“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” (Proverbs 19:20).
One of the important parts of making wise decisions in God’s will is to seek godly counsel. It is mentioned 13 times in Proverbs, the book of practical wisdom. Before making a major decision--such as marriage, education, a job, or a move--a person should seek godly counsel. But it just as important to know where to get the right counsel and how to weigh it.
The classic case in Scripture of someone who listened to unwise counsel is Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-16). Soon after he ascended the throne, he was confronted by his subjects who beseeched him to treat them compassionately. In making his decision, he first consulted the old men that had counseled his father, and they wisely advised him to heed the people’s request. He then consulted his own peers, and they advised him to treat the people as he wished and to ignore their feelings. He followed this foolish advice and lost the majority of his kingdom. This doesn’t mean that young people always give bad counsel, while older people always give good counsel. A younger person that walks with the Lord and knows God’s Word will give better counsel than an older person who lacks these things. In 1 Kings 13 we have the sad case of a man of God who got out of God’s will by listening to a backslidden, lying older prophet.
Seek counsel from wise people (“by wise counsel,” Prov. 24:6).
Counsel alone will not help me make right decisions. I must seek counsel from the right people. For example, for a young person to seek counsel from his own peers is not wise. That was the error that Reheboam made. To seek counsel about spiritual matters from unbelievers is not wise.
Wise counselors know God’s Word. When seeking counsel in a biblical fashion, we don’t need human opinions; we need biblically-informed wisdom. We are not seeking a word from man, but a word from God. Thus, we need to seek counsel from believers who have studied the Bible diligently. Wise counselors are spiritually mature and biblically knowledgeable.
Wise counselors are doctrinally sound and likeminded. Many people in fundamentalist homes have made bad decisions by seeking counsel from New Evangelicals or Charismatics or Calvinists or even liberals and Roman Catholics or others who are not likeminded theologically. We think of the sad case of Norma McCorvey, who was the plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion in America. She rejected abortion and was baptized by an “evangelical” minister, but later joined the Roman Catholic Church through close associations with Catholic priests in the Right to Life movement.
Wise counselors have made good decisions in their own lives and have good character and stability (“confidence in an unfaithful man,” Prov. 25:19). People who are lazy, don’t pay their bills, lie, cheat, are unstable, etc., will not give wise counsel. Young people must especially keep this in mind. God tells the young person to honor his parents, but if the parents are not people of good character they are not wise counselors. An “unfaithful man” can also refer to someone that is mentally and spiritually unstable. My father fell into that category, because of the mental damage he sustained fighting in the Pacific Islands during World War II. He was never right after that and had to be institutionalized from time to time. He knew the Lord, but was unable to take any kind of pressure or make important decisions and his thinking wasn’t right. As a result my mom and us children had to learn to go on without his blessing at times. For example, he couldn’t keep a job, so Mom had to go back to work in order to support the family. There was no choice, but he was fiercely opposed to it. He couldn’t work and had no possibility of an income, but he didn’t want her to work. Mom finally went ahead and the Lord blessed and she was able to get back on at the phone company where she had worked before their marriage, and Dad gradually got used to the idea. Ordinarily this would be rebellion on the part of a wife, but not in that case. After I was saved at age 23, I wanted to go to Bible College and train for the ministry. Dad was opposed to it. The Lord led me to start writing Christian books. Dad was opposed to it. He wanted me to stay there in my home town and just work somewhere. I am so glad that I followed the Lord rather than my confused, wounded Dad. Such decisions to go against parental counsel must never be made lightly, but sometimes they are necessary.
Wise counselors are found in good Bible-believing churches. The first place to find such counsel is my own church, assuming I am in a good Bible-believing church. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). God has given pastors and teachers for the purpose of training and protecting His people (Eph. 4:11-12), and they should always be at the top of the list when it comes to spiritual counsel.
Wise counselors have wisdom pertaining to your particular situation. If you need advice about automotive repair, don’t go to an accountant. Likewise, if you need counsel pertaining to preaching, go to a preacher, or if you need counsel about married life, go to someone who is successfully married, or if you need counsel about a missionary calling, go to an experienced missionary. Charles Spurgeon told how that he was discouraged from preaching by a godly woman. The fact is that a woman does not understand such things, no matter how godly she is. He said, “I remember well how earnestly I was dissuaded from preaching by as godly a Christian matron as ever breathed; the value of her opinion I endeavoured to estimate with candour and patience--but it was outweighed by the judgment of persons of wider experience” (C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students).
Wise counselors are willing to speak the truth (Prov. 27:6). If we only seek counsel from those who will tell us what we want to hear, or who will only speak non-offensive things and pamper us and tiptoe around difficult issues, we are wasting our time. We need to seek out counselors who will speak the truth no matter what it entails. When a child of God seeks counsel only from those who tell him what he wants to hear, he proves that he is not serious about knowing God’s will. What we need are counselors like the prophet Micaiah who spoke the truth even when it resulted in suffering (1 Kings 22:27). For this reason, the wicked king Ahab complained said, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (1 Kings 22:8). Micaiah was exactly the counselor that Ahab needed, but he was too foolish to discern this.
Seek counsel from more than one person (“multitude of counselors,” Prov. 11:14; 24:6).
This is repeated twice in the Proverbs by way of emphasis. One way that God confirms His will is by the agreement of godly counselors. If a young person is seeking wisdom about marriage, for example, and he or she approaches his parents and his pastor and teachers and other mature spiritual authority figures, there should be agreement.
