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The best counselors are always on the lookout for new blogs, podcasts, audio lectures, booklets, and books to recommend to counselees. So much has been written and said concerning typical and even atypical counseling problems. We start with the Bible, of course, the primary resource. It points us to the divine power which “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).
My purpose in this blog is to suggest not only seeking biblical understanding but incorporating the stories of fellow saints when we counsel. We can begin by using biblical narratives to demonstrate godly living to be imitated (1 Cor. 10:11, Rom. 15:4). Stories of saints who have gone before us are all over the Scriptures. In addition, reading biographies of Christians from previous generations inspires us and our counseling because we see examples of their perseverance in the faith. Let’s not forget the living saints found among us. Those who are young in the faith see God at work in fellow Christians. Those who have been saved for decades appreciate reading about how other believers handled trials with fortitude. Even though we have many saints to admire, only Jesus is to be followed in all things.
Heroes in the Bible
Hebrews 12:1 asks us to picture ourselves surrounded by the saints in the Old Testament: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” The men and women mentioned in chapter 11 walked by faith without receiving “what was promised” (Heb. 11:39). The author reminds the reader that the heroes of the faith were looking ahead toward that which we experience now in the New Covenant. This knowledge helps us to run the race with endurance. The example of those who have gone before inspires our earthly walk.
These heroes were flawed, though. Some of the names are surprising. We expect to be reminded of Noah and Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, Joseph and Moses. Even though some aren’t on our shortlist of Old Testament saints, we can understand why Abel and even Enoch are included. But we might question Jacob, the trickster and manipulator. With an even more remote association with faith, we read of the children of Israel (v. 29). They had moments of faith which are mentioned (crossing the Red Sea on dry land and circling the city of Jericho in obedience to a seemingly irrational command). The list in verse 32 includes those we even think of who had very weak faith: Gideon, Samson, and Jephthah, to name a few. We who also struggle with weak faith are encouraged that the Lord values those who frequently stumble.
Heroes in Biographies
I prefer reading non-fiction books. Give me biographies of men or women of faith, and I will gladly spend my free time learning about their lives. Recently I read the biography of Susie Spurgeon and another one about Bethan Lloyd-Jones. Mrs. Spurgeon endured chronic pain with grace. Mrs. Lloyd-Jones was a wonderful and wise helper. Elisabeth Elliot’s life transported me into the jungles of Ecuador. I followed George Whitefield to the wilds of 18th century Georgia and the halls of power in the English-speaking world.
Yet, these saints were not without their flaws. A quality biography avoids hagiography by telling a true story of successes and failures, victories and sins. For example, Elisabeth Elliot’s biography of Amy Carmichael contains an honest look at the weaknesses of an admired missionary to India. The counselee can benefit from reading or even watching a movie about Christian leaders of the past.
Heroes among Us
In Philippians 3:17, Paul writes, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” We are to notice the believers among us who follow the path of Christ. These men and women are in our churches, are speakers at conferences, or are missionaries who write honest newsletters filled with the works of the Lord and the struggles of living in a foreign culture.
As we near the end of our counseling relationship, I ask my counselees to look for a woman in their church family who can become a mentor. My counselees may already admire someone, but they may have been afraid to ask that person to spend time with them in a purposeful discipleship relationship. As our counseling finishes, it is time to approach a person who possesses the qualities described in Titus 2:3. It is a blessing to walk alongside a “seasoned” believer who is not slothful in zeal, is fervent in spirit, and serves the Lord (Rom. 12:11).
Christ Is the Only True Hero
Any spiritual hero, whether described in Scripture, biography, or in our community, is only to be admired as he or she reflects Christ. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to imitate him, as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1). In 1 Thess. 1:6 we read, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”
Above all, Jesus is the one we are to follow (Matt. 4:19). He told us so. After He washed the disciples’ feet, He said, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15). He is the only sinless hero. All believers have flaws that disillusion us. If we imitate every aspect of an admirable believer, we will sin. But Jesus will never disappoint.