Listen to Counsel, Accept Discipline
1. (a) Why do all of us need counsel and discipline? (b) What question do we need to consider?
“WE ALL stumble many times,” says the Bible at James 3:2. We can think of many instances where we have fallen short of being the sort of person God’s Word urges us to be. So we acknowledge that the Bible is right when it says: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.” (Proverbs 19:20) No doubt we have already made adjustments in our lives to align them with the Bible’s teachings. But how do we react if a fellow Christian counsels us on a specific matter?
2. What should we do when we receive personal counsel?
2 Some react by trying to justify themselves, minimize the seriousness of the situation, or shift the blame to others. But it is better to listen to counsel and apply it. (Hebrews 12:11) Of course, no one should expect perfection of others, nor should he constantly give counsel about trivial things or on matters that the Bible leaves to personal choice. Too, perhaps the one giving counsel has not considered all the facts, and these may respectfully be called to his attention. But in the following discussion, let us assume that the counsel or discipline given is appropriate, Bible-based. How should one respond?
Examples for Our Admonition
3, 4. (a) What does the Bible contain that can help us to develop the right view toward counsel and discipline? (b) How did King Saul react to counsel, and with what result?
3 God’s Word contains real-life experiences of individuals who received needed counsel. At times, the counsel was accompanied by discipline. One such individual was King Saul of Israel. He failed to obey Jehovah regarding the nation of Amalek. The Amalekites had opposed God’s servants, and Jehovah’s divine judgment was that neither the Amalekites nor their livestock should be spared. But King Saul did spare their king and the best of their animals.—1 Samuel 15:1-11.
4 Jehovah sent the prophet Samuel to reprove Saul. What was Saul’s reaction? He argued that he did conquer the Amalekites but simply decided to spare their king. That, however, was contrary to Jehovah’s command. (1 Samuel 15:20) Saul tried to shift the blame to the people for sparing the livestock, saying: “I feared the people and so obeyed their voice.” (1 Samuel 15:24) He seemed more concerned with his pride, even asking Samuel to honor him in front of the people. (1 Samuel 15:30) Eventually, Jehovah rejected Saul as king.—1 Samuel 16:1.
5. What happened to King Uzziah when he rejected counsel?
5 King Uzziah of Judah “acted unfaithfully against Jehovah his God and came into the temple of Jehovah to burn incense.” (2 Chronicles 26:16) But only priests could lawfully offer incense. When the chief priest tried to stop Uzziah, the king reacted with anger. What happened? The Bible says: “Leprosy itself flashed up in his forehead . . . because Jehovah had smitten him. And Uzziah the king continued to be a leper until the day of his death.”—2 Chronicles 26:19-21.
6. (a) Why did both Saul and Uzziah resist counsel? (b) Why is resisting counsel a serious problem today?
6 Why did both Saul and Uzziah find it difficult to accept counsel? The basic problem was pride, each thinking too highly of himself. Many bring grief on themselves because of this trait. They seem to feel that acknowledging counsel implies some deficiency in them or hurts their reputation. But pride is a weakness. Pride beclouds a person’s thinking so that he tends to resist the help provided by Jehovah through his Word and organization. Thus, Jehovah warns: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”—Proverbs 16:18; Romans 12:3.
7. What positive lessons can be learned from the way Moses reacted to counsel?
7 The Scriptures also contain fine examples of those who accepted counsel, and we can learn from these. Consider Moses, whose father-in-law gave him counsel on how to handle his heavy work load. Moses listened to him and immediately applied it. (Exodus 18:13-24) Although Moses had great authority, why was he receptive to counsel? Because he was humble. “Moses was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3) How important is meekness? Zephaniah 2:3 shows that it means our life.
8. (a) What sins did David commit? (b) What was David’s reaction to Nathan’s reproof? (c) What were the consequences of David’s sins?
