Charles Stanley - Seeking Godly Counsel
Well life is really just one continuous series of decisions. We all make decisions in our life many times during the day. And one good thing is that God knew about that so He made us a promise. He said, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He would direct our path". And He says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go, I will guide you with My eye upon you". So whatever decisions we need to make in life, we have the promise of Almighty God to give us guidance and direction if we'll listen to Him. But you and I have to be cautious to realize that what we need godly advice. We need godly direction because advice is very cheap, and sometime it's good, and sometime it's not so good.
So I would simply ask you this. When you're looking for advice, where do you go? Where do you go when you really want some help and you're looking for advice? Well, I want us to look, if you will, in First Kings chapter twelve. And I want to give you the background of what we're going to talk about. First Kings chapter twelve, we'll just read a few verses and I'll explain what's happening here. And King David has died. His son Solomon's died. Now his son, Rehoboam, is king. He is putting hard labor on Israel and they're having a very difficult time of it. And so, they call for a little convocation and they want to talk to him about, intense labor and higher taxes and so forth. And so, they have a confab about all that, and here's his response.
He said, "King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, 'How do you counsel me to answer this people?'" Then they spoke to him, saying, "If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever". That is, if you'll cut out some of this hard labor, high taxes, we'll serve you forever. But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men, watch this, young men with whom he grew up, and served him. And so he went, three days and he asked them what they thought. The young men who grew up with him spoke to him saying, "Increase the labor, increase the taxes and so forth". And, "The king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders," and turned to the advice of those younger ones who had grown up with him, listened to the wrong people.
Now listen carefully to this sermon because all of us listen to other people at some time or the other. And oftentimes people get in serious trouble because they listened to the wrong voices. Listening to the right voice is very important. So when you are seeking counsel, you ask your question, am I seeking godly counsel or ungodly... what kind of counsel do I want? Do I want somebody to speak to me and tell me what I want, or do I want to know the truth? And many people want a confirmation of what they're thinking and what they want to do rather than what God wants to do. And so, if you desire to do what's wrong, I guarantee you can find somebody who will agree with you. If you want to do what's right, you want to do the godly thing, if you really search you'll find people who will tell you what God says in His Word.
So we have the promise of God's direction in our life if we'll just listen to it. So what I want to answer is this. How do you detect unwise counsel from wise counsel? What I want us to do right now is whisper a very short prayer. Heavenly Father, I pray the Holy Spirit will speak to every single person here and every person who listens to this message, to be honest with ourselves, honest with You, and we pray that You'll give us godly counsel, and that we'll each be willing to commit ourselves to seeking first of all, what does the Lord say about this matter? In Jesus' name, amen.
Well how do you detect bad counsel? First of all, there is little or no mention of God or the Bible. They never mention that. They tell you what they think you ought to do but don't mention the God, or the Bible, or Jesus. Secondly, there's usually an absence of prayer; lots of talk, no prayer. Thirdly, oftentimes, there's a subtle defense of the person you're talking to about not using any Scripture. Well, you don't need that. Anybody with common sense knows this is what you ought to do. Then, sometimes they will suggest actions that you know that are not scriptural. Didn't come from God, it came from their own ideas, instead of listening to God.
That is, they suggest something would be a violation of God. It may sound right. It may look right. It may feel right, but the question is, is it right from God's perspective? Then of course sometimes the response is, the people you're listening to, they'll be very critical of Christian leaders or very critical of godly people. "Well, that's just what they think, but this is the truth. You should listen to me". When somebody starts telling you that, you have a reason to doubt the counsel that they give, and this is why we're talking about unwise counsel. All of us at times, no matter who we are, we want to sound something off to somebody and say, "Well, what do you think"? It's not that you have to do what they say, but it's always good to sound it off, but you have to choose who am I going to sound it off to? Who, do I really trust? And do I get godly counsel? Do I get counsel that matches the Word of God or is this something that would profit them? Is it something that they want me to do for their sake, not for God's sake?
