20 Quotes by David Powlison on Biblical Counseling

David Powlison, age 69 years old passed away. It wasJune 7 Friday, after suffering from pancreatic cancer.

His influence was not only evident through ACBC or CCEF, but his faithful service changed the trajectory of evangelical’s stewardship of sufficiency of scripture and the care for souls. 

Powlison’s wisdom and his love for the Word transformed every way I approach pastoral care and counseling.

The influence and the impact of his writing and teaching played a huge role in my deciding factor to study at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to earn my doctoral degree. Today, I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for him who left a huge imprint upon my life. 

His legacy will continue to live on and carried out through his wise counsel for the broken needy people. I am sadden for the loss, but filled with hope and joy to know that Powlison is now in the arms of the Savior whom he preached and pointed to often. 


Here are few quotes that has impacted the way I approach counseling. 

1. “Change is moving in the right direction. It’s not about speed, distance, or perfection, but direction.” ― David Powlison

2. “Pop theologies baptize the longings of sinful hearts: health and wealth, significance and security, self-esteem, power to get what you want. But the Holy Spirit is in the business of changing what you want.” ― David Powlison 

3. “Anxieties feel endless and infinite – but they’re finite and specific.” ― Daivd Powlison 

4. “What happens when you are obsessed with getting people to like you? You become flirtatious or artificial, a coward or a deceiver, a chameleon or a recluse.” ― David Powlison 

5. “God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am. He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus.” ― David Powlison 

6. “Pain disrupts normal. It’s supposed to disrupt normal. It’s supposed to make you feel a need for help. Psalm 28 is not a placid ‘quiet time.’ It’s noisy and needy. When you let life’s troubles get to you, it gets you to the only One who can help.” ― David Powlison

7. “We don’t just need a perspective or a strategy. We need a Savior, right here, right now.”  ― David Powlison

8. “God works on us in the midst of trouble, because trouble catches our attention.” ― David Powlison 

9. “Nothing compares with scripture for making sense of the trouble and struggles of life. Wise counseling is in the church’s DNA.” ― David Powlison

10. “The Bible teaches us that our “feel likes” are frequently desires of the flesh. Most of our “felt needs” are idolatrous desires. They are meant to be killed by the Spirit, not indulged. Such is the way of life, freedom, wisdom, and joy in Christ.” ― David Powlison 

11. “The mind of man is a ‘factory of idols.’ We are infested with lusts. Listen closely to any person given to complaining, and you will observe the creativity of our cravings.” ― David Powlison 

12. “You are sanctified by remembering and believing afresh that you are justified by what Jesus did on the cross for you.” ― David Powlison

13. “In the hands of a loving God, sorrow and suffering become the doorways into the greatest and most indestructible joys.” ― David Powlison 

14. “Worriers act as if they might be able to control the uncontrollable. Central to worry is the illusion that we can control things… The illusion of control lurks inside your anxiety. Anxiety and control are two sides of one coin. When we can’t control something, we worry about it.” ― David Powlison

15. “Wise counseling helps people face themselves honestly. It helps them look in the only true mirror: What does God see in me?” ― David Powlison

16. “Scripture never separates motive and behavior. The mirror of Scripture exposes both. The lamp of Scripture guides both. The grace and power of Jesus Christ change both root and fruit.” ― David Powlison 

17. “Learn to love others intelligently rather than demand their affirmation and adoration.” ― David Powlison

18. “There’s something high and mighty about anger, when distilled to its basic elements. Anger goes wrong when you get godlike. Your desires become divine law. Poke your way into every example of bad anger, and you’ll find god-playing.” ― David Powlison

19. “Don’t ever degenerate into giving advise unconnected to the good news of Jesus crucified, alive, at work and returning.” ― David Powlison

20. “Christ-less, grace-less attempts at change conclude either with the praise of your own glory or with your shame.” ― David Powlison

2 thoughts on “20 Quotes by David Powlison on Biblical Counseling”

  1. Jonathan, thank you for posting these! They are a great encouragement! One comment though, you might want to replace No. 12 with another quote. On pg. 27 of How Sanctification Works, this quote is in the context of his concern about reductionism, and this quote was an example of that. He follows it by saying: “Is that true? Justification by faith in the sacrifice of Christ certainly is a cornerstone of our salvation. But is remembering that always the crucial ingredient in how we are progressively sanctified? The Bible’s answer to this pastoral and practical question is sometimes yes, often no.”


Leave a Comment