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Praying for Discernment 1: Discernment Defined

Praying for Discernment Day 1: Discernment Defined

dis-cern-ment (noun)

   1. The ability to judge well.

   2. (Christian context) – Perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding.

   3. also states this definition: the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.

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)

Looking back on the younger version of myself, I remember with a little embarrassment some of my airhead days. I wasn’t actually as shallow as I pretended to be—that’s the most embarrassing part. Whether trying to make people laugh, fit into a group of people, or trying to impress them, I truly acted like the airhead I was occasionally accused of being by those who loved me most. 

Discernment isn’t something we are born with, but something we develop (hopefully) as we age and gather information. It’s true that some children are described as serious in nature and possibly even wise beyond their years, but being able to discern requires life experience and some studying of people, situations and God’s Word (in the context of Christian discernment). Not everyone is a good discerner, but everyone should want to be discerning. 

Wisdom and discernment are often used interchangeably, but they have one basic difference. Wisdom is an internal knowledge or intuition about something, while discernment is the gathering of information and then being able to make a good judgment based on the information. A wise person may intuitively know that someone is a bad egg, while a discerning person may come to the same conclusion based on the person’s refusal to pay their bills, their history of sexual immorality, their habitual lying and a temper with no restraint. Do you see the difference?

Jesus was both wise and discerning and He showed us many examples. It would be good to add both wisdom and discernment to our list of personal prayer needs, as they’re both extremely useful, not only in our own lives but in helping those who come to us for advice. But neither wisdom nor discernment will develop within us without some intentionality on our part. 

As we go through our study this week, our prayer is that each reader would desire discernment. Perhaps one of the most frustrating things to witness is for someone to gather accurate information about a person or a situation, and then make a foolish decision or judgment. While it’s true that we want to be people who show love and grace, it’s also true that we need to be wise and discerning. When we make foolish decisions in the face of accurate information, we set ourselves or others up for heartache and failure. 

As believers, it’s very important for us to receive wise counsel when we are in a crisis. We need someone who can come alongside and offer advice based on their good judgment after listening to and understanding the information surrounding the issue. There will be plenty who will throw caution to the wind and give us their opinion based on their feelings, but what we need is someone bold enough to speak the truth to us. 

People will at some point rely on your words in their moment of crisis or confusion. Are you a good choice for them to seek out? Think about times when you have been in such a situation—how do you think you handled it? Did you give advice based on Scripture? Did you give advice based on truth? Or did you give your own thoughts based on personal feelings or opinions? 

Sharing our discerning thoughts will not often be an easy task. Some won’t want to hear what you feel compelled by Scripture to say in love. Some will bristle over your carefully chosen words or advice. But a discerning person is especially needed within our local churches—one who can tell what should be done based on the information received. Praying for discernment is a prayer God values, and a gift He generously gives to those who seek Him in this. If it’s not yet on your prayer list, consider adding it today. People need someone to give solid, loving instruction based on God’s Word. Will it be you?

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