Revive Our Hearts Podcast

O God Our Help, Day 1

Leslie Basham: One of the first steps in getting help is acknowledging that you need help. Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Some people, and sadly, myself at times, would rather live in defeat for a very long time than to do what it takes to get God's help.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, February 18, 2016. 

When you look at the deep needs of women around you, do you feel inadequate to know how to help them? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says the first thing you need to do is realize God is your helper. Leaning on Him is the first step to helping others. She'll explain in the message we'll hear today. She delivered it at a conference that Revive Our Hearts hosted for women's ministry leaders. Here's Nancy.

Nancy: I got an email from a pastor's wife, who I believe is here today, who said,

I am so looking forward to this refreshing time. We're a small church and the counseling battles are big, and I'm emotionally exhausted. In our church, we have divorce, affairs, children that are bullies, poor parenting, temper tantrums, suicidal thoughts, single moms, working moms, recovering alcoholics, and more that we keep learning.

You say, "In the church?" Yep.

I have no doubt that God is sovereign and in control, but I grieve deeply for the pain of the women around me. I'm excited to be better equipped to come alongside these women that I love.

And thankfully, we have a Savior who loves those women and us women, needy as we are.

We got a call in our office this week from a woman who was cancelling her two tickets for this weekend due to a family emergency, and our customer service representative asked her if there was a way we could pray for her. As I understand it, the woman broke down and just opened up her heart and shared that she has a son, a young adult son, who is on suicide watch for the second time this year, and she just didn't feel she could or should be away from home, that far, that long.

I would encourage you, by the way, if God prompts your heart, if God brings that woman and that son to mind, to just pray for them throughout this weekend.

But as I saw that email, I was just reminded that we do come with just life stuff. Right? Hard things. We live in a broken world. We're here this weekend because we want to help others, but people's lives are messy. Did you ever notice that? They're complex. Did you ever feel like the needs of the people around me that I'm called to serve, they're just beyond my pay grade. I just can't handle that.

Or maybe you feel the way I often do—I can't help others. I need help myself! My own life's a mess.

So here's where I felt prompted for us to start this weekend, just to lay a foundation of God as our helper, to know Him as not only our helper, but the helper of those that we're called to help and serve.

So I want to make a few observations—nothing profound—just things to counsel our heart according to the truth of who God is as we then seek to help others in the name of Jesus.

First of all—and it's so simple—but I think we need to remind ourselves that we cannot truly help other women without God's help. We can't do it without God's help. We are so limited. Our understanding is limited—our understanding of their needs, our understanding of the solution.

Our compassion is limited—at least I'll speak for myself there. We've got a finite capacity to carry burdens, to carry other people's burdens. You just can't be deeply burdened about every circumstance, every situation that you become aware of, especially if you watch the news. It's like you start to short circuit. My compassion is limited. My understanding is limited.

My availability is limited, and so is yours. We can't be with people who need help all the time every time they need help. We just can't do that. But thankfully, we have a God who has no limitations. He has infinite understanding, infinite wisdom, infinite compassion, infinite availability. "A very present help in trouble." And infinite grace to help in time of need.

So we can't truly help other women without God's help. Then we can't help other women until we have experienced God's grace in our own lives. We can't help others experience God's grace until we have experienced and are experiencing God's grace in our own lives. We can't take others or lead others where we haven't been. Now, a lot of people try, but we can't do it well.

We can't take others or lead others where we haven't been.

Now, we may not have experienced all the same issues as those we're trying to help. There are some experiences that women in this room have had that I have never had. I have been blessed with good health. I've never experienced chronic, debilitating pain. I've not been through cancer, and some in this room have. But on the other hand, I've experienced some challenges and some difficulties and issues that you may never have experienced.

So that doesn't mean we can't help each other. What it does mean is that we've had to have experienced God's amazing grace to help us in our time of need so that we can share that grace and be instruments of that grace in the lives of other needy people. Because if we're trying to help people experience something we haven't experienced as far as God's grace goes, then it's really just textbook learning.

It's just theory. And a lot of so-called ministry today is just kind of putting theories on people, putting textbooks on people, putting Band-Aids on hemorrhaging wounds. Textbook learning is never going to provide the deep, lasting kind of help that people need and that God offers by His grace. That's why we have to experience it ourselves. So that when others look at our messy, broken, complex lives and they see that we have found help in the Lord, what does that do for them? It creates hunger. It creates longing. It creates hope that they could find help in Him as well.

I have a friend, a very close friend, with a young, adult child who is living in the gay lifestyle, and not just one, but one that I'm thinking of at this moment, one friend in this situation—some in this room are in that situation. For my friend, these past several years have been transformational for her and her husband as they have tenaciously laid hold of the grace of God to help them walk through this situation, to show them how to love well, how to connect well, how to speak truth . . . I mean, just to have mercy and truth and all that we think we understand until you get into a situation where you're just perplexed as to how to handle it, and God gives grace.

I've watched Him do that. I've watched Him transform this couple's lives. I've watched this woman become a magnet to hurting, needy people. They're drawn to her because she's a channel of grace, and she just keeps humbly, graciously pointing them to where she is finding help for every day. God's grace has transformed her, and now she's becoming an instrument of transforming grace in other people's lives.

And then just another observation here: We and the women we want to help need help beyond ourselves. We are not self-sufficient. Now, we all know that theologically. You could have told me that. But that is a really important truth as we think about women helping women.

I think the first time the word "help" or "helper" appears in the Scripture has got to be in Genesis 2 where, you remember, that God says it was not good that the man should be alone, and God created a helper suitable to the man. The man was not designed to be independent or self-sufficient. And neither, by the way, was the woman. The woman needed help as much as the man needed help.

The Scripture says in Genesis 4:1, "Now, Adam knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, 'I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.'"

You say, "Well, women just have babies. They just do that. They just do it."

No. She said, "I've gotten a man with the help of the LORD."

Eve could not do what God had called her to do in that situation. She could not fulfill the task He had entrusted to her apart from God's help. And we need God's help to fulfill what He's called us to do. We need God's help to make wise and good, godly decisions. We need God's help to battle temptation and sin. We need God's help when we're suffering.

I'm thinking as I say that of two very dear friends who are right now in excruciating pain because of situations that have come into their lives just very recently. They need God's help. We need God's help to engage in spiritual warfare. We need God's help to serve our families and to serve the women in our churches that God has made a part of our lives.

We need God's help for everything, because Jesus said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." Now, we sure keep trying, but the fact is we are not self-sufficient, and we are not independent. We and the women we are trying to help need help beyond ourselves.

That's why I'm so grateful that over and over and over again in the Scripture we read that the Lord is my help, the Lord is our help. He is my helper. He is our helper. And when you see one of those phrases, you're probably seeing a phrase that is translated from the Hebrew, Jehovah Ezer—E-z-e-r, or there's a group of words that are related to that. This would be the most common one—two words: Jehovah Ezer—E-z-e-r.

Now, the first word, Jehovah, you're familiar with that—the great I AM, the self-existent God who needs no one and nothing, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. That Jehovah is our Ezer—E-z-e-r—our Ezer. It's a word that means "to help, to support, someone who assists another with what is needed"—just what you think of help as being. So Jehovah Ezer—I AM—is our help. He comes to our aid. He rescues us in time of need.

Now, I've been pondering this for months leading up to this weekend and a lot over the last several weeks, and I just keep thinking, How amazing is it that this mighty God, this God who needs no one or nothing, who is self-sufficient, that He would stoop down to help us! Is that awesome? It's amazing grace.

He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He supplies what we lack, what we need. It's really another word for grace. It's all that God is, all that He has, He gives to come and meet us at our point of need.

You see this concept all the way through the Scripture, and as I've been reading through the Bible over the last, I don't know, several months, maybe a year or so, I've just been making note of places where we see God as our helper.

