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10. The Ministry Of Counseling, Part 2 (Luke 24:13-35)

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January 6, 1980

Introduction1

After the lesson last week, one of my friends suggested a couple of titles for these messages on the ministry of Christian counseling. She suggested “Sanforizing the Saints,” or “How to Avoid a Shrink.” I like that a lot.

Several years ago, a psychologist named Robert Carkhuff did a careful survey of all the research that had studied the effectiveness of what he called “lay helpers.” The conclusions of this psychological survey were startling. When lay counselors, with or without training, were compared with professionals it was discovered that “the patients of lay counselors do as well as or better than the patients of professional counselors.” This was true whether the peer counselors were working with normal adults having problems in getting along together, with children, with outpatients of psychiatric clinics, or with severely disturbed patients in psychiatric hospitals.2

I find this statement by Dr. Gary Collins an encouragement to Christians who have a desire to help others through godly counsel. Dr. Collins, of course, is not alone in his position. Jay Adams, in his book, Competent to Counsel, blazed the trail several years ago by assuring Christians that, equipped with the Word of God (cf. Romans 15:14), Christians are competent to counsel one another.

The Bible has nothing to say about counseling as the exclusive task of a few professionals. Rather, as we have seen from last week’s lesson, it is the obligation of all the saints. In addition to this, the Book of Proverbs includes counsel as a part of true friendship (cf. Proverbs 27:6, 9, 10, 17). Dr. Collins argues persuasively that counseling is a vital part of the discipling process.3 In my estimation, Christian counseling is closely related to the ministry of edification and the process of sanctification (Ephesians 4:11-13). It encompasses many of the New Testament commands which refer to ministry one to another.

For these reasons, we shall devote ourselves to further investigation of the ministry of counseling. In this lesson, we will focus our attention on the character of those who give counsel.

The People Who Counsel

Without a doubt, the one most significant factor which determines who hurting people seek out is the character of the one who offers counsel. Anyone who has ever worked in the area of personnel management will know what I am talking about. A number of times I have passed over highly qualified people with impressive credentials because of some intangible quality or the lack of it. On the other hand, I have hired inexperienced and less educated people because of their personal characteristics.4

The prophet Isaiah referred to the coming Messiah as the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). As such, we should find in our Lord Jesus Christ the characteristics which make a person the kind of counselor who will be sought out.

Humanity

The Wonderful Counselor did not appear until the incarnation. One of the contributions of the incarnation of our Lord was that His humanity, when combined with His deity, equipped Him to counsel. Is this not the point of the writer to the Hebrews?

Therefore, He had to made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

From man’s perspective, God could never empathize with man’s trials and tests until He had identified Himself with our humanity. This God did in Christ.

What is true of our Lord is also true of human counselors. I have the greatest difficulty responding positively to preachers who give the distinct impression that they have all their problems taken care of and that all that remains is to tend to mine. The kind of person who seemingly has no problems is not the one with whom I wish to share mine. How can such a person possibly understand my problems?

This is one of the greatest hindrances to those who are looked at as professionals. Professionals often appear to live in a kind of sterile world, without troubles and trials. How can a person help me who doesn’t know what I am going through?

Are you struggling in your Christian life? Do you experience frustration, failure, and defeat? God is not only working to bring about your sanctification, but He may also be equipping you to help others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:31-32).

No one can identify with men who fail better than those who have failed. No one can share God’s grace who has not found it. Let us be honest and open about our failures so that others may not be intimidated by us and fail to seek help from us.

Availability

One of the most striking features of our Lord’s earthly ministry was His availability. In the midst of countless demands upon Him, He was willing to set aside what He was doing in order to minister to men (cf. Mark 2:1ff.; 5:21ff.; 6:30ff.; 7:24ff.; 10:46ff., etc.). Ability to minister is useless without availability. Our Lord never sent men away who were in need.

All of us have known those who seemingly never have much time for us. All the time we are with them either they are looking at their watch or we are looking at ours. If we are to minister to men and women we must make the time to do so.

When I was in seminary, I became close friends with a fellow who was an exceptionally fine student. In addition to this, he sustained a taxing ministry. One of the things that most sticks in my mind about this person is that I never felt hurried; I never felt like I was keeping him from something more important, and he was responsible for giving me that impression.

Sensitivity

Not every person who needs help asks for it. More than this, not everyone who needs help is even aware of their need. Because of this, a willingness to help when asked is not enough. In addition, one who is to minister godly counsel to others must have a tremendous sensitivity to the needs of others.

In Luke’s Gospel, we are introduced to Zaccheus, a man who apparently was too short to see Jesus in the crowd and too bashful to seek Him directly. Jesus, knowing the desire of his heart and the needs which he had, directed His attention to Zaccheus and said,

Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house (Luke 19:5).

No wonder Luke goes on to say,

And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly (Luke 19:6).

In John’s Gospel we are told,

And He had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4).

As the story unfolds, it seems rather obvious that there was a matter of divine necessity in this unusual journey through Samaria. I am convinced that Jesus sought out this Samaritan woman and those who were saved through her testimony and Jesus’ preaching.

The brother or sister who has fallen into sin surely is not going to seek us for a word of admonition. David did not seek out Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12), nor will the fallen saint seek out a rebuke. It is our obligation to seek out those who need a word from God.

Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

Whether we are the offended party (Matthew 18:15ff.), the offender (Matthew 5:23-26), or have knowledge of the offense (Galatians 6:1), we must pursue restoration and healing.

