Jeremiah 17:5-10      Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?

Rev. David Holwick   E                              Jesus and Other Faiths

First Baptist Church

Ledgewood, New Jersey

February 14, 2016

                                                    Jeremiah 17:5-10


  I. Open your Bibles to Hezekiah 3:16.

      A. It is one of the most popular verses in the Bible.

          1) If your neighbor just opened their Bible to look, invite

                them to our Bibles studies on Monday, Tuesday & Thursday.

          2) Of course, Hezekiah is not a book in the Bible (he is a

                Hebrew king) and the saying alluded to in my sermon

                   title is not a verse in the Bible.

              a) However, 81% of Americans think it is.

              b) It didn't even originate with Benjamin Franklin.

          3) 600 years before Christ, it appears in one of Aesop's fables.

              a) "Hercules and the Wagoner"

                 A Wagoner was once driving a heavy load along a very

                    muddy road.

                 At last he came to a part of the road where the wheels

                    sank half-way into the mud, and the more the horses

                       pulled, the deeper sank the wheels.

                 So the Wagoner threw down his whip, and knelt down and

                    prayed to Hercules.

                 "O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress,"

                    he implored.

                 But Hercules appeared to him, and said:

                    "Tut, man, don't sprawl there.

                 Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel."

                 The gods help them that help themselves.

              b) Notice the nice allusion to plural gods....

          4) An English writer updated it to our version in the 1600s.

          5) In the next century it was quoted by Benjamin Franklin in

               his POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC, which is why Americans know it.

      B. It fits our character.

          1) We are people of action.

              a) 75% of teenagers think it is the central theme of the


          2) We believe in personal responsibility.

              a) Bill O'Reilly is a popular host on the Fox News Channel.

                 In January 2002, O'Reilly was interviewing the pastor

                    of the 5th Street Presbyterian Church in NYC.

                 The church has an active ministry to the homeless.

                 O'Reilly told the pastor, "Jesus would have demanded

                    that the homeless people shape themselves up or

                       else, because, we all know the passage 'The

                          Lord helps those who help themselves.'"


                 Mr. O'Reilly may be a Christian but he is no theologian.

                    Yet his attitude is shared by many.

                       People should pull themselves up.

                 They shouldn't rely on others for everything, and that

                    includes relying on God.

              b) If something needs to be done, do it yourself!

      C. It easily warps into heresy.

          1) The mindset is a favorite with deists, those who limit

                God to an inactive being who is way, way out there.

              a) Benjamin Franklin was a deist, and many Americans

                    operate on the same principle.

              b) God cannot - or will not - do anything, so you have to.

          2) But God is not limited to what we do, or don't do.

II. There are areas where you cannot help yourself.

      A. You cannot save yourself.

          1) We cannot even seek God on our own.

              a) Romans 3:10-18 gives a long litany of the rottenness

                    of people and includes these statements:

                 "There is no one righteous, not even one;

                  there is no one who understands,

                     no one who seeks God."

              b) If everyone is so rotten, what chance do we have?

                  1> No chance at all - unless God helps you.

                  2> And that is what he promises to do.

          2) God gives us salvation before we know we need it.

              a) Romans 5:8 says,

                 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:

                    While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

              b) Michael Houdmann concludes:

                 "There is no part of salvation that we can initiate or

                    work toward.

                 When it comes to salvation, we cannot help ourselves.


      B. Humans have limitations.

          1) We are thoroughly warped by sin, even when we are doing

                the best we can.

          2) We are always ignorant to some extent as well.

      C. God's grace is unlimited.

          1) God helps those who CANNOT help themselves.

          2) This is what salvation is all about.

III. Is depending on God just magical thinking?

      A. Many feel that religion is too pessimistic about humans.

          1) We are not as limited as Christians claim.

          2) With all our faults, we can still save ourselves.

              a) As a matter of fact, we are the only ones who can.

              b) They would say believing in an all-powerful God

                    is just a cop-out.

          3) Humans have all we need to succeed.

      B. Secular Humanism is an influential force in America.

          1) It is not a denomination, but a mindset.

          2) "Man is the Measure" is how it used to be put.

              a) (Too sexist for today).

              b) Famous drawing by Leonardo da Vinci: a man outstretched

                    inside a circle which is inside a square.

          3) Humans don't need help, we need to take charge.

      C. How it is expressed in our culture.

          1) Don't pray.

              a) No god is going to help you.

          2) Don't hope.

              a) Anything that happens will be by your own effort.

          3) Don't be limited by outmoded morality.

              a) It has never worked anyway.

          4) Trust in science to come up with the answers.

              a) Our understanding of the natural world is incomplete,

                    but we are learning more all the time.

              b) The only thing that can sort it all out is our minds.