Exodus 18 tells a story of Moses how, after he killed the Egyptian—you remember in Egypt—and then he fled to Midian to escape Pharaoh's wrath. When he got to Midian, he married a woman there, and he had two sons. And he named one of those sons Eliezer—Eli, short for Elohim, El, God the mighty one, Elohim—and Ezer—help.

He named his child, God is help, God is my help. For he said, Exodus 18:4, "The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh." So every time Moses said his son's name, Eliezer, he would be reminded "God has helped me; God is my help." And Moses was about to really need those reminders—right?—as he was going to be called by God back to Egypt to help redeem and rescue God's people out of slavery. There's no way he could do this.

You see, when Moses left Egypt, he thought of himself as self-sufficient and able and capable, and the Scripture says, "He was schooled in the learning of the Egyptians." He had a lot going for him. But he came to see that he was truly helpless apart from Jehovah-Ezer, the Lord is my help. So he named his son "God my help" to remind him of that.

As he went back into Egypt, he was certainly being reminded, "God helped me; God helped me; God helped me. God will help me now. God is my helper."

Some of you are familiar with the term the Septuagint. You know that that's the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. It's interesting that there's a word in the Greek language that often translates Ezer in the Old Testament Hebrew. And it's a word that comes, a Greek word, that comes from two words. One is the word "to cry" and the other is the word "to run." So when the Old Testament got translated into Greek, the word that was used to translate Ezer, help, means "to cry and to run," and it's a fabulous picture.

It's the concept of someone crying out because they're desperate, they're needy, they're helpless, and someone else coming running to the scene to help the one who is crying out. That's what God does for us. He is our helper. We cry out to Him. We say, "I can't do this. I need You. I'm helpless." And then God comes running to the scene to help us.

If you need an ambulance at your house, you're not going to get one by just sitting there thinking about ambulances. Right? You've got to pick up your phone and punch 9–1–1. You've got to call for the ambulance, but when you call, that ambulance is ready, and it comes racing to the scene of need.

And I sometimes just envision that when we recognize our need, we acknowledge our need, we cry out to the Lord—in our desperation we say, "Lord, I need You!"—I think sweeter words have never hit the heart of God. I can just hear those kind of sirens going off in the grace avenue of heaven as God sends His Spirit, His Word, His presence, His grace—that grace ambulance to minister to us in our point of need. And this is a recurring rhythm all through the Scripture: God's people crying out and then God running to their aid to help.

I've been reading the Psalms with that in mind over the last few weeks and just notice how many times in the Psalms the psalmist cries out and says, "Oh, Lord, hasten to my help. Come quickly to help me." He cries out again and again and again and again, and Jehovah Ezer never gets tired of hearing us say, "Help!"

And again and again in those psalms you see David thanking the Lord, blessing the Lord, praising the Lord that He has come to his assistance. He is his helper. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Let me invite you, if you have your Bible there with you, and if we have enough light for you to see, to turn in the Old Testament to the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 4, and let me give you another illustration of how we see God as helper.

First Samuel 4, and we're going to just walk quickly—too quickly—through parts of this passage. I'll let you go back to it and dig further into it after this session. First Samuel 4:1 tells us that "Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at a place called Ebenezer." That's two words. Eben means "stone," and Ezer means—what?—"help." So this is a place that is called "stone of help." That's where the Israelites are encamped, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.

Verse 2: "The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle." Now, here they are at a place called "stone of help"—the Israelites—and yet they go to battle against the Philistines, and the Philistines defeat them decisively. This is a humiliating defeat, and from all appearances, God did not help.

Why didn't He help His people in that battle? Why did He allow them to be defeated by the Philistines? Well, as you dig into this whole passage, it becomes very clear that God wanted the hearts of His people. He wanted to get their attention so that they would humble themselves and cry out to Him for His help.

