I Have All I Need

July 10, 2022

I Have All I Need

Passage: Philippians 4:18-20
Service Type:

This sentence by the great apostle may be the most counter-cultural statement of this entire letter. It strikes us as so out of place in our cultural of accumulation. Not an hour goes by without a encouragement to buy more of what we have or don’t have. This Tuesday is Prime Day. It is the day those with Amazon Prime membership can save big time with only one condition: you spend money! Like Black Friday in November, Prime Day is Spend-a-Buck day, to take the name of a Kentucky Derby winner from 1985. Into the frenzy of buying and selling, the word of God speak to us today in this simple, powerful statement of faith: I have all that I need.


Let’s review the situation for Paul. He is an itinerant evangelist for a small, marginalized religion, like Zoroastrianism is today. He has no family; in all his letters he never mentions a wife or children or brothers or sisters, aunts, uncles or cousins. He does have a trade we learn elsewhere: tentmaking but does not seem to own property or equipment or even supplies. He is a member of no organization: no trade union, no chamber of commerce, no running or biking club, no community organization. In other words, he has none of the social amenities that we associate with citizenship or community or neighborhood.

In addition, he does not seem to own anything. Yes, in a letter later in life, he mentions his manuscripts and his coat. So he must have had a few things. He was poor. But there is a long list of things he did not have.

Paul did not have a gun, or a sword, or even a knife.  Yes, he used these images of armor to write something true about the spiritual life. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Take the helmet of salvation. Pick up the sword of the spirit. But there is not evidence that he ever carried a sword, or a gun, let alone a military style assault rifle.

He owned my home, no house, not even a storage shed somewhere around the Mediterranean. How he could move from country to country without at least a storage shed, I’ll never know. He did not own a summer cottage, an RV, or even a tent. He did not have an iphone, a laptop, or even a pager. How did he survive? Here is one clue: he had no passwords. I, on the other hand, have to buy a iphone just to store in a safe place the page after page of passwords that I am required to maintain just to live in the United States.

Paul the apostle had none of the things we think are essential to life.

Nevertheless, he writes, “I have all that I need.”

What in the world did he have?


First, Paul had food.

Frankly, that’s what this whole letter is about. Food. Epaphroditus delivered food and money from the congregation at Philippi. In the Roman system, an incarcerated person was not fed by the jailer or the authorities. He or she depended upon those on the outside—family, friends, strangers, vendors—to provide food. Over and over in this letter, Paul expresses gratitude for these provisions. When he writes, “I have all that I need” he is thinking first about food.

It is stunning how central food is to religion, our religion. Food was at the center of the ministry of Jesus. He ate with saints and sinners, the gospel tells us. He fed thousands of people. He said, “I am the bread of life,” What did he give us to remember him?  A meal!  Yes, I know it has been transformed into a stripped-down ceremonial ritual. We have to fight our way through layers of tradition to get back to the original gift: a meal.  Eat this bread and drink this cup, all of you, Jesus said.

One of the funniest cartoons I have seen lately is the one showing what DaVinci’s Last Supper painting would look like if the Baptists had been involved. Not just a loaf of bread but casseroles, and salads, and sliced ham, and deviled eggs, pies and cakes, and here and there plastic bowls straight out of the kitchen cabinet at home, full of potato salad or meat loaf. Frankly, that is more like it!  That is the Lord’s Supper. That is the communion of the saints. That is the bread of life. That is the food for which Paul was thankful.

Second, Paul had friends. Over and over in this little letter, Paul expresses his appreciation to his friends for their support, their generosity, and their loyalty. He mentions three of them: Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Clement. He mentions those who helped in earlier in Philippi. The Acts of the Apostles tells a story about that. Lydia heard Paul preach and teach and pray and was pulled into his circle of friends. Some think she was his chief benefactor.

Everybody needs friends. You don’t need many, but you need some. You need people to check on you when you are sick, to visit you in the hospital, you invite you out to eat every now and then, to write you a Christmas card and a birthday card, to remember the important days in your life. The pandemic has pushed us apart; and now this gun violence is making us wary of going out, watching a parade, running a race, even attending church. Friends check on us when we don’t show up.

The great songs of the last 50 years celebrate friends. Simon and Garfunkle singing “Bridge over Troubled Water,” James Taylor singing, “You Got a Friend,” and all of us singing “Lean on Me.”  These are anthems of friendship. There is no reason why we can’t sing them in church. What a friend we have in Jesus, yes, but what a friend we have in each other.

You have heard me say this before. When people come into our sanctuary or into any sanctuary or even to any prayer circle or picnic gathering, they are subconsciously asking themselves, “Can I be friends with these people?”

When Paul wrote these wonderful words, “I have all I need” he was thinking of his friends.

Paul had plenty of food and enough friends, but he also had a deep and abiding faith. Paul had few material things, but he had an enormous supply of spiritual things—faith. He believed in the unseen power of God. At the end of our gatherings on Wednesday nights, which we call Deeper, we depart with these words of blessing: “Let your light so shine that people might see the goodness and grace that fills the universe and give glory to the One who created, sustains, and redeems all things.” This is an expression of our faith.

Faith, the writer to the Hebrews asserts in our Bible, is the evidence of things unseen. We believe that unseen forces are all around us: love that flows from person to person, trust that animates our common work, hope that keeps us going when bad things happen, joy that fills our voices and our souls.

“Rejoice, and again I say rejoice.” It may be the first or second commandment of Christian living, of humane living. Rejoice! Find the Joy. Sing for Joy. Live with joy because God is good, Jesus is alive, and there is a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.

It is faith that will get you though tough times. Paul was having what we call a tough time. Work was slow. Success was thin. Times were hard. Prison walls were thick. But Paul had faith in God, faith in his future, faith in his work, faith in the unseen streams of grace swirling all around him.

Last week in Highland Park, Illinois, a terrible thing happened. A lone gunman took to the rooftop and opened fire. Seven people are now dead and dozens wounded. It was horrific. But in such circumstances, it is common to hear survivors say, “I have faith. We will get through this. We have faith in God. I don’t know what I would do without my faith.”

What they mean is: By faith, I connect to the unseen God who strengthens us, comforts us, heals us, and lifts us up. Yes, there is much in this world to drag us down: physical things, dangerous things, inner things, secret things. But through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus! Isn’t that the lyrics to the song?


Paul had all he needed. He had food set before him, he had friends who attended to his needs, and he had a faith in the purposes of God in the world. I can say with Paul, “I have all I need.”  Can you say that? If you don’t have enough food, let us know; we will help you. If you don’t have friends, reach out around you; we will be your friends. If you don’t have faith in the living God, open up your heart today: trust God, lean on Jesus, walk in the Spirit. Sing with Joy and Life with hope.

I have all I need. But I am here today to testify for you.

We have all we need. We have a small congregation, but we have a large heart. We have a makeshift broadcast apparatus, but we have faithful folk who listen and watch each week. We have a modest budget, but we have what we need to maintain our buildings, pay our leaders, and send some to Cuba and Ukraine. We have two buildings, neither very large, but they are sufficient to allow us to worship and feed a roomful each Sunday afternoon. We have a brief history—just since 2001—but we trust in our future, because we have confidence in the God who called us into being and who sustains our gospel ministry.

We don’t have much; but we have all we need. Thanks be to God!!

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