-Three “Don’ts” When Seeking Advice
There are times when we are unsure which option is best, what to do next, or where the Lord wants us go. We feel stressed as we consider the consequences of a possible mistake. Is it time to seek advice? But finding good advice is not easy. Some advisors are self-centered. Some avoid anything new or risky. Some have hidden agendas. Some are manipulative, even controlling. Can’t the Lord lead His children directly without the use of human advisors? Solomon wrote, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Prov. 11:14 NIV). Clearly, good advice is very useful. “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning” (Eccl. 4:13). He who doesn’t seek advice is either arrogant or foolish. First Kings 12-14 contains three important “don’ts” when seeking advice.
1 Kings 12 – Don’t Under-Value Experience
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam, age 41, inherited the kingdom, and immediately faced a dilemma – to raise or reduce taxes. Being the son of a wise man, Rehoboam was pretty bright himself, and, to his credit, followed his father’s proverb and sought advice. First he “consulted the elders who had served Solomon during his lifetime” (12:6). They recommended he lower taxes. Then he “consulted the young men who had grown up with him” (12:8). They recommended an increase. He decided to increase taxes, and that decision led to the death of the chief tax collector and the kingdom’s division (12:18-19).
What can we learn from Rehoboam’s unwise choice? Is it simply a matter of choosing the advice of older advisors over younger? No. It has to do with valuing what has been learned from experience. Solomon and his advisors had built up Israel to the admiration of neighboring nations. What supported the advice of the elders? A series of wise choices. What lay behind the advice of the younger men? At best a set of theories; at worst, a hunger for power.
Be careful where you seek advice. If you want advice on marriage or on raising children, ask happy Christian families. If you are looking for advice on career choices, seek counsel from Christians whose life is a healthy balance of work, family and service. It is much easier to talk, write and create impressive websites about God’s truth than it is to live by it. Don’t under-value experience.
1 Kings 13 – Don’t Over-Rate Spirituality
As the kingdom divided, Rehoboam remained king of the two southern tribes, and the talented and upstanding Jeroboam became king of the ten northern tribes. Both kings promoted idolatry, and displeased the Lord. As Jeroboam began to deviate, the Lord called a “man of God” from the southern kingdom to rebuke him. This man of God bravely did so, and then, as the Lord instructed, returned by a different route, without eating and drinking. An “old prophet” from the northern kingdom heard what had been done, caught up with the man of God and asked him to return. The old man gave his spiritual credentials: “I too am a prophet, as you are.” Then he lied: “An angel said to me … ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water’” (13:18). The man of God returned with the old prophet, disobeying the Lord. A few hours later, as he resumed his journey, he was killed by a lion (13:24).
Why was the man of God punished for listening to the old prophet? What can we learn from this sad event? What could have motivated an experienced old prophet to lie to the younger prophet? Did he consider the northern kingdom his ministerial area? Was he hurt that a southern prophet was used without his being consulted? Was it jealousy? Did the old prophet feel displaced by the new generation of godly men? What is clear is that the man of God over-rated the spiritual condition of the old prophet. This is easily done.
Every Christian community has a mental model of what a spiritual person should look like. In some, spiritual leaders are those who wear suits, preach long and loud, travel a lot and write books. In others, spiritual people are those who don’t laugh, don’t like sports, and don’t watch TV. Maybe the spiritual are those who always weep when singing, or fall to the ground in prayer meetings. Don’t be misled.
We can all appear “closer to God” than we really are. While we strongly recommend seeking advice from godly men and women, don’t let an “old prophet” decide for you. Present all advice and other evidence to the Lord, and ask Him to lead you (Ps. 73:23-24). Remember, the lion killed the younger, not the older prophet. The Lord holds you responsible for your decisions.
1 Kings 14 – Don’t Hide Relevant Facts
King Jeroboam ignored the prophecy, the miraculous healing of his hand (13:4-6), the circumstances surrounding the death of the man of God – and he continued his decadent behavior. But, as is common with us humans, a crisis made him think about God again.
His young son Abijah became seriously ill. Would he recover? Jeroboam decided to make contact with Ahijah, the prophet who had earlier prophesied that he would become king (11:28-31). But instead of going himself, he sent his wife. Furthermore, he told her, “Disguise yourself, so that you won’t be recognized” (14:1). Jeroboam knew that his lifestyle offended God. He thought a request for information associated with his name would reduce the likelihood of “good news.” But his strategy didn’t work. The Lord told the prophet of the disguised visitor, and the boy died.
Sometimes we seek advice to justify our preferred course of action. We provide selected information in order to “direct” the advice in our direction. Don’t waste God’s time! For advice to have any value, we must supply all the relevant facts. The Lord only leads those who really want His leading (Ps. 143:10). To “choose to do God’s will” before we know it, is a prerequisite to divine revelation (Jn. 7:17). We can easily deceive men and make ourselves look spiritual. But why bother? The goal in Christian living is not to impress men but to please God (1 Th. 4:1).
It is good to seek advice from experienced, godly men and women. It is a resource given by God for our benefit. Good advice helps us think through the implications of our proposed actions. Good advice may provide relevant information we had not yet considered. Good advice shines the light of Scripture on the options available. Get good advice, but never delegate to others your need to decide. Each of us will give an account of our life to the Lord. We cannot hide behind others, however wise and spiritual they may appear. King Solomon’s 3000 year-old proverb still stands: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (Prov. 19:20).
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org
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