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God Helps Those Who Help Themselves?

Alistair Huong

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In a survey conducted in the US where people were asked to name one of the Ten Commandments, a top answer was "God helps those who help themselves." This idea typically refers to a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" attitude and seems to resonate with the intrepid, independent American spirit. And the response to this survey indicates it as a notion that's baked into the fabric of American culture--but is it Biblical? Isn't salvation a work completely of God? Is there a part for us to play too?

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Alistair Huong

Executive Director of AudioVerse

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Recorded

  • May 11, 2019
    4:00 PM
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Gracious heavenly Father, we bow before You once more, asking for Your Holy Spirit to be our Teacher and our Guide. May You speak to us, help us to understand how to walk this Christian walk. Help us to have some clarity of some of these things that pertain to our practical Christianity. And may Your Holy Spirit guide us and teach us. This is our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

“God Helps Those Who Help Themselves,” notice this has a question mark up here. So I want to ask the question as we get started, is this a biblical statement? “God helps those who help themselves—is this something that we find in Scripture? I find a few faces say no. How many of you think this is yes, this is a scriptural statement? Yes? Yes? Okay. How many of you think it’s no? Okay, good, I’m glad we have a split vote. That’s good. How about, how many of you think it’s a trick question? When a preacher starts off with a question like this, you’re like, “Ahh, what’s the twist,” right?

 

And there is a slight twist, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but when you think about this notion, “God helps those who help themselves,” what does that actually mean? You know, not long ago I was reading about a survey that was done in the United States. I don’t remember what university town it was conducted; I think it was in multiple cities, actually, and they went around asking people, “Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?” Guess what was one of the top answers, right here in America? One of the top answers for the question, “Name one of the Ten Commandments,” here in the United States is none other than the statement, “God helps those who help themselves.”

 

Now, is that a problem?

 

[Audience: Yes.]

 

Why is that the problem? This phrase, is it found in the Bible?

 

[Audience: No.]

 

It’s not even found in the Bible, much less being part of the Ten Commandments. But I think it does sort of reveal the response to the survey, it does reveal somewhat of the, maybe American DNA, if you will? There’s a certain cultural identifier, perhaps, of Americans, and that is that they are very independent. They believe in being your own person, making your own way, you know, the pioneers, going out West, right? And the gold rush, making a fortune for yourself. And nowadays we hear about entrepreneurs starting businesses, and they go public, and then, you know, they become billionaires, and we sort of glamorize these people. And it all sort of flows out of this idea of, “You take care of your business, and then God will come in and sort of fill in the blanks.”

 

The concept, this idea, “God helps those who help themselves,” generally speaking, at least in American culture or Western culture, the idea is, “You take care of yourself. And when you’ve got it figured out, then God will have a place in your life. Then God might pay some attention to you.” It’s very much the notion of “pulling yourselves up by your own bootstraps” type of idea. And when we think about it in that context, maybe it’s not so much of a biblical idea after all. But we’re not here to discuss American culture or politics or anything like that. I want to look at the Bible as I want you to keep this idea, this thought, in your mind, “God helps those who help themselves.” Is this true?

 

And we’re going to take a look at three Bible stories together as we get started, and the first one is in 2 Kings, chapter 4 and verses 1 through 7. So let’s turn our Bibles there together. I don’t have these verses on the screen. And setting the stage a little bit, 2 Kings, chapter 4, this is a story of Elisha, and this is one of, I guess I can say, one of my favorites. I have a lot of favorite stories in the Bible, but this is one particularly that impacts an interest of mine, and that is personal finance. Some of you may know my wife and I, we actually write a personal finance blog, and I have a couple of finance seminars on AudioVerse, and this is one of the quintessential personal finance stories in the Bible. It’s about someone who’s in debt, and the creditors are coming after her, and she needs a miracle. Does that sound familiar to anyone here? Student loans, maybe?

 

Verse 1, 2 Kings, chapter 4, “A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.’” You see the dilemma that this woman is in. She’s a widow; her husband died. Clearly he was the breadwinner of the home. They were in debt. She has two boys, and the creditors are coming to take her boys away to be slaves to pay off the debt.

 

Verse 2, “So Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.’ Then he said, ‘Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.’

 

“So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’

 

“And he said to her, ‘There is not another vessel.’ So the oil ceased. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.’”

 

So, we’ve all heard this story before, yes? The widow and the oil. So, question: Was this a miracle?

