I see a lot of things on my social media, most of which I don’t feel led to comment on. However, sometimes I see something that I want to expound upon or look at from a different perspective to help us grow in Christ. Scrolling through Facebook, I saw a friend’s post about developing wisdom and discernment and not living our lives based off of “how to know” lists. This post gave me pause, not because I disagreed with the sentiment, but because I felt the subject of discernment should be expounded upon.
I think sometimes those of us who have discernment, or at least think we do, downplay what those who are struggling to develop discernment are going through. We want them to have this intuitive grasp of how to develop something they’ve never had without going through the same trial and error process that many of us stumbled through, but we don’t show them any other way to gain wisdom (mostly because we don’t know).
I spent a good deal of time in Altered before the Altar dealing with the notion many have that the only way to develop criteria for a mate is through trial and error dating. I don’t believe that dating around is necessary to developing criteria for a relationship. I don’t believe experiencing everything yourself is necessary. But I would be remiss if I sat on my “I have it together” hill and looked down on those fumbling to get it right.
At this stage of Christianity, we are all about the relationship with Christ. I see billboards all the time that say “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” Based on our relationship with God, we won’t do certain things. The love of Christ compels us. All that jazz. But many of us don’t know how to do relationships correctly in the human sense, let alone how to have a relationship with God, our Creator and sustainer. So when we tell those who are babes in Christ to just have a relationship, to be able to discern, we sometimes forget to tell them how a real relationship is supposed to work, assuming they know at least that much.
So how does one develop a relationship with God and cultivate discernment. Is there a useful “how to” that we can use to see if we are on the right track? Yes, there is.
1. Communication. Prayer is how we talk to God. It is how we approach His throne of grace. We can ask for anything in His will in prayer, and if we believe it, we will receive it. In order to know if something is in His will, we have to hear from Him. God speaks in these latter days through His son, Jesus Christ. According to the first chapt of the Gospel according to John, Jesus is the word who dwelled among men in the flesh for a short while. The word of God, the Bible, is how we hear from God. Not feelings. Not signs and wonders. His word. When people say things to us, it has to be confirmed by the word of God. God gives wisdom to those who ask for it. Wisdom is rightly applying knowledge. The best way to develop discernment is to ask God for wisdom and read His word. If you have no clue what to do and what not to do, what God requires in your mate regardless of who that person turns out to be, READ GOD’s WORD. More importantly, DO WHAT IT SAYS. What God says is consistent. It stands the test of time. It never changes and it never fails.
2. Understanding. Whatever ministers, elders, books, blogs, or godly counsel you listen to, adopt the attitude of the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily to see if what they were being fed spiritually was true and consistent with God’s word. There are many resources that can help guide you in the right direction. I mention many of them in my book, Altered before the Altar. I included a ton of biblical references for the positions I took and I invite anyone who wants to have a godly relationship but doesn’t know where to start to read it.
3. Application. I give people principles instead of laws or rules. The difference in a principle and a law, in my opinion, is that a law is something you have to do whether you understand or agree with it. A principle, at its core, gives you direction. What I try to do with scripture is to extrapolate, or pull out, what it means to me and my relationship to Christ. What is God trying to show me in this scripture? While I don’t believe that God owes any of us an explanation as to why He demands what He demands of us, I think some of us can better appreciate His commands when we understand the purpose behind them.
4. Discernment. Discernment is developed by reading God’s word, rightly dividing it, seeing how it impacts our lives, and then acting based on the information we have. Discernment is not a feeling; it is a sense. Like the other senses we have, it works by interpreting the information we are receiving. Just as a judge or jury hears both sides and considers all the evidence before making a decision, we as Christians must evaluate all the information before us, filtering it through the word of God to make the appropriate decision.
This process isn’t easy. Because we are involved, it is often imperfect. Sometimes we seek information from the wrong source or depend on our own abilities to try and acquire wisdom, only to realize God wants to give it to us without all the hard knocks and set backs. Those of us who have any discernment in an area need to reach out to those who are struggling to make decisions with discernment. Gods love does compel us when we have a healthy, functional relationship with Him. We should help others to learn what that looks like instead of telling them they should just figure it out.
That’s my two cents, anyway. Leave yours in the comment section.