“Go and sin no more.” That was the counseling method of Jesus; no long and repeated sessions. The woman caught in adultery knew what sin was and that she need to stop sinning. Ok, I will allow four questions: 1) Do you not know what to do? 2) Do you not know how to do it? 3) Do you need help doing it? 4) Do you want to do it? Long and repeated counseling sessions are not usually necessary to answer these simple questions. It is not uncommon to hear, “I have tried counseling and it didn’t work.” It is rare to hear, “I tried counseling and I didn’t work.”
Take marriage for example. Why do some husbands and wives not get along well? Because they sin against each other. In other words, they either do toward one another what God forbids or else they do not do what God requires. But do they really know what to do? Have they taken the time to find out what to do?
Sometimes I hear protest that “I tried that and it didn’t work.” But this is God’s Word—it’s true—it always works when we do it the way He says to do it. Perhaps we did it our way instead. Perhaps our understanding of what He forbids or requires is superficial and we need greater depth of understanding. We should assume that we are the problem; not God’s instructions. We need to know how to do it. Have I really gotten the log out of my own eye? Have I done to others what I would have them do to me? Have I cultivated the attitude and mind of Christ? We could go on and on, but the point is that the Bible gives us a great deal of instruction on how to do what God instruct us to do. We too often sweep over such things as though they were unimportant. How we do things is vital to success.
Sometimes we know what to do. We even know how it is suppose to be done, but we need some help doing it. We need examples. We need encouragement. We need forgiveness. We need patience. We need prayers. We need practice. We need a lot of things. God, the Holy Spirit is described as a paraclete i.e., One that comes along side to comfort and to aid. A self-conscious relying on the work of God’s sanctifying Spirit is essential. God also gives us His church with pastors and teacher who equip the saints. Moreover, the saints themselves are helpers, who help by example, prayer, encouragement and instruction.
The big challenge for counseling is whether or not the counselee wants to do what God requires. Old sinful habits die hard. Frequently, people want a counselor to fix an immediate problem—to put a band-aid on it and make it stop hurting—so they can get right back to their old bad habits. The apostle Paul writes: “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24).
We do not always work. A concentrated effort to know, understand, and diligently do what God’s Word counsels always works.