And then turn over just a few pages to chapter 7. I'm skipping over a very rich part of the passage here, but turn to chapter 7. Verse 2 tells us that a long time passed—some twenty years—and during this time, the intervening period of time, the Philistines are winning again and again and again. The Israelites are under the thumb of the Philistines for twenty-some years. And then the end of verse 2 tells us, "and all Israel lamented after the LORD." What starts to happen? Their hearts start to turn to the Lord.

Now, maybe you sit there and think as I might, Twenty years? Like, what took you so long? You know, get with it. But then that then begs the question: How long does it take us to get the idea that we need God's help? How long does it take us to cry out to Him, to humble ourselves?

You know what I see as I study this passage? Some people—and, sadly, myself at times—would rather live in defeat for a very long time than to do what it takes to get God's help. Now, we need to remember that as we're trying to help people, and we need to remember that as we're walking with the Lord ourselves.

Sometimes we'd rather live in defeat for a very long time than to do what it takes to get God's help. But God loves us enough to keep us in that place of distress until we have no alternative, no option but to cry out to Him.

God loves us enough to keep us in that place of distress until we have no alternative, no option but to cry out to Him.

And that's what finally happens. Verses 3–4 of chapter 7:

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then [prove it!] put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only.

You see, we have to be willing to get rid of those little-g gods that we're looking to and depending on to help us, and then we will be ready to turn to the Lord, big-G as our helper, to lean on Him.

So verses 5–6:

Samuel said, "Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you." So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the LORD and fasted on that day and said there, "We have sinned against the LORD."

They humbled themselves. They confessed their sin. They confessed their idolatry. They sought the Lord.

Then we come to verse 7 where, once again, they find themselves under attack. Don't think that just because you're seeking the Lord that there will be no more problems, no more pressures. There's a test coming here.

Verses 7–8:

When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. [Same story so far.] And the people of Israel said to Samuel, "Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines."

They're finally at a point of desperation, utter helpless dependence—no other means of help, no other means of deliverance except the Lord.

"So," verses 9–10, "Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD"—which doesn't that, you think, anticipate the sacrificial Lamb of God who one day would save all who cry out to Him? Old Testament hint here. Samuel offered up this offering,

[He] cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they [the Philistines] were defeated before Israel."

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer.

Now, that had been the name of the place where they started out and gotten defeated, but it doesn't matter what the name of the place you are at is called if you're not looking to the Lord to be your help. Finally they had turned to the Lord as their help, and Samuel sets up this visible reminder that Jehovah was their source of victory—"stone of help"—for he said, "Till now the LORD has helped us."

It was an expression of gratitude for God's help and a perpetual reminder that God is our only help. He is the only one who can deliver us from the hand of our enemies.

Remembering how God has helped us, how He has delivered us in the past gives us a heart of gratitude, and it gives us faith and hope and courage as we face our current needs or we think about future trials. To remember God as our help releases us from fear and from anxiety. We remember He has delivered us, He is delivering us, and He will deliver us again as we cry out to Him.

Leslie Basham: I think that message from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth gives all of us some important things to think about. Are we leaning on the Lord for all the help we need? Are we helping others out of the overflow of the grace He’s given us?

It’s easy to get busy doing a lot for the Lord and missing out on being close to Him. We’d like to help you re-capture a sense of intimacy with Him, and hope you’ll listen to the series, “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.” It’s a study of the Song of Solomon beginning next Monday and continuing through Good Friday. I hope you’ll make a point of listening each weekday to this special study starting Monday.

To make this study even more meaningful, we’d like to send you a booklet called “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.” This is a study guide to help you go deeper into Song of Solomon with Nancy. So, you can read the Song of Songs for yourself, listen to Nancy’s teaching, then study that day’s passage and answer questions. This would make a great study for your quiet time, especially helpful leading up to Easter Sunday.

To get a copy of the booklet, call us at 1–800–569–5959 and ask for “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.” You can also donate online and get a copy of the book. The web address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, Nancy will be back with part two of the message, “O God Our Help.” Are you ever tempted to think your need is so great that no one can help? Nancy will show you what to do when you feel that way. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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