The love of God is a searching, seeking, initiating love (John 4:23; Romans 5:6-8; I John 4:19). If we would evidence divine love, we must not wait for men to seek us out; we must seek them in their hour of need.

Love

We have already spoken of divine love, but perhaps not enough has been said of it. Recently, my family and I saw the new movie “Jesus.” Without a doubt, it is the best of the filmmakers’ attempts to accurately portray the life of our Lord. One of the most commendable features of this film is that Jesus often smiled. Jesus loved people, especially children. People were drawn to the Savior, to a great extent I believe, by His love.

When we read of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler, we find these words,

And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and, come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

This man was not a believer at the time Jesus spoke with him. So far as we know, he never was saved. Yet Jesus loved him. But the rich man loved his money.

Even secular psychologists recognize the therapeutic value of love:

Several years ago Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport called love “incomparably the greatest psychotherapeutic agent.”5

Ironically, it was Sigmund Freud who wrote to Pfister:

I have found little that is good about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash.6

Nothing draws people to us more than love. It is magnetic. Husbands are instructed to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25), but nowhere are wives told to love their husbands. As I understand it, there is no need to command a wife to love a loving husband; that will be a natural response. So also, loving people quickly attract those who, in their need, are seeking help.

Honesty

I cannot think of an instance where men left the company of our Lord without a clear picture of the fundamental issues which Jesus urged them to consider. People who sincerely desire counsel want to hear it like it is. Getting counsel from a person who hesitates and holds back the truth is like going to a doctor who refuses to tell his patients any unpleasant news.

The flatterer only endangers those to whom he casts undeserved bouquets (Proverbs 29:5). A godly man speaks the truth in love, for the edification of his friend (Proverbs 27:6; 28:23; Ephesians 4:15). Honesty will sometimes demand that we confess that we do not know the answer to the problems of those we want to help.

I must pause for a moment to give a word of caution here for our age has placed a high priority on truth without much regard for fact. For this reason, let me share several verses with you.

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (Proverbs 15:28).

The wise in heart will be called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21).

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances (Proverbs 25:11).

By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone (Proverbs 25:15).

People may be built up by the truth or bludgeoned and bruised with it. Grace and truth must meet in the counselor, as they have in Christ.

Wisdom

In his gospel, Luke informs us that as a child

. . . Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).

Wisdom begins with knowledge, but it is much more than that. Wisdom is a skillfulness in living life to its best. It is the ability to apply truth accurately and effectively to the matters of daily living. Wisdom enables the Christian to discern truth from falsehood, sincerity from shame, fundamental from frivolous, reason from excuse, best from good (cf. I Kings 3:10-28).

Confidentiality

Jesus did not share what was spoken in confidence. He did not use counseling situations as sermon illustrations. While Jesus warned Peter publicly (Luke 22:31-32), the encounter with Peter after his denial and our Lord’s resurrection (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5) is only mentioned, but without any details.7 In John 21, Peter’s undue interest about John was rebuked by a gentle admonition to mind his own business (John 21:22). There is no greater betrayal than the disclosure of that which is confidential. The most sought-out counselors are those men and women around whom others are comfortable, and about whom they are confident.

Conclusion

Let me conclude with an observation and an exhortation.

First, observe that the qualities previously mentioned are not primarily proclaimed in the Scriptures in the context of counseling. Rather, they are the marks of maturity; they are the fruit of the Spirit. Let us not put the chicken before the egg. Do not strive to become a good counselor by trying to produce these qualities. A life lived in dependence on God, in conformity with the Word of God, will manifest those qualities. Godly men and women are good counselors. Let us strive toward godliness, not toward becoming counselors.

The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just (Psalm 37:30).

The characteristics of a godly person do not come quickly nor easily. None of them can be produced by mere human striving, and many of them came about through the trials, tragedies, and failures that God brings into our experience. Do not think these things occur quickly or easily.

I have said that we should strive to be godly men and women, rather than to become counselors. These godly qualities which enable us to counsel effectively will make us better husbands and wives, better parents, better friends. These qualities are not only prerequisites for ministering to others, they are essentials for successful relationships. Let us fervently pray that God will bring about these qualities in our lives.


1 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel, on January 6, 1980. Anyone is at liberty to use this edited manuscript for educational purposes only, with or without credit. The Chapel believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Community Bible Chapel. Copyright 1979 by Community Bible Chapel, 418 E. Main Street, Richardson, TX 75081.

2 Gary Collins, How To Be A People Helper (Santa Ana: Vision House Publishers, 1976), p. 58.

3 Ibid., pp. 17-28.

4 In this light, I find Dr. Collins’ remarks quite interesting

When Robert Carkhuff was doing his survey of peer and professional counselors, he decided to take a careful look at how counselors were being trained. Once again his findings were startling. At the beginning of his training the professional does a better job in helping people than does the layman. As training continues, however, the professional becomes less and less effective, so that he often ends up doing a worse job than the untrained lay counselor. Ibid., p. 62.

5 G.W. Allport, The Individual and His Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1950), p. 90, as quoted by Collins,
p. 136.

6 Quoted by Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970), p. 61.

76 The public nature of the warning served several purposes: First, it warned Peter of his self-confident attitude. Second, it warned the other disciples of the dangers ahead. (In verse 31 of Luke 22 the “you” is plural, not singular). Third, it informed the disciples that although Peter would fall, he would be restored and would become a leader, even among the disciples.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry