You’ve heard it…I know you have. Some, not truly knowing, have thought it’s a verse in the Bible. But I promise you won’t find this phrase in the Bible because it doesn’t exist. What is that phrase?
God helps those who help themselves.
This phrase more recently has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who, by the way, was a Deist. A Deist is one who believes that while a supreme being did create the universe, that supreme being does not involve itself in human affairs. Therefore, miracles and special revelation (such as healing, the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, and the inspiration of the Scriptures) don’t actually happen. The phrase, however; actually originated in ancient Greece as the moral to one of Aesop’s Fables, Hercules and the Waggoner.
Maybe, like me, you at one time believed or still believe this phrase. I mean, it sounds good on the outset…doesn’t it? It also seems to attest to our western culture work ethic. You know…”pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
This phrase, however, is as far removed from the heart of God as is the enemy of our soul. It actually smacks in the face of God and says to Him “I don’t need You, I want to do it myself” and “I’ve got this, I don’t need your assistance God.” If anything, these statements confess a heart that is full of self-dependence and self-reliance.
This is exactly what our first parents were thinking when they sinned in the Garden of Eden. They, in essence, said to God, “The snake (enemy of our soul) told me and I believed him, that you were holding out on me. That I actually should have received and deserve more than you gave me. That I should be just like you, God, having the same knowledge of good and evil and in control of my own life. So, because I want to be independent of you and be my own god; I disobeyed you and bit into the fruit.” That, beloved, is the heart of fallen man that Jesus came to redeem. A desire deep down inside to be independent…to be the god of our own life…to shake our fist at God and tell Him “I don’t need you, I can do it myself.” It is the BIG lie. In reality, we are so dependent on God that we can’t even take a breath without Him. He supplies the very air we breathe. God created us to live wholly for Him…that is His plan.
Beloved, God works through our choices and the exercise of our will. He doesn’t push Himself on us, however, he does pursue us. It is the nature of our faith walk to ask in prayer. As a child, dependent on the love and trust of his or her parents, asks. God is eager…eager to give us what we need when we ask. Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11)
Why does God require that we ask Him? Because asking reveals evidence of our faith and dependence on Him; entrusting Him to provide for our every need. “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) Faith is pleasing to Him and the action of faith is on-going day-in and day-out trust in Him. It creates a bond of oneness which the Father desires. This oneness which was first exhibited between the Son and the Father is expressed in Jesus’ prayer in John, in which Jesus prays for His disciples and those who would come to know Him through them. Jesus prays for this same oneness with those the Father gives to Him. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:11b, 21, 22-23)
Jesus was so dependent on the Father that every word He said was coming directly from the heart of the Father. Jesus said “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 6:26b) Jesus also said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 15:9)
What are some ways we exhibit our independence from God? One way is when we attempt to prove God’s priorities. We say to ourselves, “God is too busy. Why should I bother him with my little daily nuisances when he’s busy helping people with big problems and those who are very ill? Surely, He expects me to deal with these things on my own.” We may also think, “I have gotten so far away from God, what’s the point? With all the sin in my life, why would God listen to me?” Here’s the misconception in that thinking. You have minimized your own pain to your own peril. You miss a perfect opportunity to humbly come to Him and say “Please help me, have mercy!” It can also develop into the beginning of a habit of creating your own world apart from God…independently and defiantly going your own way.
God won’t help those who help themselves because those who do are too busy doing to receive His power and His help. Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) However, so often we continue to prod along on our own and then wonder why we don’t experience His power in our life.
How is His power perfected in us? His power is made perfect in our weakness. The Apostle Paul was given a taste of heaven and to keep him from becoming conceited regarding this revelation from God, a thorn in the flesh (we are not told what it was) was given to him. He asked that it be taken away, but Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (Paul continues) Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10) Paul delighted in difficulties and other hardships, so that he would remain weak and therefore, Christ’s power would be strong in him.
Beloved, the truth is God doesn’t help those who help themselves; God helps the helpless and His power is perfected in our weakness.