The world is often quick to offer help, advice, and more ways to change yourself than a person can count. It only takes a visit to the "Self-Help" section of the book store to see just how many books exist on the subject of ways to become a different person. But what if we told you there was a better way to be changed? In this post, Matt expounds on why a Christian should rely on no one else but Jesus Christ for a true change of heart.
Recently, I met with a younger friend of mine who’s around 20 years old, married, balanced, stable, and a leader in our church. We were discussing his small group and its dysfunction. He wants his group to be a place where people can grow and give/receive help. According to him, there are people in the group that clearly have issues but are hesitant to talk about them. My friend wants to help hurting people and lead others by sacrificing his time and effort for them. I asked him to express some of his personal life needs as well as what he wanted to get out of the group. He spoke about how he wasn’t really comfortable receiving help from others, and he wants to give the help rather than be the “needy guy.”
Are you like my friend? Are you doing well, stable, prefer to help others, and think you are supposed to be a constant giver?
If so, then both you and the people you hope to help are in BIG TROUBLE.
Frankly, this is the unhealthy attitude that manifests in many of us. Christian, you want to give advice and drop knowledge on others. Why is this the way you choose to help others? Is it so other people can become more like you? Ouch, I hope not. Yet when we say that we want to give help, but we don’t want/need to receive help from others, that is exactly what we are saying. Even worse, some of us like to give instruction to others because we like the power (this one we especially like to do on the Internet). Sometimes it is much more subtle, like my dad never letting anyone else pay for dinner, or the lady who always cooks and has people over, but doesn’t want to intrude on others’ homes or let anyone bring stuff for the party.
Christians and non-Christians, our primary situation is need, and it is against the Gospel to pretend any other way. It is selfish to have the attitude that you “just wanna help other people” if you don’t first and openly acknowledge your needs and weaknesses. Showing and embracing our need is a more useful, powerful, and honest approach to giving.
You were not changed by advice.
If you look back on your life, you were changed by suffering, grace, the Holy Spirit, long-term relationships and role models, a lifetime of tiny shaping experiences, and maybe some intentional advice during a time when you probably asked someone for it; someone you really trusted. Why would you expect anything different for anyone else? In other words, The Gospel of Jesus Christ changed you, not advice.
How long did it take you to get the way you are? How long did it take the person you want to help to get to be the way they are? Real help and change are not usually the result of a quick fix or correction, but rather a long term investment. Look at it this way, the BEST non-miraculous, worldly techniques to help people change are things like intensive cognitive behavioral therapy, 12 step programs like AA, and psychoanalytic talk therapy. These things actually can work and can be worthwhile disciplines, but they take ongoing, possibly even permanent commitments of literally hundreds or thousands of hours full of guidance from trained sponsors/therapists.
As Christians, we must rely on nothing less than the miraculous grace and provision that comes from Jesus. We have experienced this. Do others need anything less? Of course not. If we really do want to help other people, we are better off exposing our NEED than our advice. In doing so we will be worshiping God instead of our righteousness.
The Gospel changes people, and other people SEEING when others observe your weakness instead of your faked perfection, you make actually learn and grow together MIGHT actually demonstrate that;. You telling them what to do… probably not.
Now, before you go pointing out that I seem to be telling people what to do and giving advice about NOT doing the very thing I am doing, let me admit to you that this post is mainly about me. I am much worse off in this area than my friend is or was. I realized this as soon as I finished explaining to him how he was “getting it wrong” in the coffee shop.