Filling Empty Vessels

June 6, 1999 / No. 2944

We are poor and needy. This is how the psalmist describes us. In a versification from one of the Psalms, we sing:

My end, Lord, make me know;
How weak I am and frail.

Our needs. How many there are. We often think, first of all, in the physical sense: financial needs, needs of our body (food, clothing, shelter). But those physical needs are only the tip of the iceberg. We have so many greater needs, needs of the heart and the soul; needs for wisdom, faithfulness, strength, peace, assurance, comfort; spiritual strength for our calling as a husband (perhaps as a young husband), as a parent, as a wife, as a young person in this world serious about being godly, as an aged person in a rest home. We need the grace of God. We have needs to resist temptation. We have needs to be patient. We have needs of being kept in the way of the Lord.

The wonderful comfort and promise is that the Lord knows our needs. And the promise: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Those are the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:19. Can you think of a verse more precious and comforting?

It is part of Paul’s thank-you to the Philippian church for the gift that they had sent to him while he was in the Roman prison. We have a picture here of Paul, the aged, soon to be put to death, yet calm and peaceful and joyful. Though he is in a dungeon, he has more peace than Caesar overhead in his palace. What he had could not be counted in Roman coins. He had the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Now he thinks of the gift that had been sent to him from his loved ones in Philippi. Exactly what that gift was we do not know. Perhaps some money, some clothing, some books. Did Lydia, a member of the church in Philippi, include a little package? Did the Philippian jailer send along a little something? We do not know. We do know that Paul was moved by it. He was deeply touched. He says, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now your care of me had flourished again. Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. But I have all and abound. Having received of Epaphroditus the thing which was sent from you – an odor, a sweet smell acceptable to God.” He looked on their gift as the fruit of God’s grace in the Philippians, a proof that they had been brought into the love of God. And he sees that they are moved by a new principle – the love of God. What they did they have done as unto God.

The inspired apostle Paul cannot leave it. He goes on to tell them of his confidence that God will also supply their need. He says, “You have helped me, but my God shall supply your need. You have helped my need of food or clothing. Out of your love for me you have supplied my need. But my God shall supply all your need. You gave to me out of your scanty store. But my God will give out of the riches of His glory. You sent your gift by the hand of that brother, Epaphroditus. But my God shall supply your need by Jesus Christ. Just as God has, through you, supplied for me, so Christ shall supply your need.”

More than anything else, our needs express the truth of our dependence upon God. We are made by the hand of God and are dependent upon God for everything. God has no needs or wants. All things necessary for His life are in Himself. He is independent, self-sufficient. He does not look outside of Himself. But in Him is an infinite fullness. Psalm 16:11, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Isaiah 40:28, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” The psalmist in Psalm 70 expresses it well: “But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying” (v. 5). We need everything!

For we have nothing of ourselves. Every moment and in every way we depend upon God. It is useless to try to catalog all that we need. There are needs of the body, of the soul. There are personal needs, needs of our family, needs for the present, needs for the future, needs for time, needs for eternity, needs for earth, needs for heaven. Your needs are as many as your moments, as many as the hairs on your head. And they vary. They vary according to your age, your calling, your God-given temperament. We are always empty.

And those needs grow larger. They become larger with age. They become more acute as you confront the world of sin and darkness. As we grow in grace we become much more needy, conscious of our need, more than ever before. The more trials, the more infirmities, the more I know my sin, the more I need. More love of God, more patience, more understanding, more humility, more wisdom, more faith, more holiness, more courage, more hope, more confidence in God. We cry out always, “Lord, more knowledge of Thee; more knowledge of Scripture; more grace; more of Thee!”

Understand that we are always empty. We might be filled right now with His Word. But tomorrow morning you and I have to go back to Him. The grace that I had five minutes ago does not serve me now. It is not like one of those little toys with the “energizer battery” that keeps the little toy moving. By grace, God supplied our need yesterday. Now today we have again that need to be refreshed, to be filled again with His grace. It is almost as if we are a vessel that is filled with holes. We are very leaky, and none but God can keep us full.

It is always God, you understand, who determines our need. For the apostle says, “My God shall supply all your need.” He does not say, “My God shall supply all your wishes.” We have to learn to pray, “Lord, give me what I need, not what I want.” It is always God who, in the final sense, determines our need. From Psalm 103:

Mindful of our human frailty is the God in whom we trust;
He whose years are everlasting, He remembers we are dust.

Jesus said, in Matthew 6, “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” Oh, yes, we try to assess our needs. Financially we need so much a month. I have needs as a parent. I have needs, perhaps, with teenagers. I have needs, you say, as a woman, as a young person. We try to assess those needs. We look at what is before us and say, this is what I need. Yes, yes, I know. But it is God’s wisdom that sees our need. Your and my eyes cannot know what is needful. “Ye know not what to pray for as ye ought” ( Rom. 8). Because, you see, our need is what is necessary in the will of God. Our need is that the Father’s will be done. God knows. And that is why the apostle says, “My God shall supply all your need,” not needs. Because, really, that need is one. It is one need. It is the grace of God! That is our need. Our desperate need.

Psalm 63:3 versified is:

The lovingkindness of my God is more than life to me.

