“I know both how to be abased, and how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need…But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:12 &19)
My husband used to preach a message greatly used of God that pointed out the seeming contradiction of these two verses in Philippians. In verse nineteen, Paul promises that God will supply all our needs, yet in verse twelve he lets us know that under the tutelage of God, he learned not only how to abound but how to be abased, how to be either full or hungry…and how to “suffer need.” Suffer need? But God said He’d supply our need. “That’s just it,” my husband would say, “Sometimes our greatest need is to have a need; and you can count on God to supply it.”
Why might we need a need, you may ask. Well, the Psalmist said that looking back, he could see that his affliction had served to teach him the statutes of God (Psl. 119:71). Not a bad thing. Then, I’m reminded of Absalom in 2 Samuel, chapter fourteen, who, finding no other way to get the attention of his father’s captain, Joab, finally set the man’s barley fields on fire. It worked. And sometimes God has to do the same thing with the barley fields of our lives to bring us to His side.
If you have been a Christian any time at all, you realize that the greatest answer to any of your prayers is God Himself. He is our greatest need; and sometimes He must create another need to meet our greatest need. I read something recently by George MacDonald that I think says this best:
What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need—the need of Himself? What if the good of all our smaller and lower needs lies in this, that they help to drive us to God? Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need; prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer. Our wants are for the sake of our coming into communion with God, our eternal need.
I once heard a preacher, who was preaching on fervency in prayer, ask the question, “What’s on your ‘gotta have’ prayer list?” When I heard that, I thought to myself, after nearly sixty years of walking with God, I find that particular list to be short indeed. In fact, most of the time, there’s only one name on it. Not that I don’t have other “needs,” it’s just that they no longer belong on my “gotta have” list. My most precious prayers are the ones when I tell God, “I seem to need this, and I’d like to have that…but I “gotta have YOU!”