My God Will Meet All Your Needs
Philippians 4:10 – 20
My God will meet all your needs
Do we expect an answer?
There was once a little girl, who wanted to write to some missionaries who had been sent out by her church. And so she asked her pastor, and he said, “well, you can write to them”, let’s call them Mr & Mrs Smith, “You can write to them, but they’re very busy, so in your letter just tell them what you want them to know, and don’t expect an answer!” Which is, pretty bad, but the little girl’s OK with that, so she writes, “Dear Mr and Mrs Smith, I’m praying for you. I am not expecting an answer. Love from Susie”
Sometimes our Christian life can feel a little like that, can’t it?
Maybe we’re praying for something, Perhaps we have some need, And so we ask God, But maybe, like that little girl inadvertently admitted, perhaps we’re not actually expecting an answer.
And I imagine, that the more extravagant the thing we’re hanging out for,
The more extravagant the promise from God that we cling to, probably the less confident we are, that God will indeed meet that need,
Or keep his promise,
Or answer that prayer,
This promise, this final extravagant promise in our series of extravagant promises, is, a big one.
It’s the one that sounds perhaps the most like a blank cheque from God, doesn’t it?
my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
And so my question is, do we think that this is a promise from God to us?
Is this something that we would pray for ourselves? “Dear God, I have this need, and this need and this need, please meet them”
Is it something we would pray for others?
Would we say, could we say, confidently, to a Christian brother or sister, my God will meet all your needs?
So in a little while, when we’re having tea and coffee, is this something that you’re likely to say to the person you’re chatting with?
my God will meet all your needs
Do you think of the missionaries we partner with overseas, The Kleins in South East Asia,
Warwick and Caroline who were with us just a few weeks ago, about to begin a new ministry in Dubai,
Do you pray this for them?
When you think of Christians being persecuted, attacked and murdered in Iraq, does this apply?
I got an email this week from the Bishop of North Africa and The Middle East, and in my reply to him, I assured him of our prayers, for him and for God’s people in that part of the world.
Would you have added these words, my God will meet all your needs?
Or would we have to say, “I’m praying that my God will meet all your needs, but I’m not expecting an answer”?
Context is king
Well, what is this promise all about?
As with all the promises we’ve looked at in this teaching series, understanding the context in which this promise in made is vitally important.
I’ve been greatly encouraged in these recent weeks to hear people saying that looking at God’s extravagant promises together has changed the way they read the Bible,
People saying, “I’ve seen that I can’t just flick it open and pull out a verse.”
We love the promises of God,
We love to read them, and claim them, and believe in them, But it is absolutely essential that we understand what God is actually saying.”
And this promise is no different.
my God will meet all your needs
Just pick that sentence out, and it sounds like I’m getting my Ferrari, doesn’t it? I need a Ferrari!
Or at least a sensible family-sized car,
And a new computer, I definitely need a new computer, and, and, and,
I could make a list.
As long as I can put, whatever my heart is set on, into a sentence that starts with the words, “I need”, this is God’s promise that I’ll get it, right?
Some Christians have taught that. I have sat in a church, where the preacher used these words, to promise me and everyone there, wealth and prosperity.
But I don’t want you disappointed!
Let’s make sure we understand this promise in its context, so we’re not hanging out for Ferraris, or computers, or even good health, a spouse, relationships, if those things are not what God has promised
So what’s the context?
Christian contentment is independent of circumstances10 - 14
Well, you probably noticed it.
It’s about being content, isn’t it?
It’s a great idea to have your Bible open in front of you, flick it open to Philippians 4 if you’re not there already, and look up at verse 6, which is just a little before where we started reading.
Paul wants to teach or remind the Philippians, what it is to be content.
Verse 6, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And then in verse 11 Paul speaks of his own experience, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Verse 12, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation
So first of all, before Paul even gets to making this extravagant promise about a God who meets all your needs, he lays the groundwork to say a Christian person shouldn’t be, need not be, anxious about their needs, and in fact can learn contentment no matter what the circumstances.
