Our Wonderful Counsellor
Advent simply means arrival or coming. In one sense it speaks of a new beginning, a fresh start. Contemporary advent ideas could be seen in a wedding day, or the birth of a child where we look forward to hope finally realized. In the context of the Church (ekklesia), advent has been used for centuries to describe the coming of Jesus; in other words, the Messiah would change everything. Traditionally, many churches welcome Christ’s arrival by lighting five candles on the four Sundays before Christmas, and the fifth on Christmas day. The first four candles traditionally celebrate hope, love, joy, and peace with the Christ Candle being lit of Christmas day.
This morning I want us to begin our series on Advent using Isa 9:6 as our text. This prophecy of the coming Christ that was given hundreds of years before his birth tells us that the child that was to be born would have some very amazing names. Of course the One that Isaiah is speaking of is Jesus - “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Later in the book of Isaiah we find that the author speaks of Jesus again when he says: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord — 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord” (Isa 11:2–3). The Bible places a high premium on wise counsel. Wisdom and counsel are important. By way of introduction - Jesus’ First Advent was wonderful and full of wise counsel for those who received him.
Have you ever found yourself in a place of despair or darkness, whether emotionally or mentally? We all experience the struggles of life and can at times feel hopeless and in great distress. In Isaiah’s day he announces good news to those who need it most and expect it least. The Jewish people were dwelling in gloom, darkness, distress and feeling like they were under the shadow of death; literally under the captivity of Assyria. Not a great place to exist. However, God was about to break in with a great light. I could imagine their thoughts of being rescued by a great army, and yet Isaiah prophesies about a child being their source of deliverance. This is quite strange to the Israelites in Isaiah’s day as well as at the time of Jesus’ birth. A Wonderful Counsellor was born to guide us through life in all its twists and turns.
I remember in High School going to a career counsellor for guidance. When I entered the workforce I received counsel in the area of employment. There is pre-marital counselling most often followed by marriage counselling. Counselling today is at an all time high in our society. From Dr. Phil to Oprah Winfrey people are seeking advice. There’s certainly nothing wrong with seeking advice and counselling when you have a particular need in your life – in fact the Bible encourages it. Proverbs gives us some very encouraging thoughts about counsel; “in the abundance of counsellors there is victory” (Prov 11:14), “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed" (Prov 15:22), and “make plans by seeking advice” (Prov 20:18). The word translated “counsel” is a Hebrew nautical term for that of steering a ship. This helps us to understand that wise counsel can steer us in the right direction.
However, we must not lose sight of the fact that we, as believers, have access to the most wonderful and personal counsellor imaginable – Jesus Christ. His counsel is wise and pure and loving, we can’t live without it… Jesus is the one who counsels and clarifies all those things that mess us up in life. In fact, when we follow Jesus’ counsel and guidance, we can avoid temptations and trials of life. And that is wonderful…
I was thinking about Advent this week and how we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This is a season of contemplation and communion as we hopefully take time to slow down and enjoy the holiness of the season. However, all to often we can find ourselves busy with all the holiday plans, buying gifts, setting up the decorations and preparing food. This took me in my thoughts to Jesus speaking about his Second Advent and the time just before his coming. I was reading in Matthew 24 about deception, wars, famines, earthquakes and persecution being the beginning of birth pains or the advent of Jesus’ return. Then I came across verse 10a - “At that time many will turn away from the faith”. A more literal translation is this - “many will be offended” which leads to stumbling, turning away, and being led into sin. This got me to thinking that in the last days one of the dangers facing Christians is that of being offended. And this needs to be addressed by our Wonderful Counsellor.
In John 16:1 Jesus tells us - “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray”. This phrase “going astray” can be translated as “not being offended” and is a Greek term describing scandals. Scandals are those nasty things that come against our lives to entrap us. We find ourselves struggling mentally or emotionally with this or that circumstance and become offended. Sometimes we are offended unjustly and yet as believers there is blessing in being unoffendable.
Unfortunately, many of us know of times where we experience rejection or hurt, personally or on behalf of others. All too often, we see relationships fail or a job loss due to a bad situation. What do we do in those times? How do we overcome the sense of loss or despair? Or how do we defend those caught in these scandalous situations, while not becoming offended ourselves?
How to be un-offended?
As followers of Jesus one of our primary goals is to walk in God’s love, forgiving others, not holding grudges, believing the best etc. However, we know from the Scriptures that trials and temptations, obstacles and offences are a part of everyday living whether you're a Christian or not. It is these “scandals” that have the potential to lead us astray from the purity of God’s love and peace and kindness in our hearts. So, how can we be un-offended? What makes Jesus our Wonderful Counsellor?
