The Counselor We Always Needed

Sermon Series: He Will Be Called . . .

The Counselor We Always Needed

November 23, 2010 - November 28, 2010

Isaiah 9:2-7; Colossians 2:1-5

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Harry Heintz

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”   He will be called wonderful counselor.  Picture that wonderful counselor that is a model of listening skill and amazing insight.  Picture Bob Newhart, that paragon of calm demeanor and subtle understatement, always putting his client at ease and gently suggesting advice.  (Video clip: A woman is scared of being buried alive in a box.  Newhart: “Stop it!”)  Picture a young man (Adam Sandler) dealing with deep anger issues.  His therapist (Jack Nicholson) stops the man’s car in the middle of a congested New York City bridge and has him sing to ease his anger.  (Video clip:  “I Feel Pretty,” from “Anger Management.”)  Picture that former drill sergeant of tender heart and gracious manner, empathizing with his client who lacks self-confidence.  (Video clip:  Geico TV commercial.)

Proverbs 11:14 is often quoted when people need good counsel.  Let’s look at it in several translations.

  • “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”  KJV
  • “A city without wise leaders will end up in ruin; a city with many wise leaders will be kept safe.” CEV 
  • “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” TNIV 
  • “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.”  “The Message.”
  • “Without good counsel we’re a mess; with wonderful counsel we’re on the right path.”  HJH (mine own attempt)

That is not isolated wisdom.  Listen to Proverbs  15:22.  “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”   God wants his people to have wise counsel.

What did the ancient Israelites think when they heard these words:  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor”?  We can only speculate.  They understood the need for good counsel because many of their leaders ignored good counsel and the people paid for it.  In 1 Kings 12:6-14 King Rehoboam seeks the counsel of the elders.  They told him to be a servant to the people and the people would return the favor.  Wise counsel, but he wasn’t satisfied, so he went to his good buddies.  They told him to ride the people hard, to show them no mercy.  Listen to their unwise counsel:  “The young turks he'd grown up with said, ‘These people who complain, 'Your father was too hard on us; lighten up'—well, tell them this: 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. If you think life under my father was hard, you haven't seen the half of it. My father thrashed you with whips; I'll beat you bloody with chains!’”  (1 Kings 12:10-11 in “The Message.)   Guess how that went?  You’re right.  It was ugly.  That’s just one of too many incidents in the Old Testament of Israel’s leaders following bad counsel.

When God sends Messiah to us, he will be called wonderful counselor.  It is the nature of God to give us wise counsel.  Listen to what the Bible says about God our counselor:

  • “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” Psalm 16:7 
  • “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  Psalm 32:8 
  • “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”  Psalm 73:24
  • “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”  Psalm 119:24 
  • “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.”  Isaiah 11:2

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger I don’t know if any of the first visitors, mainly shepherds, said, “This is the wonderful counselor.”  But after they heard the angelic chorus they showed some wisdom.  “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”  (Luke 2:15-18.) 

When it comes to the riches of God revealed in Jesus the New Testament pulls out all the stops.  It trumpets his glories.  It sings his praises.  It reveals his wisdom.  In his little letter to the Church in Colosse, the Apostle Paul prays:  “that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  (Colossians 2:2b-3.)  The language that Paul uses is so rich and powerful:  “the full riches of complete understanding . . . the mystery of God, namely Christ . . . all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  I want that kind of counselor; I need that kind of counselor.

Paul continues, telling us that we need such counsel “. . . so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”  (Colossians 2:4.)  We live in such a time, as have followers of Jesus through all the ages, when fine-sounding arguments seek to unsettle us.  Today are bold efforts to suggest that God is unneeded.  God was once needed to explain what we could not otherwise explain.  Now we know more.  Scientific method has brought us to a place where God is no longer needed.  We cane explain most everything and what we can’t explain we will be able to soon enough.  Take another look at our world.  There is something more than lack of knowledge missing.  

The goal of this wonderful counsel found in Christ is disciplined lives deeply rooted in Christ.  Paul says it this way:  “I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”  (Colossians 2:5.)  One mark of a well-ordered life is personal discipline.  Discipline is not punishment but application of truth to keep us walking in that truth.  The source of that discipline is not our ability to muster the will to do it, but being firmly rooted in Christ.

If God has sent such a Messiah, if Jesus is all that the New Testament says he is, if all I have been preaching and teaching about him is true, then do we need any other counselors, any other counsel?  My answer is a clear yes.  Sometimes God whispers his wisdom directly in our ears.  Sometime God shouts his wise counsel to us.  More often, God shares his wise counsel with groups of people, just as it says in Proverbs 11:14, “. . . in the multitude of counselors there is safety;” “victory is won through many advisers.”  I have benefited from the wise counsel of this congregation’s elders many times.  I have benefited from the wise counsel of this congregation’s staff development team many times.  I have benefited from the wise counsel of this congregation’s staff many times.  I have benefited from the wise counsel of this congregation’s former pastors, Kate and Chris, many times.  I have benefited from the wise counsel of sisters and brothers beyond this congregation many times.  

And, I have benefited from the wise counsel of a trained, certified professional counselor many times.  Some Christians sometimes suggest that if we really believe in Jesus and if we really have enough faith, then we need no other counsel and support.  That is a short-sighted view of how God works in the Church and the world.  If getting counsel from another is a sign of weakness, we are wise to admit our weakness.  There have been a number of times when I, having prayed about matters of concern and having read the scriptures, have sensed that I needed a wise counselor in a professional way.  When I have sought such counsel I have been well served.  My counselor has never replaced Jesus, the wonderful counselor, but has ministered God’s grace to me in touch times.  My counselor has never replaced Jesus, the wonderful counselor, but has helped me to see Jesus at work in ways that left to myself I may have missed.  If admitting to you that I have needed such counsel and have sought it suggests that I am weak, I gladly own that truth.  In my weakness the wonderful counsel of the Lord can be better seen.

Is there an area in your life in which you need wonderful counsel?  I expect there is, if you can muster the honesty.  I regularly see my need for wonderful counsel  Here is what I say to you (and to me):

  • God is the wise and wonderful source of all good counsel;
  • God has shared that wisdom in Jesus, our Messiah, in such a way that he is rightly called the wonderful counselor;
  • In Christ God has given us the riches of full understanding, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;
  • Rooted in faith in Christ we may grow in maturity more and more.

Let’s seek that wisdom we need in the right places:  in Jesus and in the resources he has provided the Church, his body.  And we, too, will call him, “Wonderful counselor.”

To contact Harry Heintz about this sermon, please email or write to: Brunswick Presbyterian Church, 42 White Church Lane, Troy, NY 12180