Genuine Christianity and Seeking Godly Counsel

by Mark Klages , Christian Examiner Contributor |

(JACK SHARP/UNSPLASH)

I write a blog.

I am not a preacher, a worship leader, or even a church leader, currently. I work a job that requires more than 40 hours every week, with some weeks over 100 hours. I make it to church almost as often as I can. And as far as being a good Christian, well, have you seen the beach when the tides shift? Still, I have a passion for Christ. The son of a pastor, I always thought my ministry would be in the pulpit. But then I was given an opportunity to be more active in God's kingdom and... I hesitated.

Don't get me wrong. My heart jumped and my first response was, "Yes! Absolutely. Yes." But then I was reminded of how disconcerting my last attempt had been when I jumped on emotion, not on wise counsel. Sure, God blessed me in my attempt, but He also made it clear that I was working on my own schedule, not necessarily on His. So I decided that being a genuine Christian, following God's precepts required me to practice what I preach.

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel." (Prov. 12:15)

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." (Prov. 15:22, NIV)

But before we dive too deeply into gaining Godly counsel and why divine conformation is important to the success of any ministry effort, let us explore what can and does happen when we try to "help" God move His plan along. You know what I mean. God says "I will provide for you a building," and our mind says, "Go buy a building." No—that is not what God said. So now you are stuck with a building that is not the building God was going to provide. How does God handle this in scripture?

In our first example, David was early in his kingship over Israel and directing the transfer of the ark of God back to Jerusalem. As the story goes in 2 Samuel 6, Israel carried the ark on a "new cart" (v.3) but the oxen stumbled at the threshing floor of Nakon. So Uzzah "reached out and took hold of the ark of God" (v.6) in direct disobedience to God's command. God killed Uzzah on the spot. We know from Numbers 4 and from 1 Chronicles 15:2 that "No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God," and even being Levites, only Kohathites were permitted to carry the ark, by staves, without touching any holy article, lest they die. As a result of Uzzah's good intentioned but ill-thought act, he died and the ark remained with Obed-Edom for three months.

In our second example, Abram (Abraham) was nearly 100 years old and Sarai (Sarah) was 90, well past childbearing age, when God promised to make Abraham the father of Israel. According to Genesis 15, the angel of the Lord promised Abram that his children would outnumber the stars (v.5). But by chapter 16, Sarai had grown impatient and given her Egyptian slave, Hagar, to Abram in hopes a union would bring about the children God promised. Hagar became pregnant and bore Abram's firstborn son. What is so wrong with one birth, you may ask? Sarah became the matriarch of God's chosen Israelites and Hagar is the mother of Islam—and never shall the two religions be truly at peace. (Gen. 16:12)

And finally, for this discussion, King Saul was victorious against armies larger, stronger, and better equipped than his own. But that was when God was with Saul. Still, in 1 Samuel 13, we find Saul waiting on the prophet Samuel in Gilgal against a numerically superior Philistine army. Samuel ordered Saul to wait for his arrival because only Samuel, the priest, could perform holy sacraments. This order to wait led Israel's army into hiding in caves and thickets in some pretty nasty surroundings. After seven days, when Samuel did not arrive exactly when he promised he would, Israel's army began to flee. To stem the fleeing tide, Saul took it upon himself to sacrifice the burnt offering. "So, what?" you might ask. "God was with Saul. He could make the offering." Not so. And to prove the point, Samuel arrived just as Saul finished the offering made in hubris. As a result, God appointed David successor and king of Israel, ending the reign of Saul's house. Sure, Saul remained king for several years until God had prepared David, but God's hand on Saul's reign ended in that moment. As David himself often said, Saul was God's anointed—but Saul no longer walked on the path God had chosen.

So, suffice it to say we humans do not fare well when we insert ourselves into God's plan. When we interrupt His perfect plan we get confusion, strife, delay and in some cases (Uzzah), death.

But this post is not about how angry God becomes when we get in the way of His plans; rather, it is about how confidently and effectively we can follow God's will if we are wise enough to wait on His leading and timing.

First, a baseline. Not everything we do requires us to step back and seek God's direction. For some things, God expects us to use the intelligence and common sense He has given us. For example (not a comprehensive list), a few things come immediately to mind: obeying the speed limit, attending church, donating to charity, not cursing, not drinking (eating, working out, or doing anything) excessively, not murdering (to include unborn children) and not cheating on one's spouse. This very short list exemplifies some of the things that we probably should not need to seek God's face for or receive good Godly counsel on, regarding our actions. Of course there are more, but by now you should get my point.

Things that do require Godly counsel: starting a ministry, changing churches, changing jobs, major decisions that impact loved ones (moving, buying a house, becoming a nun), major decisions that impact the church family, and anything that places you in the position to preach, teach, admonish or educate in God's name. In the Marines, if I gave an order, I had better be absolutely certain that order was in line with the Commander's intent because I was, in essence, speaking with his authority and in pursuit of his goals. How much more important is the potential spiritual life and death that comes from hearing God's word? How much more critical is God's authority and intent in the feeding of His flock?

Ok, now that I have set the baseline, what is Godly counsel? Put simply, Godly counsel is counsel from wise men or women who know and follow the tenets of Christ. Wise counsel comes from good Christian men and women who are clearly in step with Christ's teachings. Good Godly counsel does not come from asking only your friends and closest companions whom you know share your similar likings and desires. Read 1 Kings 12 and see how that worked for Rehoboam.

Wise, Godly men and women, when asked for their good counsel, will pray, apply God's principles to your request, and bounce your request off their knowledge of the Bible, God's will, and practical matters such as money and skill. Sure, God can overcome any obstacle, but Godly men and women from whom we seek counsel should be in line with God's will themselves and should therefore agree on God's will. Simply put, if he wants, God can provide you with the right building on His time; but if God is not in it, you are not going to successfully start a church with no money, no land, and no workers, no matter how much you pray.

However, if your "council" returns in agreement after you choose to follow Godly counsel, you now have both the confidence and the assurance that God will move mountains. He will open (and close) doors to prosper His plan. God will bring the resources. He will bring the opportunity. He will open the hearts of those so vehemently fighting against you, whether they are unbelieving strangers or close family members.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31, NIV)

If God's will is in it, then your Godly "council" should mostly agree in their responses. If responses are all across the board, consider whether you were clear in your request. If your request was clear, wait—a don't jump. Go back to God and rework your request with your council to avoid any misunderstanding. If your "council" generally disagrees with your desires or cannot agree on God's will, be wise enough to listen.

"But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you." (Prov. 1:24-27, NIV)

– Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.