Links Daily Devotional

God’s Help

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a little oil.” (2 Kings 4:2, NIV)

Let me ask you a trick question: Does God help those who help themselves?

I say it is a trick question not because I have a clever answer up my sleeve, but because it presents us with a real-life conundrum.

Let’s say that as a faith-filled follower of Jesus, I work especially hard on my golf game in preparation for next month’s club championship. And let’s say that I go on to win it, pulling off every sort of shot for which I have prepared myself. Now again, I trust God’s sovereignty in all things. So, as the newly crowned club champ, did God help me because I helped myself—or would I have won the championship all the same? There’s the tricky part. How much credit am I allowed to take for something I believe to be entirely in God’s hands?

Please don’t expect us to wind up with a neat and tidy answer by the time we’re done today. But do know that I am inclined, with a lot of excellent teachers, to dismiss this old adage, because God’s grace means precisely this: he helps those who cannot help themselves. I am powerless to overcome the wages of my sin. I must have Christ if I am to be freed from sin’s grip and assured of salvation in him despite what I have done in my life.

That may be why I am fascinated with the account of the widow and her oil in 2 Kings 4. If you are unfamiliar with the details, the prophet Elisha was met by a woman who, in her poverty, was about to lose her sons to involuntary servitude as the only means of eliminating their debt. Elisha, upon the leading of the Holy Spirit, instructed the woman to go to her neighbors and gather all the empty jars they would give her. She did this, and then she and her sons began to pour what little oil they started with into these many, many jars. And they kept pouring and pouring, until all the jars were filled. The text tells us that when the last jar had been filled, “the oil stopped flowing.” Then the family sold the abundant oil and paid their debts in full. They were, by God’s mercy, saved.

But what came first was this act of the woman. She did indeed “help herself.” She could have chosen a lazy faith, one where she sat back and said, “Well if God promises to help me, let him do his thing. I can’t wait to see it.”

Scripture so often strikes a balance like this. God is the Provider, the one who gives all good things. But among the things he gives us are minds thoughtful and bodies able. These he charges us to use, not to kickstart his own action, but to play in concert with the command of the Heavenly Conductor. In the course of his kingdom, there is still work to be done, and much of that work he gives to us to do.

Jeff Hopper

September 5, 2012

Copyright 2012 Links Players International

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