Select Wisdom Brand


by Scott Wylie

The biblical characteristic of discernment is a valuable and essential quality for every believer. Discernment refers to the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, and to make wise and godly decisions. It is a spiritual gift that enables Christians to navigate through life's complexities, avoiding deception, and staying aligned with God's will. Specifically, discernment involves the ability to choose between what is true and right and what is false and wrong. It requires recognizing the true worth or validity of our choices, which is synonymous with the ability to think biblically. This critical skill helps believers understand and apply God’s teachings accurately, ensuring that their decisions not only reflect personal wisdom but are also rooted in the divine guidance provided by Scripture.

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Infographic on the Biblical characteristic of discernment

What is Discernment? Why is Discernment Important?

In Hebrews 5:14, it states, 'But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil' (Hebrews 5:14, ESV). This verse highlights that discernment is a skill that can be developed and honed through constant practice and growth in spiritual maturity. As Christians, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and provide the discernment needed to navigate life's choices.

Discernment is not simply an optional trait for believers; rather, it is a critical component of a robust Christian life. The Scriptures teach that discernment should permeate every aspect of our lives, helping us to make wise decisions and to live according to God’s truths. It involves more than recognizing right from wrong; it extends to having a keen understanding of the truths of Scripture and applying them to everyday situations.

Discernment plays a crucial role in fostering Christian freedom by empowering believers with the ability to make wise choices. Without discernment, Christians may find themselves trapped by the expectations of others, their own misguided consciences, or non-scriptural lifestyles. As believers grow in discernment, they learn to identify which practices are contextually beneficial versus those that are universally required, thus liberating themselves from unnecessary constraints. Additionally, discernment helps Christians understand that the true value of freedom doesn’t hinge on its constant exercise, but rather on the capability to choose when and how to use it. This understanding allows them to live freely and flexibly within their faith.

Moreover, the Bible is replete with guidance on the importance of discernment, showing us the need to cultivate this ability actively. By immersing ourselves in God’s Word, we gain the wisdom and insight necessary to assess our actions, the actions of others, and the various circumstances we encounter. This holistic approach to discernment is essential for living an unwavering life of faith, grounded in the profound truths that God has laid out in Scripture.

Why is Discernment Important?

  1. Clarity in Complexity: In a world brimming with information and options, discernment allows us to navigate through the noise and focus on what truly matters. It helps us prioritize our beliefs, choices, and actions.

  2. Protection Against Deception: We live in times where misinformation and false teachings are prevalent. Discernment equips us to spot these inaccuracies and shield ourselves and others from potential harm.

  3. Enhanced Decision Making: With discernment, our decisions are more informed and considered. This is crucial not just in personal life but also within community and organizational contexts. It helps us allocate our resources wisely and uphold our values consistently.

  4. Spiritual and Moral Growth: Discernment is often discussed in a religious or philosophical context, where it's seen as essential for spiritual development and moral integrity. By refining our ability to discern, we mature in our spiritual beliefs and moral convictions.

Thus, every believer is called to actively seek out this wisdom, allowing the teachings of the Bible to inform and guide all aspects of personal conduct and decision-making. In doing so, we fulfill the biblical mandate not only to discern but to live wisely and righteously in every situation.

Cultivate Discernment

So, how can we develop discernment in our own lives? Here are a few tips:

  1. Pursue a close relationship with God:
    Cultivate intimacy with God through prayer, Bible study, and meditation. Knowing God's character and His Word is foundational for developing discernment. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
  2. Seek wisdom from God:
    James 1:5 encourages us, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." Pray for wisdom and discernment in every situation.
  3. Be aware of spiritual warfare:
    The enemy seeks to deceive and mislead. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Stay alert and grounded in God's truth.
  4. Test everything against God's Word:
    Measure everything against the teachings of Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 advises, "Test everything; hold fast what is good."
  5. Surround yourself with godly counsel:
    Seek advice and guidance from mature and spiritually wise believers. Proverbs 11:14 says, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety."
  6. Develop a discerning mind:
    Train your mind to think critically and discerningly. Romans 12:2 encourages us, "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."
  7. Listen to the Holy Spirit:
    Pay attention to the promptings and convictions of the Holy Spirit within you. John 16:13 reminds us, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."
  8. Be humble and open to correction:
    Proverbs 15:31 says, "The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise." Be open to correction and guidance from others.
  9. Avoid haste in decision-making:
    Take the time to seek God's guidance and to weigh your options carefully. Proverbs 19:2 advises, "Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way."
  10. Live a surrendered life:
    Surrender your will and desires to God, and seek His guidance in all areas of your life. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

Developing discernment is a vital aspect of the Christian walk. By pursuing a close relationship with God, seeking wisdom from Him, being aware of spiritual warfare, testing everything against God's Word, seeking godly counsel, developing a discerning mind, listening to the Holy Spirit, being humble and open to correction, avoiding haste in decision-making, and living a surrendered life, we can actively seek and develop the biblical characteristic of discernment. May we grow in spiritual maturity, guided by the wisdom and discernment provided by the Holy Spirit, and make godly choices in every aspect of our lives.

