Tag Archives: patience

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

Waiting on God 2

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I wrote about waiting on God before here. To summarize that post, I highlighted three aspects of waiting:

1) waiting with joy, patience and prayer (Romans 12:12)

2) giving up control to God (1 Peter 5:6-7)

3) realizing that God’s time and not our time is what matters (Philippians 4:6-7

Today I want to write more on waiting based on Psalm 52:9.

I will praise thee for ever,

because thou hast done it:

and I will wait on thy name;

for it is good before thy saints.

I never really thought about what it means to “wait on God’s name”. So I went back to a post by Ms. B called Who is God? where the many names of God were outlined:

Elohim (Deuteronomy 10:17) – God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God

Waiting on God’s name means we understand that God is great. His greatness means that He is greater than your circumstances. (Deuteronomy 3:24)


El Elyon (Genesis 14:18-20) – The most high God

Waiting on God’s name means that we understand God is high above all things and can do more than what we can ever think to ask. (Ephesians 3:20).


El Shaddai (Genesis 49: 24-25) – God almighty – The All–Sufficient One

Waiting on God’s name means that we recognize that all the unmerited blessings that He has provided up to this moment are enough for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).


Jehovah-Jireh (Genesis 22:14) – The Lord who provides

Waiting on God’s name means that we trust that God will provide all our needs exactly when we need them, not early or late (Philippians 4:19).


Jehovah-Rapha (Exodus 15:26) – The Lord who heals

Waiting on God’s name means that we believe he will heal us from physical, mental and emotional pains and that we understand that all healing takes time, some healings longer than others (Isaiah 57:18).


Jehovah–Rohi (Psalm 23:1) – The Lord who is my shepherd

Waiting on God’s name means that as sheep we follow Him and listen to and recognize His voice (most often manifested in His Word, although sometimes a physical voice or speaking through others). We are not distracted by the voice of Satan and we align our self with God’s will (John 10:27).


Jehovah–Nissi (Exodus 17:15) – The Lord my banner

Waiting on God’s name means we know that the battle is already won because God is our battle-standard. He has gone before us and fought for us and the victory is ours to claim. (Deuteronomy 20:4).


Jehovah-Sabaoth (Psalm 46:7) – The Lord of hosts

Waiting on God’s name means that we can believe that He commands his Angels to guard us so we are always protected (Psalm 91:11).

We need to keep these Bible truths in mind because the devil tries to lie to us all the time and convince us that we are waiting in vain and that God does not hear our prayers. The devil especially comes when he sees we are doing well. He wouldn’t chase you if you were not running away from him and closer to God. If we stumble (and we will! (Psalm 37:24)) we should not beat up ourselves, because God will not let us fall permanently. We must refocus and look to the Lord for the strength to get up and try again. He will lift us up because it is His nature and name to be our Greatness (Elohim), our Healing (Rapha) and our Shepherd (Rohi).

Be sober, be vigilant;

because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,

walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1Peter 5:8

Here’s a song that always lifts me up, I love the bridge counter-melody:

“You are Lord of Lords, You are King of Kings, You are Mighty God, Lord of everything, You’re Emmanuel, You’re the great I AM, You’re my Prince of Peace who is the Lamb, You’re the Living God, You’re my saving grace, You will reign forever, You are ancient of days, You are Alpha, Omega, beginning and end, You’re my Saviour, Messiah, Redeemer and Friend, You’re my Prince of Peace and I live my life for You.”

Amen!

Have a truly blessed day in God’s name,

Angie

Waiting on God

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shadows and reflections

There always comes a time in life where you have to wait on God. Whether it’s waiting for a result, waiting for a directive or waiting through a season. Waiting on God is not easy. It’s hard to let go of the reins, it’s hard to wait for a long time for a sign and it’s hard to resist the temptation to just do it your own way. Here are a few of the thoughts I had about waiting on God.

  1. Joy, patience and prayer I’ve been waiting (very reluctantly I might add) through a challenging season. I was talking to my mum yesterday and she said to me “If you say you are trusting God, then you are flying in his face when you walk around moping. So look on the bright side. Even though the message may hurt sometimes, God is in it and he is allowing it for a reason”. And it’s true. I am not really trusting God if I continue to worry and cry and be miserable just because God wants to teach me something through a painful situation.

    Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12It’s no coincidence that while I was at church, praying or reading my Bible, I always felt better. I was only using one of the three elements of the above verse. Despite remaining prayerful, I was letting my self be unjoyful and impatient with God. I thank God that my faithless attitude was not making my prayers ineffective, but I’m sure if I continue with this negative mindset my prayers would have become faithless and go unanswered.

  2. Relinquish control In the early days, when Abram was over 75 years old (Gen 12:4), God promised him he would have an heir (Gen 15:4). Years had passed and Abram’s wife Sarai remained barren so she suggested that he sleep with her maidservant Hagar. I believe that Sarai did not doubt God’s promise to Abram, but she didn’t believe she was the one to fulfil it and therefore tried to fulfil God’s plans her own way. Confusion is what came out of this situation: Hagar despised Sarai (v.4), Sarai mistreated Hagar (v.6), Hagar and her son Ishmael were sent away (Gen 21: 8-11) and the whole matter distressed Abra(ha)m. All this could have been avoided if they had just let God work His plan. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33) and would therefore be clear in what part he requires you to play if any.
  3. God’s time is not your time Still on the above example, Abraham and Sarah were over 100 and 90 years old when the true heir Isaac was born (Gen 17:1, Gen 17:17, Gen 21). This is after almost two decades since that promise was made! God may promise you something now and he is faithful, but he will only fulfill the promise when He knows you are ready for it. God also reminds us not to be anxious while we wait, and again to pray and give thanks during our season.

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

So these were just a few of the things I want to keep in mind this week and I hope these reminders have helped you out as well. No matter what you are going through trust God, and don’t just have faith, be faithful!

God bless,

Angie

Related articles
Let go and let God – a survivor who found a blessing in cancer
Five Things I Have Learned Waiting on God (reflectionsofgracehome.wordpress.com)
When God Says, “Wait” (theinnersoulofme.wordpress.com)
How to Cope When the Will of God is Hard (ptl2010.com)

Negative vibes

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Last week, while I was working out, my mind wandered  (as it often does these days) about my status at graduate school…

My supervisor is very challenging to work with, I am not excited about my research, I have been rejected for every academic award I have ever applied for in the past 4 years, and there have been days where I have considered quitting my Ph.D. program altogether.

As I  refocussed  on my  bench press set, I surprised myself with how much more than usual that I could lift. My self-proclaimed superhuman feat made sense when I remembered that I did a set of negatives the week before.

In Amp up your workout! I touched briefly on the idea, but as a reminder, negatives are reps where you focus on the lowering part of a muscle contraction (e.g. the lowering movement in a push up or pull up).

Typically, negatives:

  1. require a spotter to help on the positive movement,
  2. are done with more weight than a regular repetition, and
  3. take discipline and focus as you perform the negative movement slowly and carefully.
Suddenly I had an epiphany…

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God is my spotter, these trials are more negatives than I’m used to, and  with discipline and focus I can handle more in the future!

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I felt like God spoke to me that day. And it’s not as if He didn’t tell me before…
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2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

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…and furthermore it’s not as if I didn’t write on the topic of trials recently (God’s trial or my trial?).
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I was so thankful God got me thinking again about how I am handling my “negatives” outside of the gym. In fact, I’m pleased to announce that this week I found out I was awarded an academic fellowship for my next academic year!
How great is our God and His impecable timing! He is definitely my #1 spotter!
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Blessings and negative vibes,

Angie