The Holy Spirit as our perfect Counsellor
Most of us think of “counselling” as consulting a friend or psychologist for advice, rather than consulting the Holy Spirit for wisdom, comfort, and freedom from mental, emotional or spiritual bondage. God is the perfect Counsellor – He knows all our thoughts, feelings, desires, experiences, and family histories far better than anyone. No human counsellor, no matter how well-trained, is able to go straight to the root of a matter like God can, without the Holy Spirit’s revelation.
James 1:5 ESV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Hebrews 3:13 ESV But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Our Holy Counsellor
Isaiah 61 shows that it is the Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus to bring God’s hope, comfort, freedom, blessing, joy, and praise to mankind – in place of our despair.
Isaiah 61:1-3 NLT The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
If we submit fully to God, the Holy Spirit can do an amazing work in our lives. He will personally:
- Show us the true hidden desires that lead to emotional, mental, and spiritual bondage, so that we may be healed | John 16:13 ESV When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth… | John 8:32 NIV Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- Comfort us deeply | 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
- Provide clear instructions on the way forward | Psalm 16:7 ESV I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
- Give us the power to overcome our ungodly thoughts and ways | 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- Show us the truth so we can avoid being led astray | 1 John 2:26-27 NLT I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie…
The Holy Spirit wants to help us, He takes no pleasure in disgracing us. God is a God of grace and compassion.
Isaiah 50:7 But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
The Bible describes this journey with the Holy Spirit as one filled with regeneration and renewal. It is almost as if our internal operating systems undergo an ongoing “reboot” and “upgrade.” This come as an instant or one-off incident. It is an evolving journey as our circumstances change, hidden “bugs” are uncovered, and new challenges arise. Also, see The role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation.
Titus 3:5 ESV he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
This renewal also requires genuine humility, because God’s counsel will not always be what we expect to hear. His Word is based on what is true and what we need to do in order to get right with Him. Receiving God’s counsel can sometimes be uncomfortable simply because we have lived with our wrong ways for so long. The new lease of life, hope, peace, and joy that we get to enjoy afterward, however, will certainly be worth it.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Recognising the Holy Spirit’s counsel
The Holy Spirit’s counsel will:
- Be gentle, compassionate, impartial, and sincere | James 3:17 ESV But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
- Instruct us on God’s will for our lives | Psalm 32:8 NLT The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
- Reveal our secret thoughts and convict us of our sins | 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 NLT … they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.”
- Sometimes lead to feelings of grief and dismay as we realise the gravity of our sins| James 4:8-10 ESV Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
- Bring about a refreshed and renewed spirit as we quickly repent | Acts 3:19 NIV Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
- Result in godly outcomes, such as reconciliations, kindness, compassion etc. | Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
- Lead to a flourishing peace in our hearts, as we continue to listen and obey Him | Romans 8:6 ESV … to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Approaching our Holy Counsellor
As we approach the Holy Spirit, we need to keep in mind that He is holy and deserves our deepest worship and reverence.
God’s Spirit is the One who pours God’s love into our hearts. At the same time, we cannot treat His loving counsel flippantly.
Romans 5:5 ESV … God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
God will magnanimously listen to our doubts, fears, protests, and complaints. He is also willing to forgive us for anything when we repent – even if we wrongly accuse God the Father or Jesus for not being good towards us – but He will never forgive us for blaspheming the Holy Spirit and accuse the Spirit of being evil, despicable, wrong, or stupid.
Matthew 14:29-31 ESV He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 12:31-32 NLT “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.
1. Practise humility and do not despise God’s counsel and correction
Let us, therefore, approach the Holy Spirit with the right attitude, and with all our heart and soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
We can start by:
- Humbling ourselves before God and resisting Satan’s distractions | James 4:7 NLT So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
- Thanking God no matter what our circumstances may be | Philippians 4:6 ESV Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
- Asking Him for wisdom and not doubt that He will respond | James 1:6-7 ESV But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
- Being willing to receive God’s loving correction, guidance, and discipline | Job 5:17-18 NLT “But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.