 

[Audience: Yes.]

 

Are you sure? Obviously it was a miracle, clearly, but did the woman have a part to play? Yes! Next question: The fact that the woman had a part to play, did that in any way detract from the fact that it was a miracle? And did the fact that the woman had to play a part in this miracle, does it in some way…what’s the word? Does she somehow get the credit for the miracle actually taking place? No? Okay, next question then: But if she had not played her part, would the miracle have happened? Or if she didn’t fully obey, right? If she didn’t do her best; she just borrowed one. She wouldn’t have had enough to live on, right?

 

So, here is the point: Did God help the woman? Yes. But did the woman have to help herself, too? Yes. Keep that thought in mind because we’re going to go to the next story, and we’re going to build on this idea, “God helps those who help themselves.” Is this a biblical idea? And if so, what does it actually mean.

 

Let’s go to the next passage, Luke, chapter 17, verses 11 through 14, New Testament now. And this is the story of the lepers. Luke 17, Luke 17, beginning in verse 11, “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”

 

Same list of questions: Was this a miracle. Well, yeah, obviously. They were lepers, and then they weren’t. Did the lepers have a part to play? They did because they had to go. They actually had to obey, and they were healed as they went. That’s what we’re told. But does the fact that they had a part to play diminish the fact that it was a miracle? Not at all. But because they participated in the accomplishment, if you will, of the miracle, do they get any credit? No. So we see a similar pattern here?

 

Is it possible today for God to help us get out of debt? Yes, and when people come to me for personal finance advice, or even if they talk to you, you don’t have to have a degree in finance to know this, but there’s going to be some effort involved, isn’t that right, if we want to get out of debt. You’ve got to live on less than you make. You actually have to live on a budget. You have to do certain things to participate, but the miracle still comes from God.

 

What about our health, in the case of the lepers? Can God still heal? Does He still perform miracles of healing? Do we have to play our part? We of all people, right, as Adventists, we understand the laws of health. Can God bless us when we are knowingly, flagrantly violating the laws of health? He doesn’t make a miracle, but in cooperating with Him and following the laws of health, He can perform a miracle.

 

But the fact that we participate and we do our part, it doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s a miracle. It doesn’t take away from the fact that God is the One that performs the miracle and gives the increase. The woman could not have gone to her friends and said, “Oh, yeah, I had such an incredible business plan for my olive oil business.” Maybe it wasn’t olive oil. Maybe, nowadays, maybe she was selling essential oils, who knows, right? “I have such an amazing website, so much traffic. I could convert my viewers. I did this myself.” Could the woman have said that? No way!

 

And the lepers could not have said, “You know, before I went to Jesus, I went vegan, and I’ve been using essential oils, and I learned this thing on the internet, on YouTube, and Jesus, it was nice of Him, but I did it.” Could they have said that?

 

So what I’m trying to show and what I’m trying to highlight here is that just because we have a part to play doesn’t necessarily detract from the fact that God is performing a miracle. You following my line of reasoning?

 

So, let’s go to our third story, and from here we’re going to launch into the main gist of what I’m trying to communicate. So, let’s go to Acts, chapter 27 now. So we’ve looked at two stories. We’ve talked about personal finance, we’ve talked about health, and we understand that there is a part for us to play for God to bless us. What about the spiritual realm? What about salvation? Acts, chapter 27, and we’ll begin reading in verse 21. But setting the stage here, Paul and his companions, they’re headed to Rome, and they set off from the island of Crete unadvisedly. And when they departed, they got caught in a gigantic storm, and everyone thinks that they’re going to die.

 

We pick up in verse 21, “After long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.” Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island.’”

 

This is pretty remarkable. They are on the verge of death, and God sends an angel to tell Paul, “Not one life is going to be lost.” Wouldn’t that be nice to have an angel show up and tells us that when we go through our storms in life? Maybe there’s a horrible calamity in our life, maybe it’s financial, maybe it’s health, maybe there’s some circumstance we find ourselves in, maybe it’s a literal storm or a car accident or something, and, boom, an angel shows up and says, “Don’t worry! You’re going to be just fine.” Whoa, I’d be like, “No problem.” This is going to be just fine. And that’s exactly what happened in this storm.

