Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finding Wise Counsel

"Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered."
Proverbs 28:26

Navigating through difficult issues or major decisions can be a stressful process. As believers, we often find ourselves in situations where we simply don't know the best way to proceed. While we might yearn for a black and white world where lines are always clear, the reality is that we live in a gray, opaque world full of difficult issues that don't have easy answers. 
  • Who should I marry? 
  • Where should one go to school? 
  • Which job is a best fit for my gifts and family situation? 
  • Which church should I attend? 
  • How should one respond to an angry neighbor? 
  • How can we best confront an unruly friend? 
  • What is the best way to prioritize my finances? 

The list is never ending. Years ago I recognized the need to seek wise counsel for the major decisions of my life. But distinguishing good counsel from bad counsel, or perhaps better stated 'wise counsel from unwise counsel', can be difficult. Over the past few decades, I have followed three basic practices that have proven effective and fruitful in making wise decisions.

First, I listen to my spouse
This doesn't mean that all spouses are discerning or wise. At the very least, this recognizes that your spouse is your partner in life and that you need to be of one mind on all decisions. Yet in a Christian household, where one's spouse is a fellow believer living victoriously for Christ, involving him or her in the decision making process becomes key. Your wife or husband knows you better than anyone else. They can usually tell when your are deceiving yourself or when your being thick-headed or stubborn. They are also in the best position to have the strongest impact on your thoughts and feelings. 

Over the years, my wife has served as my 'go-to counselor' on all my decision-making issues. Getting on our knees together, pleading with the Lord for guidance, has been one of the most effective decision-making tools I've experienced.

Second, I listen to godly counselors
I've learned to avoid yes-men; that is, those friends who I sense just agree with everything I say. While I value those men as friends, they are unhelpful to me when it comes to making decisions. Instead, I have several trusted friends I can go to who will tell me the truth. I have a couple of men who have been involved in every major decision in my life over the past 20 years.

I've also found that it is most helpful when I can get these men in a room together and let them interact with each other. This protects me from introducing unnecessary bias or misrepresenting someone else's counsel. The best counselors are those who listen, ask hard questions, and don't automatically accept my version of the situation or the answers I give. I also look for men who are clearly Bible-driven in their thinking and are willing to take me to chapter and verse.

Third, I search the Scriptures
This isn't meant to be the last step but rather this needs to be done throughout the decisions making process. Search the Scriptures with your spouse. Search the Scriptures with your friends. The reason I list it as the last step is to emphasize the need for Scripture to be the final thing that determines my thinking.

Actively avoid trying to find Bible verses to support your thoughts. The whole goal is for you to submit to Scripture, not to put Scripture into a headlock so that it can submit to you. Also actively try to submit to the whole counsel of God, not just select Bible verses. For example, if you are trying to determine if or how to confront someone, you could easily live out Titus 2:15 ("rebuke with all authority"). But remember you also have to live out Prov 10:12 ("love covers all sins"). 

Often my most fruitful times in the Word are during periods of fasting and praying. These are spiritually intense times, full of Satanic attack, but also filled with the intense working of the Holy Spirit as I grapple with God's revealed truth. Allow these powerful times to shape and determine your thinking.

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