Is your mind made up before getting any counsel? Christians who are young in the faith may lack the necessary biblical knowledge to make certain decisions in life. This may be due to their lack of understanding concerning some biblical doctrines. When certain situations arise, they do not know what to do. They would usually ask more spiritually mature Christians for advice, as they genuinely want to know and do God’s will.
However, there are those who ask for counsel for the wrong reasons. Some, being driven by personal lusts, seek God’s help to gratify their desires. When they ask for counsel, they ask with the hope that the counsel they receive will be in line with their intentions. In other words, they have already decided on their course of action even though the counsel they seek might be different!
This all-too-familiar scenario in the church also happened during the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Certain individuals went to Jeremiah to seek counsel concerning God’s will but only to act contrariwise.
Judah was in ruins in the year 586 BC. The “terrible and dreadful” Babylonians (Habakkuk 1:7) destroyed the city of Jerusalem and burned down the Temple and all the houses of Jerusalem. They also carried off many people and the treasures of the Temple, leaving behind the poor ones (2 Kings 25:9-13). In the chaos that ensued, a man named Johanan took some of the Jews and “dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt” (Jeremiah 41:17).
He was already on the move to go into Egypt for fear of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 41:18). However, Johanan and the people still asked Jeremiah to show them God’s will concerning them so that they might act accordingly (Jeremiah 42:1-3).
Sadly, even today, there are some who seek counsel only after having taken steps towards a particular direction. Though such an action seems to be irrational, many are found making this mistake. For example, some, having established relationships with unbelievers, approach their preachers or elders to ascertain whether such relationships are okay. Some others proceed to make investments before praying earnestly about those matters. There are others who apply for jobs without considering whether those professions are God-honouring or not. They act before asking for or finding out God’s will. If a Christian is sincere in seeking spiritual counsel, he should not act before getting an answer from God.
Another characteristic of people who have made up their minds before asking for counsel is that their decisions are based on what is most pleasing to themselves. Such people tend to give only lip service to God. Johanan and the people professed that they would do all that the Lord said, whether they liked it or not (Jeremiah 42:5,6). Yet, Johanan and the people had already presumed that which would please them the most would be the best. They claimed that they would obey God so that His favour would be upon them. But in reality, they only wanted God to approve what they had decided beforehand as the best course of action. Being overwhelmed by fear of Nebuchadnezzar, they were only concerned about their own survival and safety, rather than doing God’s will.
When a person has decided on his own what pleases him the most, he will be very hesitant to obey God’s will. Although God’s will may at times not make sense to us, we just have to trust it to be our perfect guide. We just need to do what God requires of us. Our heavenly Father always knows what is the best for us. Therefore, it is better to pursue His will than follow what we think to be the best.
Jeremiah gathered Johanan and the people after receiving an answer from God. He then made known to them that God wanted them to stay back in the land that God might build them up. God also encouraged them not to be afraid of King Nebuchadnezzar, as He had promised to be with them. A warning was also issued against Johanan and the people that if they were to flee to Egypt, they would die in Egypt and none of them would escape (Jeremiah 42:7-22).
When they realized that Jeremiah’s counsel was not in line with their plan, they turned against Jeremiah. They accused Jeremiah of lying. They also disputed that Jeremiah was sent by God to give such a message. They even charged Jeremiah for being involved in a conspiracy to deliver them into the hands of the Babylonians. Thereafter, Johanan and the rest of the people acted against “the voice of the LORD” (Jeremiah 43:1-4). Their self-pleasing attitude emboldened them to blatantly accuse God’s appointed servant.
Pastors and preachers are often attacked by self-seeking, disobedient people. Such people have no regard for God’s messengers. Neither do they reverence God’s Word. Oh, what tragic errors are found in those who made up their minds even before seeking spiritual counsel!