If you ask me to name the #1 problem that Christians exhibit in their daily conduct, my answer might surprise you. It wouldn’t be “sin,” even though we certainly do sin far too much. Neither would it be “a lack of spiritual discernment,” even though we oftentimes showcase that as well. No, my answer would be “following our own counsel.” Of course, it can be argued that following your own counsel is sin and does show a lack of spiritual discernment, but for the purposes of this post let’s just let it stand as its own category.
The Bible contains numerous passages that warn against following your own counsel. Here are a five of them (all from the N.K.J.V.):
- Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask the counsel of the Lord. (Joshua 9:14)
- They soon forgot His (God’s) works; They did not wait for His counsel. (Psalm 106:13)
- Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, Bound in affliction and irons — Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High. (Psalm 107:10-11)
- There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel — that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
- “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin;…” (Isaiah 30:1)
Counsel is an interesting thing. It basically affords you five clear options:
- You can have nothing to do with counsel. In Deuteronomy 32:28, God describes Israel as a nation “void of counsel,” and Proverbs 11:14 says where there is no counsel the people fall.
- You can get bad counsel from the wrong people. Psalm 1:1 pronounces blessing upon the person who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Needless to say, the reverse holds true for the person who does walk in such counsel. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir, walked in the ungodly counsel of his foolish friends and in so doing lost the support of Israel’s ten northern tribes. (1 Kings 12:1-20)
- You can get wise counsel from the right people. There are times and places in your life when God will use the wise counsel of others to guide you into His will. Moses accepted the counsel of his father-in-law (Exodus 18:13-27), and Proverbs 12:15 says the one who heeds counsel is wise.
- You can get God’s counsel and follow it. Receiving wise counsel from others is appropriate in its place, but there are times when God Himself will reveal His will to you in such an undeniable way that you really don’t need to get anyone else’s opinion. In Psalm 16:7, David says, “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel.” Similarly, James 1:5 says that God will grant wisdom to anyone who lacks it and asks Him for it.
- You can get counsel from yourself and follow it. Proverbs 28:26 says the one who trusts in his own heart is a fool. But why is he a fool? It’s because, as Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, our hearts are deceitful and wicked due to our inborn nature of sin. Therefore, you must always be wary of listening to your heart and doing what seems right to you. Frankly, you just don’t know best.
Oh, but how we rebel against the notion that we don’t know what’s best for us! How we kick against the idea that we aren’t worthy captains for our life’s ship! How loathe we are to lay aside our own logic and reasoning and humbly submit ourselves to either the wise counsel of others or, more importantly, the counsel that comes straight from God! Even Christians aren’t immune from this problem.
For one thing, the Christian can grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). This is accomplished by doing something the Spirit said not to do. For another thing, the Christian can quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). This is accomplished by not doing something the Spirit said to do. Either way what it amounts to is the Christian walking in his or her own counsel rather than the council of God.
Any decision in which God gets no say is really just a “business” decision because there’s nothing spiritual about it. Many churches make business decisions in electing pastors. Many pastors make business decisions in accepting churches. Many denominations make business decisions in determining how the contributions get allocated. Many individual Christians make business decisions regarding everything from car purchases to where to live. We decide as we think best, sprinkle a little religion over our decision, and call the chosen path God’s will.
So, in closing, let me ask you this simple question about that decision you are facing right now: “Have you sought God’s counsel concerning it?” If you haven’t, then take this post as His warning bell to get you to talk to Him about the decision. And then, of course, you should follow whatever counsel He gives you, even if you don’t agree with it. If you go rouge and make your own choice, you’ll miss God’s will just as surely as you are reading this. And that won’t be good for anybody, especially you.