05-25-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

If you’ve ever studied any psychology, you will probably remember Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”—things that motivate human behavior.

  • He presented these needs like a pyramid, with the bottom foundational layer being the most basic physical needs (food, water, air, shelter, sleep, etc.).

  • Going up the pyramid were more complex needs (safety needs, social needs—like love and belonging—then self-esteem and achievement needs).

  • These are emotional and spiritual “needs”—and are just as much as necessary for survival and well-being as shelter, food, water—and air.

  • If your head is held under water, you will thrash and claw and do whatever you can to get free and breathe fresh air. You will be desperate for air. In the same way, the human spirit is desperate for deeper, more significant things. Without those things, the soul will shrivel and die.

  • At the very top of the pyramid was what he called “self-actualization” needs (self-fulfillment, a sense of meaning, realizing personal potential, and so on).

It’s interesting to me that Jesus pointed this out centuries before Maslow! In fact, Jesus quoted from the ancient OT book of Deuteronomy to say that man does not live by bread alone (Deut 8:3).

In other words, Jesus taught us that we need more than basic physical needs (food, water, shelter) to find real life. You can exist on bread, but you cannot truly live on bread alone. God made us for more than that.

So for the next few weeks we’re going to talk about the “more than that.”

Because Jesus said basic, physical needs are not enough for us to really live. Rather, we must live on “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4)—which covers all the deep needs of the human soul.

Did you know that “psychology” literally means “study of the soul”? You cannot fully understand “psychology” without going to the Word of God, which tells us about the soul: God shaped and formed the dust of the earth into man, and then he breathed into that pile of dirt and transformed the dust/man into a living “soul” (literally, KJV).

So we’re going beyond secular psychology to study what God says about the needs of the soul. We’re going to explore some basic, core needs—beyond bread alone—deep needs we all have. And we’re going to see how God intended for these needs to be met through one another.

God has given us each other—people, brothers and sisters in the family of God—as a way to satisfy these innermost longings and desires.

Take a look at the bulletin insert—God wants us CONNECTED so our core, spiritual needs can be better met. The church are people who are connected to belong, believe, become, be sent.

  • To belong: Because we all need to be accepted. Welcomed into a group.

  • To believe: Because we all long to know the truth. To have something to build our lives upon.

  • To become: Because we all need a dream. Something that motivates us to go farther.

  • To be sent: Because we all desire to find purpose. A reason for being—a call to answer.

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Connected to BELONG. This is the human experience. But it runs deeper than that! You see this need to belong even in the lower animal kingdoms. Ants have their colonies. Fish have their schools. Wildebeests have their herds. Wolves have their packs. Lions have their prides. Birds have their flocks. Swarming creatures are protected from predators. They can collaborate on hunts and feeding by sticking together.

Just like the animals, we instinctively know that we cannot survive on our own. We need connection with others.

Belonging to a group provides protection from danger and resources for survival. So we see it in tribes, clubs, drinking buddies, gangs, cliques. Belonging in our DNA. We are wired with the need—the LONGING—to be included…and to not be excluded.

But it goes deeper than that.

When Rob Hall was trapped and dying in a storm on Mount Everest a few years ago (1996), alone with no one around him, with no means of escape or rescue, his fingers frozen, radio and a satellite phone enabled him to call his wife, Jan, in New Zealand, who was 7 months pregnant. In his final moments of life—without the equipment, the protection, the warmth, or the oxygen he needed to survive—he still needed connection.

Belonging is not just about physical needs for survival—there are also emotional benefits, even spiritual benefits. When we belong to a group, together we find acceptance, approval, inclusion—food for our souls.

That’s why it’s so devastating to get “kicked off the island.” You might be able to make it in terms of basic physical needs. But physical needs will not fill the huge hole in your soul, the emptiness in your spirit.

“Shunning” is an extreme form of discipline sometimes used in the Amish community. If someone does not follow the rules—expectations or values of the group—the group will “kick them off the island” emotionally. Shunning is intended to shrivel up a person’s independent will until he or she returns to expected norms. Then the group welcomes the person back.

We need to belong! We need connection!

God said “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).

But it wasn’t just the woman who would fulfill this need! In fact, God created man “in the image of God” (Gen 1:17) so he could connect with us in a way that was deeper and more significant than he would connect with any the animals! God (who needs nothing) wanted an outlet for his love. Creating human beings for “fellowship” was the way God planned to express his love.

So we are also wired with this desire, this longing: we also need a place and a way to express love.

Family is the first place where we should experience this safe place. Father, mother, baby. Support, affirmation, encouragement, protection, care, training.

We see this family dynamic when we dedicate a baby!

Sadly, many families do not function as they were designed to function. We say those families are dysfunctional. They are broken to one degree or another, and people do not receive the support and encouragement they need.

We also see this need met in tribes or gangs or other kinds of groups are another place where we feel safety. When we’re part of the gang, we are accepted even with warts and blemishes.

When I worked at Armour Meat Packing, I saw how the labor union there operated. One guy who was lazy and goofed off all the time could not be fired by the supervisor—even when he deserved it—because his gang rose to his defense. They all stood with the incompetent. They all stood together.

That’s a negative example—where the gang’s goals were not all that noble.

I prefer to think of the soldiers whom we remember this weekend—those who fought and died together, a band of brothers, belonging to the same platoon—to the same cause. They stood against the threat of evil.

This need to belong is met when we come together in God’s army, in God’ family, in the Church, which the Bible calls the “body of Christ.”

When we say the church is the “body” of Christ, we’re using a “word picture.” It’s a picture showing how each of us “belongs” to the church just like each part of your physical body “belongs” together in the body.

A whole, healthy body will have two arms, two legs, two eyes, and two ears. They belong together—every part of your anatomy has a purpose. A hand by itself is not much good. A liver or a lung all alone isn’t worth much. But when all the parts come together, when they all belong to the body, that’s when you have have a healthy body.

Each part needs to belong to the other parts. None is unimportant or insignificant. All are necessary. All contribute to the well being and general welfare of all the others. No part can make it on its own. The foot needs a leg; the leg needs a foot. And a hip. Ears need eyes on their team. They all need to belong to the body.

1 Cor 12:12,14-18,24-25
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…. 24 …But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

To belong to this body, then means you can be cared for and supported (by others, not just the leaders). Just as importantly, it means you will find fulfillment and purpose by caring for others.

Rom 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.