If it’s true that “God helps those who help themselves,” then….

If it’s true that “God helps those who help themselves,” then it sounds like we’re in a partnership with God, where it’s a combination of his grace and our works that save us and see us through.

It’s like the quote, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,” yelled by an American chaplain during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The chaplain’s first instinct was to trust God, but right on its heels was the men doing their part too. It wasn’t enough just standing on deck shouting, “Praise the Lord,” and expecting God to knock the enemy planes out of the sky, when they could shoot off a few shells too. It was God and man in partnership, side by side; his grace and human works together.  

Others through history have thought the same thing, like Sophocles who wrote, “And heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act,” and Euripides who wrote, “Try first thyself, and after call in God; For to the worker God himself lends aid.” From the French author Jean de la Fontaine came, “Help yourself and Heaven will help you too,” and from the English political theorist Algernon Sidney the well known phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” The Quran adds its bit as well in Chapter 13:11: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”

But if that’s true, then what happens if we can’t change what is in ourselves, we haven’t got any ammunition left, and we are totally out of options as far as helping ourselves?

It happened to Paul. He discovered a power inside his head “waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin,” Romans 7:23, and there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.

So what did Paul do? Did he yell, “Praise the Lord, and pass me my spiritual disciplines” in a renewed effort to do his part in the partnership better? No, verse 24; he yelled: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” He recognized he couldn’t help himself, and threw himself entirely on God’s grace to save him. There was no partnership here; it was all one way. And when Paul understood and accepted that, it was then that God delivered him (verse 25).

God didn’t help Paul after Paul helped himself. God helped Paul when Paul recognized he couldn’t help himself. This was no partnership of God’s grace and Paul’s works; it was all God’s grace and nothing from Paul. God totally took the reins when Paul had no control over the horse whatsoever, and that’s what saved Paul. 


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