And if that’s the pre-requisite,
If that’s the assumed knowledge,
That will definitely shape the way we understand the promise, won’t it.
Because a content person, someone who has like Paul, learned to be content whatever the circumstances, that person will have a very different understand of their needs, compared to someone who is dis-content, with their situation in life.
When Paul speaks of being content, he obviously means here a satisfaction regardless of circumstances.
When I was studying Health Sciences at uni, all through first year, they drummed into us one word, homeostasis.
It was a word none of us had ever heard before, but it was the word that really stood behind everything we were studying.
Homeostasis is the principle whereby the body is able to regulate and maintain all the essential and desirable internal processes, regardless of external factors.
If the weather is hot, your body adjusts various processes so you don’t overheat.
If it’s cold, different things happen, all in order to keep the essential things functioning.
That, if you like, is Christian contentment,
Not letting the outward circumstances of life sway us.
Not having our priorities changed, by whether we have much, or little.
And I think it’s just extraordinary that Paul speaks of learning the secret of being content, at both ends of the spectrum;, whether living in plenty or in want.
I think if we’re a Christian, which probably most of us are, there’s an understanding of the expectation to be content with little,
We’re kind of prepared for that one.
I’m not saying it’s easy for us to be content in that situation, but I think we understand it’s important for us to be content with little.
But what I think is surprising, challenging, is Paul talking about learning to be content, when we have plenty.
That, I reckon, is the one that catches us by surprise!
But that’s the question for most of us, I think:
“Will we be content, with plenty?,
When well fed?
When having plenty, makes us want even more!
The theologian Miroslav Volf once wrote about what he called “the virus of insatiability.” Insatiability is the opposite of contentment, always wanting something more.
And Volf’s point was that no culture or society however wealthy, is ever immune to this. Having more, all to easily gives birth to the desire for even more.
I used to do a bit of work with World Vision, and I was in the offices in Adelaide once, and we’d been working pretty hard, it was about 3 O’Clock, we hadn’t had lunch, I was pretty hungry, and I made the mistake of saying, “I’m starving!”
The offices of a poverty relief agency that feeds people who are literally starving, are not the place to say that you’re starving!
See, actually, I’ve never really been hungry,
I’ve never really been in want,
I’ve never actually had to learn what it is to be content with nothing,
But I think that it is at least as difficult, if not more difficult, to learn to be content when well fed, and when living in plenty.
Contentment is not self-sufficiency
So what is Christian contentment?
Well Paul’s word for contentment is a word that quite literally he rips off from the Stoic philosophers of his day.
This was their word.
“Contentment” was their catch cry. And their idea of contentment, was to be completely untouched by any external force, and so to find within yourself, complete and utter satisfaction.
The Stoic person was the sole source of their own contentment. They needed nothing, from anyone else.
And the Stoics might be dead and gone, but their philosophy is alive and well today.
The career guidance books you read,
Even the posters you see around schools like this one, regurgitate this philosophy:,
“contentment comes from within”
Find it within you, be satisfied with whatever you can see or draw on from in here,
No need for any outside assistance, depend on your self,
But that’s not what Paul means when he speaks of contentment.
Contentment is Christ-sufficiency
Christian contentment, is nothing like the Stoic model of contentment.
Paul here contradicts that, and therefore contradicts the leading ideas of our day.
Contentment, for the Christian person, is not found inside.
Our goal is not self-sufficiency.
Our goal is Christ-sufficiency.
What is the secret of being content, whether in plenty or in want?
The secret is to depend on Christ for everything, verse 13, I can do all this through him who gives me strength
See contentment isn’t about depending our own personal resources, but being able to accomplish what God wants through the strength that God provides.
God wants his people to be content, whether in plenty or in want
God wants us to be able to maintain our priorities and our perspective, our spiritual homeostasis, if you like, regardless of our circumstances.
God wants us to be satisfied, in him, regardless of what we’ve got in our hands.
God wants you to look at your life, and whatever it looks like, in that situation, for you to be convinced that God isn’t withholding anything that you need.
