Whose Advice Do You Take?


by Rev. Richard Fisher

          There’s a story out there about an angel that showed up at a seminary faculty meeting. In order to honor the dean, who had been a man of unselfish and exemplary behavior, the angel said “God had decided to reward you with your choice of limitless wealth, infinite wisdom or unmatched beauty”. Since the entire staff was on hand, the dean asked for advice. They quickly agreed that infinite wisdom was the best choice. And so, the dean chose to become the wisest man on earth.

          “Done!” said the angel, disappearing immediately in a cloud of smoke. Every head in the room turned to the dean. He sat perfectly still, surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something.” They were all anxious to hear what the wisest man in the world would say first.

          What wisdom had he been given? Very slowly, carefully, and certainly, he said, “I should have taken the money”.

          I have had some good advice and some bad advice shared with me. But to be fair, I have given some good as well as some bad advice. So how does one know which counsel that you should take. I will share two tests for good advice.

          First, is it biblical? Psalms 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Bible gives us commandments and general principles that apply to various areas of life. It would be dangerous to drive in a moonless night without headlights. We need the headlights to show the road. Similarly, God's Word gives us light as we travel life's road.

          As I listen to people on television, radio, and in conversations, I am amazed at the different opinions expressed on the same topic.  People’s advice is usually based upon their personal observations and information. My counsel as a teenager, compared to being an adult, has greatly changed. We do not always come to the right conclusions. While we may not always understand God's directions in His Word, they are always best for us.

          The second test of advice. Is it necessary?  It may indeed be wise counsel to use very few words when someone around you is hurting. The writer Harriet Sarnoff Schiff has distilled her pain and tragedy in a book called The Bereaved Parent. When her young son died during an operation to correct a congenital heart malfunction, her clergyman took her aside and said, “I know that this is a painful time for you. But I know that you will get through it all right, because God never sends us more of a burden than we can bear. God only let this happen to you because He knows that you are strong enough to handle it.” She looked at the pastor and drew the logical conclusion. “So,” she said, “if only I were a weaker person, Robbie would still be alive?”

          Every pastor and mature Christian learns, sooner or later, that there are times when the best thing we can do for one another is simply to cry together.   
Your presence and a hug can also be a real blessing.  Many do not visit with a hurting individual because they do not know what to say. Just being there, expressing your love and support is so important. Just let the person talk if they want to.

          Many times we do know the right questions to ask. It is not enough that it is your conviction. The person you are talking must come to their own conclusion. Asking questions and providing information is a great way to help them to come to their conviction about a certain issue.

          Therefore, two of the guidelines for giving or receiving advice:

Is it biblical?

Is it necessary?