The Practice: How We Counsel from the Bible

Sept. 21, 2013 Elyse Fitzpatrick

Session Transcript

Elyse Fitzpatrick: What we want to do now is talk a little bit about how we counsel from the Bible. In the last session we were talking about why we counsel from the Bible, and then in this session we want to talk about how to do it.

Now, let me just say this. It probably doesn't need saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. There's no way in the world I can tell you how to counsel from the Bible in fifty-nine minutes and six seconds. I hope to point you in the right direction. That's what I would like to do.

But the practice of biblical counseling is something you will grow in. If you want to get trained in biblical counseling, there are a number of things you can do depending, of course, on your station in life, your season in life. There are a number of things you can do. Certainly minimally you can begin to just read on your own. And I would strongly recommend anything that Paul Trip and/or Tim Lane have written on that topic. So Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. Also, How People Change is a significant book and actually has a video series that goes along with the book and a workbook.

So Paul Tripp, Tim Lane, anything that's coming out of CCEF. Also, Bob Kellemen who spoke to you earlier, he is at the biblical counseling coalition table and he will have access for you to all sorts of wonderful free resources that will be very helpful to you. So, in other words, I've had several women come to me and tell me that they're wanting to try to help women who are getting free from the sex trafficking. And I'm sure you can get information from Bob that would be very helpful—articles people have written. Anything CCEF has—that's the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Philadelphia—they have a lot of wonderful resources.

Also, here's another way for you to get trained, and this is actually free. Woohoo! It's the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship, which is IBCD.org. They have entire courses in training in biblical counseling online for free. For free download. And I want to say it's about twenty hours of training materials. So please, you can access that website. My husband is on the board of IBCD, and we're very familiar with their work. We would highly recommend them. Go to them, and see what you can learn. So just to start out with, there are the resources from CCEF, from IBCD, there are books, Tim Lane, Paul Tripp. The book that Bob Kellemen was talking about, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, would also be a very good book for you to pick up.

I also have several books that talk about counseling. The first book that came out, which actually is going to go out of print, is called Women Helping Women. And then a book came out about three or four years ago called Women Counseling Women. So there's Women Helping Women, which came out in about 1997, and then Women Counseling Women. And those are books that have chapters written by a number of different women. I just acted as the editor. And so they are resource books. They're big thick books. So you go to it, and you pull it off the shelf if you want to know how to counsel a lady who's having to take care of her aging mother. There are wonderful topics in those books. So I would encourage you to get those.

Also, another one of my books is called Counsel from the Cross—that's a Crossway Publication. That would be a book that you could read if you want to know how to bring the gospel message you've been hearing from myself and Paul into counseling. That's Counsel from the Cross. And I co-authored that book with Dr. Dennis Johnson who is a professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary of California. That's a wonderful book and would probably be a really good help for you.

So there are a number of things you can do. You can do that sort of business, which is sort of on your own, you don't need to leave your home, you don't need to spend much money. You can do that. You can also get training.

There are some places for you to get training. And again, I'm saying all of this to you because I'm not going to be able to tell you how to do biblical counseling in fifty minutes. I want to point you in some directions. But I want to give you some helps, too. Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries. That's in Lafayette, Indiana. Every February. Have you been to Indiana in February? Oh, you guys live here. Never mind. I live in southern California. It's like seriously? You live here? My teeth hurt. Right? And you love it. You see, you haven't been taking your meds again. (laughter) Kidding.

Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries, Lafayette, Indiana, has a weeklong counseling training that is intensive, but it goes from morning till night. There are some people here in the room I see that have been there, and they keep coming back for some reason. So I'm there all week. There are a number of biblical counselors who are there all week who will give training. They have now six different tracks. It starts off with a beginner track and then track two, three, four. They have one track that will help you take a test that will help you get certified to do counseling. It's amazing. That will take a week out of your life, and you'll have to go live in the ice and snow in Lafayette, Indiana. It's fully worth your while.

You can also go to Master's Seminary. Master's has a biblical counseling program. I think they have both a bachelors and a master's degree in biblical counseling, and that's in California. But they have what they call a SIP program, which is the Summer Internship Program where you do coursework during the year and then you go out during the summer for three weeks, I want to say. And it would be three weeks several years in a row. I'm not sure how many. I think maybe three or four. And you can do coursework that way.

