"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
- Matthew 10:16 NIV
I recently heard from a young man who was doing his best to minister to a nonbeliever over the Internet. He sent me a copy of one of her recent emails, and it immediately became clear to me that this girl had some serious mental and emotional problems. This young man asked me what I would do if I were in his situation, trying to help this girl, and to lead her to the Lord. When I wrote him back, I told him frankly that I would keep a healthy distance from someone who is so obviously disturbed, and who is destructive to herself and others. I urged him to pray for wisdom and discernment, so that he would know what God's will was concerning his relationship with this girl. I advised him to earnestly pray for her salvation and deliverance, and to begin distancing himself from her, with God's help. I explained to him that very few of us are equipped to handle the kinds of problems that this girl was dealing with, and that it would be wiser for him to pray that the Lord would send her the proper help, and that she would be receptive to it.
Perhaps my response to this young man seems cold and unfeeling to you. I might have thought so, too, a few years ago. But after seeing so many well-meaning Christians fall into sin and despair in situations like these, I've changed my view. While the Lord often calls us to minister to troubled people, it is never His will for us to become "entangled" with them or their problems. Some Christians mistakenly believe that they can minister to people over the Internet without fear of getting too involved. They have a false sense of security, thinking that they are "safe" from the harm that a destructive relationship can cause. As servants of God, we need to have better spiritual discernment than that.
The truth is that Satan often uses people like this disturbed girl to distract believers, not only from their God-given purpose, but from the day-to-day plans that the Lord has laid out for them. If the devil can keep us busy trying to help one or two troubled people, our effectiveness as ministers of the Gospel will be severely limited. I have seen some Christians spending a lot of time and energy trying to help people who don't even appreciate their help, or who have no intention of changing their course of destruction. Troubled people like these will drain the life out of us. They are more likely to drag us down, than we are to lift them up. These folks need much more than a supportive friend - they need a Savior. And that's a role reserved for Christ alone, and one that none of us can fill, no matter how we try.
I warned this young man that as long as he persisted in his efforts to keep this troubled girl propped up, she might never realize her need for God. Unfortunately, people like her often need to hit bottom before they acknowledge their need for a Savior. When that's the case, those of us who try to keep these people afloat may actually be hindering the work that God wants to do in their lives.
Jesus told His disciples, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16 NIV) The Lord is talking about a delicate balance here. He doesn't want us being deceitful or malicious. But He also doesn't want us being naive or gullible. While we don't want to go through life with suspicious minds, we also don't want to be so unsuspecting that we become totally useless to God. Jesus commanded us to "be on guard against men" (Matthew 10:17 NIV), and that's a warning that we should take seriously. Today, if you are in a situation like this young man was, I urge you to earnestly seek the Lord about it. It's my heartfelt prayer that every one of your relationships would be ALL that God wants them to be, and ONLY what He wants them to be.
Prayer: Lord, Your Word says, "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished." (Proverbs 22:3 NIV) Therefore, I ask that You make me wise and discerning where all of my relationships are concerned, so that I will not have to suffer the consequences of being involved in destructive relationships. Help me to always be ready and willing to minister to others, but keep me from spending more time or energy in these efforts than is Your will for me. Thank You, Lord, that with Your help, my relationships will always please and glorify You!
- J. M. Farro