Felt Needs vs. Our Real Need


There is much talk in today's church about how we need to address man's "felt needs" in order to reach them for Jesus. I believe the following illustration can help us to see the error of that view:

The Flight

   Imagine two men boarding a flight that will take them across the country.  After they board the plane, and are into the flight a bit, both are offered a parachute and told to hold on to it throughout the flight.   Each man is given a different reason why he should take, and hold onto the chute.

   The first man is told: "If you really want to enjoy this flight, if you want a truly peace filled, meaningful, happy, contented, and prosperous flight, then take this parachute, place it on your back, and wear it the entire trip. We guarantee that you will have a great flight!  Not just any old flight, but a truly abundant flight."

   Now, this man has been on many such flights before, and he knows how uncomfortable something like this bulky parachute can be, and is aware that the contraption will probably make him appear foolish to the other passengers.  He probably won't take it, because after all, he sees no real need for the thing.  He feels no danger.

   But let's just say he were to be convinced to take the parachute.  Maybe he has seen "try parachute" bumper stickers and thinks to himself, "maybe this thing really can improve my trip, and give me the joy and purpose that I have been searching for on these flights."

   Now, you know as well as I do, that as soon as the bulk and weight of the chute makes him uncomfortable, or someone comes along and mocks him for wearing such a contraption, or his need for peace, joy, happiness, meaning, and contentment are no longer  felt,  he is probably going to discard the parachute in order to make his flight really more enjoyable.

   The second man on this plane has been offered a parachute as well, but the reasons that he is told that he needs to take it, and cling to it, are very different from the reasons given to the first man.    This second man is told: "this plane is certain to crash, and if you want to live, and avoid a tragic end, then you must take this parachute as your only hope of surviving this coming catastrophe."

   You see, this second passenger, being fully persuaded of the danger to come, will gladly take the parachute.  And I feel relatively certain that no amount of mocking from the other passengers, or discomfort that the chute may seem to cause, or some momentary doubts, frustrations, or lack of significance, will cause him to not to take it, or let go of it once taken.  It is very dear to him. Why?  
Because he is convinced that it is his only hope of survival.

The Point?

   While all human analogies of spiritual things break down at some point, I hope that you can see how this illustration parallels and contrasts two very different presentations of the need for Christ.

   You see, if we offer Jesus merely as a "fix-all" to our perceived problems and needs, then when the seriousness of those problems diminish, or the felt need is no longer felt, then so is our value of Christ diminished.

   If, on the other hand, Christ is presented as the only refuge from the wrath of God, (which is now and also to come), and if we argue that this wrath is real whether we "feel" it or not, and if we present the law of God to make the case about the "real" need of man, and if we also plead with men to take this same Jesus as their own,  it is at this point that we have presented the objective, biblical truth about the value of having Christ.

   If one were to be convinced of his need to be reconciled to a thrice Holy God, and sense the real danger of remaining in an unregenerate condition, then and only then will he cry out for help. You see, I can perceive my needs differently at different times, depending on my emotional state and circumstances.  But God states clearly in His Word what my real problem is, and sets forth with equal clarity the only remedy for my problem.   I have to trust HIS assessment of my need, even more than I would trust the diagnosis of a faithful Doctor who, even in the absence of "felt" symptoms, tells me that the tests he has run show that I have a serious illness.

   I have met many people who have been diagnosed in such a manner, and were told that even though they didn't "feel" any pain or discomfort, they were very ill.  They also were told that they would endure much pain and discomfort during the treatment of their illness, yet I never met one who having been convinced of their plight, did not gladly submit to all treatment prescribed.   And even if they did experience some symptoms, how foolish they would be to seek to have only the symptoms of their condition treated, and not the condition itself.  How much more should we be faithful to proclaim and believe the right diagnosis of an all-knowing God, and then embrace and declare Christ as the only hope?   Jesus stated simply that His purpose in coming was "to seek and to save that which was lost."


   In John chapter 6, Jesus rebuked the crowd for following Him only because he had filled their bellies with food. The crowd wanted their felt needs met.  He told them not to seek after the temporary things that they thought they needed, but rather to pursue the things that God said they really needed.  Many walked away from Jesus at these words, (very non-"seeker sensitive" words, by the way), and followed Him no more.  But Peter said that he would not go away, for Jesus had the very words of life, and to whom else could they turn.  This is but one of many clear contrasts found in scripture that distinguish those who want Jesus merely as a placebo, and those who come to Him because they recognize their real need as God sees it.

Have you recognized your REAL need?

   If you have come to the understanding that the greatest need in your life is not the temporary things that we often think we need, but that our real need is be forgiven of our sin, and to be reconciled to God, then I would plead with you my friend, turn from your sin and turn to Christ alone in faith, that you may escape the wrath of God that is a certain reality.

He is the only hope!


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