What comes to your mind when you hear the word faithfulness? How do you picture it? This is one of those words that seems to involve so many things that it’s difficult to grasp. But in reality, it’s quite simple to understand. Consider the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. I would like …View full post
A few days ago I was counseling the parents of a teenager who related to me an account of a recent conflict in their home. The conflict ended abruptly when the girl sarcastically said to her father, “Whatever!” and then made a beeline for the door. Her parents were looking to me for advice on …View full post
What comes to your mind when you hear the word faithfulness? How do you picture it? This is one of those words that seems to involve so many things that it’s difficult to grasp. But in reality, it’s quite simple to understand.
Consider the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. I would like to expose three aspects of faithfulness—three elements that can be seen in this parable. Let’s look at verse 14 first.
For it [that is, the kingdom of heaven] is just like a man about to go on a journey and he called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
The Greek word (paradidomi) means to entrust or commit—to give someone a responsibility. The first thing you (and your counselees) have to understand about faithfulness is that it involves responsibility. God has entrusted you with a variety of specific responsibilities. The responsibilities may be in the form of gifts or abilities or talents, tasks, vocational duties, or ministries. So we all have responsibilities that have been assigned to us by God or indirectly by His agents.
Someone has defined responsibility this way – “knowing and doing what God and others are expecting of me.” Do you know what God and others are expecting of you? With what stewardships have you been entrusted? What responsibilities do you have right now? Ask your counselee whether he sees any of these as his divinely appointed responsibilities.
- To grow in Christ
- To be the loving leader of your home
- To be a helper to your husband
- To honor and obey your parents
- To be a faithful employee or employer at work
- To serve others in ministry
- To balance your checkbook
- To actively participate in your local church
- To study and do your homework
- To obey and honor your parents
Let’s look next at verse 15.
To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one. Each according to his own ability and he went on his journey.
It is really not ability that counts (because God has given each of us gifts and talents as the text says, according to our abilities; c.f. Romans 12:3-8, James 1:17). Rather, it is what we do with these abilities that God has given us that matters in God’s economy.
Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them and gained five more talents. In the same manner, the one who had received the two talents gained two more, but he who had received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
The words in italics disclose the second building block of faithfulness. It is the principle of accountability. The King James Version renders the phrase “settle accounts with them” (Greek: sunario + logos) as “reconneth with them.” You and I will be held accountable for faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities with which God has entrusted us. This same phrase is translated in Matthew 18:23 (in the parable of the unforgiving servant) as settling accounts—“For this reason, the kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slave.”
Now, one of the most important things, or significant things, about principle number 2 is that without it there would be or could be no principle number 3. And principle number 3 is arguably the best of the three principles. It is the principle of rewards.
You and I will be rewarded according to our faithfulness or according to our unfaithfulness.
And the one who had received five talents came up and brought five more talents saying, “Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.” His master said to him, (here comes the reward) “Well done, you good and faithful slave.” He gets commended. “You were faithful over a few things. I will put you in charge of (note that phrase) many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” The one who had received the two talents came up and said, “Master, you entrusted to me two talents. See, I have gained two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” Good has to do with what I am, including my motives. Faithful has to do with what I do, assuming that my motives are right. So he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Part of our reward is commendation, but there is another part of our reward. A much more important part of our reward, when we execute our responsibilities faithfully, and really even if we don’t, has to do with additional responsibilities — whether or not we get additional responsibilities.
If you don’t get anything else from this article, please make sure you understand this: Faithfulness involves a future reward based on the fulfillment of past responsibilities. If you faithfully fulfill the responsibilities that God has given you, you will be honored, not only in the sense of commendation, but you will be rewarded with additional responsibilities. And that begins the next phase of the process—the next step up the ladder of being “found faithful” (c.f. 1 Corinthians 4:2).
