Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. (Psalm 3:1-4)
[The book of psalms is our songbook of life—in celebration or grief, in confidence or confusion, in joy or anger or despair. I invite you to read and reflect on these songs of life wherever YOU are this week. Read the psalm, read my reflection below, then consider posting and sharing your own observations at the bottom of the page. Today’s devotion was originally posted on August 23, 2018]
“God helps those who…?”
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s a sentiment that truly captures the pursuit of the American dream, and reflects 500 years of western humanism. Let’s face it, it’s a pretty attractive idea, right? If you work hard and take control of your life, God will bless you and help you; if you don’t…well, then you’re pretty much on your own.
So, it might surprise you that this phrase doesn’t originate with the Bible. It was actually coined by a 17th century English politician named Algernon Sidney who was executed for treason in 1683. While he was considered a traitor then, many revolutionaries over the next century regarded him as a hero and a martyr. Benjamin Franklin later quoted Sidney’s famous phrase…and so did Adoph Hitler!
What does the Bible have to say about the topic? Well, it actually sings a very different tune! In fact, it’s far more accurate, according to scripture, to say that God helps those who CAN’T help themselves!
In Psalm 3, David begins by saying, “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!” But it’s not a question, it’s an observation. He’s not looking for a clever strategy to get himself out of the mess he’s in. He’s looking to a loving and powerful God for help in his helplessness; he’s trusting God to protect him in the middle of the mess. He’s smart enough to know that he can’t work his own way out of this, and he’s willing to set aside his pride and “call out to the Lord” for help.
This song reminds us once again that real abundant life isn’t found in our self-sufficiency and independence; and it isn’t waiting to be found at the end of our mess. Instead, it is found smack dab in the middle of our problems, straight through the front door of our helplessness, trust and faith. It’s found in Jesus Christ, who said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37). It’s as simple—and as difficult—as that. Once we get over ourselves and realize that real life comes from God and belongs to God we can begin to live in true freedom.
Stay thirsty for the Living Water Jesus is offering. Be surrounded by his shield when things look bad, and don’t stop looking to him when life is good. Let Him be your glory, your goal, your God!