Category Archives: Character

Self-help Part 1 – God helps those who help themselves

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“God helps those who help themselves”

I trust many of us have heard this saying, and probably use it subconsciously or deliberately as a life principle. I have been thinking about it a bit more critically as despite popular belief it is not a quote from the Bible yet  it is often thrown around in Christian forums as if it was the word of God itself!

First, the extreme interpretations:

Extreme 1:

God won’t help you if you don’t help yourself first.

I believe this is directly contradictory to Scripture, especially the gospel of grace (unmeritted favour from God). We do not have to perform tasks to earn credit in God’s bank of blessings and help.

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly,
their faith is credited as righteousness.- Romans 4:4-5 

Moreover, as believers, we should trust that God will help us at the times when we cannot help ourselves (which is all the time).

But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”…
– 2 Corinthians 12:9

For example, when the 75 year old impotent Abram was told he would be a father of nations, his barren wife Sarai did not believe she would be the mother of these nations but she did believe God’s promise. So she set out to “help God”.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.
But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar;
so she said to Abram,
“The Lord has kept me from having children.
Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
– Genesis 16:1-2

In the end, many years later, Genesis chapter 21 says

 Now the Lord was GRACIOUS to Sarah as he had said,
and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.
– Genesis 21:1 (emphasis mine).

God’s grace, not Sarah’s scheming, helped Sarah! God did not help Sarah because she “helped herself”, He helped her despite helping herself!

Lastly, we cannot really help ourselves without God enabling us. This is explicit in the gospel message from John.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; 
apart from me you can do nothing.
– John 15:5 (emphasis mine)

English: "A Helping Hand". 1881 pain...

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Extreme 2:

Helping yourself is ungodly and we should sit back and wait on God.

 I believe that this is also contradictory to the Word; Specifically, the “sitting back”, not the “waiting”. There is merit in waiting on God. There are many scriptural references to patience but the one that comes to mind is:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
– James 1:2-4

Patience is important for our maturity. It takes a really mature and humble person to truly believe that “God’s timing is better than mine” (*my struggle*) and to wait expectantly.

On the other hand, there is no merit in doing nothing at all while waiting. Think of a good waiter in a restaurant.

While he is waiting for your order, he busies himself serving other customers (blessing others), maybe he’ll pour you a glass of water (service) or converse with you about the options (prayer) until you finally at the right time place your order (God’s order in your life). A waiter who disappears in the back for a smoke break will probably miss when you are ready to order, but a waiter who genuinely serves well and expects your order, will be ready for that order… and may even get an unexpected tip!

A Waitress taking a breakfast order at Kahala ...

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So we’ve dealt with the extremes of the quote “God helps those who help themselves”. We’ve found that we should not and cannot truly help ourselves without God; neither should we sit back and do nothing. While waiting, we should pray and serve God and others genuinely. Though it leaves to be explored how do we know what actions we should take, which I’ll discuss in Part 2!

Thinking about the extremes, though, has inspired me to modify the quote:

“God helps us TO help ourselves!”

Have a great day,

Angie

Live with a Vision!

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On the surface God’s power is not always visible, but the person of faith knows that God is there, no matter what!1

After all…

 

His glory covered the heavens,

And the earth was full of His praise.

His brightness was like the light;

He had rays flashing from His hand,

And there His power was hidden.

Before Him went pestilence,

And fever followed at His feet.  

(Habakkuk 3:4,5)

One can persevere by living with a vision1. If you had a vision of a savior that could do this: 

He looked and startled the nations.

And the everlasting mountains were scattered,

The perpetual hills bowed….

The mountains saw You and trembled;

The overflowing of the water passed by.

The deep uttered its voice,And lifted its hands on high.

The sun and moon stood still in their habitation;

At the light of Your arrows they went, At the shining of Your glittering spear.

(Habakkuk 3: 6, 10, 11)

But then, when you heard the voice of the almighty this happened:

My body trembled; My lips quivered at the voice;

Rottenness entered my bones;

And I trembled in myself,

That I might rest in the day of trouble.

