Recently I listened to a sermon about one of the hallmarks of the Reformation, Soli Deo Gloria, the doctrine that all things are to be done for the glory of God. As I contemplated this fundamental goal of life, I became convicted that I need to evaluate my counseling. I asked myself a sobering question, “Do I steal glory from God?” I realized that a created being cannot cause God to be less glorious (Isaiah 42:8), but we can be tempted to rob God of the glory He is due. Below are a few thoughts about how counselors can steal glory from the Lord.
- We can steal glory from God when we rely upon people’s words about the Lord, rather than the Scriptures which reveal God’s glory. All biblical counselors refer to books about God and books about the application of His Word. We assign podcasts, messages, pamphlets, and worksheets to our counselees to help them incorporate biblical truth. Many biblical counselors have written helpful resources, including some who are reading this blog! But overuse of these materials can downplay the focus on the Bible. We live “by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3b). “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Deuteronomy 32:47a). We can set an example of love for the Bible when we model our emphasis on Scripture during our sessions.
- We can steal glory from God when we are jealous of other counselors. For instance, imagine your counselee stops meeting with you, but undergoes an amazing transformation after meeting with someone else. We all realize that listening to a pastor’s sermon, reading a book, or attending a Bible study can begin needed transformation in addition to (or even instead of) our counseling. Our sinful hearts can become envious when we hear our counselee’s enthusiastic description of how the Lord used someone besides ourselves. We can secretly desire glory for ourselves and not the Lord. Instead, our joy should come from seeing the Holy Spirit at work, whether He uses us or not. Paul had the right attitude. In 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 he wrote, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Paul’s attitude should be ours: “in every way…Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
- We can steal glory from God when we want our counselees to reflect our beliefs. Paul wrote “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), but we can twist this to say that we want people to follow our particular advice and practice, which may go beyond what Scripture requires. The temptation can be to create clones who resemble us. It is helpful to look at our response when our counselee has doctrinal distinctives which we don’t share. Do we allow flexibility of opinion on non-essential beliefs? We want to constantly direct the counselee’s gaze to the Savior and not to ourselves. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
- We can steal glory from God when we seek the counselee’s affection and love instead of directing it towards the Lord. We can be tempted to believe that progress is made because of our skill or experience. It’s flattering when our counselees think so, too! We want those we help to know that biblical counseling succeeds because it is a work of God. The grateful counselee should be reminded that God gets all the glory. John the Baptist was asked for his reaction when his disciples switched their loyalty to Jesus. He replied, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). John’s attitude should be the biblical counselor’s motto.
- We can steal glory from God when we are too concerned about protecting our reputation. For example, we may worry about what our counselees think of us. We may even be concerned about what other counselors think of us! Our desire to be well respected can reveal a focus on ourselves, not the Lord. Our reputation is in God’s hands. We are simply called to be faithful. The prophet Jonah struggled with concern about his reputation when he was told to preach to the Ninevites (see Jonah 4:1-4). When we desire God’s reputation above all else, we can better handle the disappointment we feel when some counselees do not change. Isaiah had to preach to spiritually deaf and blind people until God preserved the promised remnant (Isaiah 6:9-13). The vision of the holiness of God must have sustained Isaiah during those dark days (Isaiah 6:1-7). A recognition that counseling is in God’s hands will sustain the discouraged counselor.
Counselors, let us sing together the song of the Lamb, giving Him all the glory alone:
“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4).
Soli Deo Gloria!