The British author C S Lewis, famous for the Narnia books, preached a sermon in Oxford in 1941, and in it he observed that he who has Christ, and everything else, has no more, than he who has Christ only.
That’s Christian contentment.
To learn that to have Christ, is to miss out on nothing.
Some of the older Bible translations used to say, in verse 13, “I can do all things”, through him who gives me strength”,
Which has led some Christians to think that God will enable you to do anything you want.
Take first place in the City to Bay,
Drive from here to Adelaide with my eyes shut, “I can do all things, ”
But as our NIV rightly shows us, this is a statement about God giving you the strength to be content, whatever your circumstances.
Contentment is Christ-sufficiency.
How can you not be swayed, by the demands and clamour of your situation?
By knowing that to have Christ, is to have enough.
That to have Christ dwelling within you by his Spirit, means you can be content with plenty, and you can be content when you are in want.
And as Paul said, it’s something learned.
This isn’t an instant transformation! As if the moment you become a Christian, you no longer have any desire for more, the virus for insatiability is inoculated,
No, Paul says I have learned to be content.
I have learned to be satisfied,
I have learned what my real needs are, and what they’re not.
And I think Paul probably means us to understand, that the learning to be content, in times of need, and in times of plenty,
The learning actually happens, through the time of need, and the time of plenty.
Which makes this a dangerous prayer for us to pray for ourselves, doesn’t it?
“Dear God, please teach me to be content.”
“Dear God, please teach me to trust in you for my needs”, which means trusting in God’s definition of my needs, and not my own.
There may be some painful lessons in there for us.
As a child grows up, they become less dependent on other people, they become independent. Those of you who are parents of teenagers know this all too well.
But’s it’s the opposite when someone growth as Christian, they don’t become independent
They don’t become less dependent,
They become more dependent.
More dependent on Christ.
More dependent on him to meet their needs, rather than trying to meet their needs themselves.
As we grow to maturity in Christ, one of the things that we learn, is how to depend on him, not just in those situations where we think we need his help, but also in those situations where we don’t recognise our own need, because we think we have it all already.
How is this promise not for us?
But even though Paul had learned what it is to be content regardless of his circumstances, nevertheless, it’s obvious that he is pleased that the Christians in Philippi have partnered with him in the work of the gospel through their financial support of his ministry.
See there in verses 14 to 18, it’s financial language all through there:
credited to your account,
And what they’ve done, through their giving to gospel work, is offer an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
Through them, Paul has experienced God’s provision, and he is confident that the Philippians can have the same experience.
my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus
Here is the promise, that whatever the Philippians lack, God will supply.
And so it’s important that we notice the particular narrowing of the focus of this extravagant promise. Verse 19 is inextricably linked with the immediately preceding words, and in fact, there is some suggestion that perhaps we should think of verse 19 as starting, not with an and, but with a but.
Paul says to the Philippians, “you’ve given me these great gifts, but my God will meet all your needs.
Or as one Bible translation puts it, “and in return, my God will meet all your needs.”
We know from elsewhere in the Bible, where Paul talks about the Philippians supporting him financially, that they gave out of their poverty.
So gripped were they by the grace of God,
So committed, to the good news of Jesus pressing forward,
that they gave until it hurt,
And then they gave some more.
It seems that the Philippians had been such generous supporters of Christian ministry, that they had impoverished themselves, and so here, through Paul, God promises to supply their needs.
Whether God chose to do that through miraculous provision, or through the generosity of other Christians we don’t know, but Paul is confident that God will meet their need.
And he’s confident that God will meet his need, because he’s confident about his God!
I was talking about this passage with some people during the week, and we were commenting on Paul’s personal pronouns, my God, will meet all your needs, according to the riches of his glory, in Christ Jesus
For Paul it’s personal.
He knows that his God, who has supplied his needs, will also meet the needs of the Philippians.
He knows his God!
He knows that his God, is the God who has made himself known in the person of Jesus,
His God is the God who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us.
What that we need would God possibly hold back, if he’s already given up his Son?
