Well, many years ago when I became certified with NANC, it was NANC back then, so that tells you it has been more than 15 years since I was first certified. One of the things I was struck me was the simplicity of biblical counseling, and I remember back then Jay Adams often telling us that he would refer to Romans 15:14 where it says, “I am confident that you, my brothers, are full of goodness and filled with all knowledge that you yourselves are able to counsel one another.”
I thought about this; all of God’s children should be filled with biblical knowledge and they should be filled with goodness. And because of that, we really should be able to counsel each other. In fact, I’m sure as biblical counselors, you know, the Greek definition of “nouthetic”means to admonish, to warn, to counsel, or exhort. If you would read the New Testament, especially the Epistles and Acts, we see that is exactly what the apostles are doing. They are doing nouthetic counseling, and it’s kind of encouraging. When you think about the apostles in the New Testament, ladies, they were not trained in ACBC counseling. Neither did those they were trying to help get on the ACBC website to try to find a biblical counselor in their area. They didn’t do that. I’m not depreciating the organization or the training, but could I say this before we get started—if our churches were training their congregations in the Word of God instead of entertaining them, we might have more Christians who would be able to counsel each other.
The church is in a mess. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that lately, but it is in a mess. If we were doing what we should be doing, we might get a glimpse of what Christ desires for His church. Now with that in mind, since we are to counsel each other whether we are certified or not, what are our responsibilities to those that we counsel?
Paul gives the answers to this question in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15. We will look at this together and then I will give you an outline of where we are going to go. Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.
“Now we exhort you, brethren, that you warn those that are unruly, you comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil to evil to anyone but always pursue what is good both to one another and to everyone.”
In these two short verses, we discover that they encompass almost anyone that will come in for counseling. Paul gives six responsibilities that we are to have towards those who are fellow believers—or sometimes, they think they are fellow believers, but they’re not.
I’ve put these in an acrostic for you. The acrostic is EXHORT because that is a synonym for counsel. Now as I give these to you, they are not going to be in order, but this might be a simple way for you to remember what your responsibilities are to those that we counsel.
First of all, notice what Paul says in verse 14. He says, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those that are unruly…” and of course, we know that the “we” there is Paul, Timothy, and Sylvanus. We don’t need to go back to the beginning of 1 Thessalonians, but it is in the first part of the epistle that we are told who is writing.
The word “exhort” means, “we urge you with a note of authority.” Ladies, did you notice that before Paul exhorts them he calls them, “brethren”? That’s very important, very, very important, because these are brothers in Christ. Paul is reminding them, “You should behave as a brother in the Lord, as a Christian.” I would also say this it is a good rule of practice as a biblical counselor. Use the person’s name. Paul says, “I exhort you, brethren…” but you must use the person’s name when you are talking to them. Several years ago, a lady began discipling me, and she still is. In fact, I have two women that disciple me—one is 75 and one is 85. I’m such a case, I have to have two screaming in each ear! I remember her talking to me about an area my life, and she said, “Now, Susan,” she has my attention, “Now Susan, as your sister in Christ, not as your friend, I want to tell you this as your sister in Christ, I’m telling you this and this is what you need to do.” And you know, and she said my name, Susan. Well, that made me perk up a little bit. I think of Jesus who said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you as wheat…” and I’m sure when Peter heard the Lord use his name, “Simon, Simon” he perked up a little bit. Not only did Jesus call him “Simon, Simon,” but He said, “I’ve prayed for you.”
Ladies, I would just add that as a biblical counselor, you need to be praying for those that you counsel. I hope you do. Jesus was an excellent counselor. Not only did he use names many times to those He was talking to, but He also, in this situation with Simon Peter, let him know that He was praying for him. Then He gave him an admonishment. And so, I would encourage you that when you are getting ready to exhort someone, do it lovingly and use their name. It really gets their attention. I have found it to be an effective tool.
