“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven  effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness”
 ~ DA Carson


“…that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” Titus 3:8

 Eventually, it always comes down to it. If we are going to be different then there will be work involved. Someone might wrongly think I mean that we need to do meritorious good deeds in order to find salvation or please
God. And, they would be wrong. I generally end counseling sessions with Paul’s declaration in Romans 8:1. “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” When read in the light of Ephesians 2:8-10 in which Paul
clearly tells us that we are saved by God’s grace and through faith without our works, it is plain that our standing before God has nothing to do with our own efforts. We are His workmanship.

 At the same time as I counsel people who struggle with worry, depression and growing list of labels, I know that before the discipleship session is over, they will need something to do. As I counsel with strugglers I always hope that the word of God finds its way into their hearts and minds so that by grace their thinking will change. But, if they are going to grow and change as a whole being, then behavior will need to come into the crosshairs of homework. 

The word homework carries such a negative connotation for most of us who did it. (Less for those of us who avoided it!) But it is as important to growth and change as hearing and understanding the word. Jesus said in
Matthew 7:24, “The one who hears these words of mine and acts on them may be compared to the wise man who built his house on the rock.” He also told us that the “one who has my commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves me. (John 14:21) From God’s lips to our ears comes the truth. If we really understand the scriptures and believe them, they will draw us to action and that action will result in change. 

James tells us to “be doers of the word and not hearers only!” (James 1:22) In my experience counselees are helped the most and do the best when time spent studying and applying appropriate scripture leads to changed
behavior. Strugglers need to know what the bible says about their current behavior and what it needs to become. 

Examples of homework assignments that grow out of scripture are not hard to find. Paul in his letter to Ephesus (4:28) said that those who stole should steal no more, but work so that they may have something to give. There it
is. By God’s grace the thief is saved, and stops thieving, but it cannot end there. The man has to get a job, work and then become a giver to others.  The action of giving coupled with the change in heart and thought results in those around him seeing the new man in Christ. The action of the Holy Spirit in his heart gives him the ability to choose to be a giver. 

There are lots of other homework examples in scripture. Those who struggle with sadness over loss can find purpose through homework that involves replacing problem behavior with biblical behavior by grace. And, that gives the struggler hope.

4/11/2013 01:19:15 am

Despite the negative connotation of the word "homework" (and I prefer "assignment" for this reason), I have definitely see two additional benefits to it on both ends of counseling— receiving and giving.

1) It gives the counselee lasting hope when she leaves the session. Prayerfully, in that session she has seen the light of Scripture and grasped a hope for life change. But without an assignment to actually implement that change, the counseling session is just words, and the hope is attached to the time in the session rather than to portable truth.

2) It strengthens the role of Scripture in the conselee's life. The counselor is often not available "on call" 24/7. But God's Word is! By giving Scripture-based assignments, the counselee is reminded that her hope and strength are connected to Christ and that they are literally at her fingertips.

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4/11/2013 06:29:45 am

Thank you for your comments. It is really true that "assignments" can give strugglers hope!

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