      D. Humans can, and have, accomplished a lot.

          1) Even Christians must acknowledge the benefits of advances

                in science and medicine.

          2) My grandfather saw the beginnings of electricity and

                powered flight.

              a) He was born before the Wright brothers' first flight,

                    and lived to see humans step on the Moon.

              b) He was born on a farm with kerosene lanterns and

                    lived to see nuclear power.

              c) When he was born in 1900, life expectancy was 46.

              d) When he died in 1983, life expectancy was 71.

                  1> Today it is 76. (even better for women)

      E. The Bible is aware of this attitude.

          1) Even in ancient times, people asked, "Where is God?"

              a) It doesn't mean they were looking for him, but they

                    they felt no need to acknowledge him."

              b) Plenty of people, especially kings, thought they

                    were equal to any god.

                 Consider how the prophet Isaiah assessed the mighty

                    king of Assyria:

                 Isaiah 10:12b-13

                 "I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful

                    pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.

                  For he says: 'By the strength of my hand I have done

                    this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.'"

          2) The writers of the Bible don't buy it.

              a) Proverbs 28:26 -

                 "He who trusts in himself is a fool..."

              b) Jeremiah 17:5

                 "This is what the LORD says: 'Cursed is the one who

                     trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength

                        and whose heart turns away from the LORD."

                 Now go down to verse 7:

                 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose

                    confidence is in him."

          3) People, including you, will always fall short.

              a) Only God is powerful enough to not let you down.

IV. The saying is good theology - for the saved.

      A. The Bible encourages us to work hard.

          1) God gives you abilities, and expects you to use them.

          2) Being a lazy slob is condemned.

             Proverbs 6:10-11

             "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of

                 the hands to rest--

              and poverty will come on you like a bandit and

                 scarcity like an armed man."

             Proverbs 12:11

             "He who works his land will have abundant food, but he

                 who chases fantasies lacks judgment."

             Proverbs 13:4

             "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires

                 of the diligent are fully satisfied."

          3) Your efforts should not be for selfish ends, but for others.

             1 Timothy 5:8 says,

             "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and

                especially for his immediate family, he has denied the

                   faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

             This is the verse that Bill O'Reilly should have quoted.

          4) Colossians 3:23 gives a good summary of the right attitude:

             "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as

                working for the Lord, not for men."

      B. You are not omnipotent, but you can act.

          1) The Bible calls upon people to believe, to repent, to obey.

          2) All of these are human efforts.

          3) Obeying God produces fruit - good things.

  V. So is it up to you or up to God?

      A. Put them both together.

          1) Pray as if it all depends on God.

          2) Work as if it all depends on you.

              a) If your finances are tight, pray about it - then try

                    to find a better job.

              b) If your kids are rotten, give it to God - then read

                    some books on effective Christian parenting.

              c) Do what you can do, but don't put your faith in yourself.

      B. Don't leave God to the last minute.

         Benjamin Franklin could see the value in religion when it came

            to morals, but didn't spend much time thinking about it.

         He had doubts about the divinity of Jesus and many teachings

            of the Bible.

         But for 30 years he was a very close friend to one of the most

            famous preachers in America at that time - George Whitefield.

         Whitefield could preach to 25,000 people and be understood,

            with no electrical amplification.

         Franklin actually did an experiment and found it plausible.

         Whitefield is credited with sparking the first national revival

            in America, the First Great Awakening.

         Whitefield also preached on a more personal level - he

            witnessed to Franklin.

         Late in life, Franklin said Whitefield "used to pray for my

            conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing

               that his prayers were heard.

            Ours was a mere civil friendship."


         When Franklin was on his deathbed the president of Yale

            University wrote and asked him his views on religion.

         Franklin told him he thought it was useless to bother with it

            at that point, since he would soon know whether it was true

               or not.


         I guess he was right about the last part - death showed him the

            truth about God.

         But at that point it was too late for him to do anything about


         It is not too late for you.

         If there is one thing for you to do, it is to call upon God

            to save you.

         Do it now.



#22725  Ben Franklin Meets George Whitefield, Nathan Lewis, Evergreen

           Explorer, Presbyterian Church of Beaverton, Oregon;

           October 1, 1997; <link>.

#65046  Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves? S. Michael Houdmann,

           Editor; <link>.

#65050  God Helps Those Who Help Themselves, sermon by Rev. David Dykes,

           Green Acres Baptist Church; Tyler, Texas; August 1, 2003,


#65051  The Lie That God Helps Those Who Help Themselves, sermon by

           Rev. Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, The Moody Church of Chicago,

           Illinois, December 5, 1999; <link>.

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