 

But I want to focus in on how the men on that ship responded, okay? Let’s take a look at Sketches from the Life of Paul, page 267, “At these words…,” the words that Paul just told them that the angel said, “Passengers and crew roused from their apathy, and put forth all possible exertion to save their lives. There was much yet to be done.” Does that response strike you as odd, as it did to me? Because what just happened here? They thought they’re going to die, and an angel comes down and literally tells them not one person is going to die. “You’re all going to be saved, every single one of you.” And they respond, notice, by putting forth “all possible exertion to save their lives.” Does this not sound or look like a disregard of the promises of God in a way?

 

Like, the angel just left, right? The angel was just here, and he said, “Everyone’s going to be saved,” and their very next response is, “Let’s put more elbow grease into this thing. Let’s put our backs into it. We have to do more!”

 

[Audience: …gave them hope…]

 

Yes, very good. So these passengers had a response that was not a response that perhaps maybe I think, looking from my, you know, easy chair, looking back in history, think I would have done. I would have looked at the situation, and I would have said, “Oh, great! Let’s just relax. Let’s just sit back and let’s just watch God perform a miracle to save us.” Jesus calmed the storm with His hand, right? He said, “Peace be still,” and everything stopped. Let’s just see what happens, right? That would be my response. Why would I presume on the grace of God and behave in a way that seemed, might be viewed, as saying, “God, thanks, but no thanks”?

 

Let’s take a look at the next sentence in this passage. Are these passages presuming on the goodness of God? Are they saying, “God, I hear you, but we got this”? Is that their attitude? What were they thinking? “Every effort within their power must be put forth to avert destruction; for,” uh-oh, “God helps those only who help themselves.”

 

Right at the very beginning we started with the question, is this a biblical statement, “God helps those that help themselves”? And, indeed, that statement’s not found in the Bible, but it is found in the Spirit of Prophecy. And right here in this story we see an illustration of what God must mean when He says this.

 

You see, God expects a certain reaction from us when He gives us His promise. It is not presumption to cooperate with God. It is presumption to disregard God’s promises. And so what does this mean then? We’ve got to unravel this, you know. There is some cognitive dissonance going on now. Well, is God saying, “You save yourself, and then I’ll come in and interject Myself in your experience”? Is that what God is trying to say?

 

Let’s make this clear. This is in Sermons and Talks, volume 2, page 195, What does that first sentence say? “God’s promises are,” what, “conditional.” This is a bedrock principle of Scripture. Never forget this. “God’s promises are conditional. In order to make it possible for Him to bless us, we must do our part. We cannot expect that all His blessings will come to us naturally, if we fold our hands in inactivity.”

 

So, just like the woman with the oil, she had to go borrow the vessels. She had to put forth her effort in gathering as many vessels as she could, and then after the oil was all filled up, she had to go out and actually sell the stuff. She had her part to play. The lepers, they actually had to obey the word of Jesus and go show themselves to the priest, and as they went, they were healed. And the promise that God gave to Paul and his compatriots on the sinking ship is, “Yes, I’m going to save you, but you’ve got to play your part.”

 

And here’s the big difference. When we think in today’s terms, “God helps those who help themselves,” we think of it as, at least the way that American culture projects it is, “You take care of everything yourself first, and then God will listen to you.” But what we’re seeing here is God offers us the promises first. He offers us His promise of grace and power, and we have to accept it. We cooperate by receiving, or we help ourselves by accepting by faith the promise that He gives first.

 

You see, there are two extremes, there are two extremes in the Christian experience that is just equally deadly. On one hand, there’s the idea of cheap grace. The idea that God does everything. “Jesus, take the wheel,” that type of idea, and we just sit back, and any effort on our part is legalism. If we actually have to try, if we actually have to make a choice, if we actually have to alter anything in our lifestyle, that’s works! That’s legalism. That has nothing to do with my Christianity, and that leads down the path of cheap grace, of “once saved, always saved.” Jesus does it all. Any effort on our part is wrong. That’s one extreme. But then the opposite extreme is just as bad, and that is we have to do everything ourselves, and once I get my act right, once I fix myself, once I’ve tidied up everything, then I’m worthy to come to Jesus.

 

One side says there is absolutely no effort involved in my Christian experience. The other side says it is all my effort, and my effort is what merits Jesus to pay attention to me. Those are both equally dangerous and erroneous extremes. And what we’re trying to say today is that there is a path down the middle where Jesus gives the promise of infinite power, but we must do our part to accept that power.

