…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Dear bro Guang 光弟兄,
Thank you for sharing about the friend you and your wife are helping. Pls be assured that this matter will be held in confidence.
Been praying and thinking. Was wondering …. are both of you feeling weary trying to help your friend ? …. Perhaps it may be good to have a time-out … take a break from helping/talking, and just pray for her, believing that our Heavenly Father who called her … is more than able to watch over her and help her. … Only Jesus can change people, and their thoughts and behavior.
Sometimes, in helping others, we may unconsciously get drawn into their world, and lose our objectivity. Sometimes it may help to take a step back, relax, … and pray.
If you don’t mind, …. I’ll like to suggest a 3-step guide to help people who come to us with their needs or problems. Forgive me if this sounds extremely simple, but I’ve found this also works in troubleshooting problems at work or church as well.
** Jesus asked “What do you want me to do for you ?“— Define the problem, … focus
** Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well ?“ — Willingness to fix the problem, … change
** Jesus said, “Go, wash at the pool of Siloam“ — Action steps to fix problem, … follow through, persevere
However, pls note that this guide is not exhaustive, and is not recommended in
* emergency cases
* friend is not a follower of Jesus.
Hence, always pray and depend on the Holy Spirit to direct us to the root of someone’s problems.
Mark 10:46-52 (NIV)
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Jesus asked a very interesting question here. At a glance, it seems the question is not necessary. Isn’t it obvious to the crowd (& us who are reading) what Bartimaeus was requesting from Jesus? But, until Bartimaeus articulated clearly his need, … & uttered his prayer personally,
we are not 100% certain what he wanted Jesus to do.
Often, hearing one’s prayers … gives us some clues of what’s in one’s heart.
What do you
to do for you?
So it is with a lot of problems we see. As spectators we all see different aspects of the problem, depending on our vantage point and experiences.
What may seem obvious to us, … our friend may not see or realize it.
Let’s be honest, there are certainly some things we unconsciously do which annoy others, that we are not aware of. We all have our blindspots. Hence, our first step is to reach agreement as to what the problem is.
Often times, we eagerly jump straight into fixing mode, … problem-solving, quick solutions, instant recipes/formulas,
even though our friend has yet to see the problem we are trying to fix.
We’re appear to be listening,
but actually we’re filtering out our friend’s concerns;
whilst our minds are focused on solving the problem
from our own perspectives, assumptions, generalizations, worldview.
Also, … interrupting our friend while they’re sharing,
may annoy them, disappoint them
that we’re actually not listening to them.
Listening … is caring.
we should be actively listening,
respecting their point of view,
open to their concerns,
and drawing out from them further details,
rather than saying much.
Listen, … to understand
our friend’s point of view.
Piecing together, details of the situation they’re facing.
Let’s be quick to listen, and slow to speak (James 1:19).
With the Holy Spirit help and prayer, guide them to articulate what the problem is
or better still what the root of the problem is.
Ask questions, guide their thoughts.
Sometimes, after our friend shares everything
they may feel a lot better,
even though the problem/issue still exists.
Then, we just need to support them in prayer.
Good empathetic listening is also a form of help to our friends.
Silently being there for them with a warm gentle touch or a shoulder to cry on helps.
Be mindful that sometimes, they are not looking for solutions,
and may not be comfortable to share anything further.
Play it by ear and be respectful, avoid sticking our noses in.
Always lead our friend to a position of depending and trusting God, and
not upon us.
If they open up to us, be conscious that we are stepping into a sacred trust, are we ready to handle this ?
Sometimes, they may not be emotionally stable, so they may use some very strong words, or may consider some extreme paths of actions. Sometimes, they just need to get the anger out.
Listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us; remember how the Lord gave Solomon wisdom to discern which woman was telling the truth in an emotionally charged situation (1 Kings 3). We see the iceberg of symptoms, but the Holy Spirit can reveal what’s underneath the visible iceberg — the core, the root. Sometimes, by listening carefully to their emotionally charged statements, we may spot a hint or key to the root of the problem.
