Three documents that I recently read each reminded me of one of the core qualifications of a competent biblical counselor: clinging to Christ.
· My first reminder came while re-reading Paul Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands and reflecting on the sub-title: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change.
· My second reminder occurred while I was reflecting on the vision statement of the biblical counseling training ministry at my first church. We co-developed it as a launch/leadership team, and it read: Changed People Changing Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth.
· I often learn by repetition, so I needed a third reminder, which I received while reviewing the Introduction to the BCC’s Confessional Statement . We state:
We confess that we have not arrived. We comfort and counsel others only as we continue to receive ongoing comfort and counsel from Christ and the Body of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). We admit that we struggle to apply consistently all that we believe. We who counsel live in process, just like those we counsel, so we want to learn and grow in the wisdom and mercies of Christ.
The ministry of God’s written Word requires that we cling to the Living Word. Before I am competent to counsel another person, I have to be the type of person who continually clings to Christ.
Clinging to Christ’s Comfort and Encouragement
Several recent life events have sent me the same message. I told you; sometimes I’m a slow learner.
Two months ago I heard those words that no one likes to hear from their doctor. “We’re going to need to do some tests.” I’m please and thankful to share that, after weeks of feeling like a human pin-cushion, my doctor has finally given me a clean bill of health. But it was, to be frank, a two-month reminder of my need to cling to Christ.
I had to cling to Christ and the Body of Christ for sustaining comfort. I was living out 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
I had to cling to Christ and the Body of Christ for healing hope and encouragement. I was living out, not in a trite way, not as a clichÃƒ©, but as reality, the truth of Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who live him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
It’s just like the BCC confessional statement, isn’t it? “We confess that we have not arrived. We comfort and counsel others only as we continue to receive ongoing comfort and counsel from Christ and the Body of Christ.”
Clinging to Christ’s Grace for Our Disgrace
Another life event, this one connected to a personal relationship, also forced me to recognize what is always true: my desperate need for Christ’s grace. I blew it, and I knew it. I reacted in sinful defensiveness. I needed Christ’s grace to cleanse me of my disgrace. I needed the gracious forgiveness of the person I had sinned against. I needed Christ’s resurrection power to live out my new life in Christ.
Again, it’s just like the BCC confessional statement. “We admit that we struggle to apply consistently all that we believe.”
Clinging to Christ’s Competence in Our Incompetence
A third experience, this one involving a counseling setting, reminded me of my need to cling not to my own competence, but to my competence in Christ. It was, like most counseling scenarios, a complex situation. I looked at my counselee and in honesty said, “I don’t have a quick, easy answer for you. This is beyond me. It’s beyond both of us in our own power.”
My counselee’s response surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn’t have. “Thank you, Bob. You have no idea how encouraging it is to know that I’m not the only one confused by this!”
Because I know the person well, I could smile, laugh, and say, “I’m glad my incompetence encourages you so much!” As we laughed together, the thought hit me, “to be a competent biblical counselor, I must acknowledge my lack of competence in self.” In myself, I’m not competent to counsel.
Together, as we faced our lack of “self-competence,” we found our competency in Christ. While neither of us had the answers in ourselves, we did find in God’s Word truth-for-life to help this person to move forward in Christ.
For a third time, it’s just like the BCC Confessional. “We who counsel live in process, just like those we counsel, so we want to learn and grow in the wisdom and mercies of Christ.”
In the Words of the Apostle Paul
Through the Biblical Counseling Coalition, we’ll be providing, Lord willing, literally 1,000s of free resources, blog posts, book reviews, and more. The last message that we would ever want to communicate is that we have arrived. We haven’t. I certainly haven’t. I desperately need to cling to Christ for comfort, grace, and competence.
Paul says it better than I ever could. “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6a).
Join the Conversation
As you minister to others, in what specific ways are you clinging to Christ to minister to you and through you?