Discernment: A Valuable Skill

Hi friend,

     We are faced with many choices and decisions to make each day.  Some decisions are as simple as what socks to wear and some are as difficult and as life changing as where to live, what job to take, who to marry, or what medical treatment to use.  And, of course, there are as many opinions as there are choices, which makes decision making all the more difficult. 

     I don’t know about you, but there have been many, many times when I have wondered which way was the right way.  There are some times when I have felt that I didn’t have a choice, but some times I have felt overwhelmed with which direction I should take.  Which decision was the right decision?  I have prayed and prayed for discernment.  Have you been there?

Discernment: An illustration of a woman trying to discern truth from falsity and the Bible pointing to truth.
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What Does Discernment Mean?

     Discernment is a term that not all of us may have heard before. Notice that in the introduction, I mainly used the phrase “decision making”.  So, does discernment mean making decisions?  Eh, not really.  The definition for discernment goes far beyond the general act of making decisions. 

     It goes even beyond the general thought of making “good” decisions.  When someone talks about making “good” decisions in a general sense, we might not know what their measurement of “good” may be.  After all, there is “good” according to the world and “good” according to God.

     Discernment is the ability to be able to distinguish truth from untruth and the ability of being able to distinguish between good and evil.  We see the word “discern” (the verb of the noun discernment) used in this way in Hebrews 5:14 (KJV):

“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Sample Bible Verses about Discernment

     If we look, we can find verses about discernment in the Holy Bible. God’s Word can teach us about discernment.

*Hebrews 5:13-14 (KJV)

“For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

*1 John 4:1 (KJV)

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

*Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

*1 Corinthians 14:33 (KJV)

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

*1 Kings 3:9 (KJV)

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”

Solomon Had the Gift of Discernment

     Solomon was still a child when he took over the throne.  So, it may be surprising to some that when God told him to ask what he wanted from God, Solomon asked for “an understanding heart to judge they people, that I may discern between good and bad” (1 Kings 3:9).  I don’t know if I would have asked for that when I was a child or not.  However, with maturity and experience, I do ask for “an understanding heart” so I can “discern between good and bad” now.

     We see Solomon’s gift of discernment in action in the story of the two harlots fighting over the baby in 1 Kings 3:16-28.  The two women were fighting over the child, each claiming to be the child’s mother.  With the wisdom God gave him, Solomon knew that to say the child would be split in half to settle the argument between the women would lead to the truth.  So, to test the women to see which one is being truthful, he gave them that choice for a settlement.  It was then that the truth was revealed and Solomon (through the gift he was given by God) was able to discern who was the rightful mother.

How to Learn about Discernment and Obtain It

So, how do we learn and obtain discernment? The most important thing to remember is that God may give us the gift of discernment. God gives us everything. However, if we want to work towards achieving the skill of discernment, we can do things that will make discernment easier to obtain. We can read the Holy Bible, so that we know what is right and wrong in God’s eyes. (We can’t distinguish from good and evil according to God’s Word, if we don’t know what God’s Word says.) We can also pray and ask God to help us to discern right from wrong.

     The best way to learn about discernment is to read God’s Word and go directly to Him in prayer.  Even in the story in God gave Solomon the gift of wisdom and discernment as a result of a conversation (in a dream) that Solomon had with God (1 Kings 3:9).  We can actually learn quite a bit about discernment from this verse alone.  We can tell that it is through being close to God, putting our trust in Him, having a right heart, and we can ask for discernment, and if God will’s it, He will give it.  By reading 1 Kings 3:9 in God’s Word, we can see how Solomon obtain his discernment abilities.

     In Hebrews 5:13-14, we can also see another aspect of discernment.  In most cases, discernment is more apt to come with maturity.  Uniquely, Solomon was given the gift of wisdom and discernment at a young age.  Most of the time, these things come with age, maturity, and experience.

     In 1 John 4:1, we see where one of things we need to do if we want to discern truth from lies is that we need to test what is said.  This doesn’t necessarily mean to take that path and see if it is right or not, but more of a weighing it against God’s Word and seeing if it holds up or asking more questions to see if it makes sense in a biblical understanding.  In Hebrews 4:12, we see similar knowledge.  We see that we can use God’s Word to discern right from wrong, because God tells us what is right and what is wrong.  We just have to listen.

     Another bit of advice we can get about discernment brings us back to prayer.  In 1 Corinthians 14:33, we can tell that is we are having difficulty deciding we can remember that God is not a God of confusion.  God is always going to give us the truth.  He is always going to give us a message that aligns with His will, through prayer, through His Word, or through people and circumstances around us.  So, if a situation feels confusing, we need to take a step closer to God and step away from the confusion.  As we get closer to God and His Word, we will “see the light” (Psalms 119:105) and have a better idea of the way we should go or decisions we should make.

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