(Habakkuk 3:16)

“Looking back at how God brought me through”

But I remembered how you have brought me through before so I declared: 

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.

(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen.

Love, Ms. B

1. Goldstein, C.R. Remembering God’s Fame. Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.Pacific Press Publishing Association, Idaho. p.68.2013.

Fifty Shades of Gray

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Fifty Shades of Gray—— I think these are the hues through which women see, we blindly enter into dark, uncharacteristic, I must have lost my mind, relationships that have no future, and during the relationship (-is sinking), there is no true depth or profundity, in fact there is a complete lack of quality. The relationship constitutes and reflects an overwhelming color block exhibiting a blur of gray areas that we make excuses for. Loneliness is no excuse to drop your standards so far below the baseline that your virtue electrocardiogram blasts the familiar loud monotonous sound of  one’s values and principles flat-lining. Women  have we lost our self-worth so that we are no longer objective, logical, or sensible for that matter when choosing our mates?  Rather than allowing such a crucial and potentially life changing decision be heavily influenced by a sure, firm foundation of guiding principles, we allow something as transient and capricious as our feelings to be the strongest determining factor in choosing the one with which we would invest large amounts of our time, we instead listen to our deceitful  and untrustworthy hearts as the compass through life’s inevitable season of useless relationships? The word of God warns us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9.  

So ladies can you really trust your heart?

If we compromise our principles, values, and standards which we have held for the majority of our lives for the sake of someone who comes into our lives for a moment, a minute, a miniscule amount of time relative to how long we’ve lived with ourselves, it begs to ask the question have I really thrown  away who I am for what might be a visitor.  One can liken such behavior to breaking down your home of 10 years, even changing its foundation, to rebuild another one so as to fashion it to the standards and liking of an out of town visitor whom you have known for less time than you have had your home.  Our relationship choices do not only affect us, but it can certainly impact others of whose lives we are a part. Think about the examples we would be setting for  other young ladies and young men looking toward us for guidance? Messages that echo ‘women take what you can get while you can get it’  and “men treat us anyway you like, it won’t make a difference, we will still bow to your every whim just because we rather have a partner than our self-respect’. …well I sure hope after you ladies read this, the buck stops here, because it is a disgrace to see the acts of folly and foolishness we women are willing to tolerate today. When you find yourself altering your behavior and carrying out inconceivable actions as a result of the presence of a new mate to which your friends and family respond negatively and with deep concern, then you must take a step back and really check yourself.

Before one decides to date, they should carefully evaluate the character of the individual; ask some poignant and explicit questions that would remove the layers and reveal the true character. Inquire about his past record, observe his behavior around friends and family or if possible in the work place, observe how he treats you (of course) – does he open the door?- does he walk on the outside of you closest to the traffic?- does he speak to you with courtesy? But most importantly, does he have a relationship with God? E.G White says, “Listen not to the proposals of a man who has no realization of his responsibility to God.”   This is absolutely true, because if the person whom you choose to invite into your life is not led by God, then you just never know what you’re gonna get… “take heed, lest what you now think to be pure gold turns out to be base metal (1). Now ladies and gents that statement right there is overflowing with wisdom, no one ever wants to get a six for a nine, or cubic zirconium rather than a diamond so please avoid the shades of gray and carefully screen before you decide to date. Do not be fooled by a pretty exterior….many red apples look rosy and nice till you bite into the rotten core.

When we date, risk is always involved, but it can be a wonderful process connecting with someone with whom you never knew before, developing a deep and fulfilling friendship by sharing numerous enjoyable experiences with each other, however in the midst of cloud nine, be aware, be vigilant, guard your character, and consider if this individual will allow you to preserve your individuality (1) or will he or she compromise your very character. Avoid the shades of gray because when it comes to your character and dignity there’s only black and white.

Love,

Ms. B

(1) White, E.G. The Adventist Home. Review and Herald Publishing Association. 2001