Kevin Hurt

How Do We Know Whether People Are Truly Changing?

September 29, 2014

How Do We Know Whether People Are Truly Changing
Kevin Hurt

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Kevin Hurt

How Do We Know Whether People Are Truly Changing

The Goal of the Counselor

One of my goals as a pastor and biblical counselor is to assess the progress of those I am counseling.  This is the goal of any counselor. Counselors have chosen this line of work because they are interested in seeing people change. And because they desire to see people change, they are trying to evaluate the progress of those they are counseling; they are looking for evidence of progress and change.

Unique to our role as biblical counselors is the fact that we do not simply want to see them only change in their behavior. We have a specific and unique goal in mind. We want to see if there is any measurable difference in their walk with Christ and their relationship with others since they began the counseling process. We deeply care about the impact and transformation that God’s Word is having on them.

The Proverbs Assessment: Wise or Foolish?

Now, there are many tools and methods that are being used by those outside of biblical counseling to measure the success and growth of those to whom they are offering help. And within the biblical counseling arena we have been given plenty of good tools and resources to help us evaluate the progress of those we are counseling. I’ve used those resources and found them to be of great help over the years.

However, what I’ve recently begun using to help me measure whether change in the right direction is taking place is the book of Proverbs. As I think about each of my counselees, I want to observe, by using the language of the Proverbs, if they are moving in the direction of becoming “wise” or are they remaining “foolish.” Are they just learning more truths, even sound and theologically accurate truths, but still not becoming wise? Are they developing new and biblical methods and techniques, but still continuing to be “foolish?”

The Rise of Knowledge

So, how would I recognize, based on the book of Proverbs, if the right growth and solid steps of change are taking place in the life of the person I am counseling? From the book of Proverbs, it is very clear that it definitely is not based on the “knowledge” they have obtained. Even the hearing of good and sound truth from God’s Word will not change a person. The message of Proverbs is clear:

“Knowledge does not make you a better person.”

The reality that knowledge alone does not change your life is not hard to see. Years of research and statistics have observed that the rate of knowledge in the world is rapidly increasing. Until the 1900’s, knowledge doubled every one-hundred years. By the end of World War II, knowledge began to double every twenty-five years. In 1955, sheer factual knowledge began to double every five years. In 2007, technical knowledge alone started doubling every two years. The most recent studies have shown that “nanotechnology” (the study of extremely small things such as atoms and molecules) is now changing every two years and “clinical knowledge” every eighteen months. Some observers have said that on average human knowledge is doubling every thirteen months.

The obvious conclusions:

  • We are becoming smarter in many ways while at the same time never learning how to do life.  
  • It would be safe to say that we are surrounded by the rise of knowledge and at the same time a bumper crop of brilliant failures.
  • Knowledge may rapidly change the conditions of the human experience and life, but it can never change the condition of the human heart.

This is why a person can graduate at the top of their class and be at the bottom on the issues related to life. The problem is not mental, but spiritual.  As Paul reminded Timothy, they are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7).

Distinguishing Between a Wise and Foolish Counselee

So from God’s Word, and specifically from the book of Proverbs, let me encourage you to think of how you measure the progress and growth of those you counsel by thinking of the contrast between the “wise” and “foolish” counselee.

A foolish counselee:

  1. Is unaccountable and arrogantly answers to no one (Proverbs 12:15).
  1. Is unruly and has no control over what he says (Proverbs 12:16).
  1. Is unteachable and cannot imagine being mistaken (Proverbs 15:5).
  1. Is uncontainable in his emotions and loves to argue and set others straight (Proverbs 15:18; 20:3).
  1. Is incorrigible and his foolishness cannot even be pounded out of him (Proverbs 27:22).
  1. Is unholy as he takes lightly and even mocks at sin (Proverbs 14:9; cf. Psalm 14:1).

A wise counselee:

  1. “Fears” the Lord by highly valuing what God has to say (Proverbs 1:7).
  1. Shows he values God’s Word as he “joyfully” delights in reading and loving it (Psalms 112:1).
  1. “Passionately” applies what he reads and loves from the Word (Proverbs 14:2; cf. Psalm 128:1).
  1. “Confidently” depends on the promises of God (Psalm 147:11).

Developing a Wise Counselee

Consider a few ways we can encourage our counselees to grow and change and how we can evaluate if they are developing the type of “fear” that Proverbs says is the beginning of true “knowledge” and “wisdom”:

  • If “fearing the Lord” is what brings true “knowledge” and “wisdom”, we should evaluate how consistently our counselee is being exposed to the Word of God through individual Bible reading, group Bible study, and weekly congregational worship. If they are not around the Word of God, they will not experience consistent change in their life (Psalm 119:38).
  • In addition to a consistent exposure to the Word of God, we should help them evaluate their prayer life (Psalm 119:33-40). If they are praying this type of consuming prayer, they will develop a deep fear of the Lord and growth will be evident.
  • Added to a constant exposure to the Word and consuming prayer, we should help them evaluate their commitment to pursue wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14). Who our counselee listens to after they leave their session is critical. Growth is either helped or hindered depending on who they listen to after they end their counseling session with you.

The Proverbs have become helpful to me in my pastoral counseling ministry and insightful when determining if those I’m counseling are headed in the right direction.

Join the Conversation

How has today’s post challenged you to better evaluate those you are counseling?

What are some of the practical ways you could apply these principles from Proverbs to your assessment of counselee growth in grace?

3 thoughts on “How Do We Know Whether People Are Truly Changing?

  1. Excellent! Thank you so much for this. It is exactly what I needed for a current counselee! I will be printing and referring back to this one often!

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