Guest Blogger: Pat Quinn, Director of Counseling Ministries at University Reformed Church
I have the privilege of serving as Director of Counseling Ministries at University Reformed Church. As a biblical counselor I have basically one goal: to connect the Word of God to specific people with specific life issues in specific circumstances in such a way that they learn to “live” by God’s Word. This is both a great challenge and a great joy. Part of the challenge is the seemingly endless diversity of people, issues, and circumstances.
On a beautiful fall day last October I took a walk to reflect on and pray about the breadth and depth of the counseling cases I was involved in. These included a number of sexual, psychiatric, and relational problems. As I walked, rejoicing in the power of the gospel to address, forgive, and free people from life-dominating sin and suffering problems, I asked myself, “What is the common gospel process that applies to any and all issues? What are we aiming at in the people we minister to?” Four biblical verbs—know, pray, trust, walk–came to mind that seemed to capture what all biblical counseling, preaching, teaching, evangelism, and discipling aim at leading people to do in their process of spiritual growth. Notice that these four verbs are not so much our ministry methodology but our ministry outcomes.
KNOW: The first thing we need to do is help people know God’s truth from Scripture. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you truly are my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 31-32). In helping the Corinthians deal with sin issues, Paul asked, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6: 8)? And, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 6: 19)? Knowing biblical truth is the essential first step in the “renewal of your mind” that leads to life transformation (Romans 12: 2).
- Goal: Help people understand, believe, and embrace gospel truth.
- Verse: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1: 28).
PRAY: If knowing biblical truth is a pretty obvious first step in change, praying over those truths until they actually come alive in our hearts is less so. This dynamic of praying God’s Word into life is beautifully shown in Psalm 119:
- “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119: 28).
- “Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope” (116).
- “Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me” (175).
In counseling I often encourage counselees to pray regularly and fervently over the Scriptures we’ve discussed. I am often surprised (I shouldn’t be, knowing my own heart) by the subtle resistance to specific, Bible-based, fervent prayer. However, the practice of praying over the Scriptures, of crying out to God for Bible-directed help and change is powerful.
- Goal: Lovingly exhort people to pray over biblical truths until they come alive.
- Verse: “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119: 18).
TRUST: The third goal of ministry of the Word is to help people to trust in the “affectionate sovereignty” (Bob Kellemen’s beautiful phrase) of God. Knowing and praying gospel truths naturally lead to trusting the God of our salvation. So many problems in life arise from, or are exacerbated by, mistrust of God’s wise, powerful, and loving care. Hebrews 3: 18-19 says, “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” The implication here is that disobedience is caused by the failure to trust in the character and promises of God. The living faith we aim to foster is not mere intellectual assent but relational confidence. The Lord Jesus, our brother and family worship leader, seeks to model and teach us this relational trust: “’I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.’ And again, ‘I will put my trust in him’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children God has given me’” (Hebrews 2: 12-13).
- Goal: Model and teach people to relationally trust the affectionate sovereignty of God.
- Verse: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” Proverbs 3: 5-6).
WALK: Knowing, praying, and trusting are meant to culminate in an obedient life that honors God, nourishes personal joy, and blesses others. This whole gospel process is laid out for us in this prayer of Paul in Colossians 1: 9-10:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
While trust is not explicitly mentioned, it is hard to imagine walking in a worthy manner, pleasing God, or bearing fruit without it. All ministry of the Word must ultimately help people live God-glorifying lives in the trenches of real life.
- Goal: Motivate people to live consistent with the privilege of being in the family of God.
- Verse: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5: 1-2).
Know—pray—trust—walk. These remind me what I’m aiming at in ministry of the Word. I pray they will do the same for you.