Odds are, you have someone in your life who really needs to change. They have an anger problem, a sin problem, an addiction problem, an attitude problem, or maybe even a denial problem. And you don’t know how to help them overcome their struggle or the sin that has held them down for so long. Fed up, tired, and hopeless because you have tried and tried, but somehow nothing has changed. You come to grips with the fact that they may never change, and that they may always be the way they are. I mean, what are you supposed to do in a situation like that?
Lucky for us, the Bible gives us wisdom on how to actually help a person change. So, how can you help a person change?
Pray repeatedly. Somehow we get this unbiblical idea in our heads that we can change people and by the force of our sheer will, we can make a person turn from their ungodliness to godliness. Scripture says differently. James 1:19-10 says “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” The hard truth is that we cannot cause a person to change, no matter how hard we try. Only God can soften their heart and open their ears. The best thing we can do for a person is pray for them, and not in a “God please change this person because they are driving me crazy” kind of way, but in a “God please change this person for their good and your glory” kind of way. Pray for them constantly. Pray that God would bless them, give them joy, and give them victory over their sin. Also, instead of criticizing the person you want to change, pray for them. For every one time you criticize, pray ten times!
Encourage them often. This may sound counterproductive because if I encourage them, they will think everthing is okay, right? That isnt how it works. The authors of the Bible made this evident. Before they brought any criticism, they always began with encouragement. The way Paul responded to the Corinthians is a great example of this. The Corinthian church was going nuts. They were all engaging in sexual immorality, worshiping other Gods, making idols, and many other sinful things. But, Paul began his letter to the Corinthians by telling them how grateful he was for them. “I give thanks to my God always for you..” are his words exactly. Do you want to help a person change? Give thanks to God for them. Encourage them and point out areas where you see God at work in their life. Don’t fixate on their weaknesses and miss all the good things God is doing in them.
Correct them lovingly. There is a time for correction, but that correction should be when necessary. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Sometimes our corrections can take the form of admonishment or rebuke. Sometimes they can take the form of helping someone in their weakness. But always correct with patience and love, not anger and frustration.
So, how do we help people truly change? Pray, encourage, correct, and repeat. Don’t try and make people change, persistently pray for them and let God do the changing.