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 (Manna 72: Love—the Bond of Perfection)
Virtues of Counselors (I)
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VIRTUES OF COUNSELORS (I)

Based on a lecture series by Vuthy Nol-Mantia—Dallas, Texas, USA

INTRODUCTION

Christian counseling is very different from secular counseling because it views counseling through the eyes of God. Its goal is also different. It is “to turn people from darkness to light, from the hand of Satan to the hand of God, and from sin to the forgiveness of sin” (Acts 26:18). As counselors, we need to bring our brethren back to the light, and that light is our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, they are able to know and see themselves clearly.

To achieve this goal, we have to first focus on ourselves to ensure we have virtues that can counsel and bring our brothers and sisters back to God.

VIRTUES OF COUNSELORS

Have the Image and the Likeness of Jesus

The first virtue is to be filled with the image and the likeness of Jesus, because He is the best Counselor. Although we perform the counseling work, it is our Lord Jesus who heals our brothers and sisters. They may be weak in faith and cannot see Jesus. Therefore, we have to be filled with the image and likeness of Jesus so that our counselees can see Jesus in us. If we are not close to God, we cannot possibly help those who are far away from God.

Many of us know the triangle theory: God is at the top, and the counselors and counselees are on opposite sides. Secular counseling focuses on two parties: the counselors and counselees, but this type of counseling is often unsuccessful. As men, we cannot even help ourselves, how can we help others? However, if the counselor turns to God first and builds a great relationship with Him, he will have the image and likeness of Jesus, which will make him a good counselor.

Have a Close Relationship with God

Next, we focus on our relationship with God. A great relationship with God is the foundation of good counseling; only God knows exactly what people need.

Quite often, our counselees will not show their innermost feelings. We need to be spiritually filled to be able to “see” what is in their hearts and to know what to say. For example, when a young child says, “I’m bored,” buying him more toys or involving him in more activities will not solve the problem. When he says, “I’m bored,” it means that he feels empty. Perhaps we have not given him enough attention; perhaps we have not shown him enough love; but this child can only express his feelings by saying, “I’m bored.”

Although we may have the gift to talk and listen to people, we cannot exclude God from the picture. In most cases, our counselees’ problems are very different from those of the people in the world. We need to draw near to God and ask for His wisdom to counsel our brethren.

Secular knowledge may sound professional, but it cannot help our counselees because their problems are usually spiritual in nature. In Ezekiel 37, God brought Prophet Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones. These dry bones represent the whole house of Israel. The dryness shows their loss of hope (cf. Ezek 37:11). Israel felt this way because they had committed a great sin against God. God was no longer with them; they felt lifeless because they had no hope. In most cases, our counselees feel hopeless when they come to seek help. God is no longer in their lives, or if He is, it is not to the full potential.

God asked Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones. Surely, Ezekiel would need to have faith for this task. It is the same with us. When we talk to our brothers and sisters, their situation could be so difficult that it seems impossible to help them. However, if we have a close relationship with God, we will never give up on them. When Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones, they showed a sign of life. However, they were not yet alive. God then asked Ezekiel to prophesy to the four winds. Subsequently, breath entered these dry bones, and they became a great army of God. This shows that we need to rely fully on God to become good counselors and to help our brothers and sisters resolve their spiritual problems.

We also need to draw close to God to avoid being deceived by Satan and be weakened in our own faith. If we are weak, we may harm, instead of help, our counselees. In our lives, there are only two ways open to us. We can choose to be close to God or to be close to Satan. Quite often, the counselees who seek help live closer to Satan than to God, not because they are bad brethren, but because Satan has deceived them and weakened their faith. So in order not to fall into the same trap and to be able to help others, we have to draw close to God.

Know Our Weapons

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

(2 Cor 10:3–6)

Although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, because Satan, our enemy, is spirit. If we want to fight against Satan, we must use spiritual weapons.

At times, when we talk to our brothers and sisters, they seem to be people with common problems. But when we talk to them about their problems, we must look at them with the eyes of God. In fact, our brethren’s problems seldom pertain to the physical world but to the spiritual realm, for Satan wants to destroy them. He knows that his days are numbered and that God will soon cast him into the lake of fire. His targets are those who belong to God, that is, you and me.

Let us learn from the sixty valiant men who were experts in warfare:

Behold, it is Solomon’s couch, with sixty valiant men around it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war. Every man has his sword on his thigh because of fear in the night. (Song 3:7–8)

Although these were valiant men, they were very fearful. Yet they were prepared. They had swords on their thighs because it is easier and quicker to draw a sword from the thigh. These sixty valiant men knew their enemy. They knew their goal was to protect Solomon’s carriage. They also knew their weapon, the sword on their thighs.

