Upon reflecting back on growing up in the church it seems that “church” was something we “did” and it was not “who we were.” At least that is the impression with which I was left. Many of my family members were faithful members of the church and many of them attended services with us. We were together a lot (Bible Study, worship, meetings, fellowships) and the church was a huge part of our lives. But what I witnessed as I grew older and started preaching was that, with the exception of family members, “clicks,” and isolated friendships, the church was not a real community. When problems arose in people’s lives the “church” was often left stunned and bewildered. What I came to conclude was that we as Christians were not close enough to, or trusting enough of, each other to encourage, counsel, help, and love. I think there are a few reasons why this was (and is) true, but the simple fact is we are not doing what Jesus has instructed us to do.
In Isaiah 9:6 we read that Jesus would be called “…Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God…” The Hebrew word “counselor” here means one who advises, gives counsel to, or guides. As the One we are trying to imitate did, we too must do. Barnabas is a great example of this in that we read that the apostles gave him this name because it meant “the son of consolation” (Acts 4:36). Again, Strong’s says this word means to give comfort, consolation, and exhortation.
Not only do I feel we could do better emulating the compassion, guidance and mercy of Christ toward each other, but I also feel we need to remember that we are commanded to do so. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” James 5:16 demands that we both counsel and seek help, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Romans 12:15 requires that we “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Wayne Jackson says, “…we all should be willing to assist one another in times of emotional need. Those who are ‘spiritual’ can help to ‘restore’ (mend) their fellows (see Galatians 6:1). We should be able to talk with one another about our problems and receive biblical seasoned advice…any compassionate Christian can do this.”
When we are converted and grounded in the faith and, as Charles Brewer writes, “have built into our hearts the desire to serve God,” we are ready then to ask, ‘How can I serve?’” He goes on to say that, “It is important that we know what is acceptable service. Some have good intent, but lack understanding.” Many Christian do not, and/or cannot, fulfill their duty as counselors because they simply don’t know God’s Word well enough to understand their responsibilities, or do not know it well enough to give godly advice.
Two final thoughts: One, every Christian gives counsel vicariously. Paul told Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). The Christian cannot underestimate the impact he or she has on the lives of those around them. And second, we need to be aware of the relationship and relevance of our lives as Christian counselors to evangelism. Paul told Titus that he was to “exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Folks will not come to us to find Christ and we will not be able to lead them to Him and counsel them if we ourselves are not living faithful Christian lives.
I believe that every Christian can be called a counselor when we are imitating The Counselor, when we are close enough as a family of God’s people that we are able and willing to help each other through all of life’s problems, when we are equipped with a firm knowledge of God’s Word, when we are living lights to those round about us, and we are creating and availing ourselves of the opportunities to bring others to Christ. Be faithful!