 

I wrote this down so I want to say it properly. I want to make sure I say this properly. God gives the grace through His promises, through His Word, which is the supernatural power to accomplish the impossible, to accomplish the miracle, right, the healing of the leper, saving the men in the storm, filling the jars with oil. He gives the promises of grace, but the appropriation of that power requires the cooperation of the human agent. That’s called faith. Faith says, “God said it; therefore, I will believe it and live it.” If we never apply the faith, we’re just hoping for a miracle. We’re being the woman who says, “I believe you,” but never borrowing the jars. We’re being the lepers that say, “I know, Jesus, You can heal me,” but never going to the priest.

 

We are saved by grace through faith, indeed. That’s what it says in Ephesians, chapter 2. But at the same time, we’re also commanded to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. You see, when we have God’s promises of infinite power, we don’t stop all our effort because of His promises. Rather, we put forth all of our might because now we know there’s no chance of failure. That’s the difference. We know we cannot fail.

 

So, let me sum this up. This is a statement that highlights the key principle of what I’m trying to present this afternoon. Prophets and Kings, page 486, “Herein is revealed the outworking of the divine principle of,” what’s that word, “co-operation, without which no true success can be attained.” How many of us want success in our Christian experience? I know we all do. So the only way this happens is if we cooperate. What does that look like? “Human effort avails nothing without divine power; and without human endeavor, divine effort is with many of no avail. To make God’s grace our own, we must act our part. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort.”

 

You see the balance right there? That grace is given freely, as much grace as we need, God is giving it to us, but we’ve got to reach out and take it. We’ve got to exert the effort, apply it in our situation. Cooperation is the name of the game, the divine principle of cooperation.

 

You see, God can still feed the 5,000, but we still have to pack our lunch. You understand what I’m saying? Jesus can feed the 5,000, sure, but we can cooperate by doing our part. David, God performed a miracle in delivering Israel in allowing David to slay Goliath. But David still had to pick up the stones. He still had to go face the giant in the field of battle. It took effort, but the miracle came from God.

 

God performed the miracle of preserving Noah and all the animals in the flood, but Noah still had to build the ark. There would have been no miracle without the cooperation of the human agent. Naaman would have still been a leper unless he was willing to humble himself and dip seven times in the Jordan River. Cooperation.

 

What about the Passover? God could have spared the firstborn of Israel, but they had to put the blood on their doorposts. There was a part for the human agent to play. We can yoke up with Christ. That’s the illustration Jesus gives. We have to take His yoke upon us, but yoking up with Jesus means He’s carrying the load. There is a cooperation there. We could go on and on. Daniel and his friends. God could have delivered them, whether it’s from the fiery furnace or the lions’ den, but they themselves had to make the choice not to bow to the idol, not to give up their devotional life, praying three times a day.

 

There was the story of Jericho; I mean, the list goes on and on, right? God performed a miracle. The walls came tumbling down, but they still had to march around the city all week long. They still had to blow the trumpet. Their part to play did not diminish from the miracle, but their cooperation was vital, essential, in order for the miracle to take place.

 

And in the regeneration of our sinful hearts, in our Christian experience, if we are saved at last, this happens only through cooperation. All the glory, all the credit, goes to God. We get no credit. But at the same time, we have our part to play because God helps those who help themselves. I think we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of what that statement actually means.

 

Testimonies for the Church, volume 4, page 538, I frequently think about this passage. Whenever I’m in the midst of a challenging situation, maybe at work or in ministry or in some particular situation, I think, “How should I react? What is my position with God right now? How do I properly frame my prayers and what I’m doing?” Notice, “Prayer and effort, effort and prayer, will be the business of your life. You must pray as though the efficiency and praise were all due to God, and labor as though duty were all your own. If you want power you may have it, as it is awaiting your draft upon it. Only believe in God, take Him at His word, act by faith, and blessings will come.”

 

You notice the frame of mind that we ought to be? We pray as though everything depends on God because it does. But then we get up with the promises of God in hand and in heart, and we put forth our absolute best effort to do the best we can. And then we leave the consequences with God. When we think about the Christian experience, I have a friend, he has a statement that always resonated with me. Being a Christian is not just being faithful. We talk about faithfulness a lot, but we also have to be useful. If we are faithful to Jesus, we will be useful to Jesus. And what that means? There’s work involved. There’s effort involved. There’s putting our back into the gospel plow, if you will. And in the Christian experience, God provides the power; we can receive it, and just like it says here, only believe in God, take Him at His word, act by faith, and the blessings will come, guaranteed.

