Spiritual Discernment for Those Seeking Counsel

It is important for us to be cautious regarding those we allow to speak into our lives and who we seek out for counsel, mentoring, ministry, or spiritual direction. We must truly know those we speak to about our lives and the deepest parts of our hearts when we are hurting, venting, or needing counsel.

Do these individuals pursue God’s heart? How well do we know them and they us? Do they truly know our heart in God, even when we are struggling or have a bad day? Allowing others to speak into our lives is not a matter to take lightly.

People who do not truly have God’s heart or who are still maturing in Christ can gossip, misjudge, or even slander us after we have shared from the deepest places of our hearts or a time of trial to them, especially if they are not who they present themselves to be.

Usually this is not the case with a leader, mentor, or counselor who God has called into ministry, but at times we also confide in our peers and fellow siblings in Christ. They may not yet have the wisdom to respond rightly to hurts or tough situations we are facing (and of course we all respond wrongly at times). These unfortunate occurrences can bring more harm than the situation we’re facing has already brought forth.

When we give someone authority to speak into our lives or keep us accountable, we are entrusting our hearts to them, giving them a place in our lives. This is a place that should only be reserved for those God has appointed to such an opening in our journey.

This does not mean we need to experience an extensive show from God to communicate to us that a person is to be connected to us in such a way. It means we need to have peace from God that they are the ones we look to for wisdom and accountability.

We must be able to see the fruit of His Spirit in their lives and that they are abiding in Christ and His Word. We must see from the way they treat us and speak to us that they are truly for us as Jesus is, desiring to see us grow and flourish in Him. Moreover, they must be people who truly have and pursue His heart, consecrated apart from the world’s seemingly wise ways.

In addition, advice that comes cloaked in what appears wise may not always originate from God. To spot the difference, we must be growing in our own intimate relationship with Jesus and in the knowledge of His Word by the help of His Spirit. We must take it to Him, asking Him to show us if this is what He is saying and whether it lines up with His Word, unless what was spoken was a confirmation of His Word and instruction to us already.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ.” – Colossians 2:8 (AMP 2015)

From another perspective, we must ask ourselves:

Are we confiding in people we should not, for instance, making a phone call to someone to vent or using our social media accounts to ask for prayer when we are feeling desperate for a resolution or for comfort only Holy Spirit can provide? In all things, especially in trying situations, we must first go to Jesus.

This lack of discretion can also open us up to misunderstandings and wrong perceptions from those who we might think we know well but do not, especially relating to Facebook and other online outlets. We don’t know them enough to truly trust them unless we have a deep relationship with them, most likely offline, and even then we must see God’s character shown in their lives.

Furthermore, our emotions may be taking the front seat, speaking what the enemy of our souls is saying instead of asking God what He has to say and speaking only what edifies. When emotions run high, God is teaching me that it is not only best, but crucial to speak and meditate on His words of life and truth, praying in the Holy Spirit rather than partnering with the enemy.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.” – Proverbs 18:21 (AMP 2015)

Through personal experiences and fellow leaders’ godly wisdom, I have been taught that it is best to have five or fewer individuals that you seek for counsel, and even prayer in emotional times. God will give you clarity regarding those who are trustworthy, honoring, and follow the leading of His Spirit. In trials and challenges none of us need the additional burden of someone throwing stones of condemnation.

Here are several questions to consider before designating someone as a counselor, mentor, spiritual director, or accountability partner in our lives.

• Has God truly connected you to them as one you can seek for counsel, mentoring, or accountability, or are you just talking to them because you are desperate for someone to listen or tell you what you want to hear?
• Is the person stable, and grounded in Christ and His Word? Is this obvious in their lives and by the way they are living?
• Do they profess Jesus and pursue His heart before other things, even when it is inconvenient or His will differs from their own?
• Are they themselves submitted and accountable to godly counselors, pastors, or other apostolic leaders in an authentic way?
• Is their identity in Christ and who He says we are (sons/daughters/His Bride) instead of in what they do, their calling, title or lack thereof?
• Is the person invested in God’s interests or their own? Are they motivated by God’s love or their own gain or a need to be needed?
• Do they vent about their own situations (past or present) when you are trying to seek their counsel or ask for prayer?
• When they deliver correction, is it led by God and His love, humility and patience, or is it laced with the poison of self-seeking, condemnation, control or irritation?

May these questions bring help and healing to those needing godly mentors, prayer partners, and counselors in their lives. I am immensely grateful for the pastors, leaders, and other mentors God has brought into my life, and I pray that you also have God-given counselors and accountability partners in your life. If you have no one like this in your life, ask Father God. He will come through!

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:13-18 (NASB)