In The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells the story about riding the subway in New York City early one Sunday morning. People were resting or reading. It was a calm and peaceful ride.
Suddenly a man entered the subway car and the whole scene changed. His children were loud, rambunctious, and generally disrupting what had been a tranquil morning. Yet, the dad sat idly by seemingly oblivious to the situation.
Covey said he was irritated at the man’s insensitivity of the other people around him. Finally Covey said “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
“The man lifted his gaze.” Covey wrote, “as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.'”
Our word of the week is discernment.
Discernment provides a paradigm shift. Gives insight. Facilitates judgment. Increases understanding. And dictates discretion.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippian brethren was that their love and knowledge might manifest itself in discernment. “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:9-10)
This is the only time the Greek word, translated discernment, appears in the New Testament. Dr. Thayer says it means, “perception, not only by the senses but also by the intellect.” A. T. Robertson defines it as “delicate spiritual perception.”
The commentator William Hendricksen writes about this verse that ” Love should be judicious. This keen discernment or perception, born of experience, is the ability of mind and heart to separate not only the good from the bad, but also the important from the unimportant, in each case choosing the former and rejecting the latter. This is, indeed, necessary. A person who possesses love but lacks discernment may reveal a great deal of eagerness and enthusiasm. He may donate to all kinds of causes. His motives may be worthy and his intentions honorable, yet he may be doing more harm than good. Also, such an individual may at times be misled doctrinally. There must have been a good reason why Paul here stressed the necessity of abounding in love “with full knowledge and keen discernment.”
Knowledge is learning what God has said and done, but discernment is understanding why God said it or did it. The Bible says that God “made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel (Ps 103:7). The people got to see what God did, but Moses was able to understand why. Discernment aids in answering the “why” questions of life.
Briefly, here are 5 additional benefits of developing the gift of discernment or spiritual perception.
(1) Discernment assists us in getting our priorities straight (Matt 6:33). We can see that spiritual values take precedent over material matters.
(2) Discernment causes us to love God more (Eph 3:18). Our knowledge, wisdom and spiritual experiences lead to a deeper insight into the depth of God’s love, grace and mercy.
(3) Discernment aids in resisting temptation (Jas 1:12-15). No longer are we a slave to our desires and the devil’s devices. We can see temptation coming before we’re entrapped in it.
(4) Discernment helps us handle the trials of life (Jas 2:2). The struggles of life take on a new meaning and give us a different perspective.
(5) Discernment protects us from error (Matt 7:15). It’s ability to see the wolf masquerading in sheep’s clothing.
Growing in knowledge is important. But developing discernment is critical to spiritual growth and spiritual success.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
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