I learned an important lesson not long ago while leading two sessions of a support group. I need to think more, study God’s Word more, and advise people less. In reality, if people are following my advice they are probably getting things as wrong as I do. As a pastoral counselor, I need to be read-up, prayed-up and listening-up. That way, I can help connect people to God’s advice and counsel. He and He alone is the Wonderful Counselor.
In the first support group session, a young man shared about an encounter that he shared with God. He had been in a recovery program,
and then relapsed in his addiction 6-months later. After coming to a moment of conviction, having been in a recovery program, the young man reached for his little green “gift” New Testament and opened up at random in an effort to hear God. He demonstrated the moment for the group as he read the passage:
2 Corinthians 8:10-11 (NLT)
“Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have.”
I secretly call myself “Pastor Know-it-all”, because I have a hard time getting out of the way of my books, my education, and my experience. Consequently, after the young man finished sharing, I opened up my know-it-all mouth and mentioned that the “open at random” method of Bible study was usually not the best way to study the Bible. Expository study, going verse-by-verse and book by book is highly recommended by most trained pastors, so I shared that that was a better way to go about hearing from God. The meeting later finished, the young man left, and I thought nothing more about it.
In the second support group session, I was encouraged to see that the young man came back. He seemed to be inspired to dedicate himself to recovery, and make big life-changes to succeed where he had earlier failed. He shared that he had been working in the bar section of the company where he worked and at his request they reassigned him to a place outside the bar. The young man said that he really missed the extra money that the bar paid, but that his recovery was much more valuable than a few extra bucks. It was obvious God had brought him to a very important moment. He had let go, and let God speak directly to his heart from the Bible.
As he revisited his open-at-random Bible encounter, he reiterated that it was the verses in 2 Corinthians 8 that really pierced his heart and convicted him. He was feeling much stronger in his recovery, and really felt like God had spoken to him, even though he knew that was really not the way to study the Bible. Then it dawned on Pastor Know-it-all… my books, my education, and my experience had given this young man bad advice at a critical time. God’s will was to speak to him through those two verses of Scripture. Being the Almighty, God didn’t let my pridefulness get in
His way, and the young man got the exact message God was sending at just the right time, regardless of my bad advice.
God is sovereign. Of course he could speak to this young man through an open-at-random Bible encounter! God can do whatever, whenever, where ever and with whomever that he wants. God is making big changes in that young man’s life. If I can get Pastor know-it-all out of the way, I might be able to be useful, instead of a distraction.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, was famous for his piety. He was called “Old Camel Knees” because his years of constant prayer discipline left visible evidence on his knees. He is one of the most quoted Bible writers on the topic of how Christians need to “watch our tongues”, and is often cited for verse 1:19 of his book… “slow to speak”. What a great biblical author from which to learn how to get on my knees and out of God’s way.
James 1:26-27 (NLT)
“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
I could explain these two verses from the book of James, but I would just get in the way. Instead I will just re-read them.
Have you ever found yourself being more of a hindrance to God than a help? How have you gotten past it? If God leads you to share, please do.