Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves?

By Dennis Pollock


The saying goes: "God helps those who help themselves." Most people who know the Bible even a little bit realize that this sentence is nowhere in the Scriptures, and it has been frequently mocked as being the very antithesis of the gospel. The point of the gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth to help those who could not help themselves, and no amount of self-help or intense human effort could ever have helped us to gain acceptance with God. Savior, by definition, means One who does for us what we could not do for ourselves.


The Bible says, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6) The NET Version reads: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." Salvation was not a matter of God helping those who were helping themselves, but rather God helping those who could not possibly, by any means and under any circumstances help themselves.


However, leaving the issue of salvation aside, in other ways I am convinced that there is truth in the idea that God helps those who help themselves, or to put it another way, "God works in conjunction with and through the works and efforts of his people." In fact, the Bible is packed with examples of that very thing. In this study I will share a few.


One story that comes to mind is found in the Book of Ruth. Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth were both widows. Without husbands to support them, they were constantly on the verge of starvation. Naomi was old and had no expectation of another husband. But Ruth was another story. She was a young widow who should have had at least some prospects of remarriage. However, she was a Moabite living in Israel, which put her at a definite disadvantage. She was able to scrape together a little food for the two of them during harvest season by doing a little "gleaning" in the fields of a rich farmer named Boaz. But when winter came and the crops were all harvested, they would be in trouble.


Naomi, the Realist


Naomi was a God-fearing woman and she no doubt prayed about their situation. But she was also a realist and understood that it might take a little action on their part to bring about relief for the two of them. The Bible says:


Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her (Ruth), “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?" (Ruth 3:1)


Naomi told Ruth that she desired to provide "security" for Ruth, so that she would not spend the rest of her life as a dirt-poor widow. This was certainly a noble and reasonable desire but notice what Naomi did not do. She did not say to Ruth: "From this day forward we will pray three hours daily for God to make us rich." She did not say: "We are going to start confessing one hundred times daily: "I am wealthy; I am prosperous; I am rich."


No, Naomi had a plan and a strategy. She knew that Ruth had been gathering grain in the field of a wealthy man who was related to her. In Israel in those days, relatives of a dead husband had first rights to marry the wife of their departed family member and inherit any lands or property they might have. The plan Naomi came up with was not one that I would advise any young lady to employ today, but it served them well. Boaz was working the fields during the busy harvest time and sleeping outdoors each night. Naomi instructed Ruth to wait until he finished his work, had his evening meal, and then went to sleep on the threshing floor. She was to sneak up quietly where he was sleeping and lie down at his feet. When he noticed her, she was to tell him her story, and suggest marriage, which would give him the land that Naomi owned.


Ruth's "Step of Faith"


Ruth did as instructed, and Boaz woke up and noticed her as expected. The end of the matter was that Boaz did indeed marry Ruth. They had a little baby named Obed who had a son named Jesse, who had eight sons, the youngest of whom was David, who became king of Israel and ancestor of the Lord Jesus.


Naomi was undoubtedly a woman of faith and prayer, but the key to this amazing blessing for Ruth was the action which accompanied the faith of Naomi and Ruth. They did not merely pray; they did not simply believe – they took a "step of faith." They acted in faith, and God did the rest. He made their actions effective, and Ruth (and Naomi) found the security they so badly needed. The result was not only a blessing for Naomi and Ruth, but for the whole world.


We see this idea of faith plus action all through the Bible. David had faith to see Goliath defeated and Israel victorious. But David did not merely hold a prayer meeting with the army of Israel. He did not merely confess: "Goliath is defeated, Goliath is defeated, Goliath is defeated…" He took his sling, went down to the brook, picked up a few smooth stones, and then went running to the giant. He slung a rock at Goliath, and the huge man fell to the ground with the rock in his brain. Quickly the giant's head became a trophy for young David. Was David a man of prayer and faith? Of course he was! But he was also a man of action. And God helped this young man who, you might say, "helped himself" (by God's grace).


Faith That Works


James tells us that faith without works is dead. Faith that has no accompanying works is useless, impotent, powerless, and is not really faith at all.


God told Joshua:


Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them–the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. (Joshua 1:2-3)


This was great news. The land of Canaan was theirs, a gift from God Almighty. But this did not mean that all Israel needed to do was to have a prayer meeting and thank and praise God for this gift. There was work to do, there were battles to fight, there were enemies to vanquish.


It would be years before the land was thoroughly cleansed of its inhabitants, and many battles must be fought. Some Israelites died in the process. Cleansing the land of its idol-worshipping tribes would be messy, bloody, and exhausting. It would require courage, faith, and a lot of killing. Just because God told Joshua He had given them the land certainly did not mean they had no part to play in the process. Had Joshua and the Israelites camped in one place and prayed – and prayed and prayed and prayed… they would never have possessed the land. It would have been as much under the control of the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hivites, and all the other "ites" at the end of twenty years of praying as it was at the beginning.


Erring on Either Side


There are two great errors God's people frequently make regarding this issue. Often, they hardly pray and totally depend upon their own strength, cleverness, and efforts. This self-reliance brings a curse and certain spiritual failure. But others err on the other side. They pray and pray, but never really do anything. They mistakenly assume that they are a people of great faith and prayer, and don't seem to realize that their inaction and spiritual passivity is costing them dearly. With all their praying, they never see results. Faith without works is surely dead. And works without faith is equally dead. But faith accompanied by Spirit-empowered works, with a good dose of prayer thrown in, is alive, and brings success and miracles. We cannot be pseudo-Naomis, hoping for security for ourselves, but making no effort to do anything about our situation. We pray, yes! We believe, yes! But then we move out in faith, using the action steps and the strategy the Holy Spirit gives us.


Even receiving Christ involves a faith-step. The apostles never simply told prospective disciples to pray and ask Jesus into their heart. They told them to believe and be baptized, as their first step of faith. Jesus declared: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16). After Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, the crowd asked him what they should do. He told them: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) It is not that baptism saves us, but the message is: repent, believe, and be baptized. After believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again, take a step of faith, and be baptized in water.


So, does God help those who help themselves? Well, in a way He does. Often in our lives we are praying for His blessing to fall into our laps, and He is whispering to us: "Do this, or stop doing that, or use this strategy, or start this ministry." Our life in Christ will surely involve faith and prayer, but do not be deceived. It will also involve things to do, steps to take, and tactics to adopt. The land has been given to us. With faith in God and in His Son Jesus Christ, let us go out and take it. Let us win our Boazes, slay our Goliaths, and conquer our personal promised lands. Jesus goes before us!




For a full listing of all articles, written and audio, go to our Devo Catalog Page.



        For inspirational devos, bios of Christian leaders, free downloads, and the latest SOGM news:
Sign up to receive E-newsletter

Your donations are needed and greatly appreciated!



Just for you!

Missions Outreach

A major part of Spirit of Grace Ministries is our ministry in the great continent of Africa. There is a tremendous harvest going on in the world these days, and we are privileged to be a part of it. Above is a brief music video featuring video clips and pics from our recent mission in Nigeria in Oct/Nov, 2019.

Audio Devo: "Why is there suffering?"

People have debated this question for millennia. And we cannot speak concerning specific individual questions of suffering, but the Bible clearly speaks as to why suffering has always been a part of the human experience.