By Andy Constable
We live in a community that has been heavily damaged by drugs. Most of the people that we work with have a steady diet of prescribed as well as street (unprescribed) drugs running through their system everyday. We have seen a handful of addicts over the last few years saved by the gospel and wonderfully changed by God. Is there anything that we need to watch out for as we disciple them? Is there anything that is particularly important? I want to spend the next few weeks blogging about the things that I’ve learned about discipling drug addicts who have come to Christ.
One of the first things that we have to watch out for in discipling addicts is that we don’t come in with a ‘saviour complex’. We need to watch our attitude and know that we are not going to sort people’s problems out with some sort of magic wand. A saviour complex is dangerous for both the wannabe savior and those they impact. The wannabe savior will collapse under the weight of the world’s problems because there are so many. And their ‘disciples’ will end up followers of the wannabe savior instead of the actual savior – Jesus Christ.
It is of utmost importance in any discipleship of fellow Christians that we continually point people to the gospel. The gospel alone has the power to transform people’s lives and is the only way that people will produce long-term fruit. This doesn’t feel as good because people won’t depend on you as much but it, ultimately, brings glory to God. When people walk with the Lord Jesus we don’t end up burned out thinking that we have to solve everybody’s problems. The people that we are discipling will tend to want cling to us but its important to keep pointing them to Christ! It’s like raising a child. We don’t want them clinging us for the rest of their lives. We raise a child so that they will be independent and make good choices because we have given them a good foundation. This is what we must give people when they come to Christ from an addictive background. If we have a saviour mentality then we must repent and teach people the Bible properly!
Secondly, know in discipleship that its one step forward and then three back! This is something that you will have to learn quickly. New Christians will slip up. They will seem like they are doing really well and then out of nowhere (or so it appears) they royally screw things up! This is part of discipleship. The key is to show people how to get back on to the horse after they have messed up. We teach our new believers that they will mess up (we all do) and when they do they need to run immediately to the grace found in Jesus Christ. We teach them not to hide their sin under religious works and language, but to admit sin regularly and appreciate God’s grace all the more. Our job is to pick them up, dust them off and then point them towards Christ again. We have to do this again and again and again. This can be discouraging at times but the key to remember is that we are not the one who is changing them but Jesus through His Spirit as we minister to them through His Word. We can easily slip into the mindset that we are sorting them out and get downhearted when they do. Remember its one step forward and three back (sometimes)!
Thirdly, we have to watch closely for lies. Those who have been addicted to drugs for a long time will be in a pattern of lying, deceiving and manipulating. They will look you straight in the face and tell you something and yet it will be a complete and utter lie. They are masters at it. One of the most painful forms of deceit is emotional manipulation. Most particularly, we need to watch out for false waterworks and the, “I haven’t got any money line.” We must, of course, help where help is needed but a lot of the time they have wasted their money on drugs and just not bothered to save enough for their food!
When we are disciplining a constant liar we need to be constantly on our guard. We need to be watching and challenging where we see lies. We also need to be teaching them that lies (even small ones) are from the devil because he is the father of lies. This is difficult sometimes because the person who is lying to you seems charming but, still, we need to see through the charm and challenge them when they are being deceitful. They will blag you over anything and we need to be firm, gracious and honest with new believers. We need to point them towards Christ and pray that God would root out their lies.
Its amazing seeing someone from a drug addicted background saved by the grace of God. But someone who has abused drugs for a long time will have a lot of baggage. We need to make sure that we point people to the amazing saving grace of Jesus at all times. We need to be patient with those we are discipling and remember that it is a long-term process. Finally, we need to watch closely for deceit and challenge our new converts to love the truth in Jesus Christ! Pray for us as we continue to disciple our newer converts that they would be transformed inside out by the grace of God!