Reward: (additional) Responsibility
If you don’t faithfully fulfill the responsibilities you have been given, you will not be entrusted or rewarded with greater responsibilities. You see, there is a negative side of this principle as well.
Look at verse 24.
The one who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man. Reaping what you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed, and I was afraid and I went away and I hid your talents in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, “You wicked, lazy slave. You knew that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I scattered no seeds. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore, take away the talent from him.” And give it to one, to the one, who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who does not have, even what he does not have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness—in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The unfaithful slave received condemnation rather than commendation. Instead of receiving additional responsibilities, the few responsibilities that he had were taken from him (Greek: airo, to remove from).
So here is a working definition of faithfulness extrapolated from the aforementioned passages: Faithfulness is demonstrating to God and others that I can be trusted with more and more responsibilities based on my past performance.
As Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:28b).
When you read the word faithful in your Bible from now on you will know exactly what it means. It means to be trustworthy. It means to be dependable. It means to be reliable. As a rule, whenever you see the word faithfulness, in the Scriptures, you can substitute any one of those synonyms and you will get a pretty good picture of what the word entails.
 This definition of responsibility is from the Institute in Basic Life Principles Character Bookshelf Series game titled Character Clues, © 1974, Oak brook, Illinois, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.
 The Greek word for “put you in charge” in verses 21 and 23 (καθίστημι) means “To set in an elevated position, in an office.”
A few days ago I was counseling the parents of a teenager who related to me an account of a recent conflict in their home. The conflict ended abruptly when the girl sarcastically said to her father, “Whatever!” and then made a beeline for the door. Her parents were looking to me for advice on how they might respond to this behavior.
People do not always appreciate the fact that the pain they experience is often due to acting or thinking in ways that are out of harmony with Scripture. As a biblical counselor, therefore, you must understand the relationship between sin and misery.
Many of the over 250 secular counseling models would agree with the humanist manifesto which denies the existence of consequences for sin. But the Bible says “God is not mocked” and “whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal.6:7; cf. Eph. 4:18; Rom. 8:20; Lam. 3:39; Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:9).
A few weeks ago I asked our church to pray for my trip to Little Rock, Ark., as I was recording a broadcast interview for Family Life Today. The programs will air this Wednesday through Friday. Thank you to all of you who prayed. To see how the Lord answered these prayers you can tune into WLBF at 12 noon on those days or simply click on the following links at your convenience.
God uniquely calls church leaders to do the work of biblical counseling as a part of their pastoral responsibilities. Hebrews 13:17 is not only instructive to the church member, but also to the church officer.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (emphasis added)
What does it mean to “keep watch” over the souls of the saints? The Greek construction of this word (ἀγρυπνέω), which means to be watchful (attentive), is present and active, indicating continuous action on the part of the shepherd. This connotes an almost hypervigilant mind-set on the part of the shepherd. In other words, it’s not a matter of waiting around until some problem in the flock materializes, but rather of proactively looking for signs of a problem before it develops. A good shepherd will regularly examine his sheep. He will keep his eyes peeled for indications of sickness. He will notice any unusual smells or sounds emanating from the sheep’s bodies. He will check their fleeces, running his hands under the wool to check for scabs, unusual lumps, or insects. He will notice things that don’t look normal—not to find problems where none exist, but to deal with any real issues before they become serious ones. The point is that shepherding involves a level of intimacy with the sheep that too few church leaders are willing to achieve. Shepherding can be dirty work. All of this necessitates counseling.
Paul’s example of an elder who is intimately involved with his flock can be seen in Acts 20:18–21.
And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul was not the kind of shepherd who locked himself in the study for thirty-five hours per week, only to come out to publicly preach on the Lord’s day. Rather, he would minister publicly and from house to house. That is, he would minister the Word to entire congregations, and he would minister the Word to smaller groups and individuals as well.
Like a skilled marksman, the man of God knows how to wield his Bible as a shotgun (when, from the pulpit he sprays a wide pattern of bird shot, hoping to hit as many consciences as possible) or to utilize it as a 7mm ought 08 rifle (when, in the counseling office, he carefully places the crosshairs of his $1,200 Austrian-made scope on the exact spot where it will have the greatest impact).
Few people have made this point as boldly as John Calvin in his commentary on the book of Acts.
Publicly, and throughout every house. This is the second point, that he [the Apostle Paul] did not only teach all men in the congregation, but also every one privately, as every man’s necessity did require. For Christ hath not appointed pastors upon this condition, that they only teach the church in general in the open pulpit; but that they may take charge of every particular sheep, that they may bring back to the sheepfold those who wonder and go astray, that they may strengthen those who are discouraged and weak, that they may cure the sick, that they may lift up and set on foot the feeble (Ezek. 34:4) for common doctrine will oftentimes wax cold, unless it be holpen [helped] with private admonition.
Wherefore, the negligence of those men is inexcusable, who, having made one sermon, as if they had done their task, live all the rest of their time idly; as if their voice were shut up within the church walls, seeing that so soon as they departed thence, they be dumb.
What was it that characterized the false shepherds of Israel? They were primarily concerned with their own needs, not those of the flock. The false shepherds of Ezekiel’s day were so concerned about their own advancement and enrichment that they neglected the sheep. They wouldn’t invest the time and effort necessary to care for the weak, sickly and diseased, or to seek after those who were scattered and lost. Their lack of attention to the individual needs of the sheep resulted in some of the flock becoming “food for every beast of the field” (C.F., Ezekiel 34:1-6).
Our churches are filled with spiritually weak, sick, and diseased sheep. Many of these flocks have shepherds who possess, in the Word of God, the cure for all such spiritual maladies, but who, because they are only interested in “feeding” the sheep, will not care for their wounds.
So, while all Christians are “competent to counsel,” all shepherds are “called to counsel.” And if you are called, you should be equipped. But are you? If you aren’t, let me urge you to consider availing yourself to some the fine training courses offered by reputable certified training centers across the country. Some of them, such as the The Institute for Nouthetic Studies http:/www.nouthetic.org even offer video courses that may be taken in the comfort of your own home or office.
Never forget, that you have all that you need in the Word of God (and through the Holy Spirit) to not only feed God’s flock but also to cure its spiritually sick.
 Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminister John Knox Press, 1960), IV.i.4, p. 1016.
Depression is probably the most common personal problem for which people seek counseling. There are physiological as well as nonorganic causes for this condition. I would like to take a brief look at three of the most common nonorganic causes of depression—at least, three of the things I look for when counseling someone who is depressed.
The most basic cause of spiritual depression is living out of harmony with Scripture. But to simply call something “sin” without identifying its exact biblical designation does not help us effectively treat the problem. Just as a physician can prescribe a specific antibiotic once he’s identified the exact strain of bacteria causing an infection, biblical counselors must strive for a more accurate diagnosis of (and remedy for) any functional (nonmedical) depression those they counsel may be experiencing.
Please keep in mind that there is a bit of overlap between these three categories. In other words, the walls between these rooms (the three causes of depression) do not go all the way to the ceiling. Technically, they all fall under the same roof—the rooms are all covered by the roof of sin.
To my way of thinking, the place of the doctrine of justification in the believer’s life is much like the operating system on a computer. I’m a PC guy. My personal computer operates under a Windows operating system. Windows is always up and running, but most of the time, it runs in the background. I don’t see it. I can go for days without looking at it (although I know it is functioning as long as the other programs are operating properly). Occasionally, I have to go to the control panel to troubleshoot a problem, make some minor adjustments, or defrag my hard drive, but I don’t give it another thought because I have faith that it is doing what it is supposed to do. So it is with my justification. It is always up and running. Though I am not always consciously thinking about it, everything I do flows from it. Indeed, I could do nothing without it. But there are many other things I am called to do