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Lesson 5, Activity 7
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Counsel Notes

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Counsel Notes

At Compass, we frequently counsel people who have financial problems. Some of these people have lost literally millions of dollars and have subjected themselves to years of heartache and stress. More often than not, they could have avoided these difficulties if they had sought a few minutes of counsel from someone with a solid understanding of God’s perspective on money.

Seeking Counsel

People often avoid seeking counsel because of three common attitudes, the first of which is pride. Our culture perceives seeking advice as a sign of weakness. We are told, “Stand on your own two feet. You don’t need anyone to help make your decisions for you!”

College is one of the most exciting and challenging times of life. Often with it comes a great deal of newly found independence. Being on your own is wonderful. However, mix this freedom with some youthful pride, and you might soon begin to think, “I’m on my own now, and nobody tells me what to do!”

Willful stubbornness, the second attitude, is characterized by the statement, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up!” People often resist seeking counsel because they do not want to be confronted with the facts another person might discover. We don’t want to be told we can’t afford that beautiful new car we have already decided to buy.

The Generation gap is the third hindrance to seeking counsel. An older person might reject a progressive idea advanced by a college student because of their inexperience. A student might disregard advice from an elder counselor because it comes from someone “old.” As hard as it may be for some students to believe, older, experienced counselors are among their most valuable sources of good advice.

A story in 1Kings 12 illustrates this. When Rehoboam inherited the kingdom of Israel from his father Solomon, his subjects asked the new king to reduce their taxes in return for their continued loyalty. Rehoboam first consulted with the elders who advised him to comply with their request. However, “He forsook the counsel of the elders whom they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him” (1 Kings 12:8). His young friends rashly advised the king to respond harshly and raise taxes. Rehoboam followed their advice and promptly lost he majority of his kingdom.

The admonition from God’s word is in stark contrast to the practice of making decisions without counsel. Proverbs 19:20 reads, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise” (NIV). And Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” I like Proverbs 10:8 from the Living Bible: “The wise man is glad to be instructed, but a self-sufficient fool falls flat on his face.”

One seeks counsel to secure insights, suggestions and alternatives that will aid in making a proper decision. It is not the counselor’s role to make the decision; you retain that responsibility.

Beyond the Facts

We need to assemble the facts that will influence our decision, but we should not base our decision exclusively upon those facts. We must determine specifically what the Lord want us to do, and this may be contrary to what the facts alone would dictate.

The importance of going beyond simply collecting the facts is clearly illustrated in Numbers chapters 13 and 14. Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. All of the spies returned with an identical assessment of the facts. It was a prosperous land flowing with milk and honey, but one, however, was occupied by terrifying giants. They were all technically correct. But only two of the twelve spies, Joshua and Caleb, went beyond the facts. They knew what the Lord wanted them to do. Irrespective of the obstacles, God was going to miraculously enable them to possess the Promised Land.

The children of Israel relied only on the tangible facts and did not act in faith upon what the Lord wanted for them. Consequently, they suffered forty years of wandering in the wilderness and the death of a generation.

Sources of Counsel

The Counsel of Scripture

First of all, what does God’s word say about a particular issue? The psalmist wrote, “Your laws are both my light and my counselors” (Psalm 119:24, LB).

Psalm 119:98-100 reads, “Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.”

The Bible tells us that by searching the Scriptures we can have more insight and more wisdom than those who, without the knowledge of God’s Word, are educated and experienced in the ways of our culture. I would always rather obey the truth of Scripture than risk suffering the financial consequences of following my own inclinations or the opinions of people who don’t have a biblical perspective.

The Bible makes this remarkable claim about itself: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword… and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is a living book that our Lord uses to communicate His truths that are relevant for all generations.

It may have come as a surprise to you to learn that Scripture contains 2,350 verses dealing with how we should handle money. The very first filter I put a financial decision through is Scripture. If God’s word clearly answers my question, I do not have to seek any further, because the Bible contains the Lord’s written, revealed will.

