Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Knowing God's Will: Good Advice Goes a Long Way

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Proverbs 13:10

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Proverbs 19:20

When we are seeking to know God's will and having a hard time hearing it straight from His lips, He sometimes gives us help from more commonplace sources. Last week we talked about open and closed doors and how a change in circumstances may help point us towards God's will for our future. This week we consider what Scripture has to say about asking other people for advice.

It turns out that Scripture puts a lot of credence in seeking counsel from multiple sources before making plans. Proverbs speaks most powerfully to this fact, not only in the passages above but also in passages like Proverbs 12:15, 15:22, & 20:18. I felt the passages above, however, to be especially meaningful to our topic. Look at Proverbs 13:10, "Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who seek advice." When you are faced with a major life decision, there is usually someone trying to give you advice. You can tune this out or even get angry at them for trying to tell you what to do. (Many of us respond this way when our parents give us advice- no matter how old we are.) But these responses spring from a heart of pride, and, as the verse says, they lead to strife in your relationship. Instead you should humble yourself under the advice of wise counselors and carefully consider what they say.
Now, there are two very important qualifications that you need to consider when accepting advice from other people on what God's will for your life is. First, nowhere does the Bible assume that all advice is equal. Check out Proverbs 9 where Wisdom is personified as a woman trying to lead the people toward understanding and long life while Folly, also personified as a woman, tries to lead them to death. So too there are wise counselors and foolish ones. The advice you are given is only as sound as the judgment of the person from whom you receive it. (For a classic Biblical example of this, check out how Rehoboam's poor choice of advisors led to the Kingdom of Israel being split in two - I Kings 12 and II Chronicles 10.) So choose carefully who you listen to. Have a discerning ear. Seek out the instruction of wise men and women who know the Lord well, who know you well, and who have had a chance to see His work in your life. This gives them some perspective on what He might be up to in your life now.
Second, don't follow other people's advice blindly, no matter how wise they are. Scripture never suggests that you should blindly follow other people's advice instead of doing the hard work of seeking to know God's will on your own. Consider what it is that they have to say. Take it to the Lord in prayer, but don't assume that they speak for God. At the end of the day discerning God's will for your situation is between you and your Father in heaven. The advice of others is one factor to consider, but it is not everything. Avoid the temptation to take the easy way out and have someone else tell you what the right answer is. To do so is cowardly and it robs you of new depths in your relationship with God.

So the next time you are having trouble figuring out what you should do, remember to humble yourself under the advice of wiser men and women. They may just be able to shed some light on your situation, and as Proverbs 19:20 says, "at the end you will be counted among the wise."

For further reading...
  • Proverbs 12:15, 15:22, & 20:18: See what else Proverbs has to say about seeking wise counsel.
  • Proverbs 9: What a wonderful allegory for our world> People either chose to listen to Maiden Wisdom or to Mistress Folly. 
  • I Kings 12: Consider Rehoboam's folly and its repercussions. 
  • Galatians 2:1-10: Doesn't Paul serve as an example of seeking wise counsel when he visits with the elders in Jerusalem?

No comments: