By Tim Sullivan


In the opening of the 13th chapter of Matthew is a wonderful truth waiting to be discovered.

Matthew 13:1-3:
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

I direct your attention not to what Jesus taught, but where he taught. Jesus spoke to a great multitude of people as he sat aboard a ship. Why did he do this? Was it simply because there was no room on shore?

Jesus had a mission that day, to teach the multitude gathered around him. He also had a problem. The waves breaking on the shore, the windy breeze, and the inevitable disruptions made by people when they gather would make it difficult for people to hear his words. The people sitting in front might be fine, but what about those to the side and behind him?

No doubt, he prayed. “Father, what would you have me to do?” Then, out of the corner of his eye, Jesus saw the ship anchored offshore and smiled. In that instant he recognized that everything he needed had already been provided. Once again, God had manifestly proven that “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (Mt. 6:8).” And so Jesus, who always did the will of the Father, taught the people as he sat on that ship. The sound of his voice bounced off the surface of the water, turning that shoreline into a natural amphitheater. He didn’t have to scream or shout to be heard. All he had to do was speak.

You and I can easily imagine what a modern-day preacher facing the same situation would do. He would go shopping for an electric generator, a microphone, an amplifier, speakers – the list goes on and on. Later, he would wonder why his ministry always faced financial difficulties. Why? Because he was always spending money on things he really didn’t need.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul made an extraordinary promise: “My God,” he wrote, “shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Why do we think we must plead with God to convince him to do something he has already promised to do? In the words of St. James, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Jms. 3:10)!

When it seems that God is not supplying our need, the problem is not with God. It is not even a problem of our faith. Our problem is that we do not realize what we need. As James also wrote, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss” (Jms. 4:3).

A man from a west coast city decided to drive cross-country to the east coast. He had never seen the countryside before, and knew nothing of life outside the city limits. He had never tasted water that did not come from a bottle. In fact, he had no idea where the water in the bottle came from. To his horror, his car broke down in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Weeks later, they found his body along the shoreline of a crystal-clear lake, right where he fell. He had died of thirst, looking for a bottle of water.

Now, that story is not true. I made it up to illustrate a point. If you don’t know what you need, you won’t recognize it when you see it. That man didn’t need a bottle of water. He needed water. That preacher didn’t need a sound system. He needed to be heard.

God has promised to supply all our need according to his riches in glory. However, we must realize that God supplies our need, not what we think we need.

What is the thing we need most in life, in every situation, under every condition? What is the thing that ministers need most to fulfill their mission? What does a husband or wife need most to be the kind of spouse he or she vowed to be? What do parents need to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? What do young people need to find their way in life? Some tell you that all you need is love. Others say you just need faith. Still others cry out that what the church of Jesus Christ needs is more power! But what does God say? What is your first and most basic need?

Proverbs 4:7:
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Wisdom is the principal thing, our first and most basic need. Getting wisdom is our first priority. That is why, whenever the Bible makes a list that includes wisdom, wisdom comes first.

1 Corinthians 1:30:
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

Without wisdom, the gifts of the Spirit are misused. That is why, in the list of the manifestations of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, the word of wisdom comes first.

If being rich can be defined as having enough to waste, then Workers Together With Him is a relatively poor ministry. I marvel that we are able to accomplish so much with so little. The only way for us to be successful in our mission is through careful stewardship of what we have been given. The less you have, the more you need wisdom.

Don’t be fooled. Money hates you. It doesn’t want to be in your pocket, your purse, or your bank account. Money wants to get far away from you, as quickly as possible. That is why your money is always crying out, “That looks good! Buy it! Spend me!” As the Bible says, “for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven” (Prov. 23:5). But wisdom, like a dear sister, is a true companion.

Proverbs 7:4:
Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:

That is why wisdom is to be preferred over worldly riches. “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!” says Proverbs 16:16, “and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” “For wisdom is better than rubies,” says Proverbs 8:11, “and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.”

The great value of wisdom is relative to the great cost of foolishness. Without wisdom, we can have everything we need and still starve to death. “Much food is in the tillage of the poor,” says Proverbs 13:23, “but there is that [which] is destroyed for want of judgment.” The tillage of the poor is ground that was tilled but not planted. The potential was there for much food, and yet, for want of wisdom, there was nothing.

Proverbs 10:21:
The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.

You can also say that “fools die for want of asking,” because God has made it so easy to acquire His wisdom. Once more, we consult the book of James.

James 1:5-6:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Remember, the first thing you need is the first thing you should ask for. For the next thirty days, before you bombard God with your never-ending list of all the things you think you need, ask him to give you the thing that he says you need. Ask for wisdom. Don’t ask for it one day and forget about it the next. Make this your constant prayer, without wavering. And then get ready for your life to change.

Proverbs 19:8:
He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.



From the September 2006 issue of The Vine & Branches