Then of course, suggesting reading that ignores God's Word. And there are counselors by the thousands and thousands and probably by the millions, who people go to them every day. Maybe they don't go every day, but people go every day and they are willing to point them to something to read that has nothing to do with the will of God, nothing to do with the Word of God, nothing to do with what's best for you, but just something that they suggest. You have to be very careful in what they suggest to you. And then, oftentimes the person you're talking to, watch this carefully, they will counsel you to do what they think you want to hear, and a wise counselor never considers that. It's not what you want to hear, it's, what is the truth? And so, when you're asking someone, "Well what would you do in this situation? What about this"? You have to ask yourself the question, " Are they suggesting things to me they think I want to hear"?
If I want God's will, I don't want to hear what I want to hear, I want to hear what God wants me to hear. And then of course, sometimes people want to answer you because they want to control you. Now watch that. "Well, here's what I think you ought to do". And so, they want to control you in some fashion by saying, "This is what I think is the wisest thing to do". Well, they would say to you, "This is what I would do," when they wouldn't do that at all. And there are people who want to suggest to you some means of the situation that you're facing because they want to control what you do, where you go, who you do it with and why you do it. And then of course, there are counselors who want to create a dependency upon them. And instead of saying, "Let's pray, let's find out what God says. What does God think? What would Jesus do? Here's what I think you ought to do".
And so, you find yourself under their control and they create a sense of dependency. And this is why godly people should be in the Word of God, listening to what God says, believing what He says and acting accordingly. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him," seek His advice, listen to what He's saying, "and He will make your path straight". Now, I either believe that or I don't. If I ask you this morning, "Are you saved"? And you say "yes". And I say to you, "Do you really believe that you're saved"? "Yes". And if I ask you why, you'll say, " Because I trusted Jesus as my Savior and that's what the Word of God says, that if I trust Him as my Savior, I'm going to be saved. Therefore, I'm saved".
Okay, let's go from being saved to finding godly advice. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go. I will guide you with My eye upon you". Now the question is, "If I'm willing to believe Him for my salvation, am I willing to believe Him for godly counsel"? Amen? So, if you really and truly believe Him, then you will go to His Word first of all. And I think there are many people who would find very wise counsel in God's Word if they'll just get in the Word of God, that they know where to find it. And if you don't know, find somebody who is godly and ask them, "Where do you read in the Word of God when you're looking for an answer to a decision"? And they'll probably give you those two passages that I mentioned a few minutes ago. Or, there are many other passages of course. But you want to know what... listen. First of all, God knows you perfectly. He knows your situation perfectly and nobody knows our circumstance like God. So nobody has the ability to give you the answer you need that's better than God's answer. It may take longer, but you see, when God gives you an answer, usually, not always, usually it takes time. It depends upon the nature of the issue.
Some things you can ask God about and you get it right now. There are some principles in your life that you already know. Nobody has to ask you, "Is it okay to steal, is it okay to lie, okay to cheat, okay to commit adultery"? You don't even have to ask God about that. You know the answer to that. Should I steal? Should I, should I manipulate? No. And so God has the answer to our questions. This is not to say that in some situations a person doesn't need some help. It depends on how mature you are in your life. It depends upon how long you've lived the Christian life, what you've seen God do. And so therefore, when it comes to seeking advice, God will show you when you need advice about, for example, things that are financial, whatever it might be or maybe in the situation of marriage or what that might be.
There may be times when you need godly counsel, but just not any counsel, but godly counsel. Find out who the person is, how do they live, how they're living out their life, where they go to church, who their pastor is, what do they believe about the Bible? Then of course, the thing you've got to look at is the ungodly lifestyle of the counselor. If somebody's counseling you and living in a way that's not in keeping with what they're saying to you, you need to leave that. Walk away from it. I'm not just talking about official counselors, I'm talking about your friends, or wherever they may be. You're asking somebody to give you godly advice and they're not living a godly life. If they're not living a godly life, I doubt if they're going to give you godly counsel. They're going to say, "Well, here's what I think you ought to do. Here's what other people do. Here's what I've counseled other people to do and here's how it's all worked out".