Now, the first thing Paul exhorts them to do is to warn those who are unruly. This is the “R” on your acrostic if you are taking notes. Ladies, as a biblical counselors, you need to reprove the unruly; you need to reprove those that come in for counseling that are unruly.
The word here actually means, “to admonish them, to caution them, and to reprove them.” Who do we reprove? Who do we warn? Notice what Paul says—those who are unruly. This means they are disorderly; they are Christians who have gotten out of line. They are out of rank and they need to be brought back. They are that one sheep that’s gone astray. They’ve gotten off that narrow road and we need to bring them back.
In the context of 1Thessalonians, it could be those who are idle. They are not working. They are lazy. It could be those that were involved in sexual immorality. It could be a lot of things. Many times, those that we counsel are living in unrepentant sin. And we endeavor to help them. We are patient as we help them, but there does come a time in the counseling room where we warn them. You have to warn them! If you, as a biblical counselor, want to be true to the Word of God, you cannot allow your counselee to remain in unrepentant sin. You cannot do that.
I was working with a girl several years ago who was having trouble in the sexual area in her marriage. I went through a book with her on that area to try to help her. She had moved out of the bedroom. Months passed, and I finally said to her, “You know, we’ve gone now through this book. I feel I have been very patient with you. You are defrauding your husband. In the Bible, it is very clear that you only do that for a time for fasting and prayer, but you are meant to come back together, lest Satan tempt you.” I said, “If you don’t move back into the bedroom by next week, I will bring an Elder’s wife with me. I cannot allow you to continue to remain in this sin.” We have a biblical responsibility. If, after patiently trying to help someone, Matthew 18 says if your brother offends you go and tell him his fault between him and you, alone. The Greek there implies “as you keep going back.” It’s not just a one-time event.
Now, there are some sins evidently that are there to go through the front doors. What is a front door? A front door situation is when this person is not repentant. If the person’s really endeavoring to try, we very patiently help them. I always tell women that I counsel, “I keep your confidences—but not if you don’t repent.” Do not ever tell a counselee that you will keep everything that she tells you confidential. You must let her know that if she’s in a sin area, and she doesn’t repent, you can’t keep that confidential.
In fact, confidentiality without biblical accountability is not biblical. Remember that as a biblical counselor, confidentiality without biblical accountability is not biblical. Now, I told you I was going to give you an example of each one of these in the Epistles and the book of Acts. Let’s look at an example of someone who was unruly and needed to be reproved.
If you would, turn to Acts 8. Acts 8, beginning in verse 9:
But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
Now, evidently Simon thought he could buy the power of God. He hadn’t been a Christian very long. He just did believe. All of the sudden, he’s thinking, “Man, I want that too!” You know, he wanted what the apostles had, and Peter said, “Your heart is not right with God,” and he said, “You need to repent.” I wish we would use that more in the counseling room: “You need to repent!”
He was a new believer, very new. But he was already out of line. He had already gotten off the road. He needed to be brought back into line. Now, I must say that as a pastor’s wife and a biblical counselor, this is one of the weak areas that I see in believers today. You know what my husband often says from the pulpit? “If you have a problem with somebody, don’t come to me. And don’t go to Susan. Because you know, if you tell Susan then she will come to me. It’s an unwillingness to confront someone when it’s needed.”
In fact, when I am talking to ladies in my church, and I know that they have a problem with someone else in my church, I tell them I am holding them accountable to take care of that. First of all, they should not have told me. My husband even goes a step further when that happens to him. He will say, “Let’s get in the car right now and we can go to their house and you can just tell them what you told me.” And so that kind of stops it but we need to do the right thing. And if someone gets out of line, we need to encourage them to repent. Otherwise, what happens is many times is that we gossip about it instead of taking care of it. Leviticus 19:17 is very clear, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor.”
Do not allow sin, ladies. There are many who come in for counseling. They do not have a heart of humility, but they have of a heart of rebellion. We must lovingly warn them of the danger. They are in it! It might be sexual sin like those in Thessalonica. It might be witchcraft like Simon the Sorcerer, it could be lying, it could be anger, it could be a myriad of sins. And Paul says we are to warn them!
