“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” – Philippians 1:9-10 (ESV).
Discernment is a word that is not used very often these days. But that does not mean it is not important. Life is full of choices. Sometimes those choices are momentous: deciding on a career path, choosing a marriage partner, having children, or retiring from full-time work. Other choices are not quite as momentous, but they are important nonetheless because they give shape to our life: moving to another place for a new job, pursuing further education, finding a new church—all these decisions shape who we are and who we are becoming. Discernment is about making the right choice.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong, it is knowing the difference between right and almost right. There is so much that sounds right and feels wrong. Spiritually speaking, cultivating the habit of discernment means we lean on God’s Spirit to know what is right from what’s almost right.
1 Kings 3:9 says, ”Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil…” (1 Kings 3:9 ESV) Discernment is a quality of attentiveness to God that, over time, develops into the ability to sense God’s heart and purpose in any given moment. We become familiar with the tone, quality, and content of God’s voice.
We develop discernment by spending some quiet, unhurried time absorbing the truth of His Word and listening to God. We can pray for discernment as the Psalmist did in Psalm 119:25 (NIV): “I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.” Then we can apply what we have learned when we “have trained …to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14). The Scriptures open our eyes to see all of our experiences from God’s perspective so that we are able to make wise choices.
God is always ready to impart wisdom to his children. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” Wisdom is critical to making the right choices.
Our challenge for today and every day is to make it a priority to spend time with the Lord in His Word. We may have to reorganize our schedule or wake up earlier. But it’s well worth the effort—discernment and wisdom await us if we put into practice the truths we absorb daily.
- If someone asked you to summarize discernment in one sentence, what would your summary be?
- How do you define Biblical wisdom?
- How do you put discernment into practice?