"Concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another" (Rom. 15:14).In recent years the question of who is competent to counsel has become an important issue in the church. Many pastors and other church leaders have curtailed their counseling ministries or stopped them altogether. They've been made to feel inadequate for not having formal training in psychological counseling techniques.
Behind this movement away from pastoral counseling is the subtle implication that the Holy Spirit and Scripture are incapable of addressing the deepest needs of the human heart. It is claimed that only secular psychology dispensed by trained analysts can do that.
But the truth is, the heart of man is "more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). No one. That includes humanistic counselors. Verse 10 says, "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind." Only God can understand the human heart.
David prayed, "O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. . . . Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?" (Ps. 139:1-3, 7).
Only God knows what's in a person's heart. Only His Spirit working through His Word can penetrate one's deepest thoughts and motives to transform the heart and renew the mind (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 12:2).
Professional psychologists are no substitute for spiritually gifted people who know the Word, possess godly wisdom, are full of goodness, and available to help others apply divine truth to their lives (Rom. 15:14).
When people come to you for counsel, the best thing you can do is show them what God's Word says about their problem and how it applies to their situation. But you can't do that unless you know the Word and are allowing it to do its work in you first. Then you'll be in a position to counsel others more effectively.
~John MacArthur, Drawing Near, Oct. 9, 2013