8 King David committed adultery with Bath-sheba and tried to cover it up by having her husband, Uriah, killed. Jehovah sent the prophet Nathan to reprove David. He was repentant and quickly admitted: “I have sinned against Jehovah.” (2 Samuel 12:13) While God accepted David’s repentance, he would suffer the consequences of his wrongdoing. Jehovah told him that a sword would “not depart from [his] own house,” that his wives would be given “to [his] fellowman,” and that the son born from his adultery would “positively die.”—2 Samuel 12:10, 11, 14.
9. What should we not forget if we are counseled or disciplined?
9 King David knew the benefit of listening to sound counsel. On occasion, he thanked God for the one through whom it came. (1 Samuel 25:32-35) Are we like that? If so, we will be safeguarded against saying and doing many things that could cause regret. But what if we come into circumstances that lead to our being counseled or even disciplined? May we not forget that this is evidence of Jehovah’s love, with our eternal welfare in view.—Proverbs 3:11, 12; 4:13.
Priceless Qualities to Cultivate
10. What quality did Jesus show was necessary for those who would get into the Kingdom?
10 To have a good relationship with Jehovah and with our Christian brothers, we need to cultivate certain qualities. Jesus noted one of these when he set a child among 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.” (Matthew 18:3, 4) Jesus’ disciples needed to cultivate humility, since they had argued among themselves as to who was the greatest.—Luke 22:24-27.
11. (a) Before whom do we need to be humble, and why? (b) If we are humble, how will we respond to counsel?
11 The apostle Peter wrote: “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 Peter 5:5) We know that we need to be humble before God, but this scripture shows that we also need to be humble with fellow believers. If we are, we will not resent proper suggestions others offer us but will learn from them.—Proverbs 12:15.
12. (a) What important quality is closely related to humility? (b) Why should we be concerned about the effect that our conduct has on others?
12 Closely related to humility is concern for the welfare of others. The apostle 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 Corinthians 10:24-33) Paul did not say that we had to set aside all personal preferences, but he urged us not to do anything that might embolden someone else to do what his conscience told him was wrong.
13. What example might indicate whether we make a practice of applying Scriptural counsel?
13 Do you put the welfare of other people ahead of your own personal preference? All of us should learn to do that. There are many ways this can be done. Consider dress and grooming as an example. These are matters that involve personal taste within the Scriptural guidelines of being 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? Surely, helping another person gain eternal life is more important than pleasing self.
14. Why is it important to cultivate humility and concern for others?
14 In being humble and showing concern for others, Jesus set the example, even washing the feet of his disciples. (John 13:12-15) Of him, God’s Word says: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death.”—Philippians 2:5-8; Romans 15:2, 3.
Do Not Reject Jehovah’s Discipline
15. (a) What changes do we need to make to have a personality that is pleasing to God? (b) By what means has Jehovah provided counsel and discipline for all of us?
15 Because we are all sinners, changes in our attitude and conduct are required if we are to reflect the personality of our God. We need to put on “the new personality.” (Colossians 3:5-14) Counsel and discipline help us to identify areas where adjustments are needed and then to see how to make these. The basic source of the instruction we need is the Bible itself. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Bible literature and meetings provided by Jehovah’s organization help us to apply God’s Word. Even if we have heard the counsel before, will we recognize our need for it and try to improve?
16. What help does Jehovah provide for us as individuals?
16 With loving concern, Jehovah helps us with our problems. Millions have been helped by means of home Bible studies. Parents counsel and discipline their children to safeguard them against conduct that could cause heartache. (Proverbs 6:20-23) Within the congregation, often some ask experienced ministers for counsel and suggestions so as to improve their own efforts in field activity. Elders may, at times, ask for counsel from one another or from others experienced in the ministry. Those with spiritual qualifications use the Bible to give assistance to those who need it, doing so in a spirit of mildness. If you give counsel, remember to “keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1, 2) Yes, we all need counsel and discipline to worship the only true God unitedly.
• How does Jehovah lovingly help us to see where we personally need to make adjustments?
• Why do many have difficulty in accepting needed counsel, and how serious is this?
• What priceless qualities will help us to be receptive to counsel, and how did Jesus set the example in these?
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Uzziah rejected counsel and was stricken with leprosy
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Moses benefited by accepting counsel from Jethro