As anyone who ministers to others knows, our ability to biblically care for others flows from the Lord’s work in our own hearts. Our ability to help others who are struggling with sin and to deal with the concerns of our own lives is directly related to how we have allowed the Lord and His Word to challenge our sin and help us to lean on Him in the circumstances of life.
The requirement to let the Lord work in us is something that we, as ministers of the Word, should be actively cultivating as a core part of our lives. Our own devotional life, or quiet time as it is often called, is an ideal place to cultivate hearts that are adequately prepared for ministry. In this article I want to propose three goals that every counselor and pastor should be aiming for in their own lives that can be integrated into their quiet time.
1. Grow in Humble Awe
A.W. Tozer famously said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” God is not an experience we have, but a person we relate to. As a person, God has characteristics or attributes that define who He is and He is very particular about how we think about Him. This is why the first two of the Ten Commandments are focused on how we relate to Him. This is also why we have books like Leviticus in the Word of God.
The more accurately we come to see God as He represents Himself in His Word, the more richly we will understand His character. The richer our understanding of the character of God, the more accurately we will be able to relate to Him and see the activity of His will as He orchestrates the circumstances we find ourselves in, both individually and collectively.
The richness of our understanding of the Lord should result in awe. Awe at the patience of God who allows sinners time to repent. Awe at the judgment of God upon the sin of man. Awe at the mercy of God who forgives so freely. Awe at the work of God in and around us.
Humility from Awe
If we relate our Bible reading to our own lives, we will see ourselves as the recipients of the richness of God’s character. We are those to whom God demonstrates His patience when we rebel. We are those who God mercifully forgives. We are those who deserve God’s judgment. As we connect what we read about the character of God, we will grow in awe of Him and will also grow in humility.
God brings us those to whom He wants us to minister, and He wants us to provoke them to change (Heb. 10:24). If we want our counselees to change, we need to model and pass on this humble awe as normative for every Christian life. Therefore, we must cultivate it, and the best way to do that is to make it a goal of our devotional life.
2. Grow in Sincere Holiness
Every biblical counselor knows that holiness is God’s key purpose for all of us. This is the very reason we were predestined (Rom. 8:29), and Paul tells us explicitly that holiness is God’s will for us (1 Thess. 4:3). Like Paul, we pray for those we minister to, that they would “please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:9-10).
To grow in holiness means to grow in the fear of the Lord. This is a corollary to growing in our love for Him and His character, and results in a hatred of evil (Prov. 8:13) and the desire to please Him. Rightly understanding and biblically relating God’s character to our own lives will result in a love for and growth in holiness.
We should seek to develop godly affections in our devotional life. When we desire and love God’s purity and righteousness, a sincere holiness will blossom as the Lord gives us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4). As those who have had our affections tuned by God’s self-revelation in Scripture, we are in a better position to assess the longings of the hearts of those to whom we minister, calling them to love God first, even if it means enduring sorrows, pain, and difficulty.
3. Grow in Vivid Knowledge
Our understanding of the Word of God is often the reason people come to us. They need to know how God would have them resolve their tension with others, or how He would have them respond to the circumstances they are in. They need to know God’s will and God’s character. Biblical knowledge begins with understanding God’s self-revelation, but is confirmed when we respond with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and see His will enacted.
When we read our Bible during our devotional time, it is important that we place ourselves in the text, meditating on it richly so that we can understand the desires of those in the text and, most of all, so we can see what God wants and how He responds in each scene.
The art of meditation is often lost today amidst our high-powered reading plans. While understanding the whole scope of Scripture is important for a counselor, we need to linger over the text and place ourselves in the scene and among the recipients. As we meditate on the text and consider the thoughts, motives, desires, commitments, and decisions of those we encounter in the Word of God, our understanding will come to life. We will see God interacting within the text as He guides, rewards, judges, and punishes. This helps us to be sensitive to the different ways the Lord works in our own lives and the lives of those we minister to. We will learn to see that God’s responses are not simplistic, but rich; and this richness will inform our response and counsel to others.
Biblical counselors are not merely theologians or merely academic. But if our devotional life is merely academic, then our counsel will be deficient. When we come to our own devotional times, we should ask what we learn from the text that will result in awe of God, personal holiness, and a richer knowledge of how the Lord acts in people’s lives. If we lack theological and affective richness because we’ve failed to humble ourselves and see how the Lord reveals Himself in His Word, then we fail to call our counselees to the fullness of what the Lord calls them to.
Question for Reflection
How is your personal quiet time with the Lord causing you to grow in humble awe, sincere holiness, and vivid knowledge of God?
 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1978), 1.