Throughout all of Scripture, God promises He will meet our needs for value, security, acceptance and connection
Throughout all of Scripture, God promises He will meet our needs. In the second chapter of Genesis, God says that it is not good for the man to be alone. That’s because when God formed the man from the dust and blew His breath into him, He blew in the needs for value, security, acceptance and connection. And by creating a woman for the man, God was meeting those needs. He was at once revealing Himself to the man and drawing the man close to Him.
When I was a kid, my family lived in Dallas, Texas. It so happens that Dallas is the hometown of the famous department store, Neiman Marcus. In the 1950’s, Neiman Marcus was THE place to shop in Dallas. There was only one location, and it was downtown, since the shopping mall had yet to be invented. A visit to Neiman Marcus was a special adventure.
My daddy, who was a family-oriented kind of guy, was pretty involved in my life, especially for activities that were outside the home. So, around the age of 5, when I needed new “dress shoes”, my daddy took me to Neiman Marcus downtown to get them. The only details I remember about that outing were actually being in the shoe department of the store and spying THE shoes. They were soft black suede Mary Janes with rhinestones all around the front edge. I instantly fell in love with them and saw no need to look at any other shoes. I remember trying them on and my daddy saying, “Now are you SURE those are the ones you want?” They were indeed the ones, so he bought them for me. Although I don’t remember many details of the outing, I DO remember the feeling of being loved by my daddy. He wanted me to have the shoes I liked and was taking the time to make sure I was satisfied. And not only that, he was glad to be with me as I picked out something he otherwise would have no interest in at all. He wanted to be with me and he wanted me to be pleased.
In just that one simple outing to buy new shoes, my daddy met my needs for value, security, acceptance and connection.
Why do I remember that one random outing with my daddy?
When that memory plays back in my head, I instantly feel valued, secure, accepted and connected. Since those are the emotional needs that God Himself created within me, when I remember that day, not only do I feel all those things from my daddy, I also feel them from God. Remembering makes me smile.
When we are children, our parents (or other caregivers) don’t always adequately meet our emotional needs. When they don’t, we as children will figure out some way to get them met, and it usually won’t be a very healthy choice. When our needs aren’t validated by an adult, we might assume that our needs are wrong, or that there is something wrong with us for even having needs.
The beauty of the RYH process is that it helps us understand and accept those needs. We learn to look to God and also to healthy relationships with people in order to get our needs met. In the process, God reveals Himself to us and draws us close.
Have you ever felt confused and frustrated by the behavior of another person? Or been confused by your own behavior? “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” Understanding people—both ourselves and others—is important to our own personal growth and to our ability to impact the lives of others.
This series of Pocket Principles is designed to help us begin the process of understanding people.
We begin with several benefits that understanding people can bring us.
First, understanding people helps us to understand what motivates their behavior. When God created man, He created him incomplete, and this incompleteness drives a person to try to get his needs met. For example, one of the greatest needs all of us have is for value and worth. We see this need revealed in the ways people seek acceptance, recognition, and approval. From the child’s attention seeking to an adult’s basic insecurity, this need is evident. Driven by this need, a child will often act out to get negative attention, which is preferable to being ignored. An adult will make all kinds of sacrifices to win some positive feedback and may even demand it from others. Even if we deny our needs, we still are driven by them, and our words and actions betray us.
Second, we need to understand people so we can be sensitive to them. The more we understand people, their struggles and needs, the more we can come along side them in helpful, significant ways, communicate their “specialness” and show them their need for God and spiritual growth.
A third reason to understand people is to correct inadequate views of man. There are many wrong views of man both outside of Christianity and within. Our understanding of people must be derived from the Bible. What does God say about man? Since God created us, He knows even more about us than we do about ourselves. In the Pocket Principles that follow we will explore how God has created us, the effect of the Fall of man and the restorative ministry of Christ.
In this Pocket Principle we will begin to define and understand what it means to be made in the image of God.
Biblical Teaching about the Image of God in Man
Scripture makes many clear statements about the image of God in man. The first one is found in Genesis 1:27. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”
Although it seems so, this passage is not redundant. The repetition is a Hebrew expression designed to communicate emphasis and builds to a climax. In fact, everything in the creation account builds to a climax: God creates something, steps back from it, admires it and pronounces it “good”. He does this over and over until He comes to the creation of man.
