We should point people, via the Word of God, toward God/Christ. We should clarify not only what the text is saying historically, but also what it means for us today. We should lead the way in being responsive to God, inviting people to respond to His grace. We can encourage people to respond and move in the right direction. But it is not our role to create momentum, nor is it up to us to generate the force to determine speed of change.
It is the same with counseling, pastoring, parenting, etc. We can orient hearts in the right direction, we can make clear what next steps might look like, and we can travel alongside the person we are caring for … but we cannot push them along at a pace to suit us.
Sometimes God generates an incredible rate of change in a life. Sometimes forward motion is imperceptible. As preachers, as pastors, or as parents, let’s not usurp the Spirit’s role and try to force things along. When we do, we undermine the foundation of our ministry. Remember the first step? It is to orient hearts in the right direction, to point people to God/Christ. Usurp the Spirit and you will quickly point people back onto themselves.
When we turn people toward themselves, toward their efforts, their failings, their discipline, etc., then we can quickly slip out of biblical ministry and into the role of a personal trainer or life coach. Our calling is higher than that.