Prayer and Reading Guide for Developing Discernment

Here are ten things people could pray for to develop discernment.

  1. Pray for wisdom and understanding:
    "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." - James 1:5
  2. Pray for a discerning heart:
    "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?" - 1 Kings 3:9
  3. Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit:
    "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." - John 16:13
  4. Pray for discernment in making decisions:
    "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." - Psalm 32:8
  5. Pray for discernment in recognizing deception:
    "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." - Colossians 2:8
  6. Pray for discernment in understanding God's Word:
    "The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple." - Psalm 119:130
  7. Pray for discernment in identifying false teachers:
    "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." - 1 John 4:1
  8. Pray for discernment in relationships:
    "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" - 2 Corinthians 6:14
  9. Pray for discernment in recognizing God's calling:
    "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality." - 1 Thessalonians 4:3
  10. Pray for discernment in handling conflicts and challenges:
    "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." - James 1:5

How can discernment be an instrument of healing?

Discernment serves as a powerful tool for healing, especially when applied with a spirit of compassion and understanding. When someone possesses a deep sense of discernment, they are often able to identify and address the spiritual or emotional burdens that others carry, even better than the individuals experiencing them. This heightened sensitivity enables them to see the core issues that need to be resolved for healing to occur.

The Power of Discernment in Healing

  1. Identifying Core Issues: Discerning individuals can pinpoint the root of a problem, providing clarity which is the first step towards healing.

  2. Acting with Compassion: When discernment is used with kindness, it avoids the pitfalls of judgment and instead fosters a nurturing environment that encourages healing.

  3. Encouraging Resolution: By bringing deep issues to the surface, discernment facilitates a path to resolution and healing, much like a surgeon’s scalpel that carefully targets and corrects ailments.

Indeed, those gifted with discernment hold a powerful but delicate capability that, when used wisely, can remove barriers to spiritual and emotional well-being, allowing for true healing.

In conclusion, by praying for wisdom and understanding, a discerning heart, guidance from the Holy Spirit, discernment in making decisions, discernment in recognizing deception, discernment in understanding God's Word, discernment in identifying false teachers, discernment in relationships, discernment in recognizing God's calling, and discernment in handling conflicts and challenges, we can actively seek and develop the biblical characteristic of discernment. May we rely on God's wisdom and guidance to navigate through life's complexities and make godly choices that align with His will and purposes.

How is discernment different from judgmentalism?

Discernment is often confused with being judgmental, yet these two are distinct in their nature and application. Discernment can be likened to a finely tuned sense, similar to our physical senses that we use to perceive and interact with our environment. It's a higher form of understanding that allows one to recognize the nuances in various situations and determine appropriate responses based on moral and spiritual guidelines.

What Exactly is Discernment? Discernment involves making educated and insightful decisions. It goes beyond mere perception; it involves a deep understanding and the ability to judge well. In the Christian context, this virtue is essential for navigating life's complexities. It’s about sensing, much like tasting, the moral and spiritual dimensions of circumstances, enabling one to choose the path that aligns with divine wisdom.

How it Differs from Judgmentalism Unlike judgmentalism, which often leaps to harsh and critical conclusions about others, discernment is introspective and thoughtful. It encourages a careful evaluation of actions and their potential implications without casting immediate aspersions on people’s character or motives. This attribute is crucial for Christians as it fosters wisdom rather than breeding contempt, ensuring actions and reactions are guided by love and understanding rather than condemnation.

The Biblical Perspective Scripturally, discernment is encouraged and seen as a gift — it is something to be prayed for and developed. The Bible cautions against judgmentalism by reminding believers to judge not lest they be judged, yet it simultaneously advocates for the wise discernment of situations and decisions. This duality is important in understanding that while one should not be overly critical and condemning, there is a need for an informed and moral viewpoint in interactions and judgments.

In summary, discernment is about insightful analysis and understanding, focused on making wise decisions without falling into the trap of judgmentalism. It allows one to 'taste' and evaluate life’s experiences deeply and spiritually, ensuring that their actions align with their values and the teachings of their faith.

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