ALL YOU NEED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-7-57 7:30 p. m.
Now, this is the last sermon on the Book of Philippians. In your Bible, turn to the last chapter. Last Sunday night, we read the passage, but let’s read it again. We don’t ever read this Book too much or too often. If you so read and read and read it until it were second nature to you to repeat it, it would still be good to read it again. So let’s start at the ninth verse and read to the end of the chapter.
I’ve been so blessed in my own heart in preparing the messages on this beautiful, beautiful book. Next Sunday morning, we begin in Colossians – the next chapter, the next book – and this will be the last sermon on Philippians. Now, do we have it? Philippians 4:9 then reading to the end of the chapter; all right:
Those things which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content:
I know both how to be abased, and I know 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.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Notwithstanding ye have well done that ye did communicate with my affliction.
Now ye Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving but ye only.
For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
Not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
But I have all and abound. I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.
All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Now, I am sure that as I bring the last message on the chapter, you have already known my text. "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus": Philippians 4:19 which is one of those verses that you’ll find so often written when a man writes his name on a program or writes his name in a Bible. So many times underneath, he will write that little verse Philippians 4:19.
I remember some years ago when our Baptist Home Mission Board had a man by the name of Dr. Beale [Noble Y. Beale], B-e-a-l-e, and he headed the Indian work of our Home Mission Board. And he quoted and spoke of and so often referred to Philippians 4:19 until they called himthat. When they’d introduce him, when they’d speak to him, they’d call him: "This is Philippians 4:19." I remember, one time, he said that he received a letter in Atlanta addressed like this: "Philippians 4:19, Atlanta, Georgia," and it was delivered to him.
It is a very, very, famous, famous and oft-quoted, oft-mentioned, oft-referred-to text. And it’s worthy. It is one of the most gracious and precious and fulsome and blessed of all of the promises in the Word of God: "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" [Philippians 4:19].
Now, why he wrote the textyou have just read as you read the context – as we read it together – Paul is in prison [Philippians 1:7] in Rome. He’s in a cell. He’s in a house. He’s in a room. He’s in a dungeon. He’s underneath the palace, and he’s chained to a Roman soldier. And in that cell or in that dungeon – in that prison – there comes into his heart a ray, a burst, a flood of light, of joy, and of gladness.
The occasion is this: in his poverty and in his need, he has been remembered by his Christian friends in Philippi. By the hand of Epaphroditus, they have sent to him a gift there in Rome [Philippians 4:18]. It’s dark, and he can’t make tents and he can’t support himself; so in his need and in his want, in his necessity, the people over there in Philippi remembered him and, by Epaphroditus, sent him a present. All of this letter came out of that gracious remembrance.
It takes so little to make a good man glad. Some of our people would grumble and find fault over a sumptuous banquet of the choicest dainties, but this man in prison is filled with gratitude to God over a humble dinner of herbs. He is happy.
And you know, I think of Paul down there in the prison with his heart overflowing and writing this love letter to Philippi and above him is Nero the Roman Caesar. And I couldn’t help as I thought of the joy expressed in this letter of the difference between the two and which one was happier: Paul in his jail, chained to the soldier, or Nero up there on his throne, the emperor of the whole Roman Empire. It takes so little to make God’s man glad.
Now, his joy is not selfish. He says in the eleventh verse: "Not that I speak in respect of want" [Philippians 4:11]. He says in the seventeenth verse: "Not because I desire a gift" [Philippians 4:17]. He had learned in whatever state providence cast his life there to be happy, to be yielded, surrendered – to wait upon God. But, he looks upon – and this is the thing that makes his heart overflow – he looks upon this gift, this remembrance from Philippi, as an evidence of the grace of God in their lives: "But I have all and abound. God fills my soul. I am full, moreso having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you" [from Philippians 4:18].
Now, look how he describes it: "An odor of a sweet smell" – you know, the sacrifice going up unto the Lord [Exodus 29:18; Ephesians 5:2] – "a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" [Philippians 4:18]. He looks upon it not in terms of his own personal need but in terms of the grace of God that prompted the gift in their hearts [Philippians 4:17-18].
