We’ve all heard that old saying, right? But what does it really mean? Does it mean that God will only help us achieve something if we are already beating our brains out trying to achieve it for ourselves? Or maybe He just wants to make sure we’re willing to put forth a little effort before He will help us through those last crucial steps. This topic has been on my heart for quite a while now, and it’s been kind of a tricky one for me.
Let’s start by taking a look at the phrase itself. “The Lord helps those who help themselves” is not found anywhere in the bible. I researched the origin of the saying, and found conflicting information. Some people attribute it to Benjamin Franklin in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in 1757. Others give credit to a British philosopher, Algernon Sidney, who used the phrase in an article titled “Discourses Concerning Government” in 1698. Further research reveals that Algernon Sidney died in 1683, so who knows if that one is true. Yet another source credits the phrase to one of Aesop’s fables from the 6th century BC. The fable, titled "Hercules and the Waggoner", tells the tale of a man whose wagon became stuck in the mud. The man got down on his knees and prayed to Hercules for help. Hercules promptly told the man to get up and put his shoulder to the wheel because "the gods help those who help themselves.” It seems the phrase actually originated in pagan Greek mythology.
That’s all very interesting as a history lesson, but it doesn’t really help to answer my questions. As a Christian, I naturally understand that I must turn to the scriptures for answers. Here are a few passages I came across:
Exodus 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work.
Psalms 104:23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
Psalms 128:2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
Hebrews 6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
That certainly makes it sound like God expects us to work. He sure isn’t advising His people to sit around and do nothing, but in all honesty, I’m not completely convinced that those verses apply directly to the topic at hand. I do like that last one, though. Incidentally, there are more than two hundred verses in the bible that speak of labour. Let’s look a little further:
Psalms 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Jeremiah 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
Psalms 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
Psalms 73:28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
Psalms 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
I recognize a couple of those verses, I’ve used them in my blog before. Those verses make it sound like we’re supposed to trust God and wait on Him. That last one in particular seems very clear to me. Incidentally, there are also lots of verses that talk about waiting on the Lord.
I have read a few articles that I found on this subject and, surprise, surprise, opinions are varied. Some support one theory, and some support the other, and, depending on your interpretation, you can find plenty of scripture to back up either one. So what’s the answer?
Here’s what I know, or maybe I should say here’s what I believe:
I believe God does not want us to be lazy or slothful.
I believe that God does not want us to suffer needlessly.
I believe that God wants us to help others in need.
I believe that God wants us to have patience, and wait for Him to do things in His own time.
I believe that God will provide us with everything we NEED.
I guess what it all boils down to is faith. We must have faith in God to provide for us, and to lead us where He will. I think it’s okay for us to try to achieve results for ourselves, but let’s face it; if God is not ready for it to happen, It’s just not going to happen, no matter what we do. How will we know whether to work at it, or just wait on the Lord? That part, at least, is easy, ask God. If He wants us to do something, He will tell us. If he wants us to be patient and wait for Him to take care of it, He will tell us that too. It’s all about faith and trust.
Well, I’ve done a lot of praying about this, praying for God to instruct me, and praying for Him to open my heart so I can receive His instructions, and this is what I seem to be getting. Of course, I will continue to pray and will wait to see were He leads me next. In the meantime, I will put my trust in the Lord.
I’m going to leave off with some words of wisdom that Pastor Mike shared with me:
“..…Steven, the Lord is your help in time of need. No one knows what you need more than the Lord and He will indeed either give you the grace to stand up under your difficulties or He will remove the difficulty. Our responsibility is to seek the Lord and leave the results totally with Him. If He gives you the opportunity to have some medical procedure done that will allow your eyesight to be restored He will provide for that as well.”
Psalms 121:1-3 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.