Recently in a stadium packed with people, these words were preached: “If you continue to say something, eventually it will become a reality. Whether you realize it or not you are prophesying your future, prophesying your success. . . . Our attitude should be, ‘I’m getting younger. God is renewing my youth like the eagles. I’m getting stronger, healthier, better looking. . . .’ Don’t go around cursing your future. Start blessing your life. Prophesy good things. Your life will move in the direction of your words.”
It is a common message: A God without wrath sent the Christ without a cross to a world without sin. How do you think that message was received? Was the speaker booed off the stage? No, the people hung on his every word. Why? Because who wouldn’t want to believe that? It’s what itching ears itch for. But is it true? Does God help those who help themselves?
Where does my help come from?
By nature, we are dead (Ephesians 2:1). Dead people cannot do anything to help themselves. But my sinful nature leads me to believe that I can do something to be right with God.
Give specific examples of how you see this truth in other religions, denominations, and even in your own heart.
God must do the “helping”
Read 2 Corinthians 4:6.
Paul compares our conversion to God’s work at creation. In what way is God’s activity in creation like conversion?
Read Luke 18:9-14
In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee thanked God that he was not like other sinners. Far from being repentant, he bragged about his own accomplishments. We think, How arrogant! And yet, when we look to our own actions or when we look down on others who struggle with a sin, we act like the Pharisee. Remember who went home justified: the repentant tax collector. God must do the helping!
Read Romans 4:4,5; 5:8.
What advice would you give to someone who says, “If I can just kick this habit (or sin), I’ll feel closer to God.”
For further consideration
Acts 14:22 says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Even if we are living faithfully, God does not always “help” from a worldly perspective. Give an example of someone for whom this was true. Think about the apostles, patriarchs, and even your own life.
Compare the difference between the outlook on life of those who believe “God helps those who help themselves” and those who understand “God helps us because of his grace.”
Author: David Scharf
Volume 107, Number 04
Issue: April 2020