Now, for a moment, I want you to look at that in contrast with the Greco-Roman world into which Paul went preaching the gospel. That world was so inured and hardened to poverty and to blood and to suffering. If for no other thing, the games in the amphitheater would have done it. There, those gory trials and matches and contests and the blood poured out on the ground as men in gladiatorial combat slaughtered one another – and it did something, I say, to the heart of the people. Instead of looking on blood and suffering in horror, they came to gloat in it and to sport in it, and they liked it. And the more gory the battle and the more furious the fight and the more bloodstain in the soil, the more they cheered and liked it.
Ah, what a world. What a world. What a depraved and degenerated world. There was no such thing as philanthropy. There was no such thing as an institution of care – an eleemosynary institution. It was a world of degeneracy, and the voluptuaries of that age thought of nothing else but the gladiator, thought of nothing else but the pleasure, thought of nothing else but the dainty and the luxury of life. And if perchance there was one that did give a pittance to the poor, it was something incidental. There were not any institutions of care. Not one of them thought to build a hospital or an orphans’ home or in any wise to relieve the poor. They were left in their poverty to die, to live, as they might or would or could.
And how different, I say, this little church over there in Philippi. It comes to their mind that this apostle who preached to them the grace of the gospel [Acts 16:11-40] of the Son of God is in need, and their hearts are moved. And I can see the little band as they speak of Paul in his necessity. Maybe Lydia [Acts 16:14, 40] proposed that they support the apostle there in the jail in Rome and send him food and clothing. And I guess the Philippian jailer did his part [Acts 16:22-31]. In any way, the gift was gathered and sent over there to the apostle in Rome.
Isn’t that the Christian faith? Wherever the gospel is preached, there you’ll find a Buckner Orphans’ Home. Wherever the gospel is preached, there you’ll find a Baylor Hospital. Wherever the gospel is preached, there will you find the church with the spire reaching up to God in heaven. These are the fruits of the Christian faith. This is the moving of the Spirit of God, Paul says, in the hearts of his Christian friends at Philippi: "having received from your hands . . . this sacrifice, well-pleasing to God" [Philippians 4:18].
Then, he says this marvelous incomparable text: "But my God" – "You’ve sent to me by the hand of Epaphroditus, and how grateful I am for the gift. Now, my God has something for you. You’ve been good to me. God will be good to you. You’ve remembered me. God will remember you. Now my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" [from Philippians 4:18-19]. What a reward for having done just so little!
Now, this text: "My God shall supply" [Philippians 4:19]. Your Greek word there is plērōsa and plērōsei. I would think our word "plenty" comes from it. Plērōsei is the simple Greek word for "fill up." "My God shall fill up every need of your life according to His riches in Jesus" [Philippians 4:19].
Now, I think that refers, among other things, to this story in the second book of Kings in the fourth chapter [2 Kings 4:1-7]. There came to Elisha a poor widow and she had two sons, and they were being sold into slavery to pay the debts owed by that poor widow. And she came to Elisha in her distress. What should she do? Her two boys were being taken into slavery, sold to pay the debt [2 Kings 4:1].
And Elisha said, "You go borrow all of the empty vessels from every neighbor you have. Then take the little cruse of oil that you have, close the door, and pour out, pour out, and fill up, and fill up, and fill up!" [from2 Kings 4:3-4]
So she took all of the vessels she could borrow from her neighbors, put them in the house, closed the door, took the little vial of oil and filled them up, filled them up, filled them up, filled them up until every vessel that she could borrow was filled to brimming [from 2 Kings 4:5-6]. Then Elisha said, "Sell the oil, pay your debt, and live on the rest" [2 Kings 4:7].
That’s what God invites us to do here in this glorious promise [Philippians 4:19]. Take all of your needs, every one of them – all of those empty vessels, all of them, one by one – don’t leave one aside – place them before the Lord and ask God to fill them up: fill them up, answer every need, every need. Ask God for all.
Some of our needs are temporal. We need food to eat and clothing to wear and shelter under which to abide. There are many people to whom the gaining of food and clothing is a toilsome task. Take it to God. Ask God – every temporal need you have [Matthew 6:11], ask God.
There are spiritual needs. Every day, we need to be pardoned of our sins [Matthew 6:12]. In our work, we need wisdom and courage [2 Corinthians 5:6; James 1:5]. In days of trial and pain, we need patience [James 1:2-4].
