We’ve all received counsel in our lives. From our earliest days as children we were guided and corrected by our parents. Then as students our teachers counseled us through instruction. As we matured, close friends, pastors and co-workers may have advised us. Have we ever stopped to ask: “What’s the purpose of counsel?” Why do we seek advice? Do we know how to take counsel? If we know the purpose of counsel and God’s desire for us, the next time we receive counsel we might derive greater results from it. Consider Hosea’s lament: “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6 NIV). They sought their own wisdom and would not receive the counsel from the structure God had ordained for them. God’s desire is that it might go well with us. Isn't that wonderful! He gave His beloved Israel their patriarchs, kings, prophets, the Law, and “in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:2). Today, God’s counsel comes to us through God’s Son: “The Word became flesh” (Jn. 1:1,14).
Very simply, the purpose of counsel is that we might learn from the counsel, teaching and experience of others: “That it might go well with you” (Dt. 4:40).
Particularly when instruction, counsel or exhortation comes through one of the structures – such as parents, pastors and teachers – God has given us, and when it comes from the Word of God, our ears should be open to hear in obedience. The prophet Isaiah says, “Hear … Listen … Stop doing wrong, learn to do right” (Isa. 1:1,17). Shouldn’t we follow this good advice?
All words of teaching, preaching, instruction, and counsel are wasted unless we receive them and make them our own. Processing counsel and learning from it are so important. Luke wrote his gospel so that his friend, Theophilus, “may know the certainty” (Lk. 1:4) of the things Luke taught him. As recipients of counsel we should always “check it out” with the Word to discover its truth for ourselves, like the Bereans, who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures” to see if it was true (Acts 17:11). We are to take counsel, not because the counselor says so, but because the counsel is consistent with God’s Word.
Often we receive counsel in a careless manner because of pride, the original sin (Prov. 16:18). We say, “I know what to do! How dare you tell me otherwise!” Haven’t we all reacted this way, maybe not always outwardly, but inwardly, and to our loss? I believe that 99% of counsel is given to help the one in need, that it “might go well” for them. And what happens? Our pride takes over, we miss the counsel given and things get worse. We need to become better hearers.
Something else may happen when counsel, correction, or exhortation, is given: We may become offended because of our pride. This is Satan’s bait, that we would become offended and miss the value of the intended word of instruction. Our word for “offend” comes from the Greek word skandalon. It refers to the part of a trap to which the bait was attached. Hence the word signifies the laying of a trap. In most cases offense begins because the hearer has allowed a rift to occur because of pride. We need to guard against being offended. We need to be aware of Satan’s tactics. If offense occurs we must forgive. Only in forgiveness is there restoration. We must learn to listen without being offended.
CULTIVATE A TEACHABLE SPIRIT
A humble heart, a spirit of humility, is key to cultivating a teachable spirit. We must always be ready to hear, to learn and re-learn lessons in life. God has put others at our side, in our paths, and has given us the opportunity and responsibility to learn from them, even when it hurts (Prov. 27:6). Remember, the purpose of counsel: “That it might go well with you.”
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked … But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3).
By John Swanson
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org