God saved the best for last. It was as if He said, “Okay, what We have done so far is pretty good, but now We need to do something that is even more spectacular. Let’s create man. We need to make him greater than everything else in all of the universe. Let’s do that by creating him in Our image. Let’s make him like Us.”
Mankind was God’s masterpiece, His high point, the climax of creation. Indeed, everything else was made for man, not God. The rest of creation was to be the place where man would dwell and live and move. Man was to rule over, maintain and develop God’s creation. Though all other parts of creation bear God’s mark and design, only man bears His image.
Often Christians don’t appreciate the unique place that God has given them. Psalm 8:3-7 puts it this way: When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than “elohim” and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
Christians may become too focused on the problem of sin and lose sight of the dignity of man. While it is true that all men, including those who are believers, have an ongoing serious problem with sin, it is also true that all men, including nonbelievers, have been created in God’s image. Psalm 8 tells us that man was made just a little lower than “elohim”. The Hebrew word “elohim” is the name of God used to reveal His might and sovereignty. It is probably best to understand this passage to be saying that God created man just a little lower than Himself. Out of all of creation, man is the only one who reflects God’s image. There is none other like him.
The Meaning of the Image of God in Man
Being made in God’s image means that we are like God in many ways, but not in all ways. We are like Him in that we have a personality, an intellect, a will and emotions. We are also creative, as He is. Look around and see what man has done in architecture, art, medicine, science, and technology. We are advancing in our understanding and in our ability to control the world we live in because God has given us the ability to learn, invent and create, to plan and carry out those plans. We communicate with complex, abstract language. No other animal is able to do this, only man. Man alone bears God’s image.
God’s image is shown in still other ways. Because God is the standard of right and wrong, all men have an inner sense of right and wrong, a moral compass of sorts, a conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Man has a spiritual dimension so he is able to have a relationship with God. He has an innate desire to worship God, although at times it may be misdirected toward false gods (Romans 1:21-23). He has deep longings for a better world, deeper relationships and a more meaningful life. He is capable of having significant relationships and joining with others to do incredible feats (like putting a man on the moon) and creating almost unimaginable objects (such as a space station). Man reflects God more than any other created being.
The Restoration of the Image of God in Man
The fall of man damaged the image of God in man. Although God’s image was marred, it was not destroyed (James 3:9). Mankind is like a classic car that has deteriorated; that seems like a piece of junk. It is rusted, dented and broken. It is easy to discount it as something that needs to be discarded. But it is not a piece of junk. It is a classic car desperately in need of restoration. This is how man is. God’s image in him is marred, but he is an image-bearer who is desperately in need of restoration.
God sent Christ into the world not just to win our salvation, but to restore what has been lost. The goal of the Christian life is to become like Christ. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). So to become like Christ is to restore the image of God in fallen man. This is God’s goal, His commitment to us.
Although God is renewing us on the inside (our spiritual selves), the outside (our physical selves) is increasingly wasting away (II Corinthians 4:16). This wasting away of the outside will eventually cause us to die physically. In eternity God will instantly finish the work on the inside, and when Jesus returns to earth, He will also restore the outside. We will have a new body fashioned after Christ’s resurrection body that will be suited for the new world that God will create.
In light of what it means to be created in the image of God, we should celebrate the majesty of man. Man is God’s supreme creation. All men, whether believers or nonbelievers, are created with great worth because they are created in the image of God. It is that image that makes the weak, the downtrodden, the defenseless, the old and the disabled significant. We cannot reject them as the world often does because as image-bearers they reflect Him and represent Him in this world.
While God’s image in man gives him value, it does not give him salvation. Although all men were created for eternal life, no man is guaranteed eternal life. It is only as a person comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ that he receives eternal life and Christ begins to restore God’s image in him. As God’s image is restored, the person begins to be changed from the inside out. He begins the process of becoming more like Christ and is enabled by God’s power and guidance to use His abilities to glorify God and advance His Kingdom. Man was created for great things but his true and full purpose cannot be realized without God. The great tragedy of hell is that some who were created in God’s image and therefore were destined for great things will spend eternity separated from Him.
There are many significant implications of being created in God’s image.
• It should bring forth praise to God for the unique place and abilities that God has given mankind.
• All people have worth and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
• It removes all basis for racism or feelings of superiority or inferiority.
• It is the basis for saying that only God has the right to take a life or prescribe when a life should be taken.
• It is the only true basis for having a high view of man.
• It provides a basis for the argument that man should play an important role in living the Christian life (Colossians 1:28,29; Philippians 2:12,13) as opposed to God doing it all.
