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“How to Counsel God’s Way” by Bob Hoekstra book review

By Basil Rehill | February 14, 2011

Many years I have been reading and studying books about biblical counseling. Each book I pick up I tend to get a different perspective. “How to Counsel God’s Way” by Bob Hoekstra is one of these wonderful books I have had the opportunity to read. This book contrasts counseling God’s way in counseling to man’s way. Man’s way is associated with psychology and philosophy. These two disciplines are used interchangeably throughout this work. Many people would say that counseling is a discipline used to help people over problems they have in life. There are two very different approaches to counseling. This book does an excellent job in contrasting these.

A question came to my mind as I began to read. Who does the counseling in God’s way? This book starts right there. The Lord is the counselor. Isaiah 9:6 says “and his name will be called wonderful counselor.” Throughout this book I am reminded that it is the Lord who counsels and not man. Man is used in counseling, but it is the Lord who is the actual counselor. This is very sobering for someone like me. I like to think of myself as having some skill or ability to counsel. This is not what this book is necessarily about.

Counseling God’s way is a form of discipleship and leads people through the process of sanctification. The counselor is used to disciple the counselee in growing in likeness of Jesus Christ. The objective in biblical counseling is not necessarily to fix our problems. The problems may be fixed along the way, but the objective is helping the counselee to grow and mature towards being more Christ-like. God’s word, the Holy Spirit, prayer and teaching within the context of church life are all used by God in the counseling process. Church life “refers to Christians living together as the family of God, walking in the relationships and drawing on the resources that we have available as the people of the Lord.” We can look at Colossians 3:12-17 to see a depiction of what this church life looks like. Whatever we do in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Bob Hoeskstra does an excellent job of outlining the process of equipping counselors. All Christians are called to counsel one another. In Romans 15:14 it says “I myself also am persuaded of you, my brothers, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” This makes it very clear that very believer is to counsel others. The word for admonishing can also be translated counsel. It may not be in a formal counseling situation, but we are all called to come along side other believers and encourage, teach and even admonish them so that they may live more fruitful lives that are growing more and more Christ like. There are those believers who have been particularly gifted in the area of counseling who may be called into a more formal setting for counseling. All believer’s ability to counsel is enhanced if they abide in Christ and live by His spirit sacrificing for others.

One chapter in this book stands out for m as vital to my own counseling ministry. That chapter is “Vital Issues for Most Counseling Situations.” These are strategic Bible truths that the author had learned over the years. The first area that really stood out was that trials difficulties and impossibilities are the very experiences which most often lead people to seeking counseling. Its never the easy things, but the most difficult circumstances in a person’s life that motivate them to seek counseling. This section reminded me that there are benefits of trials. They don’t just happen. The troubles in life help us to see that our faith is real. We have the opportunity to trust in the Lord for real. 1 Peter 1:6-7 helps me to remember this fact, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Also through this process our faith is refined so that it becomes more and more pure. After the suffering God has some things he wants us to do. 1 Peter 5:10 helps me to see this, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Throughout our whole struggle we need to keep our eyes on who it is that provides us hope, strength, wisdom and direction. Proverbs 3:5-6 provides an example “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.”

The further I delved into this book the more I realized that this counseling God’s way was leading me to lead others to a closer and closer walk with God. Through this walk people come to the understanding that their problems are tools that God uses to bring them into a better relationship with Him. Mr. Hoeskstra had done an excellent job up to this point. What I really wanted to know was the nuts and bolts of this God’s way of counseling. Amazingly the next section was Foundational Truths for Counseling. This was just what I was looking for. This section started by going through Romans chapters 5-8 and proceeded to who we are in Christ, followed by renewing of the mind and then as a reminder, spiritual warfare. All the problems and troubles of humanity are related to being in Adam. That is our flesh is the problem. The answer is not to try harder in our own strength. This only serves to dig us deeper. It may sound simple, but the answer to all our problems can be found in Jesus Christ. The battle we have is within us and it rages between spirit and flesh. The battle is a spiritual one that we cannot win on our own. We need the wonderful counselor.

I had said at the outset that this book contrasts God’s way and man’s way. So what is man’s way? It seems that most if not all of the psychological theories focus a counselee’s attention on themselves and even tend to blame things outside them for the problems. The more a person focuses on their needs the more self confident they become. This is theorized to lead to a state of better mental health. Everyone knows if you feel good about yourself then everything else will take care of itself. It sounds rational, true and even wise. The focus of much of counseling is look inward at ourselves and to look backwards into the past to see if we can find a cause for what is wrong inside. God’s way of counseling is to look forward to the future and to look upward to God for guidance as we proceed forward. Man’s way seems to pale in comparison to God’s way.

I would recommend this book to any serious student of counseling. The information is presented in an easy to follow and logical format. The ideas proceed from a common understanding to more and more biblically sound concepts that contradict common wisdom of man. If you are not a believer is Jesus Christ and have not accepted him as your Lord and Savior this may be a very difficult book to read. Without the Wonderful Counselor leading the way God’s counseling is fruitless. I have received many insights into counseling that will help my ministry and also those who come to me for help.

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