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Friday, March 16, 2012

Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?


by Jennifer AlLee

God helps those who help themselves.

How many times have you heard this? It's a commonly used phrase which many people think comes straight out of the Bible (it doesn't). It is most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but it appears to have originated earlier. A Google search points to ancient Greece as well as the works of Algernon Sydney in the 1600s. Regardless who said it first, it does beg the question: Does God truly help those who help themselves?

When it comes to salvation, the Bible is clear that it's a gift from God. Nothing we do can obtain it for us, or make us worthy. We are saved thanks to God's grace and mercy.

BUT... (yep, you knew there would be a BUT...)

But God clearly wants us to be involved in the process. Take John 3:16, for example.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life. (NKJV)

...whoever believes in Him...

Believe is an active word. God has freely given us the gift of salvation, but He doesn't just dump it on people. Look at Revelation 3:20:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (NKJV)

Yes, Jesus comes to us, he offers us his gifts, but he doesn't force his way in. It doesn't say, "Behold, I come to the door and break it down." No, he requires us to open the door.

Make no mistake, God is the creator. He's in charge, and there's absolutely no good work we can do to earn our salvation. BUT, God has always wanted us to be active participants in life with him. From the very beginning, when he created a paradise and put Adam and Eve in it, he gave them choices. He gave them the ability to interact with him and a free will to exercise.

You may be wondering: What does all this have to do with self-help? Good question. I've been going through a bit of a struggle in my life lately. The details aren't important (not for this post, anyway). But when I was pondering what to write in the area of self-help, I thought about what I've been going through. There is no doubt in my mind that God has his hand on the situation. I could never, ever get through this on my own. He's been doing amazing things, some of which can only be described as miraculous. But I don't believe he wants me to sit back passively and wait for him to fix everything.

He wants me to be involved in the process.

I've been moved to spend more time in prayer. I have specific scriptures that I bookmarked (on my nifty Kindle Fire) that I read every morning. I've been making an effort to be more connected to people who are a positive influence in my life. There's more, but you get the point... God is working in my life, but there are things he wants me to do, too. He wants me involved.

So... does God help those who help themselves? Yes, he surely does. But he doesn't leave us hanging alone in the wind. He gives us the tools we need to help ourselves. And he stays with us as we use those tools... every step of the way.


JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her first novel, The Love of His Brother, was released by Five Star Publishers in November 2007. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, was released by Abingdon Press in February 2010. Her next two novels are The Mother Road (April 2012) and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (November 2012), both from Abingdon Press. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.
Visit Jennifer's website at www.jenniferallee.com/

11 comments:

  1. I use this quote in my newest novel. Because of the time frame, there is a strong Deist influence. But I used it more in a negative meaning. You're right, we certainly have a part in the process, but I think a lot of people use that quote to take over and push God out of the situation.

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  2. You're absolutely right, Dina. The quote is often used as a way of saying "You have to take care of yourself, because no one else will, not even God." What I was trying to say is that God works WITH us... He supplies the power, the solutions, but he wants us to put them into practice. We have to actively LIVE in his mercy, provision, and grace.

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  3. Agreed with the above comments.

    I think God loves it when we participate in His means of helping us during our times of need. I know it helps me grow closer to Him.

    I'm teaching right now and tell my students to come to me when they need help. Why? Because I cannot help them if I am unaware of the problem. Of course God is Omnipotent... but I still think He wants us to realize that we DO need help and that He is there to guide us.

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  4. Jen, I love how God is working in your life, and how he inspired this post. It's through those tools he gives us, that we see him more clearly as we're working through our struggles. And as we see him more clearly, it is so comforting to realize he is with us through every step.

    DebH, I totally agree, he is always aware of our problems, but wants us to realize that and put our struggles in his capable and loving hands. Only then can we have true comfort.

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  5. Yup, DebH and Suzie, He even says, "Ask, and you shall find."

    I always thought this was in the Bible until I was standing in the church foyer one day and I said in response to someone's comment, "Well, you know what the bible says, God helps those who help themselves." They actually laughed at me - in a good nudge your elbow way. When I asked why, they said it's not actually in the Bible. Well. I had a good laugh about it, too. And I believe the pastor did a sermon on it the next week.

    Now, I can't think of that term withough remembering that church. :)

    Good post, Jen.

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  6. Lovely post. I think if I couldn't take my troubles to Him I would be a mess. It helps ground me. I know that I still have to try work through situations but I feel better knowing God is in control and if I rely on him I will get through it a little bit easier. I hope I make since!

    I'm going through some trying times right now myself.

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  7. Great point, Deb. Even though God knows everything, he still wants us to come to him. Because when you love someone, you go to them with your joys and your sorrows.

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  8. Thanks, Suzie & Anita :+)

    Candy, saying a prayer for you. No matter what your situation is, you are so right... knowing God is right there with us makes all the difference!

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  9. Love this, Jen! The way He put it to me is that no matter what is going on, I can be proactive (which is really it's own kind of self-help) instead of reactive! Awesome post.

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  10. Thanks, Jen. It's been exciting to see how God has been working in your life. I appreciate the perspective on being proactive while we let God work--it sounds like an oxymoron, but there's a balance there.

    In my experience, "God helps those who help themselves" is one of those phrases a lot of people think is in the Bible, like "cleanliness is next to Godliness."

    I'm quite relieved they're not!

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