It is the same with us. If we encounter Satan, we will be very frightened. But being afraid does not mean we are cowards, rather, being afraid alerts us that the enemy is near. If we do not know our enemy, our goal, and our weapons, Satan can easily deceive us when we counsel a person. So what are our weapons?

The Word of God

When our brothers and sisters undergo trials and tribulations, we often just need to stretch out our hands and pull them up. But, to do this well, we must be close to God; we must know God’s word and be filled with the Spirit of God. Otherwise, Satan will destroy us.

Only the word of God can sanctify us (Jn 17:17) and separate us from the people of the world. If we talk and walk like Jesus, we would do exactly the same thing when we counsel our brothers and sisters. No matter how eloquent or knowledgeable we are, we should remember that only the word of God can pierce a man’s heart and uplift his soul.

Sometimes when we talk to people, we only tell them what they want to hear. Maybe, for that moment, they feel really good about themselves, but in the end, their life will not be saved. We may find it difficult to decide whether we should say things that make others feel good or whether we should tell them the truth. The truth can hurt. Yet it only hurts for a moment. In contrast, things that are not truthful may make a person feel good for a moment but may result in sufferings in the long run.

Think of Peter counseling Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:18–24). Can you imagine what would have happened if Peter had not rebuked Simon? Maybe Simon would have continued to think it was acceptable to use money to purchase the gift of the Holy Spirit. Maybe he would have brought many more to believe in Jesus but imparted the wrong concept to them. The incident shows that we must counsel others with the truth, the word of God.

We also need to know the word of God to overcome Satan. When Satan tempted our Lord Jesus, Jesus used the word of God to overcome these temptations. Such is the power of God’s word, but we need faith to practice it. As a good counselor, we have to put on the whole armor of God, which is God’s word.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

(Eph 6:14–17)

This passage mentions six pieces of spiritual equipment, most of which are related to the word of God. We know that the belt of truth and the shoes of the gospel of peace refer to God’s word. The breastplate of righteousness tells us that we need to become righteous by being sanctified through God’s word. But how can we put on the shield of faith? Romans chapter 10 says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. So if we want to put on the shield of faith, we need to know the word of God. From our feet all the way to our head, we need to be filled with the word of God. Thus equipped, Satan cannot deceive us, for the word of God is God Himself (Jn 1:1).

The Spirit of God

Although knowing God’s word is critical, we also need the spirit of God to guide us. If we read the Bible but do not pray, we will not know how to use the word of God correctly, and in the process, we will hurt ourselves and our counselees. That is why the whole amour depicted in Ephesians chapter 6 ends with: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17).

If we have received counseling before, we may have experienced how some counselors are filled with the spirit and word of God. Their words seem to be as smooth as butter and can reach the deepest part of our soul. We can feel that they know how to counsel a person. They may not be eloquent, but the spirit and word of God dwell in them, just as they dwelt in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Although the Bible describes Jesus as unattractive (Isa 53:2), many people followed Him; even the soldiers whom the high priest sent to arrest Him returned empty-handed. When questioned by the high priest why they did not arrest Jesus, they said, "We never heard a man speak like Him." Jesus’ words were powerful because He was filled with God's spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the master of the sword. If we are not filled with God's spirit, we cannot be masters of the sword. Only God’s spirit can make the word of God come alive to pierce men’s hearts (cf. Ezek 37:9).

When Ezekiel spoke the word of God to the dead bones, the bones came together, their sinews and flesh formed, and skin covered them. But there was no life in them (Ezek 37:7–8). Only the spirit of God could revive them. The minute we speak the word of God to those who are spiritually dead, there is hope. Once there is hope, we can pray that the spirit of God may give them life. Therefore, God told Ezekiel:

Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’” (Ezek 37:9)

The word and the spirit of God go hand in hand. This is comparable to burning a piece of wood. Wood will not burn by itself. There needs to be fire. So if we want to revive someone spiritually, we need to know the word of God and be filled with the spirit of God.

Being filled with the spirit of God is important because only He is able to search the depth of God:

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor 2:10–11)

Filled with God's spirit, the words we speak will be according to His will.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (1 Cor 2:12)

Instead of seeking help from those who do not have the spirit of God or from self-help books, we need to first and foremost rely on the Holy Spirit to counsel our brethren and to lead them from spiritual darkness into the light of God.

 

[To be continued]

 

Next: Be Filled with the Love of God

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Author: Vuthy Nol-Mantia
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