• Meditate on Psalm 8.
• Meditate on and worship God for the high place He has given man in the created order.
• Celebrate the majesty of man as you see God’s image reflected through music, art, architecture, technology, etc.
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What would you think of a medical doctor who tried to treat your illness without really knowing what was wrong with you? When you enter his office he doesn’t ask what your symptoms are, doesn’t order any tests, but instead, brings in his nurse and begins to put a cast on your leg even though there is nothing wrong with your leg. Undoubtedly you would think, “What a quack this guy is!” and quickly leave to find another doctor. Obviously what you really need is someone who takes the time to understand what your medical needs are and knows how to meet them. We need to take the same approach with all our needs whether they are physical, social, psychological, or spiritual.
God, unlike a doctor, understands all of our needs because He created us with them. He also has provided us with the means to get our needs met. Yet there seems to be confusion in the church today about how our needs are to be met. Some seem to imply (or state directly) that all we need to do is wait and trust God, and then He will, in some supernatural way, supply everything we need. It is true that God is the ultimate source who will meet all our needs. We should seek Him, laying our needs before Him. The Bible says He knows our needs and wants to meet them (Matthew 6:25-33).
But, will He meet our needs directly or indirectly through other means? The answer to that question depends on what the need is.
God created the world and its inhabitants, and it is through this world that He meets our needs. For instance, we all need air to breathe, and God created air, and He created our lungs to be able to receive and absorb it. He even created us so that we breathe involuntarily. So, God is involved by providing the air, our lungs and the mechanism of breathing, but we are the ones who breathe. I would posit that God is rarely the only one involved in meeting our needs.
One might say it was God alone who provided us with salvation. If that is true, then why isn’t everyone a Christian? The answer is that we need to receive the salvation that is offered in order for it to be ours. So, to get this need met we must do something: accept it by faith. A major need is for relationship both with God and with people. God has designed us so that some of our needs can only be met by other people, just as some of our needs can only be met by Him.
Some people believe that it is selfish to focus on our needs. This suggestion may lead a person to conclude that it is never right to think about our own needs. However, thinking about our own needs or even seeking to get them met is not selfish. Selfishness is focusing exclusively on our own needs and ignoring everyone else’s. It is being concerned only about oneself. The truth is that we should think about our needs. After all, they are “our” needs; they are not someone else’s. And because they are our needs, they are our responsibility, and it is our stewardship to get them met. We should consider our needs and develop a plan to meet them. There are several ingredients involved in getting our needs met.
Recognize and acknowledge your needs.
A need must be recognized before it can be addressed. In the last Pocket Principle we defined four of our primary needs: our need for God, worth, impact and relationship. But this is not a complete list of our needs. In fact, if one were to sit and brainstorm about the myriad needs that we have, there would be an amazingly long list which would include needs such as: safety, food, shelter, beauty, sexual intimacy, adventure and so on.
Because of concerns about appearing weak, some people have difficulty admitting that they have needs. Yet there is no weakness in admitting that we are just like other human beings! It is important to be honest with others and ourselves and admit our frail, human condition. Such an admission helps us to seek God as we should and to accept help from others when we need it. Many people have suffered needlessly in their lives because they will not admit their need for help.
Put yourself in a position to get needs met.
Getting needs met is not an automatic process. It often takes planning and hard work. It is like any other goal we set out to accomplish. It requires something of us. If I want to grow a garden, I cannot just snap my fingers and produce plants. I will need to find a good location, till the ground, plant the seeds, water, fertilize and weed the garden. It is time-consuming and hard work, but it brings a bountiful harvest. Getting our needs met works the same way. It is challenging work, but the benefits are tremendous.
When we are trying to get our relationship needs met, it is not enough to wait for someone else to initiate a friendship with us. We need to take the initiative. We need to go where people are; find people with common interests and needs; reach out and spend time with them; open up and be honest with them about who we are and what is going on in our lives; and be a friend to them.
It may take time to find others that we can feel close to, but in the end, the joy these efforts can bring into our lives is enormous. We need to be careful to seek to get our needs met in ways that please God. In order to meet our needs, we should not demand or pressure people or become involved in immorality or try to please and manipulate others.
Following is a list of healthy ways to get needs met:
1. God will meet many of our needs as we go to Him through spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are activities such as Bible study, prayer, fellowship and acts of service. As we build these disciplines into our lives, God ministers both to us and through us. He will guide us and give us the insight and wisdom about our needs, among other things.
2. Be willing to ask for and receive help during times of great need and crisis. There are times in our lives when the burdens of life are too heavy for one person to carry. It is at those times that we need to let others know our needs and be willing to let them help us. We also need to help others when they have needs.
3. When we seek help from others, we need to be careful to approach the right kind of people. We need to seek help from people who are willing to help without expecting anything in return and who have our best interest in mind. We also need to seek help from people who are able to help. For instance, we should seek help from a mature Christian when we are in a difficult situation or a counselor when we can’t solve a marriage problem.
4. Take action to do something that will lead to needs being met. For instance, we can join a support group to be with people who have gone through a crisis similar to ours. We can make a doctor’s appointment when we are physically ill.
Recognize that all your needs will not be met perfectly in this life.
Because we live in a fallen, broken world and because sin and temptation will always be with us, our needs will never be perfectly met. They can be substantially met, but never fully met. It is like the old saying, “If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it because you will ruin it.” Perfect doesn’t exist in this world except in God Himself. So we must develop realistic expectations in this life.
For example, take our need for impact. This need can be met through a ministry or job situation where we are able to use our abilities to make a positive difference or contribution. But we will never do things perfectly or have a perfect result. We need to be satisfied with good enough and not expect perfection.
Ultimately, the perfect meeting of our needs will occur when we are with Christ (Philippians 3:20,21; I Corinthians 15:51-54).
When we die physically, we continue to live spiritually and go to be with Christ. What a day that will be! Eventually Jesus will return for His people and all those with Christ will be reunited with their bodies and those who are still alive will be changed in a twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality. Our new bodies will be perfect and will never wear out.
In the meantime, before Christ returns, we need to recognize needs in our lives that are not being met and develop a realistic plan designed to meet these needs in a healthy way. It is our responsibility and not anyone else’s to do this. We need to take responsibility for our own lives and needs, while not ignoring the needs of others.
• Meditate on II Corinthians 1:3-5
• Write out a plan designed to meet your most pressing felt need in a healthy way. Share this plan with someone who can hold you accountable.
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All of God’s creation is interdependent in some way: the food chain demonstrates interdependence for nourishment; the life cycles of plants and animals demonstrate interdependence for reproduction, and so on. Man, as a part of God’s creation, is interdependent with the rest of creation. We are dependent on air to survive; dependent on plants and animals for food; dependent on other people for companionship. God created us this way. In essence, He created us incomplete so that we would have needs!
One of the reasons God created us this way is to show us our need for Him and to move us toward Him as the One who can provide for all our needs. Everyone of us can probably point to specific felt needs in our lives that brought us to the point of pursuing God. And without any sense of our needs we would not have pursued Him.
Problems arise when man tries to get his needs met apart from God’s design, either through inappropriate relationships, substance abuse, materialism, or an endless list of activities which do not satisfy or nourish us but do, rather, hurt us. In order to avoid these destructive behaviors, Christians sometimes resort to denying or minimizing the fact that they have any needs. It is important that we accept the fact that we have needs and that we learn how to meet them appropriately.
Even if we deny our needs, they motivate us anyway. Through many of our activities (both good and bad) we are actually trying to get our needs met. For instance, women read romance novels and men look at pornography to create a fantasy world in their minds, rather than having the real relationships they crave. In fact, by focusing on these fantasies, they may develop expectations and ideas about relationships that are unrealistic and harmful. At the same time, they miss out on the better ways that God uses to meet their needs.
There are many kinds of needs: physical, spiritual, psychological, social, etc., with our physical needs being the most obvious. Without oxygen we would literally die within a few minutes. We can only survive a few days without water and a few weeks without food. Our spiritual, psychological, and social needs may not be as obvious but are also critically important to our overall well-being. We can get a better understanding of our primary needs by looking at the way God created man and how He has provided for these needs.
Created with a need for a personal relationship with God
One of our greatest needs is for a personal relationship with God. After God created man, He related to him on a personal basis (Genesis 2:19, 3:8-9)[Listen]. Both Adam and Eve were aware of God’s presence and conversed with Him. After the fall, man continued to seek a relationship with his Creator. This is seen in all cultures by man’s propensity to place gods in his life in an attempt to reach the true God he longs to know (Romans 1:21-23)[Listen]. This is also demonstrated by the fact that God has continued to pursue a relationship with man after the fall and has provided a way for mankind to come back into fellowship with Him (John 6:44, I Peter 3:18)[Listen].
