One of my friends told me about a time when he sat down with his pastor for counsel before entering law school. My friend was seeking spiritual guidance for the type of law that he would practice once he graduated. My friend was interested in criminal law, but his pastor strongly discouraged him from this and suggested that perhaps divorce law would be more palatable. “You don’t want to defend criminals”, the pastor said.
Well, in the end, my friend did become a criminal attorney. And, yes, he does defend many folks that most of us would avoid on the bus. However, I believe God is using him in a powerful way. Yes, he sees people at their worst, but this is not unlike how God sees us!
So the question comes up, “Can it be God’s will to go against the advice of a spiritual leader?”. Let’s get a couple of things straight. Do most pastor’s genuinely care about people and try their best to offer Godly advice? Yes. Are pastor’s human and prone to short-sightedness and error? Yes.
The Bible says that there is wisdom in the counsel of many. Certainly there are many Biblical examples of people who did not heed wise counsel and paid dearly for it. However, there are also many examples of “well-meaning” believers who got it completely wrong.
There have been two times in my life where the counsel I received from spiritual leaders was not right. The first was several years ago when I was leading student worship at my church. God was really moving in my life and I really believed that God was calling me into full-time ministry. An opportunity came to lead worship for a new church start in our area. My wife and I prayed about the opportunity and really felt that this was God working out what we were already feeling.
However, when I met with my pastor and explained all that had happened and that we felt called to go, he straight up told me that it wasn’t God’s will for me. You see, the pastor of the new church was very well-known and the new church would start meeting within 10 miles of our existing church. My pastor feared that the new church would hurt attendance. Therefore, his counsel was tainted. In the end, I went. Both churches thrived and many more were brought into the Kingdom, I believe, because I listened to God and not my pastor.
A year or so later, my wife and I felt God was calling us to adopt a child. As we waded through the endless paperwork, the question was asked about what race of child we would accept. We dove into the Scriptures and they confirmed what we felt in our hearts. In God’s eyes, there’s no difference. Therefore, we cannot discriminate based on race.
We knew part of our family would really struggle with an African-American child, but we were willing to hold the high ground and not give in. We didn’t expect the opposition we received from my friend and pastor at the time (different from the first pastor). He was afraid for us and our biological son that we would be opening ourselves up to hardship. Was his advance well-meaning? Yes. Was he dead wrong? Yes.
I guess I can sum all this up this way. There’s wisdom in the counsel of many; however, God’s Word trumps the wisdom of man. I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t listen to the well-meaning disciples who didn’t want him to go to the cross.
What’s God calling you to do?