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Sunday, October 14, 2018

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves Is Not In The Bible

This is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles October 14, 2018. This is the second sermon in a "That's Not In The Bible" series.  

The saying "God helps those who help themselves" is not in the Bible It doesn't reflect what the Bible teaches. What this saying says is that in order to get God to help you have to do something first. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of biblical teaching! If God only helps those who help themselves, it sounds as if God needs our help instead of us needing His help.  The next time you hear someone say “God helps those who help themselves,” remind them that in order to receive His help, you must admit you are helpless. God helps those who can’t help themselves. God helps the helpless.”

 19:14 NLT May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer.

Last week I mentioned several quotes that people believe are in the Bible that aren't.  Things like 
     Ashes to ashes; dust to dust
      Like father, like son
      This, too shall pass
     Confession is good for the soul
     Honesty is the best policy

These and others are meant to encourage or inspire but if they are direct contradictions of scripture they aren't good and can even do damage.  We talked about one of those last week.  “When the praises go up the blessings come down”.  What that quote is saying is that if I praise God He will bless me because I praise Him. It presupposes that all I have to do is praise Him and He has to bless me because that’s the transaction.

As we learned God can’t be manipulated into blessing by praise!  Praise is empty, and useless if it doesn’t come from the heart.  We don't praise to be blessed we praise because we're blessed.  Blessings aren't the result of praise, blessings are the result of obedience.  Those were all things we talked about last week.

One of the quotes or mottos that I didn't mention last week is the one I'm going to talk about today. It is similar in that if it's true it is a transaction.  If I do something, God has to do something because it's a transaction.  But remember we can’t manipulate God. 
At least one of you know what it is because she mentioned it to me last week and she knows it's not in the Bible.  It's actually one of those that can do more harm than good.

“God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”

There was a Gallup poll some years ago and 4 out of 5 of the people polled believed that “God helps those who help themselves”, is a direct quote from the Bible.  It's not!  The person who mentioned it last week knew that it was made popular by Ben Franklin in 1757 in Poor Richard’s Almanac. He got it from a man named Algernon Sidney, who wrote it in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government in 1698, and he may have gotten it from a 6th Century writing by a fellow named Aeschylus who wrote “God loves to help him who strives to help himself”.

Whatever its origin, and you may have already known that it came from “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, this phrase doesn’t reflect what the Bible teaches.  What this says is  in order to get God to help you have to do something first.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite of biblical teaching! 
If God only helps those who help themselves, it sounds as if God needs our help instead of us needing His help!
The Old Testament book of Proverbs teaches that relying on ourselves, rather than on the wisdom of God, is foolish:
Proverbs 28:26 NLT Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.
The prophet Isaiah declares that actually God helps those who are utterly helpless:
Isaiah 25:4 NLT But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall,
God provides for those who are helpless and needy. God helps those who can’t help themselves. And the Bible considers all of us helpless? Everyone!

Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV)10  As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;11  There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."
That's why God helps, because we were helpless.
John 3:16-17 NKJV 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.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Paul wrote to Timothy and said;
1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

And Peter wrote;
1 Peter 3:18 NIV For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

No, God Won’t Help Lazy People

This phase, “God helps those who help themselves”, is often used as admonishment for laziness or disguised as encouragement to have patience and faith. I don't mean and the Bible doesn't say or mean to say that God helps lazy people.  In fact it says that He will not help a lazy person. 

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 (NLT)10  Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”11  Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business.12  We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living.13  As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

The book of Proverbs gives us an example of the blessings of work and the consequence of laziness. 

Proverbs 6:6-8 (NLT)6  Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!7  Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work,8  they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.

Let’s imagine that you need a job to feed your family. You should get on your knees and ask God to give you a job, but what do you do next? Sit by the phone and expect some employer to call you unexpectedly and offer you a job? Definitely not. Don’t do anything until you pray, but then get out and knock on doors and put in applications. That’s what Jesus meant when He told us to ask, seek, and knock.

No God doesn’t bless laziness.

What’s Wrong With Self-Reliance? 

Now there is nothing wrong with self-reliance or self-help as long as you realize it’s not the best help.  Millions of dollars are spent on self-help books, seminars,  and Internet downloads.  The problem is self-help reinforces a self-centeredness. Self-assurance and self-confidence are good traits when you apply them with the knowledge that the real power to succeed and achieve comes from God. 

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NLT)18  Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)9  We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

When we don't understand that it's God that really determines our success, it’s possible to become arrogant.  There is a story that Muhammad Ali who, when asked by a flight attendant to buckle his seatbelt, said “Superman don’t need no seat belt”.  The flight attendant replied, Superman don’t need no airplane either, so buckle up!”  The point is that arrogance can cause us to think we can do things on our own without God’s help.  We need to remember what it says in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 8:16-17 (NLT)16  He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’

There's the story in the book of Daniel about what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar when he boasted that all his power and wealth had come because of his own abilities. 