Now, let me share some of the passages that I have found very helpful. When I am warning someone of the danger of some sin, I will take them to 1 John 5:16, “… there is a sin unto death. I do not say that you shall pray for it, but there is a sin unto death.” I warn them of that.
There might be a time that they would have a situation like Ananias and Sapphira. A very serious thing in that they both agreed together to lie to the Holy Spirit, and they both immediately were struck dead. Hebrews 10:31 tells us that is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. Galatians 5:19-21 reads, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: adultery, fornication, and lasciviousness. Idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, factions, seditions, heresies, envy, murders, and the like of which I’ve told you before,” Paul says and I’m telling you again, “they who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
First Corinthians 6:9-11 is another passage I will take them to, “Do you not know the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived about these things! Neither fornicators, idolaters, homosexuals, covetous, drunkards, revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God,” but the encouraging thing that Paul says is, “such were some of you but now you’re washed your clean, your sanctified.”
One of the things that I have found to be very practical when showing them the danger they’re in—and usually what I do, because most counselees don’t have a Bible when they come in, I hand them mine. I have them read those passages to me out loud about whatever the sin is that they are involved in. I usually go to some passages that deal with that particular sin. Now, we’re talking about someone who’s rebellious, okay? We’re going to get into the weak and the fainthearted in just a minute, but I have found it to be very effective to have them read the passage to me, and then I will ask them questions like this, “What is Paul saying to you about the sin that you refuse to repent of? What does it say here?” “Well,” they are forced to reply, “so I’m not going to inherit the kingdom of God.” “Yeah, that’s pretty serious, isn’t it?” And then ask them questions like this, “Are you in any danger if you continue to stay in that sin?” It’s very effective, because it opens up the window of conversation with them.
In fact, I want to encourage you. Years ago, my husband and I were counseling a young girl. She was very, very, rebellious. She came in for several sessions, and we counseled her, and it wasn’t effective in our opinion. She went on her way, and I did not hear from her for years. Then our paths crossed again, several years later, and she said to me, “Susan, I never forgot something you said in the counseling room,” and she said, “It has haunted me all these years.” And so, praise God for that! I want to encourage you do the right thing—warn the unruly, and even if they don’t repent in the counseling room, or if they go off like this girl did, don’t lose heart. Now, she is walking with the Lord, and she’s doing the right thing. I praise God for that! The rebellious may not respond right away, but you never know what words are going to return to her. The Word of God will not return void! You never know what might be lingering in her mind and haunting her, like that one girl told me.
What’s our second responsibility to those that we counsel? Paul then exhorts them that they need to comfort the fainthearted. This is the “E” on your acrostic. You need to encourage the fainthearted and the word here actually means to “Offer comfort or encourage.”
The fainthearted, now you might say, well, who are the fainthearted?
The Greek word literally means, “the little souled, small souled, feeble-minded.’ These are people you counsel. They want to quit; they may want to kill themselves. They have lost heart and they need to be encouraged. We have many examples—I told you we are going to look at a living example in Acts. We have so many examples that I am not going to take you to them all.
Let’s look at two real short verses, two passages with short verses, in Acts 11. Look at Acts chapter 11:22-23. “The news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. And when he came, he saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he encouraged them all that with purpose of heart that they should continue with the Lord.”
Now look at chapter 14:19-23.“The Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went to the city, and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derby. When they preached the gospel in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through much tribulation, we must enter the kingdom of God. When they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended to them to the Lord in whom they believed.”
Ladies, in these two passages, we see Barnabas. We know he was “the son of encouragement; the son of consolation,” and here we see him living up to that, especially in Acts 14. I mean, they had just stoned Paul, and left him for dead. I imagine that was discouraging to the disciples, and they’re thinking, “Am I going to be next?” Because there was a great persecution that had broken out in the church. And so, I can only imagine they were fainthearted. And yet, Barnabas, the “son of encouragement,” came and encouraged the fainthearted.
Now ladies, there are many today who want to give up. I don’t know how you how it’s going in your biblical counseling, but where I am at, it seems like I’m counseling more and more women who are depressed, they’re fainthearted. In fact, I have been working with a woman now for years, and there’s hardly a day that has gone by that I do not get a text from her that says, “I can’t go on. I have no hope. I do not know what to do. Please do not give up on me.” She is fainthearted. She is weak and scared and she needs to be constantly reminded of the hope she has in Christ.
Four years ago, I was counseling a woman and she, at that time, had five children. She now has six. The middle daughter had tried to kill her eight times. And the last time she was almost successful—she burned their house down with the mother trapped in the bedroom. The mother had to break the window, and come around, and get the rest of the children out. It all started, by the way (this is a good reminder of the danger of pornography) it started when, at the age of 4, the child was getting up in the middle of the night and looking at porn. Her parents did not know it. This is a homeschooled family who attended a good church.
I remember that, as a biblical counsellor, I talked to Jim Newheiser about it. I mean, I tried to get all the help I could find. Even Jim Newheiser said that it was the most bizarre case he’d ever heard. Many times, this mother would call and cry, and I would be at the grocery store or at Walmart, shopping. She would call crying, and I needed to encourage her. Even now, although she lives in another state, we still try to talk every couple of weeks. She needed to be encouraged then, and she still does. The child is now in a home for children, and she will never be allowed to come back into their environment. The child has said that if she does come back, she will try to kill her mother. And so, they are in the process now of giving full rights to the government because she has been in that institution. She has been out of their home for two years.
And so, this woman is consistently fainthearted. I still need to encourage her. I don’t want to give up. My faith is strong, but ladies, that is hard. I have never experienced that situation and just know that it was very, very, difficult.
In fact, it was interesting, the day that I worked on this material for this workshop, I had lunch with a woman who told me that she had thought of four ways that week to kill herself. Four different ways on how she could kill herself, ladies. There are a lot of people who want to give up out there. There are a lot of women that want to give up, even though they are Christians, that may come to you for help. We must encourage them. One of the best encouragements, outside of the Word of God, that I have found in encouraging the fainthearted is, Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. That is a classic book.
Another helpful tool is memorization of God’s Word. Many times, I will have women who are fainthearted memorize Psalm 42 and 43. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Put your trust in God. He is the lifter of your countenance…”And so, I will have them memorize portions of God’s Word. The Psalms are replete with encouragement to those who are fainthearted. Also, Lamentations 3, “Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed, because His compassion’s fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.” Not only is the Word of God a source of encouragement, Jerry Bridges’ book is a great encouragement, as well as music.
The 85-year-old lady that disciples me has helped me through a lot of hard times. She is from Atlanta, even though she lives in Tulsa now. I love Carolyn! She continues to disciple even at times where it’s been difficult. She’s been discipling me for about 25 years, but anyway, she says in times of trouble, “It’s amazing what praising can do!” and I’m like, “Yeah, it is.” She’s always has been an encouragement to me when I feel fainthearted, which isn’t often, because I’m not prone to be depressed or anything like that. But I remember that during the most difficult time in my life, there was a song that I loved playing over and over because it encouraged me. “Jesus, You are my strength when I am weak, You are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all. Seeking You as a precious jewel, Lord to give up, I’d be a fool. You are my all an all.” and I remember listening to that song over and over again.
Encourage them. Encourage them in the Word, in prayer, in music. Make sure that they are in fellowship with other believers. Make sure that they are meeting with you regularly, especially someone who is fainthearted. Make sure that they find time in their schedule to meet with you often.