 

So the divine principle of cooperation, let’s make this real practical. In this cooperation between God and man, what does God do? What is His part? Very simply, He does what we can’t. So, what does God expect us to do? What do you think the answer is? What we can! When we think about our Christian experience, really, this is what it boils down to. What is God’s part? He does everything that is impossible for the human to do. And what do we do? What we can, and guess what? Jesus offers us grace and power to do what we can. We don’t even have to rely on our own strength. He helps us with that.

 

So, using some of the examples we’ve talked about, getting out of debt, God can perform a miracle. He can. But do we have to make the budget? Do we have to find ways to save? Can He give us a new job? Yes, He can, but once we get the new job, can we show up on time, be a good co-worker, go the second mile? You understand what I’m saying? We give people advice in what I call the secular realm, but in the spiritual realm it’s really not that different. Can we cleanse ourselves from sin? No. But we can go to Jesus. Jesus isn’t going to force Himself upon us; we have to go. We can choose.

 

We can’t cleanse our hearts from sin, but we can choose to surrender to Jesus. We can’t even give Him our affections, but we can ask Him to take them. We can’t change our hearts, but we can set the alarm clock so we wake up in the morning to have time with Jesus. It doesn’t earn us anything. It’s not merit, you understand, but Jesus doesn’t force Himself into our lives.

 

The power, the grace, is available, waiting for us to take it, but we have to make the appointment to be there to see Jesus. We can’t overcome our sins, but we can choose new friends. Jesus can help us, work the miracle to help us overcome our addiction, but we can choose to not go by the bar that we used to go to with our friends, to not be in circumstances that makes provision for the flesh. It doesn’t earn us one whit in our salvation, but that’s cooperation. God can provide the power. We just have to do our part.

 

We can’t overcome the devil; we can’t, but we can memorize Scripture. So when he comes to us like a flood, we can say, “It is written,” back to him, and through that cooperation, God gives us the power to overcome. You understand, this Christian experience, we actually have a part to play. We have to choose.

 

And then in other places (I don’t have the quote here), we are told that the battle with self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. That sounds like effort to me, though victory is guaranteed because Jesus has already won the victory. The promises are sure, but we have to claim them. We have to cooperate with God. You see, the principle that we are talking about here is the divine principle of cooperation. What does God do? He’ll do every part that we can’t do for ourselves. What do we do? We do the parts that we can. And if we have struggles, and we stumble and we fall, God says, “Come to Me and ask Me to help you with those, too.” But we have to make the choice.

 

Here’s an enlightening passage from Testimonies for the Church, volume 1, page 345, that really highlights this in the context of the Great Controversy. The role between the divine agencies, the grace of God, the power of God, and the human agent, what part do we play in cooperation? Notice what this says. It’s almost chilling when you read this scenario. “I saw evil angels contending for souls, and angels of God resisting them.” There’s the Great Controversy right there. “The conflict was severe. Evil angels were corrupting the atmosphere with their poisonous influence, and crowding about these souls to stupefy their sensibilities. Holy angels were anxiously watching and waiting to drive back Satan's host. But it is not the work of good angels to control the minds of men against their will.”

 

Notice the next passage. “If they yield to the enemy, and make no effort to resist him, then the angels of God can do but little more than hold in check the host of Satan, that they shall not destroy, until further light be given to those in peril, to move them to arouse and look to heaven for help.” Here’s a key sentence, “Jesus will not commission holy angels to extricate those who make no effort to help themselves.” Does that sound familiar to the title of our message? God helps those who help themselves, but you notice, this is not the traditional understanding when people usually talk about it today. What Jesus is saying is that all the hosts of Heaven, He’ll send every single angel, He’ll empty the barracks in Heaven of all the angels to come help one soul in need, only if the soul accepts the help, only if that individual makes the effort to say, “Lord Jesus, help me.”

 

If we make no effort, if we take no step to cooperate, the angels are powerless to do anything to deliver us from evil. God helps those who help themselves, only those who choose to cooperate with Him. We have a part to play. We have to make the effort, but God supplies the power.

 

Here’s a statement from Steps to Christ, page 47, that we’ve probably read many times, and I think this might come and be more vivid in new light now. It says, “Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians.” So it’s possible to read the promises of God, read what God has given in Scripture, read about Heaven and all the wonderful things and say, “I want to be there; I want to be saved”; there’s a difference between hoping and desiring and wanting it to actually having it. What’s the difference? What’s the key point here? “They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.”

