Listen to Counsel, Accept Discipline
1. (a) Are there any of us who do not need counsel and discipline? (b) But what questions do we do well to consider?
MOST of us readily agree with the scripture that says: “We all stumble many times.” (Jas. 3:2) It is not difficult to think of instances in which we have fallen short of being the sort of person that God’s Word urges us to be and that we want to be. So we acknowledge that the Bible is right when it tells us: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.” (Prov. 19:20) We know that we need such help. No doubt we have made adjustments in our lives to align them with what we have learned from the Bible. But how do we react if a fellow Christian counsels us personally on a specific matter in which we acted unwisely? Or what if he simply offers a suggestion as to how we might improve in some activity?
2. (a) Why should we show appreciation for personal counsel? (b) How should we not react?
2 Despite our immediate inward reactions due to imperfect human nature, we should sincerely express appreciation for counsel and work at applying it. The outcome of our doing so can be beneficial. (Heb. 12:11) Perhaps, however, when counseled, we have tried to justify ourselves, minimize the seriousness of the situation or shift the blame to someone else. Have you ever reacted in that way? As we think back on the occasion, do we feel resentment toward the one who gave the counsel? Are we inclined to pick on the shortcomings of the one who counseled us or the manner in which he counseled, as if this somehow excused our own weakness? Can the Bible help a person to overcome such inclinations?
Examples Recorded for Our Admonition
3. (a) What does the Bible contain that can help us to develop the right view toward counsel and discipline? (b) Use the questions provided above to analyze the reactions of Saul and Uzziah to counsel.
3 In addition to providing an abundance of direct admonition on this subject, God’s Word contains real-life experiences about individuals who were counseled. Often the counsel was also discipline, in that the one receiving it needed to change his attitude or his conduct. As you use the questions below to examine some of these examples, you will find that there is much from which we all can benefit:
SAUL, SON OF KISH: He had failed to obey Jehovah fully in that, when warring against Amalek, he had spared the king and the best of their animals. (1 Sam. 15:1-11)
In Saul’s response to reproving counsel given by Samuel, what shows that he was trying to minimize the wrong? (1Sa 15 vs. 20) To whom did he try to shift the blame? (1Sa 15 vs. 21) When he finally admitted the wrong, what excuse did he offer? (1Sa 15 vs. 24) What did he seem to be most concerned about even at this point? (1Sa 15 vss. 25, 30)
UZZIAH: He went into Jehovah’s temple to burn incense, even though only the priests were authorized to do this. (2 Chron. 26:16-20)
4. (a) Why did both Saul and Uzziah find it hard to accept counsel? (b) Why is that also a serious problem today?
4 In each of these cases, why did the individual find it so difficult to face up to his need for counsel? The basic problem was pride, thinking too highly of self. Many persons today bring much grief on themselves because of this trait. Having attained to what they consider to be some status, whether because of age or position, they are not receptive to personal counsel. They seem to feel that it implies some deficiency in them or mars their reputation. But what really indicates weakness is pride. This is not something to excuse in oneself simply because the fault is common. It is a snare that Satan uses to becloud a person’s thinking so that he resists the loving help provided by Jehovah through his Word and his visible organization. Jehovah warns: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”—Prov. 16:18; see also Romans 12:3; Proverbs 16:5.
5. Use the questions that are part of this paragraph to ascertain what lessons can be learned from the accounts regarding Moses and David.
5 On the other hand, the Scriptures contain fine examples of those who accepted counsel. Valuable lessons can be learned also from these. Consider:
MOSES: His father-in-law gave him some practical advice on how to handle his heavy work load without ruining his health. Moses listened and immediately applied it. (Ex. 18:13-24)
DAVID: He was guilty of committing adultery, then scheming to have the woman’s husband killed so that David could marry her and thus cover over the adultery. Months went by before Jehovah sent Nathan to reprove David. (2 Sam. 11:2–12:12)
Did David get angry at the reproof, minimize the wrong or try to shift the blame? (2 Sam. 12:13; Ps. 51:superscription and Ps. 51 vss. 1-3) Did the fact that God accepted David’s repentance mean that David and his household were freed of bad effects from his wrong conduct? (2 Sam. 12:10, 11, 14; Ex. 34:6, 7)
6. (a) How did David feel about those who gave him sound counsel? (b) How can we be benefited if we readily accept such counsel? (c) What should we not forget if we are severely disciplined?
