“Sounds good to me.” A statement I have uttered countless times. People have ideas; some people have good ideas. And when those ideas are presented to me as a leader, I often think they sound like good ideas. But sometimes, after putting some more thought and prayer into it, I realize the idea is actually not a good idea. What do I say then? I have to go back to that person and let them know that their idea was not actually as good of an idea as I said it was. That’s awkward; I don’t like it one bit.
This actually happened to a prophet in the Old Testament by the name of Nathan. One day, King David came to him for some advice. You see, he thought since he had a nice house, that he should build one for God, too. Not exactly for God, but for the ark of the covenant. Here’s the answer that Nathan gave him.
1 Chronicles 17:2 Nathan replied to David, “Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.”
What a great confirmation for David. He asked a prophet of the Lord what he should do and he got the green light. Surely this brilliant idea came from the Lord. Except for what happened next. In verse 3 it says “But that night the word of God came to Nathan…” Hold the phone! You mean Nathan “the prophet” didn’t actually inquire of the Lord? He simply said, “sounds good to me.” That’s a problem.
God in his faithfulness spoke to Nathan what he should have told David. So Nathan had to have that awkward conversation. “Remember when I said, ‘sounds good to me?’ Well, it actually isn’t good. That’s not what God wants.” Back peddling is not fun, especially when someone is enthusiastic about your advice.
We will end up in the same back peddling situations as Nathan if we are too quick to answer. If we don’t call upon the Lord for His word and His guidance, we will be saying “sounds good to me” to things that are no good at all. So if we want to actually live in wisdom, we need to go to the Lord before we answer. We need to inquire of Him before we make our move. If we do, He will lead us in the way everlasting.
Now THAT sounds good to me!
We all need good advice from time to time. Now there are good places to ask for advice and there are not so good places. The last thing you want to do in your time of need is go to a bad place for advice. Yet we can easily fall into that trap. How? By going to people who are simply going to tell us what we want to hear. The truth is, advice isn’t always fun to receive. It may cause you to rethink your course. It may cause you to see things in a new way. It can determine our next steps. So get good advice!
In the Bible, Saul didn’t get good advice. He made bad decisions, often because of bad advice. He went to the wrong sources. And because of that, it led to him not following the word of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14a Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord.
Ok, I get it. Sometimes you are desperate for an answer. God isn’t answering fast enough. But please, do not go to searching for advice from the wrong places. The horoscope is not the right advice for your day. A fortune cookie is certainly not going to give you the answer you need. And if getting direction from a fortune cookie isn’t bad enough, do NOT seek out wisdom from a fortune teller. The last thing you need is to inquire of a medium like Saul did.
Why does this all matter? It matters because as God’s children, He desires to lead us to places of life. He is to be the voice that gives us direction. He is the one who is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. When we start doing things like consulting horoscopes and mediums, we are essentially consulting the devil for our future. We are looking to a person who has some kind of power, but that power is not from God. That’s dangerous.
So if you need advice, inquire of the Lord. Make that your way of life. Don’t search for advice in the wrong places.
1 Kings 12:6-7 Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon when he was alive, asking, “How do you advise me to respond to these people? ” They replied, “Today if you will be a servant to these people and serve them, and if you respond to them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever.”
King Rehoboam had a choice. You see his father became a heavy in the latter days of his life. So the people came to the new king and asked him to let up a bit. They asked him to be nice to them and treat them well. So like a good king, he asked his advisors what he should do. Verse 7 is the response of the elders. They said he should serve the people. But that didn’t sound too exciting to the king, so he asked his buddies for some advice.
Now there are two big takeaways here in this story. The first is that we ought to be mindful of who are asking advice from. Rehoboam decided to take the advice of his buddies over the advice of the elders. Because of it, he lost the throne. It was bad advice: they told him to be more mean! Sometimes we start asking around for advice until we find someone who agrees with us. Just because our buddies agree with us, doesn’t make them right. So if you are going to ask for advice from someone, make sure it is someone who has a clue. Make sure it is someone with wisdom who is willing to give you the truth regardless of your opinions and feelings.
Secondly, there’s this whole issue around servant leadership. The wise ones told the king that the best leader is one who sees his position of authority as a means to serve others. I happen to completely agree with those elders. He should have listened! Our greatest opportunity as a leader is to enable others to reach their full potential. If we can do that, everyone will succeed. A leader has to see beyond what he wants out of his people. He needs to serve his people and help them be their best. He needs to win their hearts if he is going to win their allegiance. And that happens when a leader is willing to be a servant.
2 Samuel 16:20-23 20 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?” 21 Ahithophel answered, “Lie with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench in your father’s nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. 23 Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.
Ever been given bad advice? I’ve been given plenty of it. In fact, it seems like there is always an ample supply of bad advice to go around and a shortage of God advice. Oh, did I say God advice – I meant good advice. Isn’t that what good advice is, anyways? The best advice is the Godly kind. It’s not enough to seek out good advice; that’s just common sense (which doesn’t seem to be all that common). But Godly advice, that’s where it’s at!
Absalom received some pretty cruddy advice from a guy who was supposed to be trustworthy. It says in verse 23 that Ahithophel was regarding as someone who inquires of God. So you would expect his advice to be Godly; you would expect God’s heart to come out through his mouth. Instead, he tells Absalom to have sex with his dad’s concubines. Oh ya, that’s a GREAT idea… wow.
What was Absalom thinking? Was he just stupid or so controlled by his flesh that he liked the idea and could justify that the Godly man told him to do it? I think it was probably the latter. He slept with his father’s concubines; he did it in plain sight of all Israel. Are you kidding me? He flaunted this gross, sinful act to the nation!
This should lead us to being careful about the kind of advice we follow. How do we do that? First, assess whether the advice given matches the character and heart of God. Is this something that would honor God? Second, seek confirmation. Confirmation can come through the Bible, through others, or through seeking to hear God’s voice for yourself. Third, think about the consequences. Seek to determine what the outcome will be. Will it be life-giving?
Stay away from bad advice today, even if it is practical wisdom. For the Lord’s ways are not man’s ways. His ways are higher!