 

And here’s the point. When we talk about the effort that is a part of the Christian experience, the effort is not so much making ourselves better or climbing a mountain or doing some act of penance, don’t get me wrong. The effort is making the choice. The effort is yielding the will, choosing to cooperate with what God has said, even if it’s difficult, even if it goes against what our natures prefer. So this statement says many will be lost with this mindset. “Oh, but I thought that is legalism,” when all they had was a wistful Christianity, not a realistic Christianity.

 

The next statement from the next page, Steps to Christ, 48, says this, “Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers.” I highlighted the word “ally.” What’s another word of ally? Cooperate. “By yielding up your will to Christ,” you are cooperating, “with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.” Can we say Amen to that?

 

We can live a new life, but do we have a part to play? Does Jesus give us the promise of a new life? Yes! Can He perform the miracle of the new birth? Yes! Can He help us overcome all our besetting sins? Yes! But we have to choose to cooperate. We have to go borrow the jars for the oil. We have to be like the lepers, willing to go when Jesus says, “Go.” We have to have the response like Paul and his fellow passengers and crew on the ship that says, “Hallelujah, God has given us all His promises, all the power from Heaven. We know we can never be lost as long as we are faithful, so let’s put our backs into being useful for the Kingdom of Heaven.” Cooperation. Prayer and effort. Effort and prayer. This will be the business of your life.

 

So let me ask you this question again. God helps those who help themselves. Is this a biblical statement? Or is this a trick question? You understand now why it’s a little bit of a trick question, right? Because as it’s commonly understood today, as it’s commonly associated within our American vernacular, “God helps those who help themselves,” no, I do not believe that is a biblical statement the way it’s presented as in, “You take care of all your business and then come to Jesus.” “You fix yourself, and then maybe Jesus will listen to your prayers.” “You earn your way into Heaven like,” you know, “earning your way into a successful business.” I don’t believe that is biblical at all. That is antithetical to the gospel. Jesus helps us while we were yet sinners, while we were helpless and hopeless to help ourselves.

 

But on the flip side, this is a biblical statement as it is properly understood. And what does it actually mean? To rephrase it to be, perhaps, a little bit more precise, it is this: God can only help those who choose to cooperate with Him. We have all the power of Heaven at our disposal. God will not permit one of us to fall into the grasp of the enemy, but we do have to play our part. We have to cry out, “Lord, save me.”

 

We have to be willing to allow the angels to do battle for us. We have to be willing to choose to say no to certain temptations. We have to be willing to say, “Look, I am not going to stay up late tonight because I need to wake up early to spend time with Jesus tomorrow.” We have to be willing to say, “You know what? I cannot accept that job because I have to work on Sabbath.” “I am willing to sacrifice my grade in this class because I am not going to take this exam on the Sabbath day.” We are willing to say, “I value my relationship with Jesus more than my romantic relationship with this young man,” or woman, “who is inappropriate for me spiritually.” We can make those decisions. That is the part we can play. God provides the grace to help us in every circumstance and in every time of need.

 

Will we cooperate with Jesus today? How many of us today want to say, “Lord Jesus, Yes, I believe Your promises; make them a reality in my life. Help me to be willing to cooperate with You, whatever that may look like”? I know that’s my desire. How many of you want to say that with me today?

 

Let’s bow our heads together as we pray. Father in Heaven, we thank You that Your promises are sure. Your Word is sure. We can have confidence that when You say something, it is so. And You have promised us grace to help in time of need. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present [us]…before His presence with exceeding joy.” Lord, we know You are able, more than able, to perform the impossible in our lives. And, Lord, help us today to understand our part, our insignificant, worthless part of merely cooperating with You, choosing to place our hand in Yours, to place our confidence in You, to be willing to go when You say go, to dip in the Jordan River when that is required, to borrow vessels to sell the oil, to bail water out of the ship. Whatever it might be, whatever the circumstances might be in our lives, Lord, may we cooperate with You so that Your power may flow in and through us, and in turn be a blessing to others.

 

So, Lord, go with us from this place for the remainder of this Sabbath day and also the upcoming week ahead. And may we walk hand-in-hand in cooperation with You, and may we experience the joy of having the promises of God being fulfilled in our lives and having the experience of gaining the victory with You by our side. Lord, we pray for Your return. May we be ready for that day. This is our prayer now in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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