Developing Discernment

Spring has sprung. For baseball Spring training camps, that is. Here’s a great baseball story with a wonderful spiritual application.

Dave Bosewell, in How Life Imitates the World Series, tells a story about the late Earl Weaver, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, and how he handled his star player Reggie Jackson.

Weaver had a rule that no one could steal a base unless given the steal sign. This upset Jackson because he felt he knew the pitchers and catchers well enough to judge who he could and could not steal off of. So one game he decided to steal without a sign.

He got a good jump off the pitcher and easily beat the throw to second base. As he shook the dirt off his uniform, Jackson smiled with delight, feeling he had vindicated his judgment to his manager.

Later Weaver took Jackson aside and explained why he hadn’t given the steal sign. First, the next batter was Lee May, his best power hitter other than Jackson. When Jackson stole second, first base was left open, so the other team walked May intentionally, taking the bat out of his hands.

Second, the following batter hadn’t been strong against that pitcher, so Weaver felt he had to send up a pinch hitter to try to drive in the men on base. That left Weaver without bench strength later in the game when he needed it.

The problem was, Jackson saw only his relationship to the pitcher and catcher. Weaver saw the bigger picture. He possessed both a knowledge of the game and the discernment of when to steal second and when not to.

As we continue to address our theme, Sowing Seeds for Spiritual Growth, an important quality is discernment.

In Paul’s prayer for the Philippian brethren he prayed, “that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9).

Last week we talked about the importance of growing in knowledge, but in the text Paul reminds us that our knowledge must be coupled with discernment. Discernment involves judgment. Understanding. Wisdom. Insight. And perspective. It’s the ability to see something with a greater frame of reference.

Knowledge enlightens us with information, facts and the Bible truths. Discernment, however, allows us to to go beyond the “what” and see the “why.”

For example, God “made known his ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel” (Ps. 103:7). Israel could see what God did. However, Moses was allowed to see why God did it or said it. That’s discernment.

Atheists, infidels and unbelievers totally lack a spiritual perspective. Yet, too many believers have not matured in their discernment regarding spiritual matters.

“Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to differentiate,” wrote Joseph Stowell in Fan the Flame. “It is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics.”

Warren Wiersbe says that discernment is the ability to “distinguish the things that differ.” Not everything is of equal importance or appropriate in every situation. The wise man’s famous “there is a time” in Ecclesiastes 3 illustrates the value of discernment. “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.”

For instance “there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh.” Or a “time to embrace and time to refrain from embracing.” And a “time to keep and a time to throw away.” One’s perspective in a given situation will guide him to see what is needful at that time.

Lack of discernment limits our insight and hampers our decision making and problem solving ability. Abraham Maslow is credited with saying, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

Spiritual growth, then, is more than just being a Christian for a long time. Or attending every church service. Or knowing a lot of Bible facts. It learns to see life through God’s eyes. God’s values. God’s eternal perspective.

May our prayer, be that of the Psalmist. Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18).

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Sowing Seeds for Spiritual Growth

2 responses to “Developing Discernment

  1. Pingback: Growing in Character | ThePreachersWord

  2. Pingback: Growing Pains | ThePreachersWord

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