God Helps Those Who Help Themselves: Really?

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

               6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.  Acts 3: 1-10

No doubt most of us have had an earful of the old cliché: “God helps those who help themselves.”  Sadly, way too many hurting women (myself included) have fallen into a deeper state of depression under the weight of these words. That’s because women who are offered this advice usually are already at the end of their ropes. Searching desperately for even a glimpse of God’s will rather than just making any old move, many of these women have already done all they have known to do– praying, seeking advice and working themselves into the ground for solutions, only to find themselves confused and still longing for answers. They want to do the right thing and please God. How refreshing is it to realize that this old cliché of “helping ourselves” does not appear in the Bible. In fact, the crux of what God’s Word teaches us runs in complete contrast.

In Acts Chapter 3, a passage I speak about in Chapter 12 of “Real Women Cry (and real men let them),” Peter and John notice a crippled man begging outside the temple gate named Beautiful. Though some folk would typically do all they could to avoid such a person, two apostles on their way to a prayer meeting took time out from their schedules to give this man, lame from birth, so much more than the few expendable coins he was seeking. Rather than advise the man to stop hiding behind his disability and do something productive to help himself, Peter and John taught the man the most important lesson he could ever learn: the value of a surrendered heart that is willing to accept God’s help, trusting Him to do what only He can do. All that was required was:

1) An Obedient Heart Willing to Look at God (v.4): As with Peter’s instructions to the beggar, in times of great desperation, all that God initially asks us to do is to look at Him. Rather than wearing ourselves into the ground trying to come up with solutions and turning to coping mechanisms that do little more than make our situation worse, God through the love of His Son Jesus, merely asks that we turn the eyes of our heart toward Him. When we do, the bondage of futile attempts to help ourselves is replaced by a freedom that can only be experienced through a heart of surrender and complete reliance upon God. It is in these breakthrough moments that we come to realize that God alone can meet our need. For those who have worked themselves into the ground trying to make their situation right, a renewed sense of “being still and knowing He is God” (Psalm 46:10) overtakes the troubled soul leaving peace in its wake.

2) Expectation (v.5): As the crippled beggar quickly learned, God does not ask us to look at Him so that He can send us away empty-handed. His invitation to turn our eyes toward Him indicates His ongoing desire to minister to us through the power of His Holy Spirit. As King David teaches us in Psalm 5:3, we are to “lay (our) requests before (God) and wait expectantly.”  While like the beggar we may not receive silver or gold, we can anticipate receiving from God His absolute best solution to our problem even if for years we feel we have done nothing more than sit begging outside the temple door. Because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ (our Beautiful Gateway) we, like the beggar, can rise to our feet and enter into the throne room of God.

In return the man received:

3) Supernatural Help (v.7): Rather than telling him to “help himself,” Peter actually reached down and helped the lame man to his feet. Contrary to enabling him, the power of the Holy Spirit working through Peter’s actions resulted in the impartation of supernatural help. As with this man lame for decades, when we too look to God we can trust Him to reach down and lift us up out of our miry pits even if we have battled in such places since birth.

4) A heart of praise that witnessed to others (vs.9 & 10): Not only did the man’s decision to obey and trust in what turned out to be the power of the Holy Spirit result in his physical healing, this formerly lame man experienced the joy of the Lord that spilled out into the lives of those who were watching. Likewise, when we choose to obey and trust God we can be assured that those around us will be affected. It is never just about us!

God is in the blessed business of calling us to surrender so that He can intervene and free us from a life where we are spinning in circles trying to “help ourselves.” It starts with the Gospel message that lets us know that it is “by grace that we are saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our relationship with the Lord begins and ends with faith in God undeniably demonstrated by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. God loves us, and is ALWAYS ready to help if we are willing to quiet our hearts, give Him our efforts and let Him take over. With this in mind, let us stop, think and take a moment to pray before we readily serve out statements like that old cliché that carry with them no Biblical truth and do nothing more than make our sister’s load heavier. Let us for a moment mentally switch places with the woman to whom we are seeking to minister, asking God what His will is and how He would help her. In most cases the answer may be as simple as extending our hand and helping her to her feet that she may ultimately “walk and jump and praise God” (Acts 3:9)*.

At His feet with you,


*All Scripture taken from the NIV, www.biblegateway.com