Do you see Debbie who standing there in the back? She has been through a difficult divorce. I will not go into all the details; if she wants to share it with you, but she can. She also has two daughters that are estranged from her. They won’t speak to her. All of this is because of her faith in Christ. It is all because of persecution from being a Christian. So many times, I’ll meet women on these journeys and we, just like Debbie and I, end up having long-term relationships of discipleship and counseling. I’ve not been through a divorce, a biblical divorce. My kids are both in ministry, so I don’t have the same problems that Debbie faces in her life. But often a woman will come to me and ask me for hope, for help, and I say, “Go talk to Debbie, because she’s been where you are and she can encourage you.”
Maybe there is a woman in your church, or the circle of ACBC counselors, that can help that mother I was telling you about with the daughter who tried to kill her. I remember calling Martha Peace one day at home, because I was desperate to try to find help for her. I knew they had a child counselor in her church, at Martha Peace’s church. And so, you know, maybe it’s not you who is the one that can help this person, but God has given us many people in the body of Christ. Paul says that, “We are able to comfort those with the same comfort that we’ve been comforted with.” Sometimes we may not have gone through that particular issue, but we can pair them with someone who has.
Encourage them by letting them know that you’re praying for them; pray before your counseling session, during your counseling session, and after your counseling session. A lot of times when a woman walks out the door, I pray as she is walking out the door and continue to pray for her during the week. I will text her too, or call, and see how she’s doing.
Hold Up Those Who Are Weak
Thirdly, Paul says we are to uphold the weak. This is the “H” on your acrostic. Hold up those who are weak. Now, what does it mean to uphold those who are weak? Well, it means to support them. Do not let them go! The weak would be those who are without strength. They might be weak in faith. They might be spiritually weak. They might be morally weak. It could also refer to someone who is shy about using their spiritual gifts, and so they are weak. Someone who lacks faith that God is going to answer their prayers—they are weak. As we have seen in this conference, the weak have been referred to those who have been sexually abused, and so, you uphold them, you encourage them.
Also, remember that it is not just sexually abused, but any type of abuse. I was dealing with a woman whose husband was beating her, hitting her, and other things were going on. And one of the ways that I tried to encourage her was to speak to her pastor. She didn’t go to my church; she went to another church in another town. I went to one of the pastors there to try to get her help. Even though I wasn’t able to get her help there, that was one of the ways that I could try to uphold her. I had let him know what was going on with this couple and that they needed help. And so, that’s one of the ways that you can uphold them.
Now again, let’s look at an example in the Book of Acts. Acts 20, beginning in verse 32. “So now, brother I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all that are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver, gold, or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities. And for those that were with me, I’ve shown you in every way by laboring like this you must support the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus as He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
And when he said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they all wept and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, being sorrowful most for the words he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.”
Here is the Apostle Paul saying goodbye to the elders at Ephesus. It’s a sorrowful time and they’re crying. He reminds them he has shown them, by example, how to support the weak. And he reminds them that Jesus did that, too. Ladies, if you would just read the Book of Acts, and look all the examples of the Apostle Paul and how he upheld the weak. It’s pretty amazing. His life is exemplary. And of course, our Lord, as well. There are many today that come in for counseling who need to be encouraged to press on. Support the weak to use their spiritual gifts.
I know we have gal in our church who is shy and I’m so thankful for an elder’s wife who has encouraged her every week, to get out of herself, to go meet somebody, and talk to somebody. We need to encourage those who are weak. If you are counseling someone, and they don’t know what their spiritual gifts are, you might help them. Encourage them on how to find out what their spiritual gifts are.
I’m convinced many are depressed today because they are isolating themselves and they’re not involved in the body. Proverbs is very clear—a man who isolates himself brings himself to destruction. And so, God did not save us to sit around, and so that’s one of the things you can do.
Someone who is weak might have lack of assurance about their salvation. I’ve counseled many women who are weak in that way. They are not sure that they’re saved. I usually take them through my little booklet which is a message of assurance for God’s children. Just go over the signs of those who are saved.