II Corinthians 12: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” It is enough that I am gracious to you, that I will save you, a needy sinner. That is our need.

My God shall supply all your need. There is such a ring of confidence in that verse of Scripture – almost childlike confidence. Paul simply will not hear of it any other way. God shall supply all your need. That is the confidence of faith, of a personal acquaintance with God. Notice: My God shall supply all your need. Jehovah was not to Paul the unknown God, but He was the one in whom Paul lived and whom Paul knew. It is almost like the example of when we were little boys talking about the great feats of our fathers. We would say, “But my Dad can do this!” Oh, we loved them. We loved our fathers. Do you have this knowledge of the heavenly Father?

I am not asking you right now if you can go head to head with the unbeliever over the existence of God. I am not asking whether, if someone came up to you and said to you, “You believe in God? let’s talk about that,” you would be able to answer. I am asking you about this: the wonder of this personal faith – my God shall supply all your need. But our God is in the heavens. He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.

Do you remember the three friends of Daniel? When they would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image and Nebuchadnezzar brought them before him and his veins were bursting in his neck out of his anger and he was threatening them that they had better bow the second time or that was it for them? They responded to him: “We will not bow. If so be our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. And he will deliver us from thy hand, O king. But if it not be, let it be known unto thee, O king, we will not serve thy gods.” They spoke in language personal. Our God whom we serve.

So Paul speaks from that same experience. You might come to Paul today and say, “Well, that’s very easy for you to say, Paul. But you don’t know my life and my needs.” I am not so sure about that. I am not so sure that we could come to Paul and compare our lot with his and say that our lot is a lot worse than his. Paul was imprisoned. And of that imprisonment for the sake of Christ he speaks in II Timothy 4:16, that at his first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.

Paul could say this by faith, faith in God and in the way of obedience and submission to God. Disobedience and willfulness and playing with sin robs of confidence and strength, and makes us jump like a shell-shocked little kitten. Afraid! Or we freeze and say, “I don’t know what to do.” But a life of obedience makes faith very confident in God. “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory.” You see, it is not our needs that are the infinite and the countless thing. It is the riches in glory that are the countless. We need to understand that “according to His riches in glory” means, as rich as God is in His glory, so rich is He in His giving. Now surely the idea is that He is going to supply our need out of the vast storehouse of Himself. He is going to draw it out of the well of His own heart, out of the exhaustless caverns of His own being. His love hath no limit; His grace hath no measure; His power hath no boundary known unto men. For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again. What can exhaust the riches of God? The sun can, perhaps, consume in its energy. The atom, perhaps, can be spent in its strength. But not His riches!

And the idea is that He will supply us richly – not stingily, not meagerly, not scraps thrown in our direction, not simply with the attitude, “Well, take it and be off with you.” But gracious and kind and full. He fills each vessel. Not according to what we deserve, but according to His riches in glory. He gives as God.

So we come to Him with our need. We come to Him with our sins. We sin so often, so deliberate and so repeated. We become disgusted with ourselves. How could God forgive one such as I? He will supply out of the riches of Christ your need. Will He give grace to me to rear my children? My resources are so meager. How dark and how pervasive and how infiltrating is sin today. Sin wants to snatch up a child in the cradle before he can even walk. Satan wants him smeared with his slime. How strong is peer pressure upon me, old and young. The devil seems to have the day. The field appears to be his. The forces of God are in retreat. My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory. You say the needs are great? God’s supply is greater.

But what of my secret need, strength against that temptation before which I have fallen so repeatedly, courage before fears which tower over me, assurance in the thick darkness of depression, and that trial that I cannot endure anymore that is going to take me down? All will crash about me; I cannot bear it. Can my need be supplied? Child of God, God speaks: My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. That promise has never failed. It never will fail. For God’s provision is not stockpiled on earth. It is not to be found in some Swiss bank or in some mutual fund or in some CD. It is not found in the resources of men. It is not found in a government. And it for sure is not found in you. It is stockpiled in Him who fainteth not nor grows weary. He gives power to those who have no strength. Even the youth shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fail. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance; when our strength has failed ere the day is half done; when we reach the end of our hoarded resources, our Father’s full-giving is only begun. He will supply it by Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, therefore, is our right to these supplies of grace. We deserve no good thing. We are not only empty vessels, we are filthy vessels. We are undeserving vessels. But by Jesus Christ we are cleansed and we have the right now to these blessings of God. Christ says, “See to my servant’s account. And if there is more need, I will pay thee.” It pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell, and of His fullness have we all received grace for grace ( John 1).

Christ will ever see that our need is before the Father, and for His sake those needs are supplied. You need spiritual courage, patience, love? You need a garment of righteousness? My God shall supply all your needs. You cannot find anything in yourself adequate? You see that you are worse than a beggar? You do not even have a rag to cover yourself in God’s sight? Is that the way you see yourself? Good! Grace has taught you the truth of yourself. You are an empty and a broken vessel. But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory.

Believe this faithful promise of God. Bring your empty vessel. Prove Him now.

Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh within us – unto Him be glory in the church through Jesus Christ, throughout all ages world without end. Amen.

Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. Give us that faith that we may lay hold upon it. Amen.