June 1, 1993
A young tradesman wonders, “I usually ask God to help me do this and help me do that... but actually, isn’t it the apprentice that’s the helper and not the boss?”
We live in a condominium complex with some units yet unfinished. Construction workers are frequently on the scene. In fact, today someone is hammering next door, perhaps putting in cupboards or installing carpet.
Most of the crews have a foreman and several workers. These tradesmen are responsible to follow the plans so each unit will be satisfactory to its new owner. If they decide otherwise, the work will be in vain and they (or someone else) will have to do it over again.
It happened with one of our closets. Someone drew lines on the sub-floor indicating its location. One of the framers somehow managed to put the bottom 2 x 4 for the wall studs on the wrong side of the line. After we moved in, we discovered the doors kept catching our coat sleeves, so we measured it. Sure enough, the closet was 20" deep instead of 24" so the boss had to tear out and re-do the whole thing.
To give the framer the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was an apprentice who needed help but didn’t think to ask his boss to check his work or help him. He may not have understood the boss would gladly do anything to make sure the work would go ahead as planned.
Christians, who consider the Lord their “boss” sometimes make the same mistake. We fail to ask Him for assistance. Just as many apprentice tradesmen, after a few mistakes, we usually realize we cannot follow His plan without His help. We find ourselves confused about what needs to be done and even after we understand that, we need Him to guide each step of the process.
My friend who wondered which is the helper, God or us, would be wise to take neither extreme. We need God’s help. In fact, Jesus sent “the Helper, the Holy Spirit” because He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”
At the same time, God has chosen to build His kingdom by using our obedience. We help Him in a sense, as we rely on Him to help us demonstrate His grace and proclaim His truth to the world.
My problems comes when I confuse His plan with my wants. When that happens, I ask God to help me obtain or do things that fit my agenda, things that have nothing to do with His will.
But God is working out His plan, not only for each of His people but for history. I need to follow His direction and do His will so I fit into it. If I insist on asking Him to help me only with my own plans, it is like asking the boss to approve and even help me nail a 2 x 4 into the wrong place. At best, such deviations delay progress and cause inconvenience.
In my experience, God pulls back from my selfish requests. He either leaves me alone to try and fail, or worse yet, succeed, without His help. Later, after the damage is done, I wish I had volunteered my help with His plans instead. As difficult as doing the Lord’s will seems, He is always available and His help is generous and sufficient.
Whenever we mess up, God sometimes provides opportunities to re-do the mess, especially if we determine to understand help Him fulfil His plans. That process includes admitting our own helplessness and calling out “Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; be my helper!”