1. He COMPREHENDS Your Struggles
In Hebrews 4:15 we find: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.” (HCSB) Jesus gets it. He understands it. He can relate to you. Sometimes when we are going through a difficult situation and someone says, “I understand what you are going through…” it can seem empty. Unless they have been through the same situation how can they possibly understand our problems. But Jesus does understand. He knows exactly what you are going through. When you come to him in need of counsel he knows your situation. He knows your heart and he knows your mind.
Because of this fact verse sixteen of Hebrews chapter four tells us that we should: “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.”
Have you ever been betrayed? He has. Have you ever been wrongly accused? He has. Have people ever gossiped about you? Have you ever suffered from offence? Have you ever been in physical need? Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever suffered loss? Have you ever been afraid? Have you ever felt that you have reached the bottom and there is no way up? Jesus understands and is the wonderful counsellor who can bring peace to your life. The Bible tells us that: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus was fully human like you and I. He knows how difficult life can be. He knows scandals and offence can get rough. He understands your struggles - come to Him.
2. He CARES For You
In first Peter chapter five verse seven it says in the Contemporary English Version: “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him.” Some counsellors only care as long as you can pay the bill. Not Jesus! He cares about you as a person. He cares about your character. He cares about your spiritual growth and emotional welfare. He cares about the pain you suffer. He considers you of value and of worth.
Yet there are times when we don’t feel so valuable or good about ourselves, especially when we are trapped in an offence. Offence has a way of draining us of emotional strength. In some cases spiritual vagabonds are the result of being overcome by an offence. Offended people tend to hide from the reality of their inner life and can find blame and shame in others.
Our Wonderful Counsellor thinks that you are worth a lot. He thinks so much of you that he endured the shame of the cross to rescue you from your pain and suffering – to give you a new hope, new life and salvation. God cares for YOU!
He cares so much that he will help you with your problems. He will help you deal with them. That’s why he is called Wonderful Counsellor. He’s not going to leave us to fend for ourselves. You have probably heard it said, “God helps those who help themselves.” The truth of the matter is when you have reached the bottom - “God helps those who can’t help themselves.” This is God’s Wonderful Counsel and Grace. When you see no way out - God steps in - if you call on him. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus gives us this promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.
Folks that is a promise! He will not turn His back on us. He will not abandon us. God cares for us.
3. He COMMITS Himself To You
Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with each of us in this way - giving us wonderful counsel. We have mentioned the struggles and scandals of life and the times we feel all alone, wondering where to turn for help. But we must remind ourselves that our Wonderful Counsellor has not left us as orphans (John 14:18). In addition to Jesus, one of the words the New Testament uses for the Holy Spirit is this: Counsellor - And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is committed to bringing the ekklesia into deeper and more intimate relationship with God. How does the Spirit do this? By giving us the counsel, guidance and at times the conviction of sin we need day to day to draw close to God. Just what is involved in the Spirit’s counsel - truth, teaching, and testifying to us about Jesus. Much of the counsel of the Spirit comes from the Scriptures. And Jesus states - “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray (John 16:1).
Some of us may say, "Well I have never heard the Holy Spirit talk to me." Let me ask you have you ever done something wrong and felt guilty about it? Good! That’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Part of his job is to keep us on track. He does that sometimes with conviction. Have you ever had a verse of scripture come to you out of the blue – that may be the Holy Spirit trying to teach you something? The Spirit of Counsel often uses the Holy Scriptures to enlighten our ways. Have you ever thought about a friend or family member and sought them out for some advice? That may just be the Holy Spirit prompting you to be open to wise counsel.
Advent is upon us and this morning we have reflected on our Wonderful Counsellor(s). Jesus and the Spirit of God know us inside and out. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. He offers to us counsel on a daily basis. As we commit ourselves to God – He commits himself to us! When we give ourselves to him - He promises to hold on to us and give us wonderful counsel.
I want to give you a challenge – make an appointment this week with the Wonderful Counsellor. Sit down with him. Open your heart up to him. Tell him what is going on in your life. Believe me – there is no heartache that he can not mend. There is no problem he can not solve – because He is our Wonderful Counsellor.
Let’s give him those places of offence and hurt.
Let’s give him those places of mental and emotional weariness and receive his comfort and strength.
Let’s allow his wonderful counsel to teach and train our lives in ways that glorify him.