Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
Here is great advice. From a king! Do not make decisions in a vacuum. Do not trust your research, analysis, forecast, or strategy. Other perspectives and experiences can save you trouble and refine your plan. Do you have wisdom and humility to appreciate this advice? Fools rush ahead. Wise men are prudent. Here is a way to avoid danger (Pr 22:3; 27:12).
A sure rule for success in life is to submit decisions to the review of wise counselors. King Solomon, seeking to prepare his son to govern Israel, repeated this axiom several times in his manual of wisdom (Pr 11:14; 20:18; 24:6). He knew that many factors could distort a man’s decision making, especially when he is personally involved in a matter.
People make plans – to get married, change jobs, respond to an enemy, go back to school, buy a house, find a new church, teach children at home, invest in a business, borrow money, etc. If you push ahead without using wise and emotionally-neutral friends to criticize your ideas, you will likely be disappointed. But if you humbly allow prudent acquaintances to review your plans, you can settle on a surer course for your life.
This rule for success is basic and simple. Why do most ignore it? They presume they are right (Pr 14:12; 16:25). They are too proud to ask anyone else (Pr 26:12,16). They do not want to hear any negative criticism (Pr 18:2,17). They are too impatient to take the time (Pr 14:29; 19:2; 21:5; 25:8; 28:22). They are already committed, and it is too humbling to turn back (Pr 6:1-5). They have no wise counselors. They know their reasons are weak.
When you plan for yourself or family, you are already biased toward your conclusion. You are emotionally involved, and you cannot see as clearly as others. Your desires, experiences, knowledge, circumstances, and other factors distort your perception of reality. You do not see the danger or weaknesses as easily as a disinterested third party.
To apply this rule, you need wise counselors. Most men cannot be counselors. You need knowledgeable, insightful, sober, and critical persons. Why settle for less? Because you can easily persuade them? You want pessimistic persons, who see dangers in everything, because you are already positive enough, or you would not be considering the matter.
You need more than one counselor. Safety and success depend on the multiplied wisdom of many counselors. It takes more humility and time to consult several counselors, but the benefits gained cannot be appreciated until you have been burned a few times by your own decisions. King Ahasuerus of Persia wisely trusted seven men to guide him in a matter of passion (Esther 1:10-22). God gave you royal advice by inspiring Solomon.
You must then put everything on the table with your counselors. You must be transparent about your goal and strategy and any threats to them. You cannot hold back aspects of your proposal you know are weak or wrong. You must come totally clean with them, so they can rightly and quickly analyze the major factors and final objective of your plan.
Then you must listen and incorporate their advice. Consulting advisors is not an empty exercise to merely discuss ideas to flatter them or honor yourself. The purpose is to get an answer to save you and help you. You must accept their judgment as far as it goes. You must consider their counsel. To hear criticism of a bad plan and do it anyway is two sins.
What men are useful for counsel? Men that fear God and know His word can help, for unbelievers have no real wisdom (Is 8:20). The children of this world are wise in earthly matters only, like picking a heat pump manufacturer (Luke 16:8). Any decision affecting your heart, your walk with God, morality, or a Bible subject, even if loosely connected, requires faithful and sober Christians, for they only have true wisdom (Pr 1:7; 9:10).
You can become such a counselor by learning the Bible. Just the book of Proverbs has a large amount of practical wisdom to save men from foolish decisions involving business ethics, child training, communication, friends, investment scams, marriage, money, speech, whores, wine, work ethics, and many other subjects. Scripture can make simple men wise, and it is your duty and privilege to learn it (Pr 22:17-21; Ps 19:7; 119:130).
What about truth itself from scripture – correct doctrine about God and the most important matters of life and eternity? There is no verse in the Bible you should interpret by itself, for you must let the rest of scripture guide and limit your interpretation, for it was all written by the Holy Ghost (II Pet 1:20-21; I Cor 2:13). This is the first and most important rule of Bible study – you must not take a position that contradicts other verses.
What about truth from preachers – the correct doctrine and practice of true religion? There are few men today that exalt truth over popularity, numbers, revenue, or approval. If you find such a man, he is one among a thousand (Job 33:23; Jer 23:28). But even then, you must prove him by the many counselors of scripture (I Thess 5:21; Acts 17:11). And in this age of Internet access, you can further check him by faithful preachers of the past.