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Take Advice

Those with wisdom know how to seek the right kind of advice and have the ability to take advice.


We are in the sixth week of our series on Proverbs. It's called "Get Smart." It's a ten-part series from the Book of Proverbs about getting it together and keeping it together. In short, it's about developing wisdom. Those with wisdom know how to seek the right kind of advice and have the ability to take advice.

Actually, getting advice is easy. All you have to do is go to Wal-Mart with a baby. People will stop you and tell you how to raise it. In mid-July they'll say things to you like, "I can't believe you brought that baby out without a coat on!" or "If you let that baby suck her thumb like that, she'll get buck-teeth." You get the idea.

Another easy way to get advice is go into business for yourself. There are plenty of people out there who are glad to tell you where you should spend your advertising dollar, what your prices should be, what your hours should be, and on and on.

Another easy way to get advice is to coach a Little League team. I tried this several years. Even though my team won two consecutive championships, there were more than a few people who thought I needed their input on how to put together a winning team. (Their advice usually involved more playing time for their kid.)

The point I'm getting to is this: There's tons of advice out there, and plenty of people more than willing to offer it to you. The problem is this: Most unasked-for advice is worth what you paid for it, and taking the wrong advice can get you in trouble.

If you are in the process of getting it together and keeping it together, you will need to fine tune the art of taking advice. Everyone needs advice, and the Book of Proverbs tells us it is absolutely essential to take advice in order to succeed in life. Solomon said, "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (19:20)." "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice" (12:15).

Today we will look at three things that will help you develop the skill of getting advice and show you where to get advice and how to use it. First of all, when you seek advice, you have to ...

Be selective.

You can't get advice from just everyone, though sometimes it may seem that everyone is trying to give it to you. You have to choose who you'll listen to. This is why I'm so wary of unasked-for advice. People who are wise rarely attempt to advise you until you ask for it, because they know you have to be ready to hear advice before it will do you any good.

Before you seek advice from anyone regarding a problem you're having or a decision you're facing, be careful to choose the right person to give you counsel. Proverbs 13:7 in the Living Bible says it very plainly: "If you are looking for advice, stay away from fools" (14:7 tlb).

In other words, stay away from people who want to tell you how to run an area of your life that they're unable to manage themselves. You don't ask Elizabeth Taylor how to make a marriage last. You don't ask the Chicago Cubs how to get to the World Series. You don't ask me how to keep a full head of hair. You get the idea. When you need advice, seek out people you admire and respect, who have the credibility to give advice.

Solomon said, "He who walks with the wise grows wise" (13:20). Now, before you go to someone for advice, the following is what you need to look for.

First, look for someone who's "been there; done that."If you're poor and want to become rich, seek out the advice of someone who was poor and became rich. You wouldn't ask Ted Kennedy, for example, how to become rich, because the best advice he could give you is "be born rich." You would ask someone like Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy's), or Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart).

Find someone who faced the same kind of challenge you're facing now—and faced it successfully—and then ask them how they did it. This is why twelve-step groups are so successful. There's nothing magical about the twelve steps; the power in this movement comes from one person helping another overcome the struggle with addiction.

Someone who has never struggled with compulsive behavior doesn't understand it and won't be able to offer much help. If they don't understand what you're going through, more than likely their advice will be trite, cliché ridden, and not of much use. You'll just end up feeling like a failure. But if you talk to someone who has successfully overcome the problem you're facing now—whether it's marital problems, or besetting sin, or a business setback, or some kind of addiction, or whatever it may be—he or she will be able to give you advice on how to deal with your situation. Look for someone who has experience. Look for someone who's been there.

Second, find someone who has your best interests at heart. When Al Gore was running for president of the United States and needed a little help with his campaign, do you think he went to George Bush, Sr. for campaign advice? After all, the man had "been there, done that." Of course not, for obvious reasons. George Bush Sr. wouldn't have Al Gore's best interests at heart.

That was an exaggerated example, but think about it: When you ask for advice, you are putting yourself in somewhat of a vulnerable position. You need to be sure this person has your best interests at heart, that he or she isn't advising you with a self-serving, hidden agenda.