I did a master's degree in biblical counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary–Newburgh, which is an online program. So you can do that, too.

All of that is up to you. What's your season in life? How much time do you have? How much do you want to devote to this? Do you feel like God is calling you to this specific ministry? You want to have training in that? I would suggest that you begin to get training.

Now, let's say you say to me, "Elyse, I barely have time to breathe. Excuse me? And I have all these ladies knocking down my door. Help me." All right. Very quickly. Women Helping Women and Women Counseling Women. Those two books will be a resource for you. You just go to the book, see what chapter. We give you how to think about it, how to counsel on whatever topic it might be. Somebody says, "I have problems with rebellious teenagers." There are probably fifty different topics in combination between those two books.

Or the other thing you can do is somebody can, perhaps somebody calls you and says, "I don't know what to do, but I just found out that my husband's been looking at pornography." You know what you can say? "I don't know what to tell you except I do know that I'm going to pray about this, and I'm going to do some research and I'll come back to you." So let's be comfortable enough as women that we can say, "I'm not the Bible Answer Woman."

I've had women even ask me questions here at this conference, and I can just say, "I don't have an answer for that, but I do know people who would know what resources are available." Then you give yourself three or four days or five days, and you pray and you ask God for wisdom and you read the resources and Changing Lives Resources. They have fifty or sixty little pamphlets on every topic you could think of. Amazing little pamphlets. Seventy-five cents. You can go on to Changing Lives Resources and look at all those pamphlets and buy some. And then you've got them.

When I started doing biblical counseling thirty years ago, there were not a lot of resources. But there are now. There are just a glut of wonderful resources. Avail yourself of those things, and don't feel like you have to have everything in your brain about every problem every woman might have. Because let's just face it—we won't. And it's okay.

So if someone calls and they say, "I don't know what to do." Feel free to say, "I don't know either. But let's pray, and I promise I'll go try to find help." And then can I say something else that ought to be axiomatic, but maybe it isn't? Ask your pastors. Who knew? Go to your elders. Go to your pastors and just say, "I've got a woman who's struggling with 'X.' What do I do?" And see if they can help you as well.

See the deal is, we are moving away from a professional model. John Piper wrote that book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. Sisters, we are not professionals. So we're going to move away from the professional model, which basically is "I have all the answers. You come to me. We don't have any relationship. It's very antiseptic, very sterile. As a matter of fact, I don't want you to have a relationship with me because there might be transference there. So what I want to do is keep you, basically, at arm's length and then I'm going to be the person with all the answers, and that's how this relationship is going to work." We don't want to do that anymore. That's not the biblical model for help.

The biblical model of help is not "you come see me for fifty minutes and pay me $180." That's not the biblical model for help. The biblical model for help is that we do life together. Right? We live life together. And then as we live life together and the Lord brings situations into my life and into your life, then we seek to help one another.

So, again, I'm so thankful for the Biblical Counseling Coalition. That resource that Bob Kellemen talked about, they have their finger on everybody who's doing biblical counseling. And biblical counseling is a wide landscape. There are some people who are very strong in certain areas, and some people who are very strong in other areas. And that's okay. But within that whole biblical counseling landscape there are a number of ministries that are doing really great work. Biblical Counseling Coalition brings all those people together and then offers them so you can know what's there. So let me encourage you if you haven't done it, go by Bob Kellemen's table, and pick up a card or whatever you need so that you'll remember to go there.

One more thing. I frequently get emails from people who want to know if there are any counselors in their area, because they're looking for counseling or looking for help. www.nanc.org—National Association of Nouthetic Counselors. You can go there. There will be a link that says, "Find a Counselor in Your Area." Click on there, and then they have everybody who has been certified by them to do biblical counseling and that will be very helpful to you as well. So those are the resources.

So now, we have forty-three minutes. And I'm going to try to help you see in particular how the gospel helps you counsel people. But again, let me read to you from 2 Timothy 3, and I'm just going to read this one passage, verses 16–17. Well, no I won't. I'm going to start with verse 15 Talking to Timothy: "How from childhood [Timothy] you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise." See Scripture, and this in particular was Old Testament Scripture, is able to make you wise enough for salvation. That's what the Scripture can do. It can make you wise. And so we want to know the Word.

