The Wise Counsel of Friends

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At some point in our lives we’ll face a crisis where we’re not sure what to do and we’re overwhelmed with the weight of what we’re facing. These kind of dilemmas may have various degrees of severity, but what they do is push us over the edge of the normal routine of life and into an uncomfortable situation that refines us by fire. The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom to help us navigate difficult circumstances and one thing is clear God provides friends with wise counsel to help and encourage us on our spiritual journey. Friends are precious gifts from God and we shouldn’t take friendship lightly.

Acknowledge The Need For Help

The first thing we must do in difficult situations is to realize when we need help, wisdom, and counsel from friends and act upon it. The challenge for us during tough times is we’re often flooded with anxiety and may experience sadness, depression, anger, restlessness, and frustration. Both sleep and the appetite may be lost, or we may go to the other extreme of oversleeping and overeating. This is on top of the daily pressure of work, school, family, and household duties. The reality of our specific situation may be multifaceted and complex. Our decision making may be clouded by doubts, fears, and mental phantoms where we tend to resist the help of our friends because it exposes something we’d rather not deal with. We may be hurting emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Therefore, we’re more likely to believe lies and say things out of frustration which aren’t helpful. We’re primed to make bad decisions.

This is precisely why and when we need wise friends with Godly counsel.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (Proverbs 12:25).

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

Resist Following Your Own Heart

The second thing we must learn is to resist the desire to follow our own heart and mind because the Bible tell us we’re prone to think wrongly. Where the world tells us to “follow our heart”, the Bible says:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). 

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Here we often struggle by justifying our attempts of coping alone. We ask ourselves questions and answer back and believe things which aren’t true: “So what if I make an unwise decision or hurt someone? I’m already hurting, it can’t get any worse. Is this happening to me because of my sin? What if I have to confess something that makes me look bad? I think God is after me. I wonder what the Bible says about the situation? I really don’t have time to dig into the Word. I wonder if I should seek my pastor or friends advice? What if I talk to one of my friends, I’ve heard they’ve been through something similar? No, they wouldn’t understand my situation, it’s similar, but not really the same. And I bet my pastor is too busy, and I don’t want to look foolish to my friends, but is it more foolish of me not to seek advice? I don’t know, I’ll just do this my way and see how it goes.”

Embrace Wise Counsel

Whatever trial we’re facing its purpose is to help us depend less on ourselves and more on God. Trials reveal our heart, expose sin, and help us see our need for a Savior anew. This is where wise counsel helps us through the muck of our lives, helps us stay on the right path, and helps us to learn to accept the love and support of friends whom God has placed in our lives for this very purpose. Thus, instead of following our own heart, we should embrace the help of Christian friends and thank God for them.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). 

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:5-6).

And I’ll include my favorite again:

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

So embrace the sweetness of a friend who will rejoice your heart by their counsel and be that friend to others. Friends are a Godsend for our good and His glory on our life journey.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

This reminds me of The Pilgrim’s Progress, that famous book penned by John Bunyan, where the main character, Christian, has two friends on the way through life’s journey. One was named Faithful and the other Hopeful.

Faithful was from the City of Destruction whom Christian meets as he leaves the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the two journey together until Faithful is killed in the wild town of Vanity Fair. But soon after Faithful’s execution Christian meets Hopeful and the two of them travel together all the way to the Celestial City. After each trial God provides a friend for Christian.

In the second half of the book, Christian’s wife, Christiana, later follows her husband on a similar journey and she has Mercy and Great-heart to help her on her way. If you’ve not read The Pilgrim’s Progress lately I highly recommend it.

Like Bunyan, and the writer of Proverbs, God knows we need friends that are faithful, hopeful, full of mercy, and who have great hearts for the Lord. Embrace their wise counsel because, even though they’re not perfect, they are very much a sweetness to the soul and in God’s providence they provide much encouragement to us on our long spiritual journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Humiliation of Christ – Tom’s Post # 3

Below is the third post by Tom Carpenter which I referenced in Why I started writing lyrics.” Tom would die 3 days later (First Post, Second Post).

I think you will find humor, yet be humbled by his words. May we never forget what Christ has done, and what He went through on our behalf in taking the punishment we deserve.

