Over the past year I have become hugely indebted to Paul David Tripp (thanks to Gethin Jones for introducing me), especially his excellent devotional books, Whiter than Snow and A shelter in the time of Storm.
Instruments in the Redeemers hands: People in need of change helping people in need of change is an in-depth introduction to Biblical counselling in the local church. However, it is not a book that assumes the need for paid processionals and specialised counselling departments. Rather, Tripp says he is following an “all of my people, all of the time” model. Indeed, he explains ‘God uses people, who are themselves in need of change, as instruments of the same kind of change in others‘. He believes that when believers and church leaders grasp this, it will actually strengthen the church.
I love this approach. I find the idea of taking helping relationships out of the exclusive hands of the paid professionals brilliant.
Tripp then proceeds, in great detail and with plenty of illustrations, to explain how the helping process works. His big, central, biblical principal is that the issue is always the ‘heart’. Therefore, we must always work on the heart. Next, his big picture theme is that it is the Word of God (The gospel meta narrative) that is the only hope for the heart. Thus, our work, is to help the person apply the gospel to their hearts.
He spends the rest of the book unpacking how this works, with a really good appendix section.
The book is full of little nuggets of wisdom, helpful outlines and insightful comments. He teaches you how to listen, love, understand, question, give homework, challenge and confront. I thought his section on Biblical confrontation was amazing. Indeed, as you read the book, you end up questioning and searching your own heart. I guess this is a huge part of counselling…being changed yourself. After all, we are all people in need of change.
Tripp is convinced that the gospel is the answer, and goes into great detail as to why and how. He wants us to watch the ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ and incarnate His approach. Listen to this:
‘Biblical personal ministry must not be reduced to a set of principles to live by. Its central focus is the Redeemer who rescues people from the power of sin and progressively eradicates its presence from their lives.’
The great thing about this approach is that it takes the pressure off. I am not the Redeemer…Jesus is!
I read this book with our youth worker Jamie Hurd. We sat over a late night curry discussing the implications of this book. I think he summed up the conclusion of this book brilliantly (if a little crudely)…’basically, this book teaches us that we are all just tools‘.
If you are a tool, and you want to be a tool, buy this book. I’ll be honest, it is hard work. It is not a book you can read easily and quickly. But it is worth it…well worth it.