His God is the God of Israel, the God who kept his promises to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,
His God, is the God who cared for, and provided for, and fed his people,
His God, is the God of manna in the desert,
The God of water from the rock,
The God who fights for his people,
Who defends the weak,
The God who created the heavens and earth from nothing with a word.
‘It’s 2 little words, my God, but behind those words is a great God, with a proven record of dependability, and provision, and generosity.
my God, will meet all your needs.
This isn’t the “God, if you’re out there somewhere, please answer me” prayer,
Paul knows God’s character,
He knows how God acts, and so he can confidently make this promise to the Philippians.
Having learned contentment, and demonstrated that through their generous giving, they can expect every need to be met.
That’s the most specific, narrow application of this promise. It’s a promise of provision, to a group of people, whose giving habits suggest they too are learning what it is to be content, and to depend on Christ,
And to this group of people, God makes this extravagant promise of provision.
And dare I say it, at that level, this promise doesn’t apply to most of us.
That sounds, kind of shocking, doesn’t it?
We are not the Philippian church,
Who partnered with Paul,
And gave themselves into poverty,
And even more broadly, it doesn’t seem to me, that many of us, and I’m not saying none, but I’m not aware that many of us, have put ourselves in need, because of our generosity in giving to gospel ministry.
That was the Philippians,
not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only,
you sent me aid more than once when I was in need,
They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And in return, my God will meet all your needs
But I know for myself, and perhaps you know this for yourself, I don’t have needs, physical, material needs, because of my level of commitment to the rapid spread of the gospel,
I’m not missing out on food,
I’m not homeless, because of a generous and all-encompassing response to the gospel of Jesus.
This isn’t telling us, you need to be homeless, or your response to God grace is faulty!
Plenty of Christians in the Bible had homes, most of them, probably.
Paul knew what it was to have plenty,
But here is a promise to a group of Christians whose response to God’s kindness in Christ was like that, and so God promises to meet the need they have because of generosity to gospel ministry.
That’s the narrow, specific, first application.
But it also seems that in the wider context of the letter, there’s another application too.
We are different to the Philippians.
We didn’t partner with Paul in the way that they did,
But in other ways, we stand in the same position as them,
We, like them, have heard and believed the good news of Jesus.
We are Christian people learning what it is to be content,
And so we need to work out how this promise of provision applies to us.
What does it mean for God to supply all the needs of someone who has learned the secret of being content?
Someone who finds their satisfaction in Christ, and not in their circumstances?
So what do we really need?
And so maybe, you’re a bit like me, and you’re tempted to think, “If only God had been a bit more specific.
If only God had told us, which particular needs of ours he’ll meet.
Because if we were to make a list of the things we think we need, I am very sure, that our list would in significant part, culturally determined, a reflection of our place in history and geography.
I get to spend a reasonable amount of my time in schools, talking to kids about Jesus, and one of the activities that I ran year after year at Heathfield High School, was to get these kids, 12 to 17 years old, to make list of things their needs, and their wants.
And what we observed, was that all the items that started on the wants, mobile phone, laptop, a car that I don’t have to share with my siblings, 7 or 8 years later, all those things are appearin g in the needs column.
I can’t be content, without them.
I can’t be satisfied, without them.
The virus of insatiability.
And it’s the easiest thing in the world for us as Christians to be like that.
To present God with my list of needs, the things I will not be satisfied without, without us realising that our society,
The expectations of our peers,
The virus of insatiability,
All these things have a huge impact on what we think we need.
So what do we need?
What does God think we need?
Or, if we ask the question of the passage itself, beyond their immediate physical needs that are a direct result of their generous response to God’s grace, what does Paul think the Philippians need?
And once again, context is our friend.
Because we don’t have to guess, or figure out, what Paul thinks the Philippians need,
What he wants for them,
What he thinks they should be content with,
And happy with,
And satisfied with.
We don’t need to project our needs and wants onto the Philippians,
Because Paul’s already told us, told the Philippians, what we wants for them, what he thinks they need, more than anything else.