“For those of you who have ever been in a hospital for any extended period of time, you quickly learn that there is little opportunity for modesty.  I have not worn a diaper for a few decades, but, regrettably this has become part of my new normal routine, since my recent difficulties have overtaken me.  I have learned to get over whatever humiliation this has caused me, however, in pretty short order, present circumstances dictate, that this is my situation.  I hope this will soon change.  It’s funny, not really so funny, but I find myself asking God to just let me keep my diaper clean for a while.  Right now I am involved in the titanic struggle to ward off the bedsore.  If we try we can find some humor even in difficult times.

However, I am also reminded that our Lord and Savior, before He was ultimately crucified was afforded no dignity and was humiliated in all kinds of ways.  We all know the barbaric and inhumane acts that He was subjected to.  He was not even regarded as a human being.  He was stripped of everything.  He wasn’t even afforded the ability to cover Himself.  So whatever brief indignity I may be subject to, simply because I at the moment may not be able to take proper care of myself is of no consequence.

When Christ was pushed, pulled and dragged to that place of sacrifice He had no dignity, no earthly dignity, but He did have the dignity of His Father and the Holy Spirit and it was the supernatural dignity that covered Him and honored Him, even as He suffered and died naked on that horrific cross.

So whatever brief embarrassment or humility we may encounter in this life, is of not much consequence when we truly meditate on what Christ went through on our behalf.

May you all be richly blessed as I have been and continue to be.”

Tom Carpenter 1958-2010

Nothing takes God by surprise – Tom’s Post # 1

When launching this blog with why I started writing lyrics,” I referenced three CaringBridge posts by Tom Carpenter. Tom wrote them days before he died and below is the first one in its entirety.

I pray that his words will exalt Christ and be an encouragement to you.

“I am so thankful that nothing takes God by surprise.  God knew what was going to happen to me and set in motion all of the components that led me to deliverance from my most recent desperate circumstances.

I found myself in the dark of an early Friday morning crying out to God to help me.  If I said, ‘God help me’ once, I said it a hundred times.  Half of my body was dead weight to me.  I could not drag myself out of bed, and I was much afraid.  I could not bring myself to have the attitude of St. Paul to be ‘thankful in all situations.’  I only knew I needed help and I was alone in the dark.  But, then I realized that I wasn’t truly alone. God was right there with me and knew everything that was going on in my life right then.  My human emotions still overtook me because, regrettably my faith is often weak.

God did help me when friends, who are like family, got me to the hospital.  God helped me when doctors and nurses almost immediately began to minister to my needs, and learning as fast as they could what was wrong with me and how they could cure it.  God helped me when caring, learned physicians quickly realized that surgery was necessary and most imperative.  God helped me by allowing me to be put in the hands of the most skillful and able doctors to perform surgery at the exact moment when my life could be dramatically and irrevocably changed.  If not for the insight and precise abilities of the surgeon I would be a victim of paralysis.  I did not know how truly desperate my circumstances were, but God did.  God heard my cry and He did help me.  There are still struggles ahead for me, and I do not know how I will bear up under them.  I only know that God will be there with me in pain and in pleasure.

God will be with me in spirit and in faithful friends to encourage me, pray for me, and help me along the way, wherever it may lead.  That way, that path, that road, if it leads to eternity with God, no matter how hard or difficult the journey may become, will be worth it if we keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith.  I do not present myself as a source of great biblical wisdom, or a practitioner of prodigious faith.  I am, at the heart of it, a wretched sinner saved by grace who is only worthy of God’s great mercy through the willing sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ.  Why God has such great love for us, only He knows.  It is beyond human comprehension.  God is with us in our joy and in our pain, when we rejoice and when we suffer.  It is hard when life goes against us and we cannot see God’s greater purpose in allowing some hardship to come upon us.  But God has not forsaken us, and his greater purpose will always be revealed to His eternal glory.

May I, or none of us who claim the name of Christ, (not) lose sight of or forget that all things work together for the good of those who are in Christ Jesus.  May God be forever praised, amen.”

Have you cried out to God in desperation? If so, how did He strengthen you?

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