You want to know what is God's answer to your situation or circumstance, and especially if you've only been a Christian a short period of time and you don't know the Word of God. And maybe you're making decisions about your job, about your finances, about your relationships and you don't have a lot of experience in any of that. And so you're asking God to give you direction. The ideal thing would be to be able to go to somebody in your life that you know, you've watched, you've listened to, you know where they go to church, what they hear. You know how they live their life. You know what's going on in their life. You know that they're praying people, people who love the Word of God, who believe the Word of God.
If somebody tells you, "Well, I can give you wise counsel, but that Bible stuff, I can't. God doesn't have all the answers". Yes He does. He created us. He knows the mess we make, the messes we're in, and He knows exactly how to get us out of it. So when somebody suggests you go somewhere else, you stop and think. Then of course, there are people who want to give you an out. You, listen, God does not always have an out for my problems. He may want me to walk through them. He may desire that I suffer. He may desire that I be misunderstood. He may be in the process of teaching me something that I don't want to learn necessarily. He may be in the process of giving me understanding, and I'm not going to have any other way, but hurt, have pain and suffering and disappointment.
All of us are going to face some of that. If you're trying to eliminate that in your life, you probably won't be able to. And so, think about your own life. You have lived long enough to listen to your neighbors and your friends and the people you're associated with make wrong decisions, forget God, excuse God, but don't believe God, don't read the Word of God, you have watched them make enough mistakes that you and I should not make of them. And that is, we ought to be so centered in the Word of God and listening to Him and praying, that whatever God wants, that's what we want. Whatever God wills, that's what we will.
Does that mean it's the easiest way? No. The Christian life is not easy. There are difficult times, hard times, disappointing times, and people betray us, and we hurt as a result of that. Does that mean that all of that God didn't intend for us to have any of that? No. And so, there'll be times when there's no quick answer. There'll be times when the only answer we're going to get is off our knees. God, what do You want me to do? Can't listen to anybody else. Watch this. No one else is omniscient. No one knows all the facets of your life. And it may be that God has allowed you to go through some suffering that only He knows why. He knows the hurt and the pain and the suffering is doing something awesome in you. I don't know who you've been listening to, don't know what you're going through, but I know the wisest counselor is the Lord Himself. And through the Holy Spirit, His primary responsibility is to reveal the true nature of God to us. And secondly, to give us guidance and leadership and help and strength and power and energy for what He wants us to do in life.
We have God inside of us, God who's willing to show us, God who's willing to teach us, God who's willing to lead us and protect us. So don't go running off to somebody else till first you run about eighteen inches. That's how far it is probably, from your knee to the floor, and ask God what you ought to do. So, you'll remember that, eighteen inches is the close... you got that ma'am? You got it. Eighteen inches to the wisest counsel you'll ever go to. Then, there are people who want to counsel you who really want your approval. And this is the problem with friends. They want to counsel you, and deep down, they don't even realize it sometimes. What they're looking for is your approval so they're naturally going to say the things they think you ought to hear, and that you want to hear.
Yeah, that's right. That, if I were you... Listen, if somebody starts telling you, "If I were you, here's what I'd do. If I were you..." You're not me, so don't tell me what you would do because you don't know what you would do if your circumstances were the same as mine. So you have to be careful with people who really and truly want your approval. Then, sometimes you will be talking to somebody and in the midst of that you'll have a check in your spirit. Now how many of you know what a check in your spirit is? Well that's bad. Now wait a minute. A check in your spirit means that you are heading in a direction, talking to someone, considering something that you are facing in life and all of a sudden there's this little glitch, that sort of goes on in your heart, in your mind, in your spirit. Listen. Watch this carefully. When you walk in the Spirit, the Spirit of God is always willing to give you a check in your spirit when you head in the wrong direction, think the wrong thing, or make a decision that's not right.
I'll give you a perfect example. I was going to preach something entirely different this week. I'd studied all week long, most all week long. And, and I was just down praying and all of a sudden I thought, "God, that's not Your message". And I had all these notes. That's not Your message. What's Your message? So, I got back down on my knees and I said, "Lord, I'm going to stay here till I get it from You. I want to say whatever You want me to say". And so, what you're hearing is what God told me after all my preparation to do something else entirely. So, you know, we all make mistakes, but God knows our heart.
