“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
When we read through the Scripture we often come to a verse and think, I’ve got to remember this verse! Maybe if I read it again . . .
These words from Paul are just such a verse. We know that God has riches in glory. And we are certain that this is revealed through Christ Jesus. We might be less sure of how this will meet our needs.
Believing in God’s revelation and seeing it working practically in our lives can be two very different things. This may be why we feel we need to meditate on this verse, review it, and carve out time for it. We have found it elusive, yet again.
How It Works
The Bible is imminently practical. In fact, there is no more practical book on earth, but it is also lofty. Some years ago when William Miller wrote a book titled, Why do Christians Break Down? he had my attention. One premise I took away from the book was that Christians can break down (and the author included severe break down in this discussion: emotional short-circuiting) because we are patterning our lives after our perfect Savior. At times the difference between our reality and his example may be much to take.
Paul began the verse with, “My God.” He is not offering this promise to those who do not believe in Yahweh—giving them a leg up, so to speak. Rather, Paul is saying that based on his personal experience with the Lord, and he can promise God is effective to those who believe.
God will provide what we need, including the ability to follow a perfect role model.
What We Can Expect
Maybe we should begin by asking what exactly are “our needs”? Must our needs include prestige, promotion, high pay, status, or laudatory comments from our peers? If so, then on most of these points we have to exclude Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, Paul, and yes, even Jesus from those whose needs were met by God.
Paul said the “riches of his glory” may be the measurement, but “what is needed” is what is offered out of that incredible wealth. We may need to adjust what we think we need.
The model prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 shows us how this works. It does not encourage us to pray, “God, I know how wealthy you are, so can I have some of that?” Or, “I know you have the ‘cattle on a thousand hills,’ so might you sell some of those and deposit the proceeds in my safe?” No, it seems the prayer that Jesus offers goes like this; “Give us this day our daily bread” (v. 11). What we hope for is our daily provision.
Does God give us more than we need? Yes. Anytime he wants. Although we should not expect more than our needs, we can anticipate that God frequently likes to give abundance.
God gave Abraham great wealth, and a blessed child in his old age; he promoted Joseph from a well to the most powerful appointment in Egypt. To Ruth God gave a new family, a benevolent husband of wealth, and a name in the genealogy of the Messiah. God gave Solomon wisdom, and much more; and remembered to restore Peter from betrayal to prominence. God pulled Paul out of Gamaliel’s respectable school of training, set him on a path marked by tent-making and beatings, and commissioned him to write for all generations to read.
God can give abundance, but whether we receive abundance or mere necessity is not our choice. We choose to remember that the abundance of being given grace when we had no hope, lost in the world, is abundance enough (Luke 9:25).
How It Happens
God’s provision can come through intangible means, like the fresh spiritual joy that surprises us when we turn our faces to him. Or the very tangible check in the mail when we did not know how we would make it.
I cannot give details in this space, but within a short period of time all of the following things happened to me to verify my calling to preach. I told no one about these needs, but made my appeals to God through private prayer. I asked for the desire to study (while I felt called to preach, I wasn’t interested in studying!) and God enhanced this desire so that I became a straight A student in my seminary career from that day forward. I prayed for commentaries, and within a month I was given three sets by two people. I asked for suits, and within a few months two people offered to give me suits they had. When I did not have it, I asked for the money I needed to return to seminary. One day before it was needed, the money—in the exact amount I had prayed for—came in the mail.
When people asked me later how God might move so miraculously in their lives, I told them I think the common denominators are: being in need beyond your resources, being faithful to God’s cause, and being willing to submit your requests in believing prayer.
Trusting at All Times
Let’s not forget that our work in the kingdom of God is directed by someone other than ourselves. We want more control, naturally, but we do not have a great deal. What happens to us is not primary. We are to remain faithful to the call of God. God wants us to work, to plan, and to set goals, but ultimately the path is up to him.
Recently I came across a devotional written by W. Hay Aitken reflecting on God’s question to Adam and Eve, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9, King James Version).
Art thou hiding thyself away from Him who would send thee forth to do his own blessed work in his own way? Oh, let me say to thee this morning, “The Lord hath need of thee.” It may seem to be only a little thing he has for you to do, but it is an important one. He has “need of thee.” Turn not thy back upon him; put not thyself out of the way of being employed by him; do not begin by laying down laws for thyself as to what thou wilt do and what thou wilt not do; but cry out from the very depth of thy heart, “Here am I! Send me.”
King David said it this way, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord bestows favor and honor; No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:10, 11, NIV).
Dr. David Downey is a freelance writer, Life Group teacher, and discipleship leader living in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the author of His Burden is Light: Cultivating Personal Holiness (available on Amazon). Some of his writing is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-downey-0a78b7b6/.