As a pastor, my desire is to help people. If I see someone heading in the wrong direction, I want to stop them so they won’t ruin their life. However, I have learned that it’s not always the Lord’s will for me to intervene in people’s lives because I could be getting in God’s way.
Have you ever jumped in to help someone only to discover that your intervention did no good and may even have prolonged the difficult situation? This can often be the case when a parent wants to protect an erring teenager or young adult child. Instead of letting the child suffer the consequences and learn from the mistake, the parent rescues them, thereby sabotaging an essential life lesson God could have taught them.
Knowing whether or not to help someone isn’t always a clear-cut choice. After all, Christians are called to bear each other’s burdens, help those in need, and show compassion and kindness. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things, but I am recommending caution in overstepping what God wants you to do. This is what we commonly refer to as setting boundaries. And in this case the boundary we must abide by is God’s will.
Since the Lord is the only one who knows each person and situation fully, He alone knows the best way to help a hurting, straying, or mistreated person.
Since the Lord is the only one who knows each person and situation fully, He alone knows the best way to help a hurting, straying, or mistreated person. That’s why we should always seek to align our actions with His ways, and that means we must read and study His Word to discover how He responds to various situations and what His goals and purposes are.
A story in Matthew 16:21-26 shows how Jesus responded when Peter wanted to protect Him from danger. After Jesus told the disciples that He would suffer and die, Peter was horrified and rebuked Him saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (v. 22). Jesus must have shocked Peter when He turned and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (v. 23). Peter was trying to do what he thought was best, but instead, became an obstacle to God’s will.
Sometimes we are guilty of the same thing. First, we get in God’s way when we are ignorant of His plans. Peter was making a decision based on partial knowledge instead of submissively learning and believing what Jesus had just revealed to him.
Peter knew Scripture predicted that the Messiah would come to deliver Israel from Gentile domination, set up His earthly kingdom, and rule the entire world from Jerusalem (Zech. 14). But he failed to recognize that Isaiah had also predicted the Messiah would suffer and die (Isa. 53).
In the same way, we only have partial knowledge on most topics. Yet we tend to swing into action after hearing someone’s side of the story without realizing that only God knows what’s truly going on in that person’s life. And He alone knows what needs to be done and how to accomplish it.
Second, we get in God’s way when we fail to see pain as the tool He uses to accomplish His purposes. Jesus’ suffering and death were essential for the redemption of mankind. John the Baptist called Him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Any Jew would have realized that lambs were killed as substitutes for repentant sinners. But Peter couldn’t see that any good would come from the Messiah’s death.
And isn’t that how we often view affliction and pain? We want to think that God’s goal is always to relieve suffering, but in reality, sometimes it’s a tool He uses to accomplish His good purposes. The psalmist understood this when he wrote, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:71). When we step into someone’s life to ease their suffering without considering what God’s purpose might be for the pain, we could find ourselves at odds with His will.
Third, we get in God’s way when we selfishly seek what we want rather than what God desires. Although Peter loved Jesus, he also had a selfish motive for wanting Him to live. He’d left his occupation and home to follow Jesus. If He died, what would Peter do? He was expecting Him to set up the kingdom, and as one of His disciples, Peter would then have a place of honor and authority. This was the hope of all the disciples. That’s why they argued about which one of them would be greatest in the kingdom (Luke 22:24).
Sometimes our motivations for helping others are not as selfless as we’d like to think. Our main concern may not be God’s will but our desire for someone to do what we think is best. That’s why it’s always wise to ask the Lord to purify our motives and guide our steps so we can cooperate with His plan instead of getting in His way.
Charles F. Stanley
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