Recently, over a few weeks, a brother contacted us about his situation at work. In the midst of many incidents he shared, … encouraged him to prayerfully think it through, … and summarized his challenges in 3-5 sentences.
It certainly was helpful to us, his friends, that we are all on the same page with him,
… so that we can pray and support him effectively.
Hence, its helpful, after our initial exploratory conversations, to have our friend summarize the problem.
This helps them to articulate what they see as the problem or problems are.
Then, we can prioritise them, and tackle one specific problem at a time,
rather than the whole tangled chunk.
Hence, we all need to be in agreement as to what the problem or root of the problem is.
If we are still saying ‘dog‘ and they are still saying ‘cat’, then perhaps it may be good to just be friendly and just pray for them.
I believe, …. for your friend, it sounds like
she does not see the problem
as you see it yet.
There is also a possibility that we have not understood the problem well enough,
and perhaps their ‘cat’ is correct. More prayer and listening coffee sessions :-).
Its also wise to ask the Lord if we are the right person to help.
Sometimes, after arriving at agreement about the problem, we may find that we are not the right person to help,
or have the necessary skills to help, or have the time to help .
Hence, it’s always good to think of escalation referral paths to others who can really help, like their pastor, trained counsellor, etc.
Be ready to let go.
In the parable of the good Samaritan, the Samaritan did what he could, … then, …
35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
As we embark on helping our friend, please be mindful of
and their expectations.
Also it may be helpful in some cases to set some boundaries,
though I’ve noticed that friends who are genuinely seeking help are respectful of our time and our limitations.
Sometimes they may not be in a good emotional state, so be prepared for unexpected intense phone calls, unplanned incidents, … or worse … blame.
Some gotchas ….
More so for Chinese,
we are sensitive about saving face,
and sometimes we do not tell others everything.
Then there are also others who may not be totally honest about sharing their situation. Hence, pray with our eyes open :-).
Sadly, there are some who have no desire to change, all they want is an emotional safety blanket.
They just want our sympathy,
but have no desire see things objectively,
or to change or improve.
Be careful … they may just drain us dry if we get sucked in.
... “A sow that is washed
returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
2 Peter 2:22 (NIV)
As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
Proverbs 26:11 (NIV)
19 People with quick tempers
will have to pay for it.
If you help them out once,
you will have to do it again.
20 Listen to advice and accept correction,
and in the end
you will be wise.
Proverbs 19:11, 12 (NCV)
Equally important, is our friend listening to us ?
Sometimes, …. if when one has problems with another individual or group,
…. its possible, the problem is not with the others, … but with the oneself, ourself.
The uncomfortable behavior one sees in another person,
may be a symptom of one’s own heart or worldview
… or perhaps one has the same problem/behavior
as the other person.
The Pot calling the Kettle black.
Perhaps, … the unfortunate response from others towards us,
may be their spontaneous reaction
to our unconscious habit/behavior/attitude
which annoys them.
Hence, sometimes … “their problem or fault“,
… may be … “our problem or (unconcious) fault“.
Jesus is absolutely right when he shared,
Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite,
first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly
to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Instead of pointing fingers at others,
Jesus teaches us to self-examine, check ourselves, our heart first.
Whatever the case, … forgiveness is the first step.
getting ourselves right with God,
getting ourselves right with each other.
Luke 6:37,41 (NLT)
37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you.
Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
41 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye
when you have a log in your own?
Unresolved conflict in one’s heart,
unforgiveness in one’s heart
affects our behavior, thoughts and actions.
Resolve conflicts with forgiveness in our heart,
and reconciliation & acceptance of the other person.
Right relationships is the starting point of peaceful, supportive relationships with one another.
and the road to peace in our hearts.
Its not comfortable to face our own shortcomings,
… but as we walk with the Lord, …
He lovingly orchestrates recurring situations for us to face up to our issues, problems, hangups, fears, prejudices, bias
… heart matters … hard matters not to be avoided.
We all will struggle and wrestle,
… either we avoid or ignore them, …
over time with His help, … yield to His greater purposes and overcome.
God is always in the life and heart transformation business.
As we describe our situations or listen to someone else describe their situations … a good question to bear in mind is
… “What is God working on?
What is God working in us?”
This also helps shift the focus from other people, or family members, or friends,
to our personal relationship with God, himself.
God is at work in our hearts and lives
through the situations we face,
changing us to be more like Jesus.
At a personal level when ministering to someone … do keep confidentiality,
avoid our “need to be needed“,
avoid being judgmental,
be personal , be merciful and gracious,
and trust God in everything that He knows and He is in control.
be patient as the Lord has been patient in dealing with us.
In everything, let love be the motivation, and joy be the strength.
Serve the Lord with gladness – Psalm 100:2
And always be dependent on the Holy Spirit, and be prayerful.
If the friend is from another culture, be conscious and sensitive of their culture, background and worldview.
Also, some English words may carry unintended cultural subtleties and nuances which we may not be familiar with, in the other person’s culture.
If the other person has a trait of being critical of others,
or domineering, or insisting on one’s way,
or not open to change,
unsubmissive or disrespectful towards family members,
… perhaps its best to just patiently pray for them,
and let God work in their lives.
He who [willfully] separates himself [from God and man] seeks his own desire,
He quarrels against all sound wisdom
Some people like to do things their own way,
and they get upset when people give them advice.
Proverbs 18:1 (AMP, ERV)
(we’re not their parents 🙂 )
John 5:1-8 (NIV)
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Here again like the previous passage, Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question.
However, this is an important question, does the invalid man want to get well ?
Do you want to
get well ?
I’m sure we’ve been in organizations where the problem is obvious to everyone,
but there’s no political will to fix the problem.
Hence, the problem persists, … and sometimes prevail;
and in a worse case, overwhelm those affected by it.
In the same way,
our friend must be willing to make a commitment
and a priority for action.
We may be willing to help,
but is our friend willing to act, and willing to change ?
It takes two hands to clap,
two to tango.
Sometimes, all they want from us is to agree/confirm with their choices or behavior.
They don’t want to U-turn or get out of their chosen path.
For such cases, perhaps it may be good to just give them time and space to think clearly.
In the parable of the lost son, when the son finally came to his senses (Luke 15:17), and decided to return to his father, the father ran to him.
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Similarly, after Jesus spoke to the rich ruler, he did not run after him to strike a compromise, or rebuke him.
Mark 10:21,22 (NASB)
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
Jesus loved him.
Hence, we continue to love and pray for them.
Also from the parable of the lost son, our Heavenly Father loves us so much,
that He is able to orchestrate situations and events to bring us back to our senses. (Luke 15:14-16).
Sometimes, the root may be an issue of submission.
Is this person submitted to anyone who can speak into their life ?
Is this person submitted to the Lord and His Word?
God’s way, … or our way?
As much as we would like to be compassionate, sometimes,
done in the right spirit, a little tough love helps, as any good parent would agree.
Proverbs 27:5 (NIV)
Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
John 9:6,7 (NIV)
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.
7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”).
So the man went
and came home seeing.
Jesus told the blind man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man obeyed Jesus’ word.
went, … washed, … seeing.
Go and wash
in the pool of
After all the talk, its time to begin receiving and obeying God’s word.
We share Biblical principles,
and His promises,
and our identity in Christ to help them.
Sometimes, we may need to get our friend back into a regular spiritual discipline habit of regular prayer and Bible reading.
Sometimes, it may mean learning practical life skills, like time or money management or prioritization.
Sometimes, we may need to take our friend through a teaching about what the Word of God say about the matter they are facing.
Jesus taught the people
and healed the people.
We can also recommend them a well-written book on the subject to read.
It may be good to give them some ‘homework’ after each time we meet.
This keeps them focused and committed to taking incremental steps towards addressing the problem.
By doing so, it helps us gauge how serious they are about receiving help;
… which can help avoid disappointment later on our part.
Whatever it is, we must lead our friend to a position of depending and trusting God,
and not upon us.
If it is a decision making issue, give them principles and prayer,
never a recommended decision.
lead, guide them to arrive at a decision.
If useful, introduce them to other subject matter experts.
They have to make, and be responsible for their own decision.
And if there’s anything we don’t know about a matter or subject,
be honest and say ‘we don’t know, let’s pray‘.
Only God’s word is effective in changing anyone — our thinking and behavior.
Last year, a friend from another city called. We have not spoken for a number of months. I could not help but notice that there was a difference in her thoughts and speech; she was more upbeat about things. Curious, I enquired. She shared that she joined a morning prayer group where the pastor would give them a verse to meditate for the whole week. It was obvious that the Word of God had renewed her mind.
More than a year ago, had a new friend who had just believed in the Lord, and had some psychological challenges.
On one occasion, we spent some time reading God’s promises together.
Suddenly, we noticed his speech changed to a positive outlook to life and the future.
Over time, through prayer and the Word, his situation improved significantly and noticeably.
He’s now faithfully attending a church, … made some lifestyle changes, … and now no longer needs drugs or professional help.
This did not happen overnight, … but through time, … his perseverance, prayer, God’s Word, … he overcame with God’s help.
Recently, a new university friend called on the phone sounding distraught. He had received a call that his sick parent overseas had been admitted to hospital, and he was just days away from an important examination at school. I whispered a quick prayer to the Lord as to what to do, as he sounded emotionally affected. Felt the Lord say to just relax, listen and let him talk. When he finally said all, and had calmed down, he said he felt better. We prayed and agreed to catch up at church 2 days later.
On that Sunday, somehow during the refreshments time, a new visitor to the church service talked with this friend. Later, when we sat down, he was much relaxed. I learnt that the visitor he was talking to, shared his experience of receiving a similar phone call the year before, and he also prayed with my friend. Its amazing how God loves my friend so much that he sent the right person to minister to him in his time of need, helping him feel assured and confident to face the future. Empathy is powerful.
And like a doctor who expects his patients to take their medication regularly and consistently,
live a healthy lifestyle and change their diet
…. it takes work and effort to change one’s lifestyle, and ingrained life habits.
Hence, don’t be disappointed if progress is not at a pace we prefer to see.
Finally, after each chat and prayer with our friend, its best for us to leave them into the loving hands of Jesus.
We are not able to carry their burdens 24×7,
only Jesus can.
We pray and support,
trusting the Lord who loves them so much,
He is in control,
and is able to bring the right encouragement
or person to help them
through each day.
Ultimately, each one of us are responsible for our own lives, actions, decisions and consequences.
And like any good parent, there is only so much we can do,
so don’t be too hard on ourselves. Hence,
pray, depend on the Holy Spirit,
Isaiah 50:4 (NKJV)
The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
…. pause, give them the gift of our time
… to stop, to listen, to empathize, to lend a hand, a shoulder, a smile, a hello, a kind word, an encouragement, a prayer …
Proverbs 12:25 (NIV, MSG)
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.
and also … give them time …
wait … and be patient.
1 Thessalonians 5:13-15 (MSG)
Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part.
Our counsel is that you
warn the freeloaders to get a move on.
Gently encourage the stragglers,
and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet.
Be patient with each person,
attentive to individual needs.
And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves
you don’t snap at each other.
Look for the best in each other,
and always do your best to bring it out.
Right relationship with God,
right relationship with others,
daily diet of prayer, God’s Word, and thanksgiving,
exercise forgiving and accepting others,
filling our minds with good things,
and regular fellowship with Godly friends,
are ingredients to sustain a healthy heart.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just,
whatever things are pure,
whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report,
if there is any virtue
and if there is anything praiseworthy
—meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
The good person
out of the good treasure of his heart
the evil person
out of his evil treasure
for out of the abundance of the heart
his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45 (ESV)
Thanks for listening.
bro Lim 林弟兄
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
July 3, 2014
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
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