I’m not sure where the adage “God helps those who help themselves” got its start. It sounds very American, very responsible, very “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”–and God would approve of this, so He’ll lend a helping hand.
I picture a parent running along side his son or daughter who is learning to ride a bike. The dad has a hand just behind the seat, keeping the bike in balance until the child gets the hang of it and takes off. Then Dad lets go, stands back, applauds when Daughter weaves her way back to him.
God is like that, right?
No, He’s not.
First, He does not exist for our sake; we exist for Him. He isn’t our body guard, cheerleader, or fix-it man. He is God!
Amazingly, He wants a relationship with us–friendship, familial interaction, shared love. He also wants us to obey Him, worship Him, serve Him, glorify Him. He, in turn, wants to shepherd us, strengthen us, even exalt us at the proper time.
But help us?
Not surprisingly the Old Testament wisdom literature, particularly Job and Psalms has a great deal to say about God as our help. In any number of verses, the writer says he cries to God for help. In other passages, God is praised for being a help.
A number of different words are used, most conveying the idea of “succor”–assistance and support in times of hardship and distress. Psalm 27:9 is a good example:
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation (emphasis mine)
There are also verses that state God’s intention to help His people:
“For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand,
Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ ” (Isaiah 41:13)
Is it significant that this concept is almost non-existent in the New Testament? I think so. When Jesus walked on earth people asked Him for help–mostly to help a physical ailment, but even to help with the problem of unbelief.
He explained to His disciples that when He went away, He would send a Helper, a paraklētos. According to Strong’s, the term is used
of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom
No longer, then, do those who are God’s own need to plead for Him to help. He already has, by giving us the Helper to live with us and in us.
It seems to me, the times I plead for God to help–and there have been times–I am less aware of God’s presence and provision. Of course, in emergencies, it’s hard to keep a level head, to think through the truths of God’s word. I suppose that’s the very reason it’s important to “practice the presence” of God daily.
I’m not sure I really like that phrase. It seems as if I have something to do with God being with me or not. The truth is, whether I am aware or not, He is with me. But my awareness influences my decisions and my attitude. I am much less inclined to worry, for example, when I remember that God is with me, that He is sovereign and omnipotent and good.
All this to say, God isn’t running along side me as I struggle on my own to accomplish whatever I wish, so He can be available if I cry out when I’m about to crash.
Rather, God has taken up residence in my life. I am His. I don’t need Him to help me–I need Him! He is sufficient no matter what my circumstances. In fact, because He is infinite God, limitless in His attributes, He loves and gives, provides and protects like no one else could.
That includes anything I could do for myself.