That Old Phone

That Old Phone

Dear Friends,

One of the pieces of memorabilia that I have in my office is an old Western Electric rotary dial telephone circa 1941.  This was my grandfather’s desk phone for years and somehow ended up in his home after that.  Every time I walk into my office at church, I see that phone and think of him.  He was born in 1915, one of nine children.  His family was not wealthy by any means and he told all the typical stories of how hard they had it compared to these younger generations.  He became an adult during the Great Depression and somehow found a job working for Sanitary Grocery Stores (later Safeway Stores) as a meat cutter.  He worked for them for forty-nine years until he retired.  His generation was shaped by the hardships of the Depression, World War II and the Korean War.  He lived half his life during a time of racial segregation and struggled with understanding civil rights, clinging to prejudices taught to him by the previous generation.  He wondered how our society would ever survive the 1960’s, and he loved his grandson, me, fiercely.  Others in my family don’t remember him as fondly as I do and knowing what I know now, they are certainly justified. But he was my granddaddy and I thought he was wonderful!

One of his favorite sayings to me, as he sought to mold me into the man he thought I ought to become was, “The Bible says, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’” It wasn’t until I was in Bible college that I realized this particularly popular phrase, often quoted, is not found anywhere in the Bible. The saying is usually attributed to Ben Franklin, quoted in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1757. In actuality, it was first published by Algernon Sydney, an English political theorist, in a 1698 article titled “Discourses Concerning Government.” 

Whomever originally coined this phrase, the Bible teaches the exact opposite. God helps the helpless! Isaiah 25:4 (NLT) declares, “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat…” Romans 5:6 (NLT) tells us When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”

In terms of salvation, we are all utterly helpless and infected by sin. Romans 3:23 (NLT) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Because of that sin we are all condemned, Romans 6:23a (NLT) For the wages of sin is death…” Our only hope is God’s grace, unearned and undeserved, Romans 6:23b (NLT) “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Thankfully, God is the helper of the helpless, Romans 5:8 (NLT2) “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Jesus paid the penalty that we were incapable of paying, 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT2) “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” God provided the help that we all need precisely because we cannot help ourselves.

I don’t think my grandfather ever really believed me when I tried to convince him of my discovery.  Unfortunately, I am uncertain of his eternal destination.  I certainly hope that I will see him again beyond the pearly gates.  I am grateful that my grandfather taught me many things that have served me well and allowed me to help myself in this life.  That old phone reminds me every day.  However, I am eternally grateful that God chose to help a spiritually helpless, hopeless sinner like me into eternity with Him!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike