This scripture pretty much sets the agenda for this post. In short, if you want to make wise decisions, you need to surround yourself with wise people! I thank God for the men and women in my own life who have loved me enough to speak with faith and courage into my life, my ministry and the situations I’ve faced. I’ve lost track of all the times I have been given timely advice, warning, encouragement etc. by these wise counsellors. The fact that this verse speaks about an abundance of counsellors (plural) is significant!
Simply because when it comes to hearing from God there is strength in numbers. Anyone can be a maverick and go it alone, or find a solitary counsellor to share their life with, but what if they’re wrong…or weak…or a yes man (or woman)? The beauty of having an abundance of counsellors is that when there’s agreement – it’s powerful and un-ignorable!
In my own life I have benefitted greatly from a diverse blend of people who have blessed me by their wisdom, insight and support over the years. Those I would consider to be wise counsellors include my wife, my church leaders, friends, family members, men, women, reformed believers, charismatics, young firebrands whose raw zeal inspires me and seasoned saints who have more wisdom and experience in their little finger than I’ll ever have…the list could go on! However, all of these precious people share qualities that I believe mark them out as “wise counsellors”.
These qualities include:
i) They are godly – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9v10). Therefore truly wise counsellors MUST be those who have a reverent fear of God and who walk humbly with Him. Compromising, cowardly, luke-warm, half-baked, pansy Christians aren’t the sort you want to be taking advice from!! Saints who live righteously, pray faithfully, chat truth, ooze Scripture, hold unswervingly to the gospel and love with irresistible sincerity – they’re the ones you want to be listening to!
ii) They love you – I am entirely confident that every person who I’ve granted ‘licence’ to speak into my life loves me, loves my family and only ever wants what’s best for us. Wise counsellors are faithful to the command to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4v15).
iii) They don’t always tell you what you want to hear – In the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, the emperor ended up walking butt-naked around the kingdom because no one had the guts to tell him the truth. I think the counsellors in my life for whom I have the most respect are the ones who have had the guts to tell me straight when I was being unwise, impetuous or just bang out of line! Sometimes the truth hurts.
iv) They have a track record of being right – Jesus taught that “wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:35) You know someone’s wise when their counsel is consistently wise, their decisions are consistently good and their life consistently bears good fruit.
I appreciate that not every has been blessed by a vast array of men and women like this. If that’s you, my advice would be to pray and ask God to put these people into your life (maybe they’re already there – you just didn’t realise!!) However, even if you have an abundance of such people in your life, that’s only half of the story. If their counsel is going to benefit us at all, we need to have the character to respond appropriately. Here’s some stuff I’ve learned (the hard way!)
i) Humility – Without doubt the enemy of accepting the counsel of others is pride – thinking that we know best. What I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t know it all. In fact I’m now convinced that I don’t know half of what I think I do, and what I do know I only know half as well as I should! I am surrounded by people who do know best, who are vastly more experienced, who see things from a different perspective and who God has placed in my life to bring wisdom and guidance my way. Unfortunately, the greatest obstacle they are likely to encounter is me, myself and my ego!!
* I need to constantly be reminded that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1Peter 5v5) I’ve found that the only way to kill pride and gain/retain humility is to firmly fix my eyes on the person and finished work of Jesus, the King of the universe who came as a servant and humbled Himself to the point of dying on a cruel cross – for me! I am/have nothing without Him.
ii) Submission – Our posse of wise counsellors should always include leaders of our local church. We live in a generation that resents authority and consistently kicks against it. This godless, rebellious attitude has also crept into the church like a subtle ninja, to the extent that the leaders that God has placed over us are now often regarded as little more than service providers, administrators or mere lifestyle consultants, rather than men that God has appointed and anointed to lovingly lead and shepherd our souls. Submission to our church leaders doesn’t generally come naturally to us and it requires significant dollops of humility (see point above!) The true reality of where we’re at with our leaders will be revealed when they give us counsel that we disagree with or that clashes with our own ideals or our agenda. A humble attitude to leaders will always manifest itself in teachability, accountability and gracious submission. Leaders aren’t perfect. They are fallible and they do get things wrong. However, we’re not responsible for their decisions – they are! The only person whose decisions we are ultimately responsible for is our own. I find this scripture particularly challenging on this point:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews13v17)
* I need to willingly, lovingly submit to my own leadership. When I find this hard I need to remember Jesus and be encouraged to follow His example of humble submission to the will of His Father, even through the trauma of Gethsemane and Calvary!
iii) Patient – I’m probably the most impetuous person I know (that’s not a good thing!) My journey through life has been blighted by so many wrong turns and bad decisions that have ultimately come down to my tendency to rush into things quicker than Usain Bolt out of the blocks. So much pain, carnage and confusion could have been avoided if I had patiently waited for more wisdom and clarity. When it comes to seeking the input of an abundance of counsellors, patience is crucial. Not every one operates at a million miles per hour, some people are far more cautious, thoughtful, considered and thorough (which isn’t always a bad thing!) If we want their counsel but insist on it being on our timescale, we run the risk of wrecking the whole point of having an abundance of counsellors. Sometimes the length a process takes can be more important than the guidance that eventually comes out of it!
* I’m so rubbish at being patient. I need to constantly remind myself that God’s timing is perfect and that, as the theological giant Elvis Presley taught “only fools rush in”. I love the fact that in Hebrew one of the words for “wait” can also be translated as “hope.” That’s how I need to wait – hopefully. I need God’s grace to do that!
In conclusion then, when it comes to guidance for our lives, there is a lot to be said foe doing that in the company of wise, trusted, godly companions:
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15v22)
Next up on the rant: The final part of this series on guidance – 6. Silence…