Can I tell you one other thing? One other thing you can do? Let's say that you want to be able to use the Bible to talk to people on different topics. When I first started doing biblical counseling, I had a Bible that I used. And I did my own chain reference. Do you know what I mean by that? So if somebody called me and they said they were having a lot of trouble with anger, I could go to my Bible because I don't remember passages very well. I mean I can remember a passage but I'm not quite sure exactly where it is. I could go to the back of my Bible, and there's Ephesians 4:15, maybe. And from there there's a chain to the next topic. I mean the next verse and the next verse. So I have maybe ten passages just on the topic of anger already written in my Bible.

You can do that on your own. If you have Logos, it will really help you. But even if all you have is a concordance, get a concordance and do a word study on anger or worry or sadness or self-indulgence, fear. Do those kinds of word studies. Marriage. Parenting. And then in your Bible you will have that chain reference already there for you. Is that helpful? So you can do that on your own.

"How from childhood you have been acquainted [Timothy] with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." Here's our primary passage: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [and woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

You see the women who we are going to be involved with, what they need is training, teaching, reproof, correction, trained in righteousness, that they may be complete. We want to bring truth to them that will help them be complete and equipped for whatever it is that God is calling them to. Now the question is, okay so we all know that the Bible is wonderful for... We believe the Bible is inerrant. Do you know that that means? It has no errors, right? How many of you believe the Bible is inerrant? Yes. Good.

But here's another question. How many of you believe the Bible is sufficient? Now, hold on because I'm going to define that. Sufficiency means that in every area where Scripture speaks to the life and heart of man, everything that you and I need to know, everything we need to know in order to be equipped for every good work, complete, in order that we might love God and love our neighbor, everything we need to know is contained there. We don't need anything else. That's what sufficiency means.

Now, do you believe the Bible is sufficient? See, that's what we need to believe. Because I will tell you, it's very easy for us to say we believe in inerrancy, that there are no errors. But we're not really sure about sufficiency. Like, maybe I need the Bible plus this over here, plus this magazine or this book or this teaching. And what we want to say is, "We believe that the Bible is sufficient." In other words, everything I need to know about how to love God and love my neighbor is contained there.

Now, does the Bible speak to every single thing that might happen? Would the Bible tell me, for instance, how to rebuild a carburetor? No. You see, the Bible doesn't speak to how to rebuild carburetors. Which is good. The Bible tells me how God can help me learn. The Bible tells me how to be a good mechanic in that I'm working for the Lord and not for human beings. The Bible will tell me that. But in every area where the Bible speaks about how to love God and love our neighbor, the Bible is sufficient. It tells us everything we need to know.

So if I'm having problems in my marriage or you have someone come to you and she's having problems with her children or she's having problems with fear and anxiety, the Bible is sufficient to help with that. Now the Bible does not tell us everything we need to know about our physical bodies. It just does not. It's not meant to do that. It is meant to help us know how to handle suffering and how we ought to live as much as we can healthy lives. But it does not tell us whether or not we should eat organic. The Bible is not meant to speak to that. What the Bible is meant to speak to is everything you and I need to know in order to love our neighbors and love God, to be thoroughly equipped, complete.

So now is the Bible practical? Yes. The Bible is imminently practical. How do I know? Because the Bible portrays people as they really are. The Bible portrays Abraham as he really is. Now, of course the Bible says that he's the father of our faith, but there were things in Abraham's life that were significant problems, weren't there? See the Bible portrays people as they really are, and that's good news for us because we can know that the same God who worked in Abraham's life will work in our lives, too, and that we do not have to pattern our lives after Abraham. In fact, what we do is we look to Christ.

And what about Sarah? Don't you love that picture of Sarah when the Lord says, "I'm going to come to you and bring you a child." And what does she do? She laughs. And He says, "Don't laugh." And then what does she do? "I didn't laugh." (laughter) Seriously! You're talking to God here. Come on!

Don't you love that about Sarah? I love that about her because I can see myself doing the exact same thing. And yet, listen! And yet God used her. Scheming—and she did, didn't she? Scheming, unbelieving woman God used as a descendent of the Christ.

And David we know. How many really grievous ways in which David sinned. And yet God says that he's a man after My own heart. See, God is not looking for perfection from you. This is the message you're hearing this weekend, and that's good news, right? God isn't looking for perfection from you. He will use you, and not only will He use you in your weakness and when you're being really obedient, but He will use you in ways you just can't even imagine that He's using you.