In Daniel chapter 4 Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar.  In that dream God actually tells him what is going to happen to him if he continues doing what he's doing. 

Daniel 4:28-32 NLT “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’

Nebuchadnezzar eventually repented and again assumed the throne but it wasn't because of helping himself.  It was because he repented of his arrogance.

Jeremiah 17:5-6 (NLT)5  This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.6  They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.

Do you ever find yourself trying to take care of your obstacles on your own and not trusting them to God?  I know that I do sometimes and it usually turns out not exactly the way I planned and some of them have been total disasters.

An Example of Someone Helped Themselves In Order to Get God To Help Them

Here's an example of someone who wanted to help themselves so that God would help them. 

God promised Abraham that he and his wife Sarah would have a son and he would have so many[DJ1]  descendants that you couldn’t number them. 

Sarah realizing that both she and Abraham were old folks, decided to help Abraham and herself, so that God could do what He said, so she suggested that Abraham and her maidservant, Hagar, “get together”, The idea was if Hagar got pregnant and had a son Sarah could take him and the child would become hers.  She was going to help Abraham get a son who would become hers and in turn God would do His part and give Abraham heirs. 

I don't have time to go into detail today so if you don't know the whole story I urge you to read it in Genesis chapters 16 and 21.  It's pretty dramatic and gripping reading. 

Well we find out that God didn't need any help.

Genesis 21:1-2, 4-5 NLT The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. 

It doesn't say it in this verse but Sarah was 90 at the time.

To make a long story short Hagar did get pregnant and had a son before Sarah.

This is part of the conversation an angel had with Hagar.

Genesis 16:11-12 (NLT)11  And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress.12  This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

 Well guess who his relatives were;

The Arab Muslims trace their lineage back to Abraham through Ishmael.  The Jews trace their lineage back to Abraham through Isaac.  Much of the problems between the Arabs and Jews today can be traced back to Sarah helping herself so that God would help her and Abraham have a son.

When we try to take things into our own hands God will let us but the results are often painful.  That’s the danger of the arrogance that can come from misplaced self-reliance.   

I mentioned it earlier;

It’s Really The Helpless That God Helps Not Those Who Help Themselves

Now here's an example of someone who asked for God's help first.

Nehemiah 2:1-8 NLT Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request. I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.

Nehemiah didn't start by thinking if I want God to help me I need to do something first so that God will help me.  The first thing he did was to pray and ask God for help.

He stopped for a moment, no matter how brief, and prayed before answering the king’s question.  After he prayed he started asking for things and he kept asking.  He asked BIG!  He requested help for safe passage and for building materials.

No matter your problem, no matter who or what stands in the way, there is no request too big for our God.  He loves it when his children ask Him for help.  He wants to heal us.  He wants to encourage us.  He wants us to seek Him for everything.

Matthew 7:7 NLT “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

When it comes to our greatest need—rescue from sin and death—there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves.  Thankfully, that is where God comes in:
Romans 5:6-8 (NLT2)6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.7  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.8  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
We were helpless.
Christ’s death is the solution to the problem of sin and death that we can’t solve on our own. It’s tempting to think that we might be able to help ourselves out of even this predicament, but the Bible clearly teaches that there’s nothing we can do on our own to find salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT2)8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 
There will be times in your life when you won’t know what to do. There will be times you just don’t know what is right or wrong, and times you don’t know left or right. God designed it that way because it requires faith and it requires knowing God as your Father, and Jesus as your Savior.

Philippians 4:19 NLT And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Our help comes from God alone, and it happens when we turn our lives over to him in faith, trusting in the work of Christ on the cross. This isn’t something we work for; and there’s certainly nothing we can change about ourselves to make us worthy of God’s help. Instead, we are saved by the passionate, undeserved love of God. It’s his gift to us!
So the next time you hear someone say “God helps those who help themselves,” remind them that in order to receive His help, you must admit you are helpless. God helps those who can’t help themselvesGod helps the helpless.”
That means you, me… and the world.
It there is anybody here today that is struggling trying to “get right”; trying to get rid of the guilt from things we've done, struggling wondering what the future holds, looking for direction but not finding it. The answers to all those things is Jesus Christ.  Once you invite Him into your life you will find that you'll have peace.  Your situation may not change right away, if at all but there will be a peace that you won't understand.  
This is what Jesus said to His disciples
John 14:27 NLT “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
God is sending help through His Son.
Romans 5:6(NLT)6  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
The only requirement is that you acknowledge the fact that you need Him, that you believe in Him and His sacrifice, and His Word says that you will be saved.
Romans 10:9-13 NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Sermon Audio

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