Bob and Barbara were faced with a difficult decision. Barbara’s brother and his wife had just moved to Florida from Chicago. Because they had experienced financial difficulties in Chicago, the bank would not lend them the money to purchase a home unless they had someone cosign the note. They asked Bob and Barbara to cosign.

Bob was reluctant, even though Barbara pleaded for him to sign. A friend referred them to the verses that warn against cosigning. After Barbara read the passages she responded, “Well, who am I to argue with God? We shouldn’t cosign.” Bob was tremendously relieved.

Two years later, Barbara’s brother and his wife were divorced, and her brother declared bankruptcy. If Bob had cosigned that note, they probably would not have been able to survive financially. Can you imagine the strain that decision would have put on their marriage?

If the Bible tells us to do something, do it. If the Bible tells us not to do something, don’t do it. If the Bible is not specific about a particular issue, subject your decision to the second source of counsel – godly people.

The Counsel of Godly People

“The godly man is a good counselor, because he is just and fair and knows right from wrong” (Psalm 37:30-31, LB). The Christian life is not one of independence from other Christians but of dependence upon one another. In Paul’s discussion concerning the body of Christ in 1 Corinthian 12, individuals are likened to various members of the body – the eyes, the ears, the hands. Our ability to function properly is dependent upon the members working together. God has given each of us certain abilities and gifts, but God has not given any one person all the abilities that he or she needs to be most productive.

So when facing important decisions, we need to seek the advice of men and women who are gifted to give us wise and godly counsel.

Our Parents

A wonderful source of counsel is our parents. Proverbs 6:20-22 says: “My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you.”

I cannot tell you how much I have benefited from the counsel of my father and mother. Our parents have the benefit of years of experience, they know us so very well, and they have our best interest at heart.

In my opinion, we should seek their counsel even if they do not yet know Christ or have not been faithful money managers themselves. Barriers often grow up between children and parents over the years. It is a compliment for anyone to be asked for advice – an expression of admiration. Asking advice from parents is a way of honoring them.

Experienced People

We should also consult people experienced in the area in which we are attempting to make a decision. If I am going to purchase a car, I will locate a trustworthy automobile mechanic and ask him to examine the car and give me his opinion before I complete the purchase. If I need to refine my financial situation, I will see a wise financial advisor.

Experienced People

We should also consult people experienced in the area in which we are attempting to make a decision. If I am going to purchase a car, I will locate a trustworthy automobile mechanic and ask him to examine the car and give me his opinion before I complete the purchase. If I need to refine my financial situation, I will see a wise financial advisor.

A Multitude of Counselors

Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.” And Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Each of us has a limited range of knowledge and experience. We need the insight and input of others who bring their own unique backgrounds to broaden our thinking with alternatives we would never have considered without their advice.

I meet regularly with a group to pray and share our lives together. The members of our group know each other well. Over the years all of us have been confronted with difficult circumstances or major decisions. We have observed that when someone is subjected to a painful circumstance, it is very difficult to make wise, dispassionate decisions. We have experienced the benefits and safety of having a group of people who love one another, who know one another, and who can give prayerful, objective counsel to one another – even when it hurts. I am more receptive to constructive criticism when it comes from someone I respect and who I know cares for me.

Solomon describes the benefits of dependence upon one another: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

It can be very productive to gather your counselors together. Frequently the suggestions of one will stimulate insights from another. What one says can be confirmed, disputed, or discussed by the others. It is not uncommon for a clear direction or unanimous conclusion to be established when all of your counselors gather together.

When seeking a multitude of counselors they often will not offer the same recommendations; in fact, there can be sharp disagreement. But usually a common thread will begin to develop. Sometimes each counselor will supply you with a different piece of the puzzle that you need to make the decision.

The Counsel of the Lord

During the process of analyzing the facts, searching the Bible and obtaining the counsel of many godly people, we need to be seeking direction from the Lord.In Isaiah 9:6 we are told that one of the Lord’s names is “Wonderful Counselor.”