You know, sometimes people say, "It's really too bad we weren't alive when the New Testament was being written, because somehow society then was better." You don't know a lot about the ancient Near East if that's what you think. Society in the days when Paul was writing to the Ephesians and the Corinthians and the Romans was pretty nasty business. Do you think America has a problem now? I mean we're not taking children we don't want and leaving them outside to die because they're the wrong sex. We are aborting children. But so were they. Don't think it's really too bad I'm not living in those ancient times because they were somehow more holy. No they weren't. But God used them.

I mean, think about Corinth for crying out loud. Really. Temple prostitutes. And it was common. Nobody thought anything of it. One of the reasons why Paul's instructions, especially in Corinthians to husbands about their sexuality in 1 Corinthians 7, is so very antithetical to what was being practiced in Corinth in those days.

There was a class of women in Corinth called the hetaerae, and the hetaerae were kind of like geishas. They weren't necessarily prostitutes, but they could be. And every man could go see any member of that group at any time he wanted whether he was married or not, and the wife couldn't say a thing because his body belonged to himself and her body belonged to him. And so he could go hang out with the hetaerae, and then he was married to the woman who would produce children for him.

See that was normal. That was the normal practice in Corinth. So when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7, "Husbands, your body doesn't belong to you. It belongs to your wife. And wives, your body doesn't belong to you, it belongs to your husband," he's going completely against the culture there—completely against that culture.

What we want to do is understand the people that the Bible was written to are just like us. It's imminently practical because this isn't Austen Land. You know Austen Land? You know Jane Austen? See, it's not that. It's sinners. Very broken people being taught to help very broken people.

The Bible speaks deeply into our lostness. Grace transforms us. Grace transforms sinners. The good news, the gospel of Jesus life—and when I say "gospel" this is what I mean. I mean His death, His sinless life, His death, His resurrection, ascension, and ongoing reign. That message of what He has already done.

When you begin a counseling session, do not begin with "What would Jesus do?" Please don't talk to me about "what would Jesus do" until you've already soaked my soul in what has Jesus done. What would Jesus do is not helpful until I have faith to believe that somehow He's going to use me. Let's talk with those who come to us primarily about what He has already done. That speaks deeply into our hearts. I hope to show you how.

His grace. His inexplicable love. His grace and inexplicable love for sinners is the vehicle whereby He plants the good news that frees us into our hearts. And so what I want to say is, don't ever have a session ... John Calvin said—excuse me if you don't like John Calvin. I'm just going to make one little teeny quote. John Calvin said, "Every conversation where Christ's name is not mentioned is pointless." How many conversations trying to help people, trying to minister to women, have you had with them where you haven't mentioned His name?

We need to be very intentional about speaking His name, because it's very easy for us to assume Him, to assume that He's there in the conversation and instead of talking about Him, talk instead about the things that they need to do. Well, you know, in this situation, what would Jesus do? No, let's talk about what Jesus did. And once we've talked about what Jesus did then we can certainly talk about what you should do, but only in the context of the fact that we have been loved and forgiven. Only in that context.

So how does God's grace transform sinners then? Let's try to be a little more practical. First of all, God's grace transforms us at the very rock bottom place where we all struggle, which is unbelief. Every single problem that a woman will come to you with has at its genesis unbelief. I either don't believe that God can help in this situation or I don't believe God is good in this situation. Or I don't believe I'm going to be able to make it. There's always unbelief.

You see, unbelief is always at the core of every sin. That's why Eve ate that fruit, because Satan came to her and blasphemed God and said, "He's not really good. If He really loved you He would let you eat that fruit, because if you eat that fruit you will be like Him and that's a good thing." At the core of every single sin is the thought that God has somehow robbed you of something you think you deserve.

The problem is right now we are living in a culture that will say, "That's right. You deserve a break today. You deserve all the good things." And then people get paid thousands and thousands of dollars to make commercials so that you can see images that make you think that there's something in your life you don't have that you need. They get paid thousands of dollars to make you envious and discontent.

And then envy and discontent really flow out of a heart of unbelief, which says, "If God really loved me, I would have that car. If God really loved me, I could go on that vacation." Do you see what I'm saying? Unbelief. And that's why I'm saying you need to talk about the gospel, because the only thing that will build our faith is the fact God loves us in spite of who we are and has given us everything we need for life and godliness. So unbelief is at the very heart of all of our sins. So we want to speak grace to that.

Paul said, "I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 1:13–14). That's Paul's own testimony. How he was going around persecuting the church but he was acting in unbelief. He couldn't believe there was a God who was as good as these Christians were saying He was.

God's grace plants faith where there was once only unbelief. So we want to continue to preach grace. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8–9). So the people to whom you are speaking need God's work. You can't plant faith in their hearts. Have you figured that out yet? You cannot plant faith in the heart of your children. Have you figured that out yet? God has to do it. And so you pray, "God, give her faith to believe."

I've had counseling sessions I thought were terrible. I mean, I couldn't find a verse if my life depended on it. I had no clue what they were talking about. It didn't seem like we were connecting at all. I'll go away, pray, come back a week later, the woman will say to me, "You can't believe what God has done in my heart through what you said last week." (laughter) It's like, "Excuse me, but I don't even remember what I said last week. And I thought it was dreadful."

Do you get it? That's what's really wonderful about counseling from Scripture. When you counsel from Scripture, it's not all on you. It's not your power; it's God's power. It's the Holy Spirit who has to work. It's the Holy Spirit who has to plant faith. And that's what's so freeing about it. So you give as much Scripture as you can and you talk about Christ as much as you can, and then you leave it. And then it's shocking how the Holy Spirit will work.

God's grace transforms angry sinners. Do you know any angry sinners? Are you sitting with one? (laughter) God's grace transforms people who are angry. Listen to Paul's own testimony. Listen to what he says about himself in Acts 26:11: "I punished them often." He's talking about the Christians before he came to Christ, how he was persecuting them. "I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, [listen to that] and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities." You think Paul was an angry man? Paul was an angry man. He had raging fury.

And yet then his next testimony is this from 1 Thessalonians 2:7: "But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children." Can you hear the transformation from raging fury to gentle mother nursing her children? What can make a man who has raging fury, so much raging fury that he would commit men and women to be imprisoned and murdered, to then become a person who's gentle like a nursing mother? You see, God's grace does that. You can bring them truth. Bring the truth, but then pray that God's grace will do that.

Where does anger come from? What does James 4 say? If you want to know one of the passages you should have always available to you when you're talking to someone about anger, read James 4. I mean the one passage that will really help you. Here we go. James 4:1: "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?" Why are you angry? Why are you fighting? That's the question James is asking. "Is it not this, that your passions," or desires or lusts, and I don't mean that in a sexual way, just a strong desire. "Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder."

Well, I've never actually murdered anybody, but in my heart? Listen, if you're that lady in front of me in the grocery store that Paul was talking about, I don't really want to murder you. I just want to make you disappear. Why? Because I have a desire, and the desire is that I ought to be God. I ought to be able to do everything after the counsel of my own will whenever I want to do it. So I go to the store, and if I want to pick something up and get out of the store then I want to be able to do that quickly without anybody getting in my way. It's like, "Get out of my way. Don't you know who I am?" So where does that come from? Do I have a problem with that kind of anger because my last name's Fitzpatrick, which means I must be Irish? Or because my mother has an anger problem? Or is it my genetics or is it my brain chemicals? What is it that makes me angry like that?

James says it's that I have desires that are being unmet. And actually he goes on to say they're adulterous desires. Because I want to be my own god. I want another god. So he says, "You desire and do not have, so you commit murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel" (4:2). Why? Why is that lady who's coming to you fighting with her husband? It's because both of them want what they want when they want it the way they want it. That's why we fight.

I would rather think that the reason I fight is because I was not raised in a home where we had devotions every night. Because then it can be somebody else's problem. "It's not my problem. It's not my fault." No, the Bible tells me very specifically, "You have anger, Elyse. You war, you quarrel, you fight, because you want what you want when you want it the way you want it. And if you don't bring it to me in the way I want it, then somebody's going to pay." He says, "You fight and you quarrel. You murder, you covet and cannot obtain." You see, I want it, I fight, and I quarrel. "You do not have, because you do not ask." And then you say, "Hold on a second. I have asked. I mean, I'm always asking God to make my life go right."

I don't want to pick on teenage girls but sometimes . . . I used to teach school, and I would have them pray sometimes in Bible class. And when they would pray, they would say, "God make today go right." And I always thought, Hmm. I wonder exactly what that means. You see, I want what I want when I want it.