It might be that they’re weak physically. We have a lady in our church who is my age, but she is no longer able to do the things in her home that she used to do. She has asked for somebody to come in and clean her house. And so, it might be something where you uphold her physically. You might run errands for them. There are a lot of ways that we can support those who are weak that we counsel.
Isaiah 35 says, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear!’” Isaiah also says, “…Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the Earth—He doesn’t faint. He does not weary. His understanding is unsearchable … He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might, He increases their strength.”
Ladies, we need to encourage those who are weak. Now I will say one more thing about the weak. They might be weak in the sense of Romans 14 where we are told to know about the weak brethren. They need to have their spiritual conscience educated. As a pastor’s wife, I will tell you this is a heartbreak of mine. Because what I mean by that is legalism. Maybe they need to be educated in an area of food and drink; educated about mysticism, legalism, or asceticism. Paul calls those who practice those things in Romans 14, “weak.” They need to have their conscience educated and I will say not only as a biblical counselor, but also as a pastor’s wife, this is a huge problem! I do not know if you’ve seen it in your church, but I’ve seen it in mine. Many make food issues an issue of spirituality. They make issues that are gray areas into black and white. And then, they push their issues on everybody.
Ladies, we need to help them to look at things through the lens of scripture. What does the Bible say? And so, they are weak, and we need to help them educate their conscience biblically. I know. I was brought up in a very legalistic way, even though my father was a great expositor of Scripture. I was brought in more of a legalistic upbringing, and so I know that my husband would often tell me, “Susan, you need to educate your conscience.” What does that mean? Through the Word of God, I have educated my conscience. Those things that I used to say where black and white, I now see that the Scriptures give a lot of leeway on things. We might need to help them in that.
Exasperation Not Allowed
Well, let’s look at Paul’s fourth exhortation to the church. Paul says we must be patient with all. Now, you are going to say, “Susan, you really stretching this one.” And I did, but I did so want that acronym for you! This is the “X” on your acrostic—EXasperation is not allowed! Exasperation is not allowed with those that you counsel.
Paul says we are to be patient, which means we are to be “long-suffering and forbearing.” We cannot get irritated with those that we counsel. I have to admit, I’m going to confess my sins right here. From time to time, this has been a challenge for me. I remember years ago, someone sent me—I’m sure most of you have seen it by now—Bob Newhart’s, “Stop it.” It’s a counseling session, and someone once sent it to me a long time ago and said, “This is what I imagine your counseling sessions must be like.” Well, I used to have the little Mary Englebright doll that says, “Snap out of it.” You know, she says this, “snap out of it” and I watched the clip where Bob Newhart said the same thing, and for a while it was a joke. But my husband often reminded me, “Susan, impatience possesses your soul.” and I thought, “He’s right in saying that impatience possesses my soul.” Actually, biblical counseling is helping me be patient.
You can grow impatient, but you must be patient. Sometimes, I find myself, just like you do, in the counseling room with a lady is sharing her thoughts with me. In my mind, I am saying, “Lord help me. Really Lord. I need your help so bad.” Because you know that some of these sessions are really difficult, and so I will pray a prayer, “Quickly Lord! Please help me.” I have had some trying issues, just like you have, and I need patience to listen.
I need patience for the many trying times I try to instruct them. Sometimes I meet with women and I feel like I’ve told them, and I keep I’ve telling them, the same thing that I just told them in the session two weeks ago, and in the one two weeks before that, and so on. I can be impatient when they don’t do their assignments. I was so thankful when someone in one of the sessions, I think it was our last one, said that when they don’t do their assignments, it’s really laziness. So, maybe I won’t bring that up, but I do have to remember to be patient. We are not allowed to be exasperated with those that we counsel.
Now in Acts 18, we have an example of a woman who exercised great patience. Look at Acts 18:24-28, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”
Evidently, Apollos didn’t have his doctrine right on baptism. He only knew the baptism of John and Priscilla and Aquila heard that. Now, they did not call him dunderhead. They did not call him out while he was speaking, but they took him aside privately. They were patient. In fact, in the Greek the rendering implies that Priscilla is the one that did most of the talking.
