When it comes to asking for advice, most people typically agree that it is a good thing. This is especially true when you think about the opposite—never asking for advice. Like the guy who thinks the highest score wins in golf, trying to make the most mistakes possible is a strategy for the loser. It makes sense to inquire about insight and wisdom from others who might have a bigger perspective, more experience, or simply represent a significant relationship in your life. However, inquiring requires some discipline in our motives. If not, seeking advice can simply become an exercise of manipulation for self-serving purposes.
Last blog, I introduced a book that I am currently reading called, “Business By The Book”, by Larry Burkett. In a chapter on the benefits of counsel, he laid out four questions that we need to ask ourselves in order to ensure the benefits of godly counsel and to avoid the pitfalls of misuse. Here they are:
Am I Looking for Someone Else to Make My Decision for Me?
Sometimes we seek counsel when it is already pretty clear to us what we should do. It is during these times that we may be tempted to find somebody who will help share the weight of a decision out of fear or apathy. This may help us feel less responsible for the results initially, but ultimately we will reap more passivity and irresponsibility in our future. “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7
Am I just shopping for rationalizations?
Sometimes we seek counsel because we already know what we want to do, but we are looking for somebody to give us the approval to do it. This is often our action when our impulse is inflamed for a certain action even though we know there are some good reasons why it is not right. We will always be able to find somebody (friend, blog, google search, etc.) to tell us what we want to hear, but let us remember that these kinds of actions do not come without serious consequences. “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Am I looking for a miracle or a handout?
There may be times when we are tempted to seek counsel because of situations that our own foolishness or mismanagement has caused, hoping that we can find someone that we can wrongly expect to fix it all for us. In fact, we may even be tempted to blame others for our difficulties if they refuse to help rescue our sinking ship. Even God does not promise to rescue us from all or our circumstances, but if we will seek him, he can bring good out of anything. “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Do I genuinely want honest counsel before making a decision?
While we may have answered “No” to the last three questions, it is absolutely essential that we answer “Yes” to this one every time. At the core, if we are not committed to responding to honest counsel, then seeking advice is a big waste of time. If we have prayerfully chosen the right people as advisors, then we must be committed to action regardless if we feel good about their considerations or not. “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” Proverbs 12:15
Whether the question is where to go to school, who to marry, what house to buy, or what move we should make in our business, these four questions will be a great help to us as we seek advice in the future. There is no doubt that this practice is appreciated in most cultures across the world, but even more convincingly, the Bible elevates this principle as a gift to mankind as a means of safety and security in our decision making. The person who seeks godly counsel reveals humility and faith—two things God promises to reward. No wonder King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, stated it best in the Bible, “Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.” (Proverbs 11:14).