In college two friends and I used to play Risk every night. In the very first game I played with these guys, my friend, Robert, suggested I take a certain country occupied by our mutual opponent, Mark. I attacked, but failed to take the country. In the process I weakened my position and Mark's position. On his next turn, Robert wiped us both out. I said, "I can't believe you told me to do that!"

Robert smiled and said, "In the game of Risk, all advice I give is entirely diplomatic." The meaning was obvious: his advice was always given with his own self-interests in mind.

Don't take advice from the wrong person. Be selective. Second, you need to …

Be receptive.

One of the main reasons we hesitate to ask for advice is that we are afraid of hearing what we don't want to hear. Four years ago I married a young couple named Jennifer and John. I had known Jennifer since she was a child. I met John when they began dating. Last year the struggles in their marriage came to a head, and Jennifer was ready to call it quits. Her mother suggested to both of them that they give me a call, and both were hesitant. John said, "He's Jennifer's friend. He'll just take her side."

Jennifer said, "He'll just try to talk to me into staying with John." Obviously, they both couldn't be right, but they were both dead set against hearing what they didn't want to hear. They refused to take advice from me, or from anyone they thought wouldn't be on "their side," and their marriage crumbled.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said, "It is better to be a poor but wise youth than to be an old and foolish king who refuses all advice" (Ecc. 4:13 tlb). The biggest mistakes I have made in my life are the decisions I made unadvisedly. The greatest challenges I face right now can be traced to a stubborn refusal to seek good advice. Solomon said, "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice" (12:15).

Just because you make a foolish decision once doesn't mean you have to keep making foolish decisions. But you will continue to flounder until you open your heart to the advice of godly people. Take it from someone who's been there, done that. Be receptive to advice, and be willing to hear what you don't want to hear.

This is why businesses need a board of directors. It's why churches need godly people in leadership. Sometimes pastors feel stifled by a governing board, as if board members are trying to hold the church back. But the fact is, sometimes pastors need to hear what they don't want to hear. (Now, please, pretend that I never said that!)

When you seek advice, you have to be completely open to the advice you're about to receive. You have to be willing to hear what you don't want to hear. When it comes to getting advice, you have to be selective, you have to be receptive, and third, you have to ...

Be objective.

You must understand that no one person in the world has all the answers. There's not one person you can go to for advice on everything, all the time. Besides, getting advice isn't about letting other people make your decisions for you. Getting advice is the process of getting an objective view of your problem so that you can make the right decision. The decision you make belongs to you.

Even if you follow someone's advice, it doesn't absolve you of responsibility for your actions. It's your decision. You're the one that has to live with the consequences, so you'd better make sure you have an objective view of your situation.

How do you do that? Solomon tells us: "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed" (15:22). You don't go to one person for advice. You go to three, or five, or seven qualified, godly people and get their input.

If everyone says the same thing, your decision is easy. However, chances are, you'll hear a variety of opinions. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because it gives you the opportunity to examine the situation from all sides. Solomon said, "Every prudent man acts out of knowledge" (13:16). The more information you can get, the more input you can get, the more research you can do, the better your decision will be.

But remember, it's your decision. You have to live it with it. You have to face the consequences or reap the rewards, so make sure you get an objective view of the problem. You do this by seeking advice from many, not just one.


As you can see, asking for advice is just about the greatest compliment you could offer someone, so make sure the person is deserving of the compliment. I urge to seek advice before trying to tackle any major problem or decision on your own, and when you seek advice, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Has this person "been there; done that"?

Does this person have my best interests at heart?

Will this person tell me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear?

Can this person be one of a group of trusted friends to help me develop an objective view of my life?

Do this, and your life will reflect the reality of God's promise: "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (19:20).

© Steve May


A resource of Christianity Today International

Steve May has been a pastor to pastors for more than 20 years, helping preachers and teachers to become more effective communicators of the gospel.

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Sermon Outline:


There's tons of advice out there, but taking the wrong advice can get you in trouble.

I. Be selective.

II. Be receptive.

III. Be objective.


Seek advice for your major decisions, but always evaluate your source of advice carefully.