God's Promise to Provide
By Charles F. Stanley
Thanksgiving is a special opportunity to express our gratitude to God for His provisions and blessing throughout the year. But let me ask you a question. Are there any needs in your life that have not yet been met? Maybe after months of looking for a job, you are still unemployed. Or could it be that you are facing a lingering health issue that is still unresolved? Perhaps you are longing for a spouse, but the Lord has not yet led you to that special person.
I often meet Christians who tell me they have prayed about a certain matter, asking God to provide for their need, but He hasn’t done it. They are confused and wonder why the Lord didn’t answer their prayer. After all, doesn’t He say in Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply all your needs”? If you find yourself in the same situation, do you think the problem is with you or with the Lord?
To gain some understanding of this dilemma, let’s consider the basis for our expectation that God will supply every necessity. First of all, we have His promise, but its validity depends upon His ability to fulfill it. Does the Lord have the power to provide for you? Yes, He does. Everything in heaven and on earth belongs to Him (Ps. 50:10-12).
Since He is able to keep His promise, then we have to ask another question. Does He have the integrity and willingness to do what He said? Again, the answer is yes. He is always faithful to His Word and wants to give us what we lack (2 Cor. 9:10).
Therefore, since we have a God who is interested in every area of our lives and has the ability and willingness to fulfill His pledge, the problem of our unmet needs must rest with us. Let’s consider some common mistakes we make.
Sometimes we fail to distinguish between needs and desires. First of all, I want to clarify that having a desire is not necessarily a sin; however, some things we want are not really essential, and many times, they may not be good for us. What gets us in trouble is expecting God to supply things we long for which are not necessities in His eyes.
When I can’t tell the difference, I surrender my desire to the Lord, asking Him to show me if it’s important. Because I don’t want anything outside of His will, I ask Him to take away my longing if it is not from Him. Whenever I do this, He replaces it with something that is His will for my life.
However, some things we yearn for do line up with God’s plans for us. Whenever we want something that will contribute to the development of a Christlike character, He delights in giving it to us. That’s what Psalm 37:4 is all about. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Our goal should always be to take such delight in our relationship with the Lord and in His plans for us that we want only what pleases Him.
A second mistake we make is isolating a scripture from its context. Many people will claim the Lord’s promise of provision in Philippians 4:19 but fail to take into account the context of that verse. This guarantee was given to believers in Philippi who were actively involved in supporting Paul and his ministry: “I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (vv. 18-19).
The principle of God’s faithfulness in providing for those who give generously is found throughout Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. And according to verse 19, He’s going to meet our needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” We cannot afford to overlook the context, because it gives the background of the promise and reveals that His resources come to us as a result of our relationship with Christ.
Let’s look at the requirements that the Lord has established as boundaries around His promise to supply all our needs.
Obey. We cannot live in sin and disobedience to almighty God and expect Him to give us everything we request. Psalm 84:11 says, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Those who walk uprightly are not sinless or perfect, but rather, their hearts are bent toward the Lord, and they want to please Him.
God assumes full responsibility for meeting the needs of those who obey Him, but sin blocks His blessings. He will not support the sinful lifestyles of His children, because that is not in their best interest and will not bring Him glory. Sometimes for their own good, He lets them do without in order to bring them back to Himself (Luke 15:11-24).
Ask. Be willing to ask God to supply what you lack. What is your first response when an unexpected problem arises? Do you immediately bring it to the Lord, or do you resort to worrying, maneuvering, or trying to figure out how to handle it yourself? We are told repeatedly in the Scriptures to come to God with our requests (Phil. 4:6). Asking Him for help shows that our attitude is one of humble dependence and not prideful self-reliance. Even if we have the resources to take care of ourselves, we should still recognize that everything we have comes from Him.
Believe. Jesus often spoke about asking with faith: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (Mark 11:24). Christ wants us to be so confident in the Father’s promise to meet our needs that we count it as already accomplished before we even see the answer.