In oh how many categories of our daily life is there a need in our hearts. We have a need in joy. We have a need in sorrow. We have needs in time and needs in eternity. We have needs in earth and needs in heaven. We have needs in the daytime and in the nighttime. We have personal needs, family needs, spiritual needs, bodily needs.
Our needs are as our moments. They fill every day. Our needs are fresh every morning. Our needs are like that book described in the Old Testament written on the outside and the inside [Ezekiel 2:9-10]. Our needs are recurring.
Some of our needs are filled one time and forever. I need to be saved, and when I’m saved that one time – Christ died for me – I’m saved forever [Hebrews 10:14].
But I have recurring needs that are fresh every morning. The grace that I had a year ago doesn’t suffice for now. The grace I had ten minutes ago doesn’t suffice for now. I need God’s wisdom and God’s grace now, and, like the manna, does God bestow it every day [Exodus 16:14-30; Lamentations 3:23]. "My God shall fill up all of your need" [Philippians 4:19].
Now, I want you to look at this thing in a different way. So many times – and I’ve always felt there was something wrong with saying it, yet I could not exactly figure out why – so many, many times have I heard ministers criticize prayer that asks God as though we were beggars.
They call us celestial beggars: always asking God, asking God, asking God, begging God, asking God. And I could see a point in it, and I could see maybe we ought not to be just begging God all the time. But there is something about prayer the essence of which lies in asking God; and preparing this sermon was the first time I ever got a clear answer to it. You listen to me. Our need is an occasion for the blessing of God. That’s what makes God able to help us and to bless us – because we have a need [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]. If I don’t have the need, God can’t help me, nor can He bless me, nor can He fill me.
If I am full already, if I’m all-sufficient already, if I have everything and abound, what could God do for me? But if I’m empty, if I’m poor, if I’m in need, if I am distressed, if I am disappointed, if I am in despair, if I am dejected, if I need help, then I have an opportunity to receive from God a precious and a wonderful blessing. And my need is the occasion of the blessing of God.
Could I illustrate it from something our Savior said? When He told the story of the prodigal boy [Luke 15:11-32], the boy came back home to his father, and how was he dressed? He was dressed in rags [Luke 15:13-14, 20-21]. Isn’t that right? He was dressed in rags. That made it possible for the father to bring him the best robe and put it on him [Luke 15:22]. Isn’t that right? Now, the boy was hungry [Luke 15:16-17]. That made it possible for the father to kill the fatted calf and rejoice that the boy had come back again [Luke 15:23-24].
All right, now look at this. Suppose that boy had come back as the Caesar of the empire. What could his father have done for him? He was filled and overflowing and abounding. There was nothing that he needed and nothing that the father could do for him, but because the boy was poor and ragged and hungry, the father had infinite opportunity to be a blessing to him.
Now, I think that’s the same thing about us and God. It is because we are poor and hungry and ragged and in need that we can come to God, and the need is an occasion for an incomparable blessing.
Do you see what I mean? So I say, I got me an answer about asking God. Ask Him. That’s the point. Ask Him. Ask Him – every need that you have. We need help, ask Him. We need wisdom, ask Him. We need strength, ask Him. We need patience in trial, ask Him. We need comfort in sorrow, ask Him. Whatever: ask Him. And the very need is an occasion for the blessing of God [2 Corinthians 12:9]. Don’t be intimidated by some philosophical theologian who calls us celestial beggars. Ask Him. It pleases the Lord that you would need Him [Hebrews 4:16; Revelation 5:8, 8:4]. Ask Him. "And my God shall fill up all your need" [from Philippians 4:19] – all of it.
Now, you look how God does it: "My God shall fill up all those empty vessels" [from Philippians 4:19]. Open your hand; open it. Open your heart; open it. "God shall fill up all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" [Philippians 4:19].
Now, he says three things there: God shall fill it up according to His riches. You know, there’s several ways for a man to give. He can give like to a dog – you know, throw a bone to a dog. He can give that way. He can give nonchalantly, imperiously, contenatiously, superiorly. He can give proudly – you know, brush them aside, brush them aside. Or he can give as though he were bothered: "get rid of the thing; you know, give." Or he can give grudgingly, of necessity: just, oh boy, you can hear the eagle scream as he pulls out his feathers before he gives. He can give that way. Oh, it just hurts!