"You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people!" (vv. 2–4). When James is talking here about people who are fighting and quarreling, what he's getting at is that a lot of times we are praying and asking God to serve our idols. "God, I want my life the way I want my life to go. I want everybody to do what I want them to do all the time. And if they don't, then they're going to pay." That's where fights and quarrels come from. All right, so now, somebody comes in and they say, "I'm really having trouble with anger." James 4. Perfect passage for that isn't it?

And he goes on to say where this all flows out of. It all flows out of idolatry. Adultery. Idolatry. "I want another god. I want to be married to another god. I want another god to satisfy me. I want another god to give me my desires. I'm worshiping and serving something else. There's something else that I want—more than I want holiness, more than I want the Lord, more than I want grace. What I really, really want right now is this thing. This is what I want. This will satisfy me. This will make me happy. And you'd better give it to me or else."

Now people cloak that in all sorts of words. "My husband doesn't love me. My husband doesn't . . ." You fill in the blank. "My husband . . ." A lot of women will say, "Well, I thought if I would get married, I would be satisfied. And then I got married. And then I thought if I had married somebody else, I would be satisfied. And I thought if I had kids, I would be satisfied. And then I thought if I had somebody else's kids, I would be satisfied."

Here's the deal. Augustine said you've got this hole in your heart, and it can only be filled by God. But you and I and every angry person, every person who's ever struggled with anger, are always trying to cram something else into that hole to fill it. And the problem is even if you get it, you're not going to be satisfied. You understand that. Even if you get it, it's not going to satisfy you. That's why Christmas afternoon you're starting to look around for a little something more. Never satisfied. Never satisfied. Our hearts are always restless until we find our rest in You.

So anger flows out of unmet desires, but in Christ all our desires are met. What do I want? What are my desires? My desires are that at heart I would know I'm loved and welcomed and forgiven and okay. I'm justified. In Christ everything is taken care of. My entire past is taken care of. It's all taken care of. My present is in His hands, and the really wonderful news is my entire future is already taken care of. Nothing from hell, nothing from the future, nothing from any enemy can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. All of my desires have been met.

What about if somebody comes and they're just a person who's filled with fear and worry? How do we help them? Well, Timothy was a person that we know struggled with fear. We know that because Paul was talking to him about it a lot. Second Timothy 1:7 says, "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." So Paul is helping his son-in-the-faith Timothy who struggles with fear and worry.

And again Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:10: "When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am." In other words, Timothy was a person who might not be at ease with people. So Paul's telling the church, "Take care of him. Don't disturb him."

But listen, later on in Hebrews 13 we know that Timothy had enough courage even to be imprisoned for his faith, because Hebrews 13:23 says, "You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon." Timothy, who was someone who really struggled with fear and worry, was willing to live a persecuted martyred life for Christ. See, Christ can transform a person. By His grace He can transform unbelievers. He can transform the angry. He can transform fearful people by His grace.

Because we are no longer in doubt of our Father's love for us and His commitment to sustain and bless us, we are given grace to put off every worry and put on gratitude and prayer in its place. Let me tell you what's at the heart of all of the fear and worry that the women who will come to you will have.

First John 4:18 says that in fear is this thought that we are not loved. But perfect love casts out fear. So if I know then that I am loved by God, if I know that I am loved by God.... Listen, I know that you all, I'm imagining you all are in some ministry role in your church and you're always telling people "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Here's the question. Do you know you're loved by God? And I mean really at the bottom of your heart. Do you really know that you are really loved by God?

I think that so many of us really sort of wonder if He . . . "Well, maybe He loves me because He said He would. And okay, He's not a liar, so He said He would. So maybe He loves me. But I'm not really sure maybe He likes me very well." Do you know that you're loved and welcomed? That you're forgiven, that you're righteous? If you know that, if you know that the God who is as I said to you earlier today, transcendent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, if you know that that God loves you, what do you have to be afraid of? What is there to fear?

Everything that comes to you comes to you through nail-scarred hands. Everything that comes to you and to the women you minister to comes to them through nail-scarred hands. What that tells me is here's a suffering Savior who knows exactly what it's like to be in pain, and yet has allowed this to come into my life for my good and for His glory.

In case you think that my life is any different than yours, about five years ago it became very apparent that my husband had had a number of strokes. And although if you met him you would not know that, I know it because he has had some changes in his personality. Now, I don't want to make this a bigger thing than it is, but I'll tell you what. You see, what I need to know is that that came to me—and Phil and I in June will celebrate our fortieth anniversary—that came to me through the hands of a Savior who loves me, who isn't punishing us.

How do I know He's not punishing me? Because all of the punishment for all of our sins was already placed on the head of the Son on Calvary. All of the punishment for all of your sin was already placed on the head of the beloved Son on Calvary for you. He drank His Father's cup of wrath in your place.

So when suffering comes, and suffering will come; we live in a fallen world. I don't know what that means about the future for Phil and I. What do I know? Jesus loves me, this I know. And I know that nothing will come to me except the One who loves me more than anyone has ever loved has said, "Elyse, this is good for your soul." Not punitive. Not punitive. Suffering in the life of the Christian is never meant as punishment. It is always meant redemptively to bring you closer to Christ out of love for you. That doesn't mean He doesn't discipline. Of course He does. But let's not think of discipline simply as a spanking. He disciplines us by teaching us with His Word.

So we are no longer in doubt of our Father's love for us and His commitment to sustain and bless us, whatever that means. We are given grace to put off worry and put on gratitude and prayer in its place. Philippians 4:5–6: "The Lord is at hand . . ." See, imminence. Remember we talked about that last hour. He's imminent. He's at hand. He's right here. "The Lord is at hand; [so then] do not be anxious about anything." I'm preaching to myself.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds" (vv. 6–7). So when someone comes to you and they're afraid and they're worried and they're anxious, pray. Pray. And you can pray in confidence, because the Lord is near. He is right here. He's right here. He's right here. I mean seriously! If you were sitting in your car and Jesus was sitting there with you, would you worry? I mean, seriously! This is the guy who walked on water. He really can get you where you need to be.

What about if you talk to somebody who's struggling with self-indulgence? Here's some good news. "Do not be deceived . . . " This is 1 Corinthians 6:9–11. "Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." Here's good news, now: "And such were some of you." Isn't that good news?

See, God transforms the self-indulgent. Somebody should say, "Hallelujah!" God knows how to transform the self-indulgent. He can do it by His grace. "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." That's 1 Corinthians 6:9–11. The guilt, hopelessness, and desire to anesthetize and pleasure yourself will all be answered in the good news of God's grace.

You are already more loved than you could possibly imagine. You are already clean in His sight. You don't need to cover yourself or try to hide or lash out. You've been washed and welcomed. Do you know that you are loved? Listen, very quickly. How would your life change if you knew you were loved? "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Sit down with someone and tell them that verse. That's Romans 5:8.

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world" (1 John 4:9). See, God demonstrates His love by sending His Son. How would you change if you knew that you were righteous already? "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). Do you believe that Christ died for you? Answer me. You are righteous now, right now. Not when you get your act together, not when you start learning how to counsel properly, not when you . . . these are all good things. You are righteous now, if you believe that He lived and died in your place.

Is your future secure? "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed in us." That's Romans 8:18. What's our future look like? First Peter 1:4: "[We have] an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading." See, an inheritance is coming and it's imperishable, undefiled unfading. It's coming. And where is it? It's being "kept in heaven for you" right now, "kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are"—listen to what He's doing for you—"who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time." You're being guarded, and your inheritance is being guarded.

So if your future is secure, then you don't have to scheme, manipulate, worry, fret, try to control our lives so everything turns out the way we want it to. Christ has proven that He loves us and that we will be cared for. How do I know I will be cared for? That. (points to a cross) That. Right? That. That's how I know. If Jesus was willing to do all this for you, don't you think He will keep you till the end?

Jesus will have a Bride who will be equipped to do all that He asks her to do. The Scripture will help, the Spirit will help, you and I can be dispensers of grace to one another. The really good news is that as He trains you to do that, you're going to really love it. It doesn't mean that it's always comfortable, right? Ministry is not always comfortable. But you're going to love doing it when you're doing it.

Let me pray for you now. Heavenly Father, thank You so much that You have not left us alone. We are not on our own. You have not left us alone. But instead what You have done is You have sent Your Son, Your Spirit, Your Word, Your presence, and Your great grace to minister to us, to love us, to bring us to Yourself. Grant us patience. Grant us faith to believe that You can continue to use us. We pray in Christ's name. Amen.