Are there times when we hurt someone’s growth by helping too much?
“If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will.”
—Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I remember two girls in my small group when I was in college. Both had financial problems, but they joined the group at different times. When the first girl came to me with her problem, I thought that the best way to help her was to sacrifice my own money, even if I ended up asking my parents for my allowance earlier than usual. With the second girl, however, I found myself also struggling financially, so I had no choice but to pray with her and believe in faith that God will provide.
It is sad to note that the first girl, after encountering another financial hurdle which I could not help her with, disappeared. The second girl, on the other hand, thrived and grew to lead others to God. Could it be that instead of helping the first girl, I hindered her from growing in her knowledge of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty and from experiencing the fullness of a vibrant, personal relationship with God? Painful as it is, I did.
Instead of leading her to Jesus and allowing her to see for herself that the Father is her Provider, I made her dependent on me. Through the years, I have found that sometimes our good intentions can actually hinder instead of help someone know God more. These three contrasts helped me evaluate if I’m really making disciples:
1) Message of reconciliation or Pop psychology?
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18,19
Sometimes when a friend comes to us broken and in need of encouragement, we immediately want to comfort them and make them feel good. But because our goal was to make them feel good, we spout off pop psychology to make them happy and miss out on sharing what they truly need—a Savior and repentance.
Why? I believe it is because we know how offensive it is to let others see how flawed we all are as humans and how helpless we are to save ourselves. But for us to really do our jobs as ministers of reconciliation, we need to see that this is the true way we can help them.
Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel. It is defined as “a renewal of friendship” or “a restoration to a right relationship.” This means, for their sake, our friends need to know that “we have all fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and when they have acknowledged this, that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23).
We can effectively do this when we do it out of love and not out of self-righteousness or condemnation, which means that we do not make ourselves exempt from the ranks of those who need to repent and be saved. It helps to share our own testimonies of failure and our experiences of God’s grace in our lives.
OUR GOAL: To share the message of reconciliation, not to make them temporarily happy
2) Established in Christ or founded on friendship?
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Some of us have experienced seeing some of our classmates, friends, or family members in the youth service or in a small group, only to find them gone after a few months, either because they got bored, or they somehow got offended with the lack of time or attention given to them. The contrast between the two girls at the beginning of this article illustrates this perfectly.
As leaders, we can become a functional savior to the people we are leading to Christ. We have to be careful that they don’t become dependent on the person leading them. We know that they are really founded in Christ when they go to God first, and not to their leader or to their Christian friends in times of testing.
We also cannot be distracted by crowds. We have to make sure that we take a step back and evaluate if people are getting discipled, or if they are simply there to be with their friends or to see their crush.
OUR GOAL: To establish them in Christ, not on friendship, an event, or a personality
3) Rooted in the word or dependent on Christian resources?
“I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.”
One of my most memorable mistakes in discipling someone was the way I dealt with one of the girls I was raising to be a Victory group leader. She already finished ONE 2 ONE and was so passionate for God. The problem was, because she grew up without a dad, she would look for acceptance and love from other people.
A frat guy was courting her at that time and when I knew she was starting to like him, I grew afraid that she would make a mistake with him. I ended up publicly scolding her for her “low standards” for relationships.
Instead of going to the root of the issue, pointing her back to Jesus, and reminding her of her value through the word of God, I pushed my own standards and convictions on her. She got offended and didn’t show up for months. We reconciled later on, our friendship was restored, and I learned my lesson.
My standards and my experience are not the final authority. Feel-good quotes from Christians are not the final authority. The Bible is. We must not attempt to replace it.
OUR GOAL: For the Bible to be their final authority, not other people’s standards, experience, or feel-good quotes
I’m grateful that God has given me leaders who have allowed me to grow by letting me make mistakes and take responsibility. They have also taught me to face adversity and hold on to God alone to overcome it.
I need to be the kind of leader that spotlights God alone as well. As leaders, we need to make sure we go through the right spiritual foundations with the people we’re leading to God and help them love the truth of God’s word. The way we live is as important as what we preach.
It is hard for anyone who’s used to being on top to shy away from the limelight and let it shine on the real Star. It is difficult for anyone who’s used to helping others in a sticky situation to allow the Helper to make His move instead. It is a challenge to anyone who’s used to being the hero to let the real Superhero do His own rescue. Sometimes one needs a good kick in the head to remain humble and just be the friend of the Bridegroom (John 3:29).
There were times in the past when because of my desire to “help” (or, more honestly, to be the hero), I have overtaxed myself, and this has been a hard lesson for me to learn. Now I realize it’s much simpler. The only thing God has actually asked me to do is to lead people to Him and His word. After that, everything else is His job.
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