How does God give? God gives like a king. No. God gives like God could give: He gives gloriously, splendidly, marvelously, incomparably. He gives according to His riches [Philippians 4:19] – not even according to our deserts but according to His riches: superabundantly.
Could I illustrate it? He doesn’t give us just enough sunlight – just for our eyes. My soul, He gives enough sunlight: He bathes this world in glory. And this little world of ours that receives part of God’s sunlight, it’s just one little speck compared to the effusion, the effulgence, the limitless, abounding fullness of God’s sunlight in this whole universe. That’s the way God gives: marvelously, according to His riches.
Do you remember the story of the feeding of the five thousand? [Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:33-44; Luke 9:12-17;John 6:1-14]. It says, "They all did eat," and then, then "they all were filled" [Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:42; Luke 9:17; John 6:11-12]. Then it says, "And they had twelve baskets full left over" [Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:12-13]. And that doesn’t mean twelve baskets of, you know, like you had eaten and you had something left, you know – scraps. Thank you. I couldn’t preach half as good if it weren’t for Dr. Fowler here to help me.
Scraps, garbage – that doesn’t mean that. When you read that so many times, people think of the fragments, you know, and gathered up and had twelve baskets of scraps left over. Oh, no. No.
Here’s what the story means. Jesus took the loaves and the fishes [Matthew 14:17-29; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16; John 6:9, 11], and He break and He break and He break, after He had blessed them, and He break and He break and He break. And they took out by baskets those loaves and those fishes that were multiplied. And when they all were fed and they all were filled, there were twelve baskets still the disciples hadn’t shared with the multitude [Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:12-13]. So abundant is our God in providing for the necessities of His saints, He gives according to His riches [Philippians 4:19].
Now, look at that other thing. He gives according to His riches in glory. Oh, I just lost myself in the heavenlies trying to think through that: "according to His riches in glory" [Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:19]. Did you ever think how God enters into the treasures of this earth down here where we live – how rich God is here?
I flew over the Amazon Valley one time, and I stuck my head against the windowpane of that plane and looked down and down for mile and mile and mile, hours after hours, flying over that vast Amazon Valley. And outside of the courses of those rivers, I never saw the ground, so vast and impenetrable is that jungle. It is a vast illimitable, indescribable sea of verdant green, emerald, far as you can see by the hour. For whom do those trees cast that ample shade? For a man? No. For God. So overflowing and superabundant are the treasures of the Almighty.
Think of the flowers and their fragrance that bloom and blossom and distill their fragrance on the air for only God to see and for only God to smell and enjoy. Think of the treasures in the sea, in the deeps of the ocean, in the heart of the earth. "The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof" [Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26].
Well if God is that rich here, think what His riches are in glory – up there in glory. Why, the Book says – trying to describe what God hath in heaven – the Book says that there are gems there, precious stones there, so beautiful, so plentiful, they build the foundations out of solid gem and they raise the walls of the city with all manner of precious stones – so plentiful [Revelation 21:10-21]. Think of the world that sparkles with diamond and jasper and sapphire and emerald. Think of it. And gold: gold so plentiful, so effusively abundant, they walk on it, pave the streets with it! [Revelation 21:21]
When I drive around Dallas, I see these old smelly tar wagons, boiling, pouring out that filthy stuff; get stuck in it. Oh, what stuff! But in heaven, that stuff is pure gold, so abundant is it paving the streets out of solid gold [Revelation 21:21]. Why, the Book says that God is so rich that He clothes even the grass of the field with garments more wonderful than Solomon could ever clothe himself [Matthew 6:28-29] – the riches of God in glory.
We not going to exhaust His store. Ask Him. "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory" [Philippians 4:19]. And how does He do it? "By Christ Jesus."
"By Christ Jesus." What does He mean by that – he does it by Christ Jesus? All right. Here’s what He means. Christ Jesus gives us His name [2 Chronicles 7:14]. That’d be a wonderful thing if He had anything. I just wish some of you men that have about $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000 in the bank would come up to me and say, "Now, preacher, just any time that you need anything, why you just write a check and sign my name to it, and I’ll honor it there at the bank. "I tell you, it’d surprise you what your pastor would be doing. It would. Man a-living, man a-living, what I would do. Why, I would sit up at night thinking of things to do if I could just use your name. Why, I would.
