Trusting Loving Heart Change

This week I spent time with a woman who could not live with her guilty conscience after following the advice of her pastor. He had abused his spiritual authority by demanding that she do something that goes against scripture. Not only did he demand that she do something that is against the Bible, he gave her a very short period of time in which to do it. Even though he was trying to relieve her of tremendous suffering, by going about things the way that he did, he has brought more suffering into her life and, inadvertently, made matters worse.

This has made me think about the relationship between the kind of people counselors should be, the way that we give advice, the work of the Lord in the heart of the counselee, and the choice of the counselee.

Humility and Gentleness

When speaking to leaders in the church, scripture teaches that they are to be humble and gentle. Peter teaches the leaders of the church, or the shepherds of the flock, that they are not to be domineering in their exercise of oversight. Instead, they are to be examples. In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus instructs the disciples that they are not to lord it over others, rather they are to humbly serve. Similarly, in John 13:14, after washing the disciples’ feet, he teaches them that since he, their Lord and teacher, has washed their feet, they ought to wash each other’s feet.

Paul, when speaking about interacting with false teachers, instructs Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 that the Lord’s servant is not to be quarrelsome, instead, when he is correcting opponents, he is to do so with gentleness. When he does this, he is trusting that the Lord may grant them repentance which leads to a knowledge of the truth. Elsewhere, Paul teaches that change that leads to growing in Christ occurs as the truth is spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15).

The Sovereign Work of the Lord on the Heart

As I thought about the pastor, I became convinced that he genuinely cared for this woman and wanted her to be free of horrible suffering. His advice was an attempt to express his concern for his sister in the Lord. Sadly, by reverting to using a forceful manner, instead of trusting the Lord to help her make choices, he was depending on his own skills of persuasion.

By trusting the sovereign God, this man’s counsel could have been quite different. The Lord is sovereign, even over the suffering of others and the choices that they make. The Lord sustains this woman and her circumstances (Colossians 1:17) and is working in her life and situation according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).

Choices Coming From Heart Change

What would be a servant-like way of helping this lady? This would involve coming alongside her, building a relationship with her by getting to know her and what is going on in her life, and seeking to give biblical advice to her. Instead of demanding that she perform some kind of behavioral change, it would involve helping bring about heart change. This means helping her so that her thoughts, desires, and motives are changed to ones that honor the Lord. These will be expressed in behavior and ways of relating that, therefore, also honor the Lord. The woman herself will also be convinced that what she is doing is what the Lord wants, based on what she understands from scripture. Since she has made these decisions with the Lord, she will also be able to deal with the consequences of these choices in a way that honors the Lord and will rely on his strength.

It will involve trusting the sovereign work of the Lord in her heart, living the truth that it is Christ and his Word that is the authority, not us nor the persuasiveness or forcefulness of our words, or our application of scripture. Instead of making choices to please the counselor, which could lead the counselee to become dependent on her, the counselee will be helped to make decisions that please the Lord. By doing so, she will have the resources in the Lord to know him and live in his grace whatever his sovereign outcome is in her life.