- Being ready to purify our hearts’ intentions and turn away from our worldly desires | James 4:8 NLT Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
As we seek God, we need to beware to not covet only His blessings or quick solutions to our problems. Many go to God because of a desire to have a better life, to avoid failure, or to resolve some pain. They are driven by their own fears and desires, rather than a fear of and desire for God. God will not reject us but He cannot be used or manipulated for our purposes.
Proverbs 9:10 NIV The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
God knows every minute detail of everyone’s lives across all eternity, we don’t. Therefore, we must be prepared to submit to His counsel because God always knows what is best, both for us and the billions of people on this earth.
Also, see Seeking solutions vs. God.
2. Practise fasting
We will find that the Holy Spirit speaks to us most clearly when we fast and make ourselves still before God. This is not because God cannot speak to us otherwise. Rather, it is because our ability to receive God’s important messages is often disturbed by worldly interferences or even hijacked by Satan. Therefore, we need to discipline our flesh and censor the noise around us to hear from God clearly.
Acts 13:2 ESV While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Fasting is one of several basic spiritual disciplines. We see that it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus to fast for 40 days in the desert. We may not fast for 40 days but we would be wise to follow our Saviour’s example. True biblical fasting involves complete abstinence from food and a time that is devoted to seeking God through prayer and Bible reading.
Also, see The significance of fasting.
3. Practise asking the Holy Spirit the right type of questions
One important aspect of seeking God is to not presume that we know the best answer to the challenges we face in life. Usually, the answers we seek are based on what is most pleasing to our flesh in the short term, and not necessarily based on God’s perspective in light of eternity. Being human with limited vision or breadth of knowledge, we have many blind spots. We simply do not know what we do not know.
James 4:3 NLT And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
Therefore, when we do seek the Holy Spirit’s counsel, it is crucial to ask Him open-ended questions, rather than tell Him what we need and how we want Him to fulfill our will. We can be sure God will not condone such a misguided attitude.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions.
Negative emotions e.g. fear, anger, resentment, jealousy etc.
Open-ended question: “Holy Spirit, I feel these unsettling emotions rising up inside me, why do I feel this way? What is the root cause? Is there someone I still bear a grudge against that I need to forgive and bless? Please comfort and counsel me.”
“God, please bring me justice and hurt those who hurt me. Listening to my emotions is more important than listening to You / My emotions are too painful to deal with so I will use all my strength to suppress them rather than bring them to You for Your comfort.”
Physical discomforts e.g. sudden headaches, dizziness, aches and pains etc.
Open-ended question: “Holy Spirit, this discomfort has caught my attention. What is causing this?”
“Please heal me. Take away my pain now.”
Day-to-day situations and decisions e.g at work, home, ministry etc.
Open-ended question: “Holy Spirit, what should I do or say in this situation? Do I wait or go ahead?”
“I would like this particular result. Please grant me favour and help me achieve it.”
Open-ended question: “Holy Spirit, how would You like me to interact with these people? How can I glorify God?”
“Please take these nasty people away. Please help me uphold my reputation etc.”
4. Practise obeying Him
God listens to those who will obey Him.
John 9:31 NLT We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will.
Sometimes, obedience may mean that we are placed in situations where we may feel hurt by other people or pass painful messages to others, and therefore feel like we must have made a mistake. When Jesus was crucified, His disciples would have felt let down, confused, and afraid. They probably wondered if they had made a mistake of following Jesus for three years of their lives. At the time, they were unable to see God’s full plan for salvation. Later, they would rejoice and boldly preach the good news of Jesus to many.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The same can be said of us, we may not always understand why God does things a certain way, it is only in retrospective after it has happened that we can appreciate God’s supreme wisdom. The willingness to follow through with God’s counsel is very important for all believers. This is what will give birth to the new life that God has in store for us and transform us into the new creations Jesus proclaimed. All this is the work of the Holy Spirit – but He cannot counsel and transform us without our full cooperation.
John 3:3 ESV Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
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