And so, she was very patient. They did the right thing by taking him aside and she exercised great patience. Paul says in 2 Timothy that a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle, apt to teach, and patient with all men. Ladies, we need to be patient. Patience would also include letting them speak without interrupting them, and many times that’s difficult.
I know that there was a time that my husband was counseling a woman and he said, “You know, your biggest problem is you talk too much.” And you know what? She just kept talking! She never got the hint. He just said, “You talk too much, that’s one of your biggest problems.” And she just kept talking! But sometimes we do the same thing. Sometimes I just wait for her to breathe so I can say something. But sometimes we have to be patient and just let them talk. Sometimes they do need to be interrupted, but we need to exercise great patience with those that we counsel.
Aren’t you thankful that the Lord is patient with us? I mean, I think of how many times the Lord should just probably zap me, and He has exercised great patience. And so, we can be patient and let me remind you what my husband said to me, which is what Jesus said, “Impatience possesses your soul.” Right? Well Paul goes on to give his fifth and sixth exhortation to the church. He says, “See that no one renders evil to evil, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and others.”
Observe That No One Renders Evil for Evil
The fifth exhortation that Paul gives is that we are to not render evil for evil. This is the, “O” on your acrostic—observe that no one renders evil for evil. You know what Paul is saying? Make sure this never happens! Pay attention! Never, ever, return evil for evil. These are strong words. God forbid that it ever should be! Ladies, God will never bless you in the counseling room if you have an attitude of revenge. In fact, I want you to turn to Acts 7 for an example.
Acts 7:54, this is after Stephen preached his masterful sermon, and he calls them “stiff necked” and “uncircumcised in heart.” He let them have it, but notice in verse 54, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
That is a very great example for us of someone who does not render evil for evil. Stephen, as he’s falling down to the ground, the Greek there says he’s shrieking like a raven when he says these words “Lord don’t lay this to their charge” that he didn’t render evil for evil. He could have called them names, but he died with forgiveness even as they were stoning him. In the biblical world, a stone wasn’t a little pebble. These were huge stones that they were picking up and throwing at Stephen. Ladies, Stephen is a classic example of what Jesus says: “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you.”
Now thankfully, this does not happen often in the counseling room, but it does. I have had threats on my life. I had a woman one time I was counseling, and she said, “If you don’t stop counseling, my husband is going to make it hard for you on Christmas day.” I took that as a credible threat. I have had women who’ve attempted to handle me. I had one woman a couple of years ago, I was speaking, and she didn’t like the message. She wanted to talk to me outside. This is not a counseling session, but she wanted to talk to me. She was enraged and the next thing I know she’s grabbing me and shaking me. I’m looking around thinking, “Hey, is there anyone to help me?” I diffused the situation, I spoke gently. I said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry I offended you, how did I offend you?”
A couple of years ago, I was speaking in a church and a woman told me that God told her to fornicate before she got married. I told her, “The God of the Bible didn’t tell you that.” As the conference was over, Debbie and I were going back to the airport, and the head of women’s ministry was physically holding her back and she said, “Run, run as fast as you can.” I’m thinking, “I’m like a gingerbread man!” The head of women’s ministry later said, “She was waiting for you, and she was going to take you out in the parking lot and beat you up.” Don’t think that it can’t happen. I’ve had women in the counseling room cuss at me. I ‘ve had woman hang up on the phone, but I can honestly say that I have not ever retaliated.
Now it takes a lot of grace, but I will say this, I would call the governing authorities. In fact, I don’t counsel anyone for the first time unless my husband’s at home. I counsel at home and have an office at home. I never counsel a woman for the first time that I’ve never met unless he’s home for safety issues.
Just remember a soft answer turns away wrath. And if you’re doing the right thing, especially if you’re warning those that are unruly, you might have some women who will get angry. One of things I’ve noticed the more I speak, in the last 3 or 4 years, more and more women are becoming angry and they seem to have no shame about coming and telling me about it. Granted, if this continues, I would probably think about how effective your counseling is—you might want to draw it to a close real quick, but do not repay evil for evil.
