Ever since my kids were born it seems like they were doing everything they could to help themselves. They want to do everything by themselves. I think this is human nature. The only way they ever do this, however, is by being equipped to do so by their parents. Kids do not inherently know how to do all the things involved with daily living. As they grow, they are able to help themselves.
This reminds me of something that people are often misquoting. It is a phrase that is often attributed to the Bible, but is actually not found in the Bible. “God helps those who help themselves.” People have quoted it for years as a way to encourage others to stop being lazy and do something for themselves. To be sure the Bible does speak a great deal about the perils of the sluggard.
“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4
But, the notion that people are always required to act before God acts is not based on Biblical concepts. Let me provide a few examples and try to make a link to your life.
Where People Seem to Act First
The story about the woman in the crowd in Luke 8 is a story where someone initiates the interaction with Jesus. In her case, she take great risk by going out in public in order to try to touch Jesus. She succeeds and she gets well to the shock of those around.
The same is true of many other interactions with Jesus. When Nicodemus came to Jesus it was His decision to go see Jesus at night. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus it was his choice as well, even though he walks away without trusting in Jesus.
So, yes there are many instances where people need to act in order to receive from God.
Where People Weren’t Obviously Acting First
In Mark 2 there is a story about a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus by his friends. We don’t see him asking for healing, but the faith of his friends make is seen by Jesus and he is healed. Another example is the man at the pool in John 5. He was just waiting at the pool, minding his own business, when Jesus shows up and offers to heal him.
What does this mean?
There is danger in thinking that we are the start of God’s work. God has been working all along. It is God’s work that brought the world into being. It is God’s work that sent a Savior to the cross for us. It is God’s work that draws us to Himself.
We cannot convince ourselves that we are more important than we are. Does God help people who help themselves? There is personal responsibility for everyone, of course. But, it only comes when God first calls and works. Even in the cases above of people coming to Jesus, God has already been at work. Why did Nicodemus come? It was because he had heard about Jesus and had questions. Why did the woman come to receive healing from Jesus? It is because she had heard about Him and wanted to experience it for herself. Even the friends who brought the man to Jesus in Mark 2 didn’t just go there on a whim. They had heard about Jesus and wanted their friend to be made whole again.
The implication for our lives is as significant as it is simple. Our job is to abide in Jesus Christ. He changes us and that is what makes all the difference.
Help yourself? Hardly — We have been given the opportunity to act and receive the grace of God only because He has offered it in the first place.