One evening, when our boys were still very young, our family shared together an evening devotion before bedtime.
As we read the Bible together, we came to the place where it says, “… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11b-12 ESV).
“What’s the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’?” I asked. Our sons thought a moment, and then, after waiting a moment to give his younger siblings a chance to respond, our oldest one replied, “A need is what a person must have to live.”
“Yeah,” answered our second oldest son. He then gravely began to list off several examples, “Like water and food.”
“And air!” chimed in our youngest son.
“That’s right,” their mother said, “and we can think of even a few other things that we should consider ‘needs’, too, like shelter and clothing.”
Someone else chimed in. “And cash!”
“Now hold on a minute,” I cautioned. “Is ‘cash’ really a need? Or is money a tool we use sometimes to have a need met?”
“Don’t you need money to get other things you need?”
“Well, it is true that money is usually the way we have a lot of our needs met,” I answered, “but it isn’t a need in of itself. Don’t you think that God can meet our needs without the use of money?” Several heads nodded slowly as if considering the thought. “Can you think of a time when God met a need in our lives without money being involved at all?” After a few moments, there were several mentions of different ways that God had taken care of us without money ever changing hands.
“Now what about ‘wants’? Has the Lord supplied our wants, too?” I asked.
“Not all of them,” said our youngest.
“Right, but then some of the things we want aren’t what God thinks are best for us. But what wants has God granted us?” Again there was a great deal of conversation about various ways that God has gone above and beyond our need. “So how do we know that our heavenly Father loves us so much that He not only takes care of what we need, but also sometimes things that we simply want?”
There was silence for a moment so I went on with an answer. “Because His Word tells us so.” I then read Philippians 4:19, “… My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
“How should we respond to God’s kindness to us?” I asked and then followed up with another question, “What makes you feel good when you give something to someone?”
“When they say ‘thank you’?” one ventured. “When I can tell that he likes the gift?” suggested another.
“Those are good answers,” I responded. “So what are ways that we can ‘bless’ God when He has blessed us?”
They thoughtfully answered. “By telling Him ‘thank you’.” “By using His blessings in a right way.” And “By being generous because if we’re selfish then we’re not showing that we appreciate His generosity.”
Their mother and I exchanged glances and then nodded encouragingly. “Yes, those are all part of showing God our gratitude. We don’t want to be slaves to worry about our needs, do we? That’s why it’s so important to know that we can trust God.”
“It’s also important that we don’t become slaves to our wants. We’ve learned from Philippians 4:11-12 to be content with the blessings that God has given to us. And if ever we have trouble being content, finding that we don’t have a lot of things that a lot of our friends have, we know that we can ask God to help us with contentment… and He will!”
And then I read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me!” We bowed our heads together and prayed, thanking our God Who loves us with an everlasting love!
This weekend we celebrate freedom. Be sure that your celebration rings true with the “inner freedom” that can only be known in an abiding relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. If you receive His gift of salvation, you are at once set free and are made His child, receiving all the privileges associated with being a part of God’s royal family!
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by Whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15 ESV).
Not only are you set free in Christ from the bondage of sin and selfishness that lead to spiritual death (separation from God forever), but in Him you are also released from the ranks of ‘spiritual orphans’, adopted into God’s family. As such, you are made free from the slavery of worry. And in learning to be content in Him, whether in a season of plenty or of scarcity, you are set free from the tyranny of “want.”
Let this “Independence Day” be a lot more than a simple summertime reveling or a rejoicing in our ability to do as we please or live as we choose.
Instead, let it be the occasion for solemn reflection as you meditate on a great gift given to you. And remember that true “freedom” hinges more on the condition of your heart before God than an abstract political affinity or even the unimpeded opportunity to act out whatever impulses fill your heart and mind. True freedom is the privilege of entering into God’s presence without condemnation because His Son paid the price or our sins.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.