Updated: Nov 22, 2018
The importance of having godly discernment is imperative to our Christian walk as it holds the key element to understanding spiritual truths.
The Word of God discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart. In other words, it determines, reveals and exposes our innermost thoughts, secrets and beliefs – nothing is hidden from God. After all, who can know the heart better than the One who created it?
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Discernment in its simplest form, is to know truth from error (right from wrong) – and in acquiring such knowledge, the holder of this significant quality will effectively have a strong comprehension in their thinking about truth and will be able to make honourable, appropriate and sound decisions.
Unfortunately, discernment is where most Christians struggle.
When God said to Solomon ‘Ask what I shall give you’ (1 Kings 3:5), Solomon didn’t ask for riches, long life or that his enemies would be destroyed. Instead of making a self-centred request, Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom and discernment.
1 Kings 3:9-11 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right…
This request that Solomon made was well-pleasing to the Lord. Why? Because to ask for wisdom and discernment, is to ask for a heart that has godly understanding. Wisdom brings with it great prudence and sensibility while discernment brings a clear mind that can distinguish right from wrong. So to have both these attributes, results in being able to efficiently and effectively walk in the ways of the Lord.
We see when God chose David to be His new anointed king of Israel, He didn’t go by outward appearances like we often fall into the trap of doing. God looks on the heart, discerning the inward thoughts and intentions.
1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
Although we do not have the ability to see the heart of man like God does, we can however, grow in godly discernment by not only reading, but studying God’s Word and spending time in prayer with Him, and in doing so, we will have a greater understanding and awareness of the difference between truth and lies and therefore be able to make wise, godly choices.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
To eat solid food in the natural is to chew on and consume the harder, chunkier pieces. Likewise, to eat solid food in the spiritual is to really examine and absorb the Scriptures, accepting the harder truths, receiving them and then applying them to our own life.
Biblical truths cannot be fully comprehended by those who don’t have eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:13-15), therefore they refuse to accept the truth.
1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
However, this should never be the case for the believer. His eyes and ears should always be open to the truth so he’s able to recognise, appreciate and rejoice in spiritual things.
…blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
…the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes…
A wise man knows, understands and walks in the Lord’s ways.
Hosea 14:9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
Discernment discovers that nothing in the Bible is contradictive or misplaced, illogical or amiss, nor erroneous or flawed. On the contrary, discernment establishes that God is holy, His ways are pure and He is Lord of all. It leads to the realisation that those who disobey Him are headed for destruction, while those who walk uprightly are perceptive and wise.
In not following along with the mainstream of the world, a discerning person will value, respect and honour God’s Word, knowing that it is God-breathed.
Proverbs 8:8-9 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.
A discerning person is one who will not conform to the pattern of this world, but instead, will distinguish the will of God by careful observation of the Bible, being aware of God’s presence in his life – knowing what is good, acceptable and perfect – and asking the Sovereign Lord, by His grace, that he may receive the Spirit’s help to live it out.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The person who learns discernment is like one who finds a precious pearl deep within the depths of the sea. It’s a valuable spiritual characteristic to be admired and treasured because the gift of discernment leads one to closely follow in the footsteps of Christ – deepening their relationship and becoming one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
Lastly, a discerning person will love what God loves, hate what God hates and hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Instead of living out our days as a self-indulged, materialistic individual whose main focus is ‘me first’, let’s lay down our own ambitions in order to be authentic servants of the Lord, allowing ourselves to be used by God as He sees fit ... all for His glory!
Psalm 119:125 I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
Let us pray to the Lord and ask Him to help us grow in this essential attribute of discernment, spending time in the Word daily so our minds can be renewed afresh. It is then that we will increase in faith and have the ability to trust God with our whole life so that we can be strong, discerning saints who make good, godly decisions.
Philippians 1:9-10 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment…
-- By Jenny Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.