Christian Counseling – Treating the Disease rather than the Symptoms

Christian Counseling – Treating the Disease rather than the Symptoms


Joshua Spaulding

JoshSpauldingChristian leaders dedicate their lives to the advancement of the gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The “salvation” referred to in the first chapter of Romans (and throughout the Scriptures) is spiritual. It is the salvation from the penalty, power and presence of sin. Though God certainly can, and often times does, deliver a person from temporal trials, the gospel is the power of God for salvation from an eternal sin debt.

A week rarely goes by in the life of a pastor, Christian counselor or other Christian leader, without at least one opportunity to provide spiritual counsel to someone enduring some sort of trial. It is always tempting to provide that advice which will weaken the storm as quickly as possible. At times, that is the best advice that can be given. However, we must always remember that an unregenerate heart should be counseled in a different way than one that has be converted (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Matthew 8:1-4 we read a short discourse between the Lord Jesus and a man who suffered from leprosy. The leper approached the Lord Jesus immediately after the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” This sermon was preached to “great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:25). It was undoubtedly a very large number of people. It is interesting to note that God chose this discourse to include in His Word, as there were undoubtedly many from the multitude who came to Him.

Leprosy is mentioned upwards of 40 times in the Bible. Leprosy was a common disease in Bible times. In the Scriptures it is used as a picture of the awful effects of sin. We see in Leviticus 13:45-46 that those with leprosy had to be separated from the camp. They were unclean, both spiritually and physically. Just as our sin problem cannot be cured by any man, leprosy, at the time, could not be cured by man. Only God could cure leprosy and only God, through His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, can cure our sin problem — our spiritual leprosy. We see a clear example of this in the above-mentioned leper who approaches the Lord Jesus after the Sermon on the Mount.

This leper was following Jesus, but following was not enough for him. He could have followed Jesus around the world and back and it would not have solved his problem. Surely he had symptoms that were a direct result of that leprosy. He could have come to the Lord with those symptoms and the Lord could have taken care of those symptoms, but until the disease was cured, the symptoms would just come back in one form or another.

It wasn’t until that leper came to the Lord Jesus with his leprosy problem that his greatest need was taken care of. This leper had his priorities straight. He didn’t ask Jesus to take care of the symptoms, he asked Him to take care of the disease! “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” He exercised faith in acknowledging Jesus’ person, as the son of God, and His omnipotence and overall deity to rebuke his disease. He believed. What did Jesus do? “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean.” What was the result? “And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

We see in this discourse a leper who realized he was a leper. We see a leper who knew his problem was the disease, not the symptoms. We also see the “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) meeting the deepest need. Rather than treating the symptoms which would have provided immediate, but temporary relief, He addressed the biggest need, which provided permanent relief!

When we offer counsel to those in need, do we have our priorities straight? Are we looking for a quick fix or are we looking deeper? Are we treating the symptoms, or are we addressing the disease itself? Yes, by the grace of God some of those we counsel have been born again (John 3:3). They know the Lord and they just need some practical advice on how to mature in the faith and trust more on the Lord Jesus. But, as Christian leaders, we must always make it a priority to consider whether the person we are counseling has received forgiveness of sin, before we decide the best course of action.

It is a hard passage to consider for many, but the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” We know that not all who profess Christ have been born again. For this reason we must always make it a priority to consider whether those going through trials have a disease that needs dealt with or simply need some practical Christian advice.



Joshua M. Spaulding is the author of, “The Reality of Saving Faith,” Pastor of Bible Baptist Mission in Washington, IN., and Publisher of where he provides Bible questions and answers straight from God’s Word.