The Psalms clearly identify the Lord as our counselor. “I (the Lord) will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8). “You (the Lord) guide me with your counsel” (Psalm 73:24, NIV). “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me” (Psalm 16:7).

Scripture contains numerous examples of the unfortunate consequences of not seeking God’s counsel- and the blessings of heeding His counsel. After the children of Israel began their successful campaign to capture the Promised Land, some of the natives (Gibeonites) attempted to enter into a peace treaty with Israel. The Gibeonites deceived the leaders of Israel into believing they were from a distant land.

“So the men of Israel took some of their (Gibeonites) provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with the, to let them live” (Joshua 9:14-15).

The consequence of Israel not seeking the Lord’s counsel was that the Promised Land remained populated with ungodly people, and Israel was eventually ensnared by their false gods. The leaders were influenced by the “facts” they could see – facts that were designed to deceive the leaders into thinking that the Gibeonites were not natives living in the Promised Land. Often only the Lord can reveal to us real truth and proper direction. Only the Lord knows the future and the ultimate consequences of a decision.

The Importance of Being Quiet

Our culture has been described as one of busyness, instant entertainment, crowds and noise. Throughout Scripture, however, we are admonished to wait upon the Lord. When we are undistracted by activity, focused on the Lord, we can understand most clearly what He is telling us. It is more than coincidence that many of the godliest characters in Scripture spent time in quiet isolation – Moses in the desert for 40 years, David tending flocks, Paul in prison, and Jesus, himself, in the desert for 40 days. Whenever you feel hurried or pressured, or you experience a sense of confusion concerning a decision, discipline yourself to go to a quiet place. Listen prayerfully and quietly for His still, small voice. The world around you screams, “Hurry!” but the Lord tells you to wait.

Counsel of the Wicked

We need to avoid one particular source of counsel. “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1). The word “blessed” literally means to be “happy many times over.” The definition of a “wicked” person is one who lives his life without regard to God. A wicked person can either be a person who does not yet personally know the Lord or one who knows Jesus Christ as Savior but is not following Him in obedience. Avoid such counsel like the plague.

In my opinion, when you are searching for facts or technical information, you may seek input from those who do not know Christ. But gathering information and seeking counsel are two different things. Seek counsel only from those with godly values and perspectives.

Fortune-tellers, Mediums, or Spiritists

The Bible bluntly tells us never to seek the advice of fortune-tellers, mediums, or spiritists: “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God”</.em> (Leviticus 19:31).

Study this next passage carefully: “So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord … and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore he killed him” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).

Saul died, in part, because he went to a medium. We should also avoid any methods they use in forecasting the future, such as horoscopes and all other practices of the occult.

Biased Counselors

A wise person considers factors that may influence someone’s counsel. If you ask a computer salesman if he thinks you need a new computer, what do you think he is inclined to say? “Of course you need a new computer.”

We need to be cautious of the counsel of the biased. When receiving financial advice, ask yourself this question: “What stake does this person have in the outcome of my decision? Does he stand to gain or lose from this decision?” If the advisor will profit, be cautious when evaluating his counsel and always seek a second unbiased opinion.

A Final Word

When you are seeking advice, supply your counselor with all the important facts. Do not attempt to manipulate your advisor to give the answer you want to hear by concealing pertinent information.

Whenever you are faced with a major financial decision such as a career direction or whether to attend graduate school it is helpful to go to a secluded place where you can spend uninterrupted time prayerfully reading Scripture and seeking the Lord. I encourage you to consider fasting during this time.

Be selective in choosing your counselors. Make sure they have the courage to give you advice that may be contrary to your wishes. Always attempt to include those who are gifted with wisdom. “He who walks with wise men will be wise” (Proverbs 13:20). Continually ask the Lord for wisdom.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting” (James 1:5-6).

As you seek counsel, do not be surprised if the answer comes out of your own mouth. Interacting with others allows you the opportunity to verbalize thoughts and feelings that you may never have expressed clearly before.