“God Helps Those Who...?”
How many times have you and I heard, or said, “God helps those who help themselves?” Or how many times have we said... or been told, “It’s my problem. I can handle it. I don’t need any help from anyone!”
We’ve all said things like that... and to a certain degree, it’s true! Sometimes God does help those who help themselves... If you’re looking for a job and you pray for God to help you find a job, but you refuse to submit a resume’ or an application, God’s probably not gonna’ help you! And many times it IS my problem, and I need to handle it! But not always...
Where did we come-up with the idea that doing everything by ourselves is always good, and that asking for (and/or receiving) help is somehow bad or negative? Sometimes the very best thing we can do is ask for help... and many times the strongest, most faithful response, is to admit our weakness.
Of course, there’s no doubt about it: being overly dependent is not desirable. And if you’ve ever tried to help someone who’s overly dependent - maybe an adult who refuses to grow up or take responsibility for their own actions - then you know just how undesirable it can be.
But self sufficiency for the sake of self sufficiency’s not all that attractive either. It leads to pride and arrogance and egotism. None of us can do everything... and none of us knows everything.
And for those who are thinking, “well, the Bible says, ‘God helps those who help themselves...’” it DOES NOT. Most people think the Bible says it... but it was actually Benjamin Franklin (who was quoting someone else!).
The fact is, the Bible teaches something very different. God’s Word stresses that God helps those who admit that they can’t help themselves. And for many of us... myself included... the hard part comes in admitting when we can’t.
I was “brought up” in a family that simply didn’t ask for help... you didn’t admit to needing help. It was a point of pride... but it was also a lesson in earning your own way and taking care of yourself. We were always taught to help others first... and we were expected to help others... especially the elderly in our community.
When one of our neighbors would ask if I could help them cut their grass, or rake their leaves, I was taught to never “charge” for my help. If they offered, after at first refusing payment, then you could accept whatever they offered.
And I still struggle with asking for help today! I’d much rather just do something myself... and be done with it. But I’m learning my limitations. There are things that I simply can’t do on my own... There are times when I need help...
Of course, learning to depend on others requires a lot of trust... be it trusting your doctor... or your mechanic... or you parents... or even God.
I think trusting God can be the hardest lesson of all... It’s not that we don’t trust God, and it’s not that we don’t believe that God can help us, or that He will help us. It’s more of a feeling of unworthiness. Why would God want to help me? Why would the creator of the universe be interested in my worries, and heartaches, and adversities?
Our scripture lesson today reminds us: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” It DOES NOT SAY the Spirit may help us in our weakness... or that the Spirit will help us when we we’ve don’t everything we could possible do to help ourselves and we’ve exhausted all other options! It says “the Spirit HELPS (present tense)... the Spirit helps us IN our weakness.”
When we’re so lost and broken that we don’t even know what to ask for anymore... when the words just won’t come out... the Spirit intercedes for us, as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ. The Spirit guides us, comforts us... the Spirit even brings other people into our lives... people who are ready, willing and able, to help us, to listen to us, to encourage us... as God works “all things together for our good.”
And that’s a HUGH part of what Pentecost is all about.
The disciples were huddled together... doing what they could do in light of everything they’d experienced, including the death and resurrection of Jesus. But they were basically in “housekeeping” mode - electing Matthias to replace Judas as one of the leaders... waiting for the promise of Jesus to be fulfilled... waiting for the day the Spirit of Christ himself would give each of the disciples the strength and ability to carry out the mission of ministry of Jesus... which was something they certainly could not do on their own.
When suddenly, it happened! A sound like the blowing of a mighty wind came from heaven, filling the room... and what appeared to be “tongues of fire” came to rest on every disciple. They were given the ability to speak and hear things... things they could have never spoken or heard before... They were empowered to communicate the Gospel... to share the story of Jesus...
That’s what Pentecost is ultimately about! God interceding in our lives... helping us to do what we cannot do on our own! God breaking through the facade’ of our self-sufficiency... to fix what we can’t fix... to heal what we can’t heal... to show us what we cannot see... helping us do what He has called us to do... and to be what He has called us to be.
I wonder what it is in our lives that we’re trying to do on our own?
God helps those who trust in his unfailing love... God helps those who listen for his voice... God helps those who wait patiently on his timing, which is perfect... God helps those who submit to the authority of Christ... God helps those who believe in the name of Jesus, and repent of their self-sufficiency.
May the Spirit of God help each of us in our weakness, as we continue to Covenant together, to reach our community for Christ.