Try to Always be Doing Acts of Kindness
Paul goes on to the last responsibility to those that we counsel. He says, “Always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” The word pursue means to hunt or chase and it entails that you don’t give up trying to do acts of kindness and goodness. Just like a hunter pursues or chases the prey until it’s caught, we don’t ever stop doing acts of goodness. In fact, many commentators put it like this; try to always be doing acts of kindness. This is the T on your acrostic. Try to always be doing acts of kindness to those you counsel. In fact, this is in the present tense in the Greek, which means we should always be looking for ways to be kind. For time’s sake, I’m not going to read the Acts passage. It’s Acts 9:36-43 when Peter rose Dorcas or Tabitha from the dead and she was known as a woman who always did acts of goodness.
I will say this, we need biblical counselors who will follow the example of Dorcas. It might be as simple as offering them something to drink when someone comes to my home. I usually offer them a drink—cold or hot. I always let them know where the bathroom is. I always have a box of Kleenex ready, because most women who come in for counseling end up crying, so I want to make sure there’s Kleenex there. If it’s wintertime, I always usually have a candle burning, but I am sensitive and ask if scent bothers her. I always have a basket of counseling aids for them.
I would encourage you, do not allow your counseling to stop when the individual leaves your appointment. Call them, text them, email them, have them over for a meal. Look for ways to meet their needs. The people we counsel are not projects, they’re people that Christ died for and they need your help. Many of the women I have counseled are now good friends of mine. We must show them love, compassion, go the extra mile. The golden rule: Do to them as you’d like done to you. Show acts of kindness.
Now I’m going to review and ask you some personal questions.
E – Encourage the fainthearted. What about you? How have you encouraged those who are faint in heart? Are you callous to their needs? Are you failing to be an encourager to those that you counsel? Why not make that a priority the next time you meet with your counselee?
X – Exasperation is not allowed. Have you been impatient with those you counsel? If you’ve done it outwardly, I would encourage you to seek their forgiveness. If you’ve done in inwardly, you need to ask the Lord to forgive you. Do you find yourself irritated and frustrated often with that you counsel? If you do, the problem may likely be more with you than with them. Confess this as sin to God and ask Him to help you next time you meet with them.
H – Hold up those who are weak. Are there those you are counseling that are weak? Weak in faith, weak in their body, aybe they are a new Christian who is discouraged in the way and wants to give up. Have you prayerfully considered ways you can hold them up?
O – Observe no one render evil for evil. Have you been wronged recently by someone who you counsel? Did you turn the other cheek, or did you repay evil for evil? This could be in your heart—you might not outwardly do it, but you might be thinking, “I hope she doesn’t come back for counseling.” Remember God sees your heart. Are you praying for them? are you seeking for ways to do good to them?
R – Reprove the unruly. Are you currently counseling someone who’s living in sin and is out of line? Are you reproving them? Have you weakened your resolve to warn those who are willfully sinning? My friend, reproving the unruly is the most loving thing you can do when someone is out of line. Are you willing to follow the steps of church discipline if there’s no repentance?
T – Try to always be doing acts of kindness. Do you go about looking for ways to be a blessing and do acts of kindness to those you counsel, or does your love for them stop at the door? If I asked those you are counseling right now if they feel like a project to you, or someone you genuinely love and are trying to help, what would they tell me?
I want you to consider very seriously your responsibilities to those God has placed in your life to counsel. Remember, according to James 3, we are going to be held to a stricter judgment. You as a biblical counselor are a teacher because you are giving out truth. As biblical counselors, we meet all kinds of people with all kinds of problems, but these six admonitions are practical for every individual. Remember, every woman is different and has different needs. As one man said, “There is a medicine in the Bible for every sin-sick soul, but every soul does not need the same medicine.”