VIRTUES OF COUNSELORS (I)
Based on a lecture series by Vuthy Nol-Mantia—Dallas,
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
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;
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
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
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
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
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]
Be Filled with the Love of God