I attended a Christian college and we had chapel services during the week. Those were great hours when some of America’s greatest preachers and Bible teachers came to speak to us. Also, announcements were made that pertained to the student body, most of them were necessary, but mundane.
However, one day Dr. Douglas Cravens, the dean of the seminary, shared his availability to provide premarital counseling for those that were interested. At the time, I was engaged to Paula and I leaned over and whispered, “Let’s do that. I need all the help I can get!”
We went by his office and set up an appointment to meet. One of the things that was most beneficial to me was how to approach conflict in marriage. Dr. Cravens used a simple illustration that I still remember to make his point.
He sat on one side of the desk and Paula and myself were directly opposite him on the other side. He took a piece of paper, placed it in the center of the desk and said, “This paper represents an issue of disagreement. The way most couples deal with it is that one sits on my side of the desk and the other person right across from them. They begin with goodwill to tackle the problem, but before long their attention has diverted from the problem (represented by the paper in the middle) to attacking the person across from them”.
Then he said, “The key is for both of you to get on the same side of the desk beside each other and to deal with the problem rather than making it personal with the other person”.
Immediately that made sense to me. We’ve been married almost thirty-seven years and I have never forgotten that wise counsel. In fact, I still share it with others in my own marriage counseling ministry.If you desire to avoid unnecessary problems (and who wouldn’t?) it is imperative that you seek counsel. In the last post I wrote about the important of having a cabinet of advisers. This is a select group of people that you consult and ask them to speak into your life.
The Bible is filled with exhortations concerning the benefit of counsel and, also, the consequences of ignoring it. Here are just a few, they’re brief, but pungent.
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)
“Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” (Proverbs 15:22)
“For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 24:6)
“Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.” (Proverbs 20:18)As crucial as it is to seek advice, the counsel we receive is only as good as the person that offers it. That means that all advice is not equal – and some should be ignored if offered.
Someone said, “Everyone has the right to speak, but you have to earn the right to be heard”. Here are three qualifications from the Bible for those that would advise us if we desire good results from their counsel.
The first essential quality of those that would counsel us is that they would be wise. Wisdom and intelligence are not synonymous. Just because one has a diploma or credentials hanging on their wall doesn’t mean they are wise. On a personal level, I have received incompetent treatment from dentists, doctors, lawyers and preachers that were “certified” in terms of passing a prescribed curriculum. Understand, I’m not bashing education at all, I’m exalting wisdom; and the two aren’t always related.
How can we know if someone has wisdom? Simply look at their life. Wisdom always affects the way we live in a positive way. Consider the quality of the relationships, marriage, children and track record of the one from whom you seek direction.
Our friends impact us, much more than we realize. Time spent with wise people is an opportunity to learn wisdom. Those that listen to the foolish will experience destruction in their lives.
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)
In the mid-80’s I was attending a conference featuring one of my favorite authors. As he taught over several days the primary characteristic of his lessons was insight and wisdom. Listening to him was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant! Every line was filled with practical and helpful wisdom. (His writing is like that, too).
I purposed to contact him if I ever had a serious issue with which I was grappling. Less than twenty years after hearing him speak I was able to spend some time with him asking questions in areas that I needed direction.The second essential of a qualified adviser is that they would be honest. By this, I mean someone that will speak truth even when it’s difficult to do so. We have a tendency to go to people that will tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear.
No one wants to be at the mercy of one that is brutal and angry with their words. Truth is always to be spoken with kindness and love (Ephesians 4:15). There is a difference between a constructive and destructive conversation. But all constructive words have the truth in them, even when it hurts.
Because I’m a pastor I frequently counsel people. I’ve discovered that some come to me for my opinion, but they really don’t want help. They continue looking until they find someone that tells them what they wanted to do in the first place. They really aren’t looking for counsel or direction, they’re looking for approval to salve their conscience as they follow their own heart. (They can then blame the person that advised them rather than owning responsibility for their actions).
“Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:5-6) A true friend will rebuke you when you do wrong and wound you if necessary to keep you from doing wrong.
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17) As a whetting stone is made of a similar property of the knife which it sharpens so a friend improves his friend because of his commitment to love him and speak honestly.
I had a friend that was about to make a terrible career decision and I pleaded with him not to do so. Part of my advice included a warning that it would not be good for his family. It wasn’t an easy meeting, but I loved him and it demanded that I be honest with him if I really cared for him. My buddy didn’t need corroboration or encouragement in his direction, but honesty. Sadly, the move was a disaster and it was devastating to his family.The third quality required of one giving effective counsel is that they be godly. God has promised a blessing of prosperity to those that would meet His conditions. One of these imperatives is seeking counsel from a godly person. (There are others in the passage below, but a blog post demands brevity).
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly….and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1, 3)
The word “ungodly” means “wicked, morally wrong”. One of the results of sin is that it desensitizes the conscience, to the point where we dismiss God’s ways and favor our own ways. Being blind to morality will always lead to destruction (Proverbs 14:12).
I received a call from a pastor to consider to come and work with him in his ministry, primarily working with families in the church, something which I enjoy doing and for which I have a burden. It was a great opportunity, but I was uncertain of what to do.
After praying and reading God’s Word for several days I identified three men which knew me well and that met the three conditions above. I met with each one and asked them for their thoughts. One told me precisely what to do, the others gave me biblical principles and asked me questions. Each person contributed something different to my decision. The result was one which I had no regrets then or now.
I’m glad I listened to this cabinet of advisers in my life. Doug Larson wrote, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk”.
- Who do you know that has a lot of wisdom? There are probably several people you could list. Write down their names and go to them when you need some direction.
- Do your advisers speak honestly with you? If not, you will not benefit much from what they say as they may be holding back the very thing you most need to hear.
- Is the walk of your counselor characterized by godliness? This is a character issue. Do they have a life you would want to imitate? If they’re where you want to go or, at least, headed in that direction, seek direction from them.
Every believer ought to have a cabinet of counselors he can speak to when things aren’t clear. Don’t bypass this important pool of wisdom. You’ll be glad you did….and so will those you lead.