Chapter Four: Dealing with Root Causes





    The Bible speaks of a spiritual root that bears bitterness (Deuteronomy 19:18).  Jeremiah was told to “root out” sin (Jeremiah 1:10), and the prophet Malachi shows God dealing with the root of transgressions in the lives of His people (Malachi 4:1).

    An important aspect of biblical counseling is dealing with the root causes of negative behaviors or situations.  Dealing with root causes is aptly illustrated in the story of a man named Joash, an Old Testament king, who was facing a formidable enemy and came seeking advice from the Prophet Elisha.

    Elisha made a powerful prophetic declaration and demonstration to Joash.  He told him to take a bow and arrows in his hand.  The king obliged, and Elisha placed his hands over those of the king.  He told Joash to open the window towards the enemy nation of Syria.  Then he commanded: “‘Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them” (2 Kings 13:17, NKJV).

    Next, Elisha commanded the king to take the arrows and strike them on the ground.  Joash complied, hitting the ground three times and then stopping.  Elisha told him, A You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it!” (2 Kings 13:19, NKJV).   What Elisha was declaring prophetically was that the king should have persevered until the enemy was totally defeated.  If you do not deal with the root causes of issues, then like an unquenched fire they will flare up again.  Destroy the root and you will kill the fruit.

    From this encounter, we learn several important strategies for dealing with root causes.

    Win first in the secret chamber. What happened between Elisha and King Joash in the secret chamber determined the outcome of the battle with Syria.   It is what happens in the “secret chamber” with the Lord that determines the effectiveness of your counseling ministry as well as other areas in your spiritual life.

    Use the Sword of the Spirit.  Elisha  told King Joash, “Take up the bow and arrows.”  The Apostle Paul said, “Take the sword of the Spirit.”  It is the Sword of the Spirit–which is God’s Word–that makes your counseling effective and truly Christian.

    Put your hands on the weapon.  Elisha told the king to put his hands upon the bow, then Elisha laid his hands upon the king’s hands.  The biblical strategy is your hand upon the weapon of God=s Word and His hand on yours as you minister to the counselee.

    Open the window.  Israel’s foe was to the east, so Elisha told the king to open the window eastward.  God wants you to open up the “windows” of every area of the counselee’s life to enable them to confront the failures, problems, and bondages caused by the enemy.  Open the windows towards the enemy and prepare to attack every issue with the Word of God!

    Shoot.  Elisha told the king, “Shoot,”  and the king shot.  The open window towards the enemy is not enough.  The weapon in your hand is not sufficient. Even God’s hand upon your hand will not win the battle.  You must follow the command of the Lord of Hosts to “Shoot!”   As you speak the prophetic, powerful, specific Word of God to the counselee, you will execute preemptive strikes against the work of the enemy in their lives. And God’s Word does not return void.  It accomplishes its supernatural purposes  (Isaiah 55:11).

    Persevere to the root of the issue.  Elisha told the king to take the arrows and hit them on the ground as a symbol of his victory over Syria.  The king did this, but only struck the ground three times and then stopped.  Elisha told him that because he limited God by hitting the ground only three times, his military victory would be limited.   Elisha said the Lord wanted the enemy to be totally consumed.  By striking the ground only three times, the king settled for partial victory.

    The Lord’s objective for you and the person you counsel is total victory in every area of  life and ministry.  You must attack the root causes of problems and battle spiritually until you have achieved 100% victory.


    The New Testament records two powerful stories about people who came to a point of decision, but refused to deal with root issues in their lives.  The first is that of a rich young ruler.

    A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’ ‘All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”   When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.  (Luke 18:18-23)

    This young man was a good, moral, law-abiding person.  He had kept many commandments of the Word of God faithfully, but he had a root issue in his life that needed correction.  He valued money more than His commitment to the Lord.  This was evident when Jesus told him to sell what he had and come and follow Him.  Sadly, the young man rejected Christ’s counsel, went his own way,  and missed his divine destiny.

    The second story  is that of a multitude of disciples who were following Jesus.   They were excited about the miracles they were witnessing and the anointed teaching they were receiving.

    But when the Lord shared truths that they did not want to accept, many of them turned back and no longer followed Him  (John 6:66).  The root of the problem was that they rejected the Word of the Lord and this resulted in them turning back to the old life.

    In every counseling situation, there is a root cause of problems that must be exposed on the basis of  the scriptures.   It is at that point that the counselee will either accept or refuse God’s Word.  Sadly, many are like the rich young ruler and these followers of Jesus.  They refuse the Word, go away sorrowing, and return to their old life.

    Do not perceive responses like this as personal rejection or failure in your ministry of counseling. The Bible states:  “Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:8).


    It is vital that you persevere to discover the root cause of every problem. For example, the root cause is not drug addiction, it is what is fueling the drug addiction.  The root cause is not immorality, it is the lust resulting in the immoral behavior.

    The Bible commands us to diligently seek and destroy the roots of sinful behavior:
    Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. (Hebrews 12:15)

    If the root causes of problems are not dealt with, then  problems will only intensify.  When Israel invaded the promised land, God told them not to allow any of the enemy to remain.  But the Bible records that Joshua spared giants in three cities: Gaza, Ashdod, and Gath (Joshua 11:21‑22)Later, the Bible relates that Samson got in trouble in Gaza (Joshua 16); the ark of  God=s glory was lost in Ashdod (1 Samuel 4-5); and Goliath paralyzed the troops of Israel in Gath (1 Samuel 17).  None of these tragedies would have occurred, had not the giants been left in the land.  Israel left a root, and it bore fruit.  Giants beget giants in both the natural and spiritual worlds.  Eliminate the spiritual giants of sin and they will no longer reproduce.

    Deal with the root causes, and the surface manifestations will cease. As in the natural world, so it is in the spiritual:  Cut the root and you will kill the fruit of the root.

    Index of Topics

    Chapter Five,  Raising the Spiritually Dead

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