How to Help People Take the First Step to Recovery

(Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash)

How do you help people take their first steps into recovery?

Many people will fight it. They'll put up a facade. They'll pretend they have no problems.

But you and I know everyone needs recovery from something. All of us have been hurt. No one has it completely together.

In Luke 5, God gives us a great picture of what it looks like to help people get on a path to healing. (In fact, it's such an important story that the writers of the Gospels include it in two other places, Matthew 9 and Mark 2.)

Jesus is inside a home teaching the Pharisees and religious leaders. Some men want to get a paralyzed friend to Jesus so he can heal the man. But thanks to the crowds surrounding the house, there is no way in. So these men climb onto the roof, open up a hole and lower their friend through the roof to Jesus.

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What Jesus does next is a great model of ministry for anyone involved in helping people recover from their hurts, habits and hang-ups.

And you'll see this pattern of ministry in all of Jesus' interactions with people in the Gospels. They may not be in the same order, but they'll be there.

First, Jesus calmed the man's fears.

Imagine the scene. It's standing-room only. It's so crowded that people can't get in. People are hanging out the windows and crowding at the door.

As Jesus teaches, suddenly parts of the roof begin to fall. Then a man is lowered down to the ground. You might think the teacher's first response would be one of frustration or fear.

But that's not how Jesus reacts.

Jesus understands that the man who just came through the roof is scared. So what does Jesus do? Instead of getting angry, Jesus calms the man's fears. I love the first thing that Jesus says to him in Matthew's account of the event: "Cheer up, friend!" (Matthew 9:2c GW).

Jesus' message of hope is our first message too. Jesus is calm, considerate and sympathetic to the paralyzed man. When broken people come to us, we should respond to them the same way.

It's easy to get frustrated when people make bad choices and hurt themselves and others, but Jesus shows the better way to reach out to them.

We need to let people who come to us know that God isn't mad at them. They already hurt. Our first response should be to encourage them, not chastise them.

Second, Jesus forgives the man's faults and failures.

Right after offering encouragement, Jesus confronts the man's sin. He says, "Cheer up, friend! Your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2d GW).

But it's critically important you notice how Jesus confronts the man's sin.

  • Jesus calls him "friend." He's probably never seen the guy who just dropped in front of him, but Jesus calls him by a term of endearment.
  • Jesus protects the man's dignity. He doesn't tell everyone the man's specific sin. Jesus isn't trying to embarrass him.
  • Jesus forgives him completely of his sin. He doesn't hold anything back. There is no "but" in Jesus' offer of forgiveness.

We can't minister to broken people faithfully without confronting their sin and pointing them to Jesus, who offers forgiveness. We can't minimize sin. But when we confront their sin, we must do it with love.

Third, Jesus challenges the man's faith.

Don't miss this part: Jesus challenges the man to do something he clearly couldn't do on his own. Jesus tells him, "Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home" (Matthew 9:6 GW).

Jesus told the man to do something he had never done before. This man was a lifelong invalid. When Jesus told the man to get up and go home, that was like asking you to fly to the moon on your own. It couldn't be done.

The Bible says you can't please God without faith. No one can be healed without trusting God.

This man represents us—and every other person to whom we minister. We're all paralyzed by something. We're paralyzed by fear, by indecision, by bad relationships, but God calls us to take steps of faith.

It takes faith to admit we have a problem and need help. It takes faith for someone to walk into a Celebrate Recovery® group and believe Jesus can heal what's broken, especially when nothing else has worked.

Think about what it is like when someone first comes to your Celebrate Recovery ministry. They may have tried many other ways to overcome their hurts, habits, and hang-ups. They may even assume Celebrate Recovery will be just like all the other false starts.

But they are taking a step of faith, and we know God will work within their lives as they go through the steps of Celebrate Recovery.

Challenge people to come in faith to Celebrate Recovery and encourage them to let God do what only he can do.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global internet community for pastors.

This article originally appeared at pastors.com.

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