There are certain needs that only God can meet. He is the only one who could provide a way of salvation for us (I Peter 3:18)[Listen]. He is the only one who could remove the barriers that prevented us from having a relationship with Him (Colossians 2:13-14)[Listen]. He is the only one who could draw us to Himself (John 6:44)[Listen]. Blaise Pascal, the famous French scientist and philosopher, said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man that can only be filled by Jesus Christ.”
Created with a need for value and worth
Another need we all share is the need to know that we have value and worth. Both theologians and psychologists agree that all people feel a deep desire to be valued by God, other people, and themselves. Because man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28)[Listen], he does have worth and value (Psalm 8:4-5)[Listen]. Even after the fall, all men (including non-Christians) continue to bear God’s image, even though it is marred (James 3:9)[Listen]. Therefore, man has value and worth whether he realizes it or not.
Unfortunately, many believers don’t realize that they have inherent value and worth and therefore, seek to be assured of their value and worth from people who can’t give assurance or give it inconsistently. Often they seek it from parents who may be overly critical or distant and who are unable to give them what they need. Understanding that God has created us in His image and the price He paid to reconcile us to Himself is the only consistent way to realize what tremendous value we have.
Created with a need for impact
An important need that is also identified by both religious leaders and psychologists is our deep desire for purpose in this life. Man needs to have significance and to know that he has the ability to impact his world. The Creator gave man a very important responsibility when he gave him the task of ruling over and maintaining His Creation! (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:6-8)[Listen]. Man has done incredible things and made unbelievable advances as he has developed technology and processes to manipulate his environment. Unfortunately, he can use these powers for evil as well as for good.
After the Fall, man’s need to have an impact in the world is still a driving force in him, and God continues to offer us the means to meet it. As Christians, God has given us the additional opportunity to advance and build His Kingdom (Romans 10:13-15, Ephesians 4:11-16)[Listen] and help to restore what has been damaged and ruined by the fall (Isaiah 61:1-3)[Listen]. God’s provision for us to impact our world reinforces the fact that this is an important requirement for our well-being.
Created with a need for relationship
One of our most important needs is our requirement for human companionship. In the Garden of Eden, Adam had all his physical needs met and enjoyed close fellowship with God. In spite of this, it was God himself who said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) God had made man in such a way that he needs other people.
God helped Adam see his longing for a companion by having him name the animals, and as Adam did this, he realized that there was no one like him (Genesis 2:19, 20)[Listen]. Then God created Eve, who had a body of bones and flesh like Adam’s, but with some important modifications (Genesis 2:18, 21-22)[Listen]. Adam was obviously pleased (Genesis 2:23)[Listen].
Many generations later we, the descendants of Adam and Eve, still need companions, and the Bible tells us that God has provided two institutions to help meet this need: the family and the church. Numerous Bible verses discuss the importance of having good, loving human relationships. We are even told that next to loving God, the greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40)[Listen].
In conclusion, God created us with needs. He has also provided us with the means to meet them. Our most important needs are to have close relationships with both God and our fellow man, to be able to impact our world for good and to have value and significance in this life. We should not deny these needs but should seek to satisfy them in ways that God intended.
• Meditate on Genesis 1:26-2:25 [Listen]. Consider how man was created and how God related to and provided for him.
• List some of the things you do to try to get these needs (mentioned above) met.
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Remember when you were a little baby lying in your crib and all of a sudden you started crying and you didn’t even know why? Then someone put something in your little mouth and you tasted milk and you didn’t need to cry anymore. Then remember you started crying again and you still didn’t know why, but someone came and took off your wet clothes and put dry clothes on you and you didn’t need to cry anymore? Remember all that? Probably not, but it happened every day of your little baby life. You had needs and you were so good about asking to get those needs met. And usually when you asked, you received. Interesting how babies and kids just instinctively know to ask to have their needs met. How else would they get satisfied?
As we get older, we can sometimes lose the ability to ask to get our needs met. We feel guilty, or we are afraid of being rejected or maybe we just don’t know who to ask. There are probably as many unique reasons we don’t ask as there are unique people.
Since God created us with all these needs we have, He also has devised ways that
these needs can be met. Sometimes He is the only one involved in meeting our needs. But more often, He teaches us how to involve other people in helping us get our needs satisfied.
Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store