40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 30 – Counsel

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

We continue our focus on the Discipline of Counsel.  The discipline of Counsel is a valuable resource for all believers.  However, we have all heard sad stories about the abuse of this discipline within local churches.  This should not dissuade the practice of Counsel, but caution should be exercised.      

Bible Passage:

Today’s passage is 1 John 4:1 (presented above).  Where the term ‘spirit’ is used, it can be read as ‘spiritual claims.’    

Question:

What practical steps do you believe local churches can take to encourage the use of Counsel while discouraging the abuse of the discipline?


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 29 – Counsel

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16 – 17, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

Today we turn our attention to the Discipline of Counsel, and we will begin by considering questions about the role of Counsel in your local church. 

Before considering the questions, it is worth remembering that Counsel works best in an atmosphere of trust. 

Primary Questions:

  1. Does your local church encourage the sharing of wisdom, knowledge, and expertise within the church?
  2. Do the church leaders work actively to develop an atmosphere of trust (e.g., confidential information is kept confidential, and gossip is discouraged)?
  3. Are people in positions of influence adequately screened?
  4. Is hero worship discouraged and expertise honored in your local church?

Optional Secondary Questions (if you have the time):

  1. Does your local church have a mentorship program?
  2. Does your church have adequate forums for intergenerational dialogue?

Your Feedback:

While you are not expected to share your answers to the questions above, we would still love to hear from you.  Based on your answers to the questions, what are your general observations about how local churches relate to Counsel?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 30 – Counsel

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  (Ephesians 4:14 – 15)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Yesterday we discussed the need to create an environment that is conducive to getting advice.  Today, as we conclude our discussion of the Discipline of Counsel, we will focus on creating the right environment to give advice. 

Just as was the case for receiving advice, I learned a powerful lesson about giving advice on a course.  The teacher claimed that if you could convince someone of one important thing, you could deliver positive or negative feedback to that person and they would be likely to accept it.  Having made this claim, the teacher then shared an incident that he was involved in where his advice to a friend was that the friend needed to go to prison for a crime the teacher had seen him commit. The teacher said that because he could convince his friend of this one important thing, the friend took his advice without animosity.  So, what is this one important thing?  Convincing the person you are giving advice to that you genuinely care about them.  This might sound obvious but the truth is it is very hard to convince others that you genuinely care about them. We are often suspicious of motives, for good reason.  We expect that people are looking out for themselves.  If you can create an environment of genuine care and compassion you have created a healthy environment for giving advice.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this lesson because it is Biblical.  Our passage for today includes these powerful words, “speaking the truth in love”.  If we can master this, we have the platform for providing counsel, even if it is not pleasant advice.

Please read the short passage above and the context below and then respond to the question.

Context and Question:

  • Context: There are valid reasons whey we shouldn’t rush to be counsellors. However, the Discipline of Counsel only works for the body of Christ if believers are prepared to give advice. We can’t encourage believers to seek advice if there is no one to provide advice.
  • Question: How would you assess your contribution to advancing God’s kingdom by being a “speak the truth in love” counsellor to others?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 29 – Counsel

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.  (Proverbs 19:20)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Over the next two days we will turn our attention to the Discipline of Counsel.  Throughout the Bible, there are numerous instances where seeking and giving good advice are encouraged.  To enhance our effectiveness in advancing God’s kingdom we should practice giving and receiving good counsel.  Many of us fall short in this area though because we don’t create the right environment for receiving and giving counsel.  Today, we will consider the right environment for receiving counsel and tomorrow we will consider the right environment for giving good counsel.

Many years ago, I was sent on a course by the company I work for.  One of the exercises on the course was about receiving advice.  Each participant gave a presentation and then received feedback on their performance from the other participants.  However, there was a unique twist to the exercise.  Whatever the feedback or advice was (and sometimes it was harsh), the person receiving advice could only say two words.  Thank you!  In real life, this response will not always be practical because you may need to clarify the advice for example, but the purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how much more willing others are to give candid advice if the environment is a receptive environment.  I have used this lesson to very good effect in business over many years.  When I apply the lesson, I am openly thankful for even negative feedback. Ultimately, I will benefit from an environment where others know I really want their advice, even if it is something I don’t relish hearing.  To be clear, it doesn’t mean I always have to use the advice I receive, but I must graciously receive it.

The value of this lesson shouldn’t come as a surprise when we consider that the Bible clearly points us in this direction.  In our passage for today, notice the first word, “Listen”.  It is really important and it comes from an attitude of humility.  And, you didn’t even have to pay for an expensive course to hear this lesson 😊.

Please read the short passage above and respond to the question below.

Question:

Do you believe you typically create environments (e.g., at home, church, work or school) that invite advice and feedback?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 30 – Counsel

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

 

As we wrap up our consideration of the Discipline of Counsel this year and think about a world in need, I am confronted by a reality that I often try to avoid – my vulnerability.  In ministering to a world in need I know I am vulnerable without God, and a defence he has provided me with is the counsel of fellow believers.  Yet, I am much more prepared to accept my vulnerability in other aspects of my life.  Take Covid-19, for example.  Recently, I was surprised by my physical reaction to someone coughing close to me 😊, which betrayed my sense of vulnerability.

