“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 ESV)
Early in his medical training, when Hudson Taylor was ministering in the run-down neighborhood of Drainside, Hull, a man approached the 19-year-old future missionary petitioning him to pray for his dying wife. The young Taylor obliged, and, upon encountering the bedridden woman, realized his last coin could save the sick lady’s starving children. Sweaty fingers anxiously fingering the half crown in his pocket, Taylor prayed emptily for the woman, unwilling to part with the only money to his name.
Distressed, the husband turned to him and cried, “You see what a terrible state we are in, sir; if you can help us, for God’s sake do!” Guilt-ridden, Taylor reached into his pocket and revealed the half crown. He handed it to the husband, relief washing over both men. The family had been saved, and Taylor went to bed penniless yet at peace. The next day, he received in the mail an anonymously sent envelope containing a coin worth many times that which he had sacrificed. Fittingly, Taylor would later famously write, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”
In this same vein some 18 centuries earlier, the Apostle Paul promised the church in Philippi: “[M]y God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Paul, in context, was expressing to the sacrificial Philippian believers that, though he was unable to repay their generosity, God could—and would. Yet the promise of provision in this text extends beyond this single ancient congregation.
Paul’s words stand as a testament to all followers of Christ through the ages that God will supply all of our needs. This is true in a spiritual sense; in Christ, we have every spiritual blessing, having been loved and predestined by God for salvation and adoption as heirs of eternal glory (Ephesians 1:3-5). This is also true materially; in the psalms, David writes, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (23:1) and, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (37:5), while the sons of Korah sing, “No good thing does [God] withhold from those who walk uprightly” (84:11).
These promises can shock our modern sensibilities, especially if we are trained to avoid the errors and excesses of the prosperity theology movement. We should certainly avoid the mistake of presumption, tempting God by acting carelessly and failing to apply the necessary effort to secure provision; indeed, Scripture also teaches that those who are able-bodied yet who do not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must also recognize that we are not promised all our wants but our needs. Paul, who earlier in Philippians emphasized the total sufficiency of Christ, elsewhere explains that “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).
But with these caveats aside, we are still faced with an incredible commitment from God—to provide whatever is needful for body and soul. Consider how often we fail to trust this promise, wavering in worry over our worldly estate. O how gracious and good is our loving, heavenly Father to constantly watch over us and meet our every need!
Importantly, all these benefits are ours “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Paul appends this phrase to show that there is no greater wealth than the glory of God, no kinder benefactor than the God of glory, and no other mediator through whom God’s kindness is to be received except the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ, who possessed all the riches of heaven, condescended to earthly poverty to make us possessors of heaven’s joys (2 Corinthians 8:9). And through Christ, we will eternally experience the glory of God face to face, with satisfaction infinitely exceeding that afforded by any material comfort whatsoever.
Yet one more limiting principle calls for our attention with this astounding promise. Christians are not promised spiritual or material supply for their own pursuits but for them to do the will of God. Jesus promises his disciples that for those who prioritize the kingdom of God, all things needful for the body will be added to them (Matthew 6:33). Paul also writes: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Note the qualification “so that.” Matthew Henry helpfully elucidates Philippians 4:19: “Through Christ we have grace to do what is good, and through him we must expect the reward; and as we have all things by him, let us do all things for him, and to his glory.”
The believer receives all he needs to undertake, in Taylor’s words, God’s work done in God’s way. Let us resolve, with men like Taylor and Paul, to trust in our God’s promise of provision—and so armed, to devote ourselves to his service, even down to the last penny.
I thank you for your incomprehensible love—that despite my doubt and uncertainty, you have given me everything I need eternally and physically in Christ. Help me to trust in your promise to provide as I devote myself to doing your will. Supply me with the resources to be about your mission, just as the Philippians were provided for as they gave towards the work of the gospel through Paul. In all these things, grant me to glorify you for your exceeding kindness in Christ.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Pray for impoverished and marginalized Christians in your own country and in parts of the world where mistreatment of Christians is the norm. Ask God to meet and even exceed their needs, and pray for these saints to trust unwaveringly in his goodness.
- Pray that God would provide for the ministries of your church and for your church’s ability to give generously in terms of mercy ministry, evangelism, and church planting.
- Pray for missionaries who, like Hudson Taylor, are preparing for ministry and who face the testing of their faith along the way. Ask God to build their faith in his promise to provide.