Right up front at the beginning of the letter, he’s given a great long list of things that if they have, they can be satisfied, content.
And then he rounds it out here, at the end of the letter, so we have these two bookends, holding everything neatly in the middle.
Look at those words from chapter 1 verses 9 to 11 that are printed on your leaflet.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
More than anything else, that’s what Paul is convinced the Philippians need.
Notice that there’s no object of the love, “that you love for such and such, may abound”,
There’s nothing like that, and so it throws the emphasis back to the love-er, rather than the love-ee!
They don’t need to love, just some particular thing. Paul thinks they need to love regardless. To be loving,
For their loving character to grow.
Paul longs for them to have Knowledge and Depth of insight.
And for Christian people, knowledge doesn’t just mean knowing stuff.
Paul’s word for knowledge is a word that he uses 15 times in his letters, and every time it means knowledge of the things of God,
Knowledge of Christ,
Understanding the plans and purposes of God,
It’s doctrinal knowledge,
Specifically it’s the knowledge that comes to us through the Scriptures.
That’s a need, that Paul thinks Christian people have.
There’s plenty more there,
Being pure and blameless,
Filled with the fruit of righteousness,
All so, that they might be pure and blameless on the day that Christ returns.
Paul says, a Christian person needs to be ready for Christ’s return.
He prays that their lives will bear all the hallmarks of a relationship with Jesus, the fruit of righteousness.
That’s what they need.
And this isn’t unique to Christians in Philippi in the first century AD.
This is an appropriate prayer for Christians today.
This is the list of needs that we ought to be asking God to meet today, for Christian brothers and sisters,
For those in our church,
For those in other countries,
Here’s a list of needs that isn’t culturally specific,
It isn’t varied by whether we have plenty, or have nothing,
Here is a list of needs that aren’t fuelled by the virus of insatiability.
And so having begun the letter in such a lofty way with his obvious concern for the Philippians,
Such a great loving desire that they attain these things, back in chapter 4, Paul draws the letter to a close, saying my God will meet all your needs,
My God is good for that promise,
My God will answer that prayer, and give you the things you need the most.
Not one thing, they need, will be lacking.
Sometimes I think that, when we do the work of putting these kinds of promises in their context, and we realise that we’re not being promised the Ferrari,
When we see that the promise of blessing is often spiritual rather than physical,
Or corporate, not, individual,
Or eternal, rather than temporal,
When these promises highlight our cultural blindspots and cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the areas where we all too easily swallow our society’s norms,
When we realise we’re infected with the virus of insatiability, there can be a tendency, to feel that the promise has been watered down.
To my sinful and greedy mind, the promise of free Ferraris sounds a lot more appealing a lot of the time, than the promise of salvation,
And the fruit of righteousness,
And being pure and blameless on the day of Christ.
Even, actually, being in good health sounds a lot better than that a lot of the time,
I know for some people finding a job seems more appealing than all those things that Paul thinks Christian people need,
I know for some here, having a spouse, or a child, seems like a better option at times,
Even, a few extra years more life, for myself or someone I love, even that at times, feels more like something I need, than what Paul says a Christian person needs and can be satisfied with.
But actually, the exact opposite is true.
These things that call to us so loudly
Whatever thing it is that we feel that we need, in order to be content,
As much enjoyment and blessing as we might receive from some of those things, they are, in themselves, less, than what God offers you here.
Do we get that?
I mean do we really get that?
They are not the needs that God promises to meet in this extravagant promise,
Because God has his eyes on something much bigger,
God’s horizon, is much broader.
God has his eyes on the day you stand before Jesus,
Pure and blameless,
11 filled with the fruit of righteousness,
to the glory and praise of God.
It’s a promise more extravagant than any material or physical provision, God is most concerned about your relationship with Jesus, and your status for eternity.
And Paul is absolutely convinced . that God is good for that.
my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Dear Mr & Mrs Smith,
I am praying for you,
I am not expecting a response.
There’s no such uncertainty for Paul is there?
He knows his God,
His knows his God is able to deliver, on this extravagant promise to all his people.