But do not be deceived on this matter. The multitude of counsellors mentioned in Proverbs 24:6 is a multitude of wise counsellors! This proverb is a Hebrew comparative parallel. The meaning is found by comparing the first part of the proverb with the second part. The multitude of counsellors of the second part refers to the wise counsel of the first part. It is a multitude of wise counsellors.
A multitude of unwise counsellors will not bring one to the truth. In fact, it will result in confusion and error.
We need a plurality of counselors who are saved, godly, biblically wise, and doctrinally likeminded.
Again, the best place to find the “multitude of counsellors” is a God-fearing, Bible-believing church. What Charles Spurgeon said of his Bible College is even truer of a godly church: “Meeting as you do in class, in prayer-meeting, in convertsersation, and in various religious engagements, you gauge each other; and a wise man will be slow to set aside the verdict of the house” (C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students).
This does not mean that I should never decide against something unless the authority figures in my life are agreed, because men can be wrong; but it does mean that I should only make such a decision if I have a clear Bible support for it and absolute confidence that it is God’s will.
To obtain counsel from a variety of biblically wise people protects the believer from becoming a slave to the will of one person. This is the mistake that was made in the 1970s by the Pentecostal Shepherding Movement. They taught that each believer should submit to a “shepherd” who was someone appointed by the church. No decision was to be made without consulting this “shepherd.” The result was widespread abuse. Pastors and teachers and disciplers are important helpers, but the believer is to have only one Master, which is Christ.
Seek counsel from near people (Prov. 27:10).
Many times people seek counsel from those who are far off rather than those who are near, and though this is not always wrong, it is often done for the wrong reason. A lot of strangers have written to me through the years to ask my opinion about situations in their family or church, and I have always thought this to be strange, since I know nothing about them and have no way of knowing the full picture. People sometimes want to seek counsel from those afar off for the very reason that they don’t know them and their situation, but it is for this very reason that we should usually seek counsel from those who are near.
For a young person, the first line of counsel should be his or her own parents, particularly if they are believers (Eph. 6:1-3). The next line of counsel would be one’s church leaders. God gives leaders to the churches to watch over His people and to help them, like a shepherd with sheep. Godly church leaders “watch for your souls” (Hebrews 13:17). They think about the church members and pray for them and desire the best for each of them, and God gives them particular wisdom.
In our church we urge the young people who are thinking about marriage to talk with their parents and then to discuss the matter with their church leaders. If a boy is interested in a certain girl, we urge him not to pursue the matter until he has talked it over with the leaders. They know things that the young people don’t know, and they can give good advice about whether it is wise to pursue a certain relationship. Invariably, those who have ignored this procedure have made a mess of things!
Seek counsel from caring people.
It is wise to seek counsel from those who not only know you but who care about you and are interested in your spiritual welfare. A young person, for example, will get better counsel from a spiritual leader who is praying for him rather than from someone else who is not interested in his spiritual well-being and who is uninvolved in his life in this way.
Seek counsel earnestly (Proverbs 20:5).
One pastor observed: “Not every counselor will be quick to give counsel. The person seeking the counsel has the responsibility of sincerely and purposefully drawing out the counsel from the wise person. Most people who are considered wise will not hastily pass out counsel.”
Seek counsel in fellowship with God and in the light of His Word.
It is idolatry to put one’s trust in man rather than God (Jer. 17:5-8) or to submit to a man blindly as if he were God. God gives human authorities and teachers to help us, and they are very important. But ultimately our confidence must be in God and we must get wisdom directly from Him. The Bill Gothard “chain of authority” approach is to obey the authority no matter what, but the Bible doesn’t support that. Jesus said that if we love even mother or father more than Him we are not worthy to be His disciples (Mat. 10:37). Obviously, then, there is a time when we must go against what our authority figures demand. And when is that? It is when they are leading us contrary to God’s will as supported by His Word. The apostles taught that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). One of the first converts in one of our churches in Nepal was a teenage girl. Her Hindu parents and her older sisters forbade her to attend church, but she put Christ first and obeyed God’s Word and attended services every chance she got. As a result, most of her family members came to Christ. We must honor earthly authorities as far as possible, but Christ must be our first and only Master. As we noted earlier, the bottom line is that we must be Bereans and test everything by God’s Word (Acts 17:11).
Let us hasten to emphasize that we must not test counsel by our personal opinions, by the thinking of society, by our peers, by the pop culture, by human psychology, or by any other thing other than God’s Word.
The above is from the ONE-YEAR DISCIPLESHIP COURSE, ISBN 978-1-58318-117-1. This powerful course features 52 lessons in Christian living. It can be broken into sections and used as a new converts’ course, a discipleship course, a Sunday School series, a Home Schooling or Bible Institute course, or for preaching outlines. The lessons are thorough and practical. There is an extensive memory verse program built into the course, and each lesson features carefully designed review questions. Following are some of the lesson titles: Repentance, Faith, the Gospel, Baptism, Eternal Security, Position and Practice, the Law and Grace, Christian Growth and Spiritual Victory, Prayer, the Armor of God, the Church, the Bible, the Bible’s Proof, Daily Bible Study, Key Principles of Bible Interpretation, Foundational Bible Words, Knowing God’s Will, Making Wise Decisions, Christ’s Great Commission, Suffering in the Christian Life, The Judgment Seat of Christ, Separation - Moral, Separation - Doctrinal, Tests of Entertainment, Fasting, Miracles, a Biblical Testing Mindset, Tongues Speaking, the Rapture, How to Be Wise with Your Money, the Believer and Drinking, Abortion, Evolution, and Dressing for the Lord. 8.5X11, coated cover, spiral-bound.
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