Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Lately I’ve been learning about needs. And learning to admit that I have them: to myself, to God, and to others. I was homeschooled in a way that taught me to be rather self-sufficient in my learning. Usually if I read something in a book and thought about it hard enough, I could figure it out. There are dictionaries and encyclopedias, all examples of removed dependence. Now we even have Google, where with a click and a pressing a few keys, I can access a world of help – and never have to admit that I did. There have been times when no school books, long thinking, dictionaries, or websites could help me. When I wanted my grandpa’s desk moved to my room, I needed help getting it down the basement stairs. Often I have read the Bible and been unable to make heads or tails of it, even with the help of concordances and commentaries. But asking a friend, or a group of friends, has been enlightening.

I’m hungry right now. It is about 1 o’clock PM, and the only thing I’ve had all day is a bottle of orange juice. So my stomach has that familiar ache that asks to be fed. Hunger is part of our lives because we are responsive creatures. Though there are things we can discipline ourselves to do, typically we eat when we are hungry, drink when thirsty, sleep when tired. We blink when dust flies at our eyes. And those impulses are good, because we need food, drink, rest, and defense to stay alive.

Just now I have another sensation. I want to be held. Not given a hand-shake. Not a quick hug. The desire is for prolonged contact, tightness blended with gentleness. And the feeling is so much like hunger and thirst and weariness that I cannot think that it is unnatural or purposeless. Perhaps the need is less urgent… Perhaps I will even survive if I am never held. Do I NEED my mommy? A husband? I think these longings point to that. Were they not balanced by morality taught in the Bible, I would just go after gratification. Outcomes don’t change the fact that the sensation is related to the other need-based instincts.

The philosophy is going around the Christian community that the only thing we need is God. I suppose this is true if you are saying, “The only thing we need FOR salvation is God.” Just like the only think we need FOR hunger is food. The only thing I need FOR good grades is to know the right answers for the test. But we live in a cause and effect world. God made it that way. So to reach certain outcomes, we NEED certain prerequisites.

To say, “I don’t need food; I have God,” is nonsense. It is possible to starve to death while “having” God. With such a being as God, it is possible for Him to maintain life without food – but He rarely does so, and has not promised it. From a certain point of view, God was all that starving person needed – to accomplish God’s will, to bring God glory, maybe even to be happy. But God was not the sole need if the goal was continued life.

As Christians in the Church Age, God has seen fit to put us as individual members of one body. Without those individuals functioning as ears, where would the hearing be for those of us who are eyes? Such is the metaphor Paul uses. To accomplish the good works God has prepared for us, we NEED other believers. Use of spiritual gifts demands at the very least, objects. Teachers have students. Shepherds have sheep. Most often cooperation is also required. Discipleship is not accomplished by one person. Repentance is much more successful when it is confessed to a community. “One another” fills the teachings of the New Testament. We NEED others.

In a similar way, husbands and wives NEED each other. If God wants me to be married, I need a husband to obey God’s call. To function as a wife, I need a husband. Husbands are not God. They are not sufficient for all a woman’s needs. They cannot give her purpose like God can. Wives do need husbands, though. To “be fruitful and multiply,” a woman needs a man – unless God is going to miraculously intervene like he did with Mary, but that was a very special case not ever to be repeated!

The reluctance to acknowledge these needs leads to weakness, as we attempt to live the Christian life in independence: praying by ourselves, serving by ourselves, confessing alone, studying alone. It leads to the thinking that church is where we serve, but not where we are ourselves built into servants. After all, if God is the only thing we need, we don’t need the discipleship offered from a community of believers. And other believers don’t need us, since they have God. So when we gather, our purpose is either all about God (a sensory worship experience) or all about non-believers (let’s make it fun enough that they’ll stay to hear when we mention Jesus, the cross, and belief). Problem is, that isn’t how the Bible describes church. Believers gather for edification, fellowship, teaching. Worship is rarely mentioned. The possibility of non-believers present is addressed once. Read Ephesians. Read Romans, and 1 Corinthians. Even the passages about pastors in 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Peter have the emphasis of building up.

When we think God is all we NEED, we reject His good gifts. We do not ask Him for what we need. Those people God has called to walk alongside us are not esteemed. Our failure is discouraging, for when we fall, who will lift us up again? I believe that God works in my weakness. I do not believe this always manifests as a miracle. There have been experiences in my life where I was trying to teach something, and my communication was weak or distracted. But other believers, equipped and brought forward by God, have joined with me and completed the lesson. If I denied that possibility, I would have to believe that the lesson I was trying to teach never got taught. Do you see?

God is rather fond of means and middle men. When His word accomplishes universes, yet He creates angels to do His bidding. Cooperation is not the most efficient possibility for the Almighty. But then He created time, too. God does not need anything more than Himself. Since He set us in a world, not alone, with tasks to do by work and not by miraculous proclamations, we do NEED some things. Some people. And God.

To God be all glory.

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