on is my relationship with God, not what other people do or don't do". For 50 years, dr. George w. Truett was pastor of this church. He had a great definition of success I've never forgotten. He said, "Success is knowing the will of God and doing it. Success is knowing the will of God and doing it".
God has a unique plan for your life and my life. True success is knowing what that purpose is and fulfilling that purpose, not the purpose he has for somebody else but the purpose he has for you. When we stand one day before the bema, the Judgment Seat of Christ, we're going to be evaluated not according to God's plan for somebody else's life, not his plan for Billy Graham or Lottie Moon or anybody else. We're going to be judged according to the unique plan God has for us.
Number two: to experience satisfaction in life, "Trust in God's sovereign plan in your life. Trust in God's sovereign plan in your life". Do you realize the most important parts of your life were all part of God's sovereign plan for you? Before you even drew your first breath? Think about the most important things about you, your physical makeup, your emotional makeup, your parents that produced the right DNA to make you who you are. All those things were predetermined by God. You didn't have one thing to do with it. If you don't believe that, listen to the words of Psalm 139:13-16. David said: you made all the delicate inner parts of my body and then knit them together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex.
It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion. You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book. What great verses to remind us that that unborn child in the mother's womb is the work of God's hands. It ought to be a great source of comfort to you to think that every part of you was predetermined by God and not only your emotional makeup and your physical appearance. But notice in verse 16, he says every day of your life was scheduled in God's book before you lived one of them. That means the other aspects of your life, your choice of a mate, your vocation, your children, everything has already been recorded in God's book.
Do you know God's design, his sovereignty over your life even extends to your economic status in life? We think oh, well, if we had money, we then could, because of our ingenuity or our hard work. No, no, it's all because of the graciousness of God. Job 34:19 says, "God shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they are all the work of his hands". Even our economic status is a part of God's plan, and that's why Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:17, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world, not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy".
If you're going to be satisfied with your life situation, trust in God's sovereign plan for your life. Finally, a key to contentment is learning to manage your expectations. We need to manage our expectations. Paul had a good way of doing that. In 1 Timothy 6:7-8, he said, "For we have brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content". Those are powerful words. If you know where your next meal is coming from, if you have a place to sleep tonight that's inside instead of outside in the elements, you and I should be satisfied. Anything we have above that is purely by the grace of God. God owes us nothing. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
Let me close by having you write down three statements that will help you learn contentment, three reminders. Reminder number one: "God's plan for your life is unique. Therefore, refuse to compare yourself with others. God's plan for your life is unique. Therefore, refuse to compare yourself with others". Secondly: "God's purpose for your life is based on his elective will: therefore trust in his sovereignty. God's purpose for your life is based on his elective will: therefore trust in his sovereignty". And finally: "God's provisions for your life come from his goodness: therefore be grateful for what he has already provided. God's provisions for your life come from his goodness: therefore be grateful for what he has already provided". You know what, it's impossible for gratitude and discontent to exist in the same heart. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.