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A basic premise of this book regarding problems of living is that trials are attacks on the Christian’s faith. They test the believer’s faith and provide an opportunity to grow spiritually and to glorify God. God has given Christians all they need to confront such trials (Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Therefore how Christians view and respond to problems is extremely important. Those who draw alongside to minister should do so with the understanding that the person’s faith is being attacked. There should be much sympathy because all believers have times when their faith is attacked. Therefore, they will not simply say, “You need more faith.” They will recognize that the person is in the midst of spiritual warfare and needs encouragement in his walk with the Lord and spiritual support in holding up the shield of faith and wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:10-18).
The Bible has much to say about trials, temptations, afflictions, and sufferings, or what we generally call “problems of living.” Christians are not immune from problems. In fact, Christians should expect trials and various forms of suffering, including the kinds of problems of living that both psychological and biblical counseling address. Whether the problems are due to a believer’s strong stand for the faith or an aspect of God’s fatherly discipline or simply because we all live in a sinful world, every problem is a challenge to a believer’s faith. Some are obvious attacks, but others are trials that bring a temptation to turn away from God or to attempt to solve things apart from His involvement, His Word, and His will. Thus trials may tempt believers to lose patience and not trust God to work through the pain and suffering. Trials also tempt believers to sin against God for the sake of getting rid of unpleasant circumstances.
The Bible presents a view of problems of living very different from the usual human perspective. God uses such problems for His purposes, which include drawing people to Himself, conforming believers to the image of Christ, and building His Kingdom all to His glory. God thus uses problems for His glory and our good. In contrast, ever since the counseling rage began, Christians have been using the Bible and God, often in combination with the wisdom of man, to solve and get past their problems. The means and the goal are diametrically opposed. God uses problems for our spiritual and eternal good, but in much Christian counseling people often attempt to use God and His Word primarily for elimination of and temporal relief from problems.
Think about the contrast between God using trials for His purposes and people using God for their own purposes. For God, trials are a means to an end; but for many Christians, God and His Word have become the means to get what they think they need. One glorifies God and spiritually matures believers; the other dishonors God by using Him for personal gain (relief from problems, etc.). Does this mean that God’s dear children are not to turn to Him and His Word in the midst of trials and seek His help? No! He is our Father. He has instructed us to call on Him, and He has promised to instruct and deliver us. However, there is a subtle but stark difference that can occur when the believer’s goal is different from God’s purposes.
There are numerous believers who are already prepared and equipped by God to minister to fellow believers who are facing trials and suffering from problems of living. God has prepared and equipped His children through His gifts of salvation, new life in Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and His Word. He continues to prepare and equip them as they continue in His Word, walking according to their new life and maturing in the faith as they encounter various trials and life experiences.
It is our desire that, by reading this book, those who are maturing in the faith through the trials of life and walking daily in the faith will be encouraged to minister the care of souls to fellow believers. To accomplish this goal we have three parts to this book. In Part One we discuss “What Not to Do” by revealing the unbiblical shortcomings of the BCM as a contrast to true biblical ministry. Knowing “What Not to Do” can often be as important as knowing “What Can Be Done.” In Part Two we discuss “What to Avoid.” We recommend that one not become enmeshed in any system of counseling.
As examples we critique the nouthetic counseling approach developed by Dr. Jay Adams and promoted by the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) and the inner-workings-of-the-heart approach espoused by Dr. David Powlison and promoted by the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). Part Three is titled “What Can Be Done.” In it we discuss what can be done to minister to those with problems of living. This is meant to be an encouragement to those who desire to minister and for those who are already doing so.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, July-August 2009, Vol. 17, No. 4)