Now watch this. I could have said, "Well, I'm just going to ignore that and I'm, listen, I've prepared all this other, and I'm going to do this. No, no, no, no, no. No, because you're listening to every word. Amen? Because all of us go through times when we need godly advice, not just any advice, but godly advice. Then, there are times when people are going to counsel you or give you acknowledgement of some sort in a way that profits them. And this is why if you go to a counselor who charges, I'm here to tell you, they charge. And I know they give their time. I'm not questioning that, but the issue is, are they counseling you for money or are they counseling you because they love you, because they care for you? The money's a side issue but they really want what's right in your life. This is why, you as a parent, or a grandparent, should be very, very careful to send your parent, or your husband or your wife or anybody else to any counselor that you don't know about, the kind of life that they live, what they believe, where they go to church and all the rest.
So ask yourself the question, "If I had a question in my mind, who would I go to? Who can I go to that I fully trust that would really pray for me and give me wise, godly scriptural counsel? Well, there are times when people have gone to counselors, and they still do, and the counselor gets involved with the person they're counseling. That happens all the time. And it happens in the church. It happens with pastors. It happens with people who are not pastors. It happens with all kind of counselors. A counselor should be a servant of God, so that there is a barrier between that person and all, and the person who is doing the counseling.
Now, sometimes you're talking to someone and what happens is, they will give you advice and they're projecting on you their own hurts, their own disappointments, things in life that they're sorry for, and the next thing you know, they're unloading on you. And they're telling you all about themselves, and maybe they don't even realize they're doing it. And the next thing you know, we don't know whether it's them or us they're talking about. And so, because they haven't settled issues in their life. That doesn't mean you only go to perfect people because there's no perfect person. But if you're going to seek counsel and wisdom from someone, be sure they don't get involved in your life and the next thing you know, you're counseling them, when you went to them for advice and asking for godly counsel. That's because they're very weak. And then, the last thing I would say, have you got all these down? Amen. Then you'll be careful that you don't go to an unbeliever for godly counsel.
And the world's full of people counseling who are unbelievers. I'm not against counselors. I'm against going to a counselor who's an unbeliever, doesn't believe the Word of God, doesn't go to a church that preaches the Word of God, whose lifestyle's not in keeping with the Word of God, and a lot of other things that I've already covered. So the bottom line is be careful who you talk to. Be careful who you talk to. Be careful who you listen to. Think about this. Many people have died, lost, because of ungodly counsel. Many marriages have been broken and shattered - ungodly counsel. Many young people have gone astray listening to ungodly counsel with some professor. Many homes have been destroyed, totally, as a result of somebody listening to ungodly counsel. Some people's businesses have been lost listening to ungodly counsel. And many people today are living in bondage because they listened to somebody who did not listen to God.
Listen to what the Scripture says. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him". Listen to Him, pray to Him, wait upon Him, trust Him. "He will make your path straight". Here's the difference. Ungodly counsel's like this... Godly counsel is like that. And remember this, that godly counsel comes eighteen inches from your knee. Amen? Amen.
Father, we love You and praise You and thank You this morning that You sent the Holy Spirit to give us direction and guidance in our life. You said He came to comfort us, strengthen us, guide us. You said He came to indwell us. And so, we thank You for His presence. And I pray that every person who hears this message will recognize how vitally important it is to have a listening ear to You, that listens clearly, continuously, courageously, boldly, and is willing to be obedient to whatever You say. I pray for somebody here today who is lost. They've listened to bad counsel. They're lost and if they die today they'll be eternally separated from You - bad counsel. There are people here today, Lord, who know that they've made wrong decisions already, and just listening to this message, it's brought it to their mind and they're acknowledging right now quietly as they sit here, made a wrong decision. Remind them that You are willing to correct wrong decisions. You're willing to forgive for wrong decisions, and you're willing to guide them to make the right decision. And I pray that decision-making may become very, very paramount in our life daily because we're living out the life that You've given us. And living it out, we're going to make decisions all day long. We love You and we praise you and we thank You, dear God, for loving us enough to hear us. In Jesus' name, amen.