6 King David well knew the benefit of listening to sound counsel, and on occasion he thanked God for the one through whom it came. (1 Sam. 25:32-35; see also Proverbs 9:8.) Are we like that? If so, we will be safeguarded against saying and doing many things that could cause regret. But if we come into circumstances that lead to our being severely disciplined, as David was in connection with his sin with Bath-sheba, may we not lose sight of the fact that the discipline is an evidence of Jehovah’s love, with our eternal welfare in view.—Prov. 3:11, 12; 4:13.
Priceless Qualities to Cultivate
7. What quality did Jesus show that persons must have in order to get into the Kingdom?
7 To have a good relationship with Jehovah and with our Christian brothers, we need to develop certain personal qualities. Jesus highlighted one of these when he set a young child in the midst of his disciples and said: “Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 18:3, 4) Those disciples needed to make changes. They had to get rid of their pride and to cultivate humility.
8. (a) Before whom do we need to be humble, and why? (b) If we are, how will we respond to counsel?
8 The apostle Peter later wrote to fellow Christians: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Pet. 5:5) We know that we need to be humble before God, but this scripture is saying that we need to be humble, or lowly in mind, also in our relations with fellow believers. If we are, we will not foolishly resent suggestions they may offer us. We will be willing to learn from one another. (Prov. 12:15) And if our brothers find it necessary to give us corrective counsel, then, recognizing that Jehovah lovingly uses this means to mold us, we will not refuse it.—Ps. 141:5.
9. (a) What important quality is closely related to humility? (b) Why should we be concerned about the effect of our conduct on others?
9 Another quality, closely related to humility, is genuine concern for the welfare of others. We cannot get away from the fact that what we do affects other people. The apostle Paul counseled early Christians in Corinth and Rome to show concern for the conscience of others. He was not saying that they had to set aside all personal preferences, but he did urge them not to do anything that might embolden another person to do what his conscience told him was wrong, thus leading to his spiritual ruin. Clearly expressing the overall principle, Paul wrote: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person. . . . Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God.”—1 Cor. 10:24-33; 8:4-13; Rom. 14:13-23.
10. What might indicate whether we make a practice of applying that Scriptural counsel?
10 Are you a person who makes it a practice to put the welfare of other people ahead of personal preference? There are many ways in which this can be done, but consider an example: Generally speaking, dress and grooming are simply matters of personal taste, as long as we are modest, neat and clean. But if you were to learn that, because of the background of people in your community, your manner of dress or grooming hindered others from listening to the Kingdom message, would you make adjustments? Is the life of another person more important to you than pleasing self?
11. What shows that it is important to cultivate these qualities if we really want to be Christians?
11 When the qualities discussed above become part of our personality, this gives evidence that we are beginning to have the mind of Christ. In being humble, Jesus set the perfect example. (John 13:12-15; Phil. 2:5-8) In showing concern for others, instead of simply pleasing himself, he set the pattern for us to follow.—Rom. 15:2, 3.
Do Not Reject Jehovah’s Discipline
12. (a) What changes do we all need to make in order to have a personality that is pleasing to God? (b) What will help us?
12 Because we are all sinners, changes in our attitude, our speech and our conduct are required in order for us to reflect the personality of our God. We need to put on the “new personality.” (Col. 3:5-14; Titus 2:11-14) Counsel and discipline help us to identify areas where adjustments are needed and then to see how to make these.
13. (a) By what means has Jehovah provided counsel and discipline for all of us? (b) What should we do with it?
13 The basic source of that instruction is the Bible itself. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Then through Bible literature and meetings provided by Jehovah’s visible organization he helps us to see how to apply it. Will we humbly recognize our personal need for it—even if we have heard it before—and constantly seek to make improvement?
14. What further help does Jehovah provide for us as individuals?
14 Jehovah does not leave us to struggle alone with matters that may be a special problem for us. With loving concern, he makes provision for personal help. Millions of persons have benefited from such help by means of home Bible studies. Parents have a special responsibility to discipline their children in order to safeguard them against conduct that could cause much heartache later in life. (Prov. 6:20-35; 15:5) Within the congregation, too, those who have spiritual qualifications bear responsibility to use the Scriptures to readjust others when they discern a need, but doing so in a spirit of mildness. (Gal. 6:1, 2) In these ways Jehovah counsels and disciplines us so that we might worship him as a united people.
● How does Jehovah lovingly help us to see where we personally need to make adjustments?
● Why do many persons have difficulty in accepting counsel? How serious is this?
● What priceless qualities will help us to be receptive to counsel? How did Jesus set the example in these?