However, I want to caution you about trying to use this verse to get whatever you desire from God by simply “having enough faith.” Prayer must always be initiated with pure motives, or it is worthless. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Also, the requests that we offer must be in accordance with the Father’s will (1 John 5:14-15). Remember what I said about context. Never take one verse of the Bible and try to make it say what you want. Only by considering the whole counsel of God can we gain an accurate understanding of His promises. When faith stands upon truth and works itself out in obedience, then we have the full assurance that He will grant our requests.
Participate. God is not going to do anything for you that He has equipped you to do. Suppose I decided to trust the Lord to provide a sermon for next Sunday, but I put in no effort during the week to study and pray. Do you think the Lord would just drop a message into my head on the following Sunday morning? No. He has work for me to accomplish, and He expects me to do it.
Laziness does not merit any blessing from God. If He has given you the capabil-ity of earning a living, He expects you to work. I am speaking not about those who want to work and can’t find a job, but about those who expect the Lord to supply their income while they make no effort to support themselves.
Wait. God not only knows what we need; He also knows when to give it. Some of the things we’ve requested have already been answered by the Lord and are simply awaiting the ordained time for delivery. He has every provision planned and settled in heaven and is never late or early. He always knows the best time to grant our petitions.
If you become impatient and try to rush ahead of Him by doing things your own way, you’ll miss all that He planned to give you. According to Isaiah 64:4, He “acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” Although it may seem that He’s forgotten you, if you keep trusting and waiting, He will move heaven and earth to take care of you.
Accept. God’s way of meeting your needs may not be what you envisioned or hoped. Have you ever come to the Lord in prayer with an urgent request and found yourself telling Him exactly how He should intervene? We must be open to whatever way He chooses to provide. His path of intervention may make no sense to us, but by trusting in His omniscient perspective, we can often look back with amazement at the wisdom of His divine strategy (Isa. 55:8-9).
Prioritize. We must keep our eyes on the Lord, not on our needs. The proper focus is found in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Our top priority in life is spiritual in nature—not material or physical. If our main concern is what we need, then we are not seeking the kingdom of God. In fact, we can reverse this divine order by trying to use God to get what we desire instead of placing all our requests under His authority, acknowledging His right to give or withhold.
Since the Lord’s priority in our lives is spiritual, we can know with certainty that He is working in the unseen realm even when we don’t see anything changing in our outward situation. Sometimes the externals have to wait while He accomplishes internal work in us or others. Although He is committed to meeting all our needs, He always does so in a manner that contributes to His ultimate goal of transforming us into the image of His Son.
Remember, our greatest needs are not the most obvious ones, but those that have to do with the development of godly character, selfless attitudes, renewed minds, and surrendered wills. That’s what we should be seeking and asking the Lord to produce in us.
This Thanksgiving season, spend some time thanking God for His less obvious blessings in your life. For example, even though He may not have given financial prosperity, He might have produced trust and contentment within you. Instead of healing physically, perhaps He taught you that His grace is sufficient in your weakness. And through loneliness, maybe He gave you the comfort of a closer relationship with Him. By focusing on the Lord’s spiritual provisions, you will gain a new understanding of His ways, and your gratitude will overflow.
Questions for Further Study
Since the apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote the promise recorded in Philippians 4:19, let’s examine his life and see if he really believed the Lord would supply all his needs. As you read, look for ways God provided when it seemed as if He wasn’t doing a very good job of taking care of Paul.
1. Material Needs: Read Philippians 4:10-13.
What was Paul’s attitude toward seasons of deprivation? How did he cope? What valuable spiritual provision helped him endure (v. 13)?
2. Physical Needs: Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
Describe Paul’s physical condition. Why didn’t God do what he asked? What spiritual provisions did He give instead? What was Paul’s attitude about the Lord’s answer?
3. Emotional Needs: Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.
Describe Paul’s emotional state. What important spiritual lesson did he learn (v. 10)? How did others help him during his difficulty?
4. Relational Needs: Read 2 Timothy 4:9-18.
List the various needs Paul experienced at the end of his life. What did the Lord do for him when others failed him? Where was his hope placed—on his present situation or future blessings?