A posture of vulnerability will help us to accept that we all need help in ministering to the world.  At all times we should look to God for help and sometimes the help will come in the form of Christ-centered counsel.

Please prayerfully read the passages above and consider the question below.

 

Question

In the body of Christ, how can we further promote the mindset of giving and receiving advice in the matter of ministering to a world in need?

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 29 – Counsel

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

Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 24:6)

 

This week we will complete our reviews of the three remaining Disciplines covered by our study: Counsel, Creation and Sabbath. We will examine how they relate to our theme: A World in Need.  We start today with the Discipline of Counsel.

A few days ago, one of our commentators made a very potent statement about the pervasiveness of individualism in society.  We have been socialized to glorify self-reliance.  To provide Christian help to a world in need though, we need more community behaviour and less lone wolf behaviour.  A key aspect of living in community is seeking and giving counsel.  For example, I have benefited tremendously from counsel many of you have posted on our blog over the last few weeks.  That should be no surprise though, because God wants us to benefit from community (e.g., we form one body – Romans 12:4 – 5).

Please prayerfully read the passages above and consider the question below.

 

Question

How do we guard against individualism robbing us and ultimately the world of the rich benefits of seeking Christ-centered counsel?

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 30 – Counsel

9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9 – 11)

 

Yesterday we considered how humility can help to ensure that we use the Discipline of Counsel for God’s glory.  Today we consider the role that discernment must play.

Discernment

History records that in some ancient civilizations, people would travel for hundreds of miles and spend a lot of their resources to gain access to oracles who could provide them with “wise” counsel.  With advances in technology we now have a vastly different scenario.  So called oracles are everywhere – on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms.  Many of them want to be “mega influencers” mostly for commercial gain and certainly not to glorify God. Plus, they are often right at our finger tips.  Discernment in who you take advice from was never more necessary.  If you read the page on Counsel in “The Disciplines Explained” document that can be accessed on our website https://40daysofdiscipline.com/disciplines/, you will find some useful advice on selecting counsellors.  I encourage you to read the page when you have some time, but from our passage today I want to draw our attention to the essential weapon of prayer.  A couple of you mentioned using prayer yesterday in the great set of commentaries posted, and Paul mentions discerning “what is best” in the prayer above.

Please prayerfully reflect on the passage and answer the question below.

 

Question:

How much do you pray when selecting advisors, and in addition to prayer, how do you practice discernment?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 29 – Counsel

13The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood round him from morning till evening. 14When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand round you from morning till evening?’  15Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.  16Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.’  17Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good.  18You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.  19Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.  You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.  20Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.  21But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  22Let them serve as judges for the people at all times, but let them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.  23If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.’  24Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.  25He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  26They served as judges for the people at all times.  The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.  27Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.  (Exodus 18:13 – 27)

 

We have now considered eight Disciplines: Bible Study, Spiritual Warfare, Prayer, Fasting, Worship, Fellowship, Service and Stewardship.  As we enter the last week before Passion Week and continue to consider the theme God’s Glory, we have three more Disciplines to cover: Counsel, Creation and Sabbath. We will start with Counsel.

Based on our discussions of the Discipline of Counsel over the last few years, it is clear that many of us approach seeking advice with a fair amount of hesitation.  It is not always clear to us that soliciting advice will result in God’s glory.  The hesitation is understandable but it is important that we do not avoid this Discipline altogether.  To encourage us to use this Discipline more, over the next two days we will consider two necessary underpinnings of God glorifying Counsel: 1) Humility and 2) Discernment.

Humility

The story captured in our passage today, describes an interaction between Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro.  As you read this, recall that Moses had already developed a special relationship with God that allowed him extraordinary access and direct exposure to God’s miraculous works in rescuing the Children of Israel from Egypt.  In contrast, Jethro had only recently acknowledged God’s greatness.  Yet, God in His wisdom honored Jethro’s counsel to Moses.  Fortunately, Moses was humble enough to take the advice Jethro offered.

Please prayerfully reflect on the Bible passage above and answer the question below.

 

Question:

What are your ideas for fostering the kind of humility that facilitates receiving wise advice?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 30 – Counsel

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.  My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers. (Psalm 141:5)

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. (Proverbs 15:31)

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Proverbs 19:10)

 

In general, seeking counsel is difficult for most people.  When that counsel includes rebuke or discipline, accepting it can be extremely difficult.  The way David welcomes rebuke in Psalm 141:5 is not typical.  Most of us will admit that as we grow older we develop an increasing aversion to accepting correction.

Please prayerfully reflect on the Bible passages above.

 

Something to think about:

Do you have people in your life that you are prepared to accept correction and discipline from?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 29 – Counsel

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.. (Proverbs 13:10)

 

We have entered the last week before Passion Week and we have three more Disciplines to cover: Counsel, Creation and Sabbath.  We will cover these three Disciplines this week, and continue to reflect on our theme for this year, Our Identity.  We will start with Counsel.

God clearly puts people in our lives to advise us, and discussions with other believers can certainly help with questions related to our identity.  This is certainly one of the major benefits of fellowship.  For many of us though, seeking counsel is a sign of weakness.

Please prayerfully reflect on the Bible passages above.

 

Something to think about:

Why should seeking counsel be an essential component of seeking a Christ-centered identity?