“I really need that!” How many times have you said those words this past week? Or maybe it was your eight-year-old who has been impressed by the commercials on television who says, “I really need that, Dad!” And, of course, we quickly think of Philippians 4:19, which brings God into the process of canceling out our need with His provision. But what really constitutes a need?
How does a need differ from a want? When can we legitimately apply the promises of answered prayer to what we think we need? How does God view our needs? How different are most of our “needs” from those of Kallello Nugusu, a Christian farmer in Ethiopia? When famine struck, he was forced to sell his two oxen to buy food to keep his wife and six children alive; but with the oxen gone, there was no way to plow his field, save to draw the plow through the sunbaked earth in his weakened condition. Eventually, there was no hope for a crop. When he was asked what he would do when the food was gone, he dropped his head and said, “When my children cry because they are hungry, then it is very hard to be a father!”
It is one thing to acknowledge the needs of poverty and starvation, but something else to classify what we often think of as “needs” as legitimate items of concern which should not be overlooked in the distribution of heaven’s blessings. In all honesty, we have to correct ourselves as we pray, and add, “No, Lord, I really do not need that, but it would be nice to have it.” Valid needs constitute far less than most of us would be prone to admit.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
Item #1: Physical needs, or environmental needs, include food, shelter, and clothing.
But, of course, the spectrum of these needs spans the gamut from simplicity to extravagance. Whole wheat grains or rice have far more nourishment than meat or gourmet cooking and cost far less. When it comes to clothing, few have the attitude of John Wesley, who wrote, “As for apparel, I buy the most lasting, and, in general, the plainest I can.”
Item #2: Emotional needs.
Yes, these are valid matters of our Lord’s concern. Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind.” This past week, I have struggled to help a friend battling the monster of depression. There is no questioning the fact of need, and an area of hurt that needs healing. Yes, we can pray with confidence when it comes to these needs.
Finally, item #3: Spiritual needs.
It was because of a spiritual need that Jesus Christ left heaven and was born in the manger of Bethlehem long ago.
Philippians 4:19 says that God will supply our needs, but few know much of the context of this passage or the historical setting. Philippi, in Northern Greece, was a mountainous area, and the century before it had been the hub of a prosperous gold mining business. Eventually, the gold vein ran out, and with it the prosperity that gold brings. It was to Christians who had no gold that he wrote, “God, not gold, will supply all your needs.”
The promise is just as valid today, but it does extend to your needs, not wants or wishes. What happens when you define “need” in a biblical context? Two things. First, there is immediate freedom from the bondage of things, a simplicity that comes with deliverance from materialism. Secondly, there comes the means of blessing many, many people who have needs—real, devastating needs. And you’re doing this becomes a joy and blessing to you as well as to the one you bless.
Resource reading: Philippians 4:10-19