Now, the Lord Jesus does that for us. It pleased the Lord – listen to this: "It pleased God that in Him should all fullness dwell" [Colossians 1:19]. Now, listen again: "And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace" [John 1:16]. That is grace on top of grace: grace inexhaustible – the inconceivable inexpressibly marvelous abundance of the merit of God in Christ, in the Lord’s bank in heaven. Ask Him, in His name: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I give it," [John 14:13] – that will I do it.
First, He gives us His name. Ask in His name. The banks of heaven will honor it. Ask in His name. Then, sweetest and best and most precious of all, He gives us Himself: "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" [Philippians 4:19].
We have Him. We have Him. And wouldn’t it bear saying, "If I have Christ, I have everything"? All things are yours because you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s [1 Corinthians 3:21, 23].
We have the Lord in the youth time of life, in the morning time of life. One of these dear mothers brought her little girl over there to me just a moment ago, and she said, "My little child is so young. "But," she says, "Jesus has touched her heart, and she wants to give her life to Jesus. And I didn’t know what to do, so I brought her to you."
Why, that’s the Lord. We have Him in the spring time, in the morning time of life. Always, He’ll come in the youth time, in the morning time. Always, He’ll call in the day of the dawn. We have Him in the youth time of life. So many of these young men and women have given their lives to full-time Christian service, and Jesus is in their hearts in the youth time of life.
We have our Lord in the meridian strength of life: in manhood and in womanhood; and we have Him in old age and in death. Ah, the most – and the most precious of all of the gifts we could ever own or know is to have Jesus Himself. We have the Lord.
Now: "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" [Philippians 4:19]. How do I possess it? This is the way: by opening your heart, by emptying yourself, by opening your hand, by lifting it up to receive Him. You see, if I’m already filled, He cannot fill me. If I have no need, He cannot bless me. If I don’t open my hand, I can’t receive the gift. What God asks is that we come empty.
"But, Pastor, I don’t feel any need, and I don’t feel any wanting." That is the greatest need of all. Come and say to God, "O God, give me a hunger and a thirsting after Thee. Lord, put a burden on my heart. Lord, give me grace, an overabundant supply, for my heart is hard, for my heart is hard and my spirit is indifferent. Lord, put in me a wanting for God. Create in me, O Lord, a hunger and a thirst after Thee. "And God will look down into your soul, and there will He pour out into your life all of the rich treasures that only Jesus could afford [Jeremiah 29:13]. A new fellowship [John 14:23], a new hope [Colossians 1:27], a new blessing [Ephesians 1:3], a new communion [John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:14], a new faith [1 Peter 1:20-21], a new life [John 10:10], a new vision [2 Corinthians 5:15]: that is the gift of God according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus [Philippians 4:19].
Now, if you come down here to me, and you come boasting: "I don’t have any need;" you come proud: "I can take care of myself;" you come lifted up: "I’m all sufficient. I need nothing," then God can do nothing for you. If you come in your fine works, in pride of character and life and place, boasting of your goodness and sufficiency, there’s nothing God can do for you [Mark 2:17]. But if you come saying, "Pastor, I need the Lord, and I’m opening my heart to Him. I am emptying myself that I might be filled with all the fullness of God" – if you’ll come leaving yourself, and leaving your boasting, and leaving your pride, and leaving your own good works, leave it all behind and come empty, just as you are, then God will fill you [Luke 18:9-14]; and it’ll be an overflowing, glorious greatness: salvation now and the keeping presence of Jesus to the end of the way [Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5]. Will you? Would you?
While we sing our song tonight, in this balcony around, down these stairwells, on this lower floor tonight – while we sing this song of appeal, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord. A family you, coming into the fellowship of His church – while we sing the song, while we make the appeal, would you come just like you are?
If you need a heart broken, let the Lord break your heart: "Lord, I’m hard, and callous, and indifferent. I’ve got a heart of stone." Let the Lord give you a heart of flesh [Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26]. Let Him do it. "I need, Lord, I need to be taken away from my callous, scornful, superior indifference. Help me, Lord, help me." If you’ll come with a need, Jesus will supply it. Will you, tonight? "Here I am, just as I am, to let God do with me, to let God have me, to let God fill me. Here I am, and here I come." Into the faith of the Lord, or into the church of our Savior, while we sing this appeal, will you come and stand by me while we stand and sing?