How Discerning Are You?

People without discernment are doomed. Hosea 4:14b (HCSB)
Therefore the people that do not understand shall fall. Hosea 4:14b (KJV)
People without understanding will come to ruin. Hosea 4:14b (NIV)

DISCERNMENTMENT: The ability to judge well.

How important is it to the Lord for His people to be able to discern the truth of a matter? In our key verse, God was warning His people that because they had forsaken Him, He would no longer correct their shame, to bring them back to Himself, but instead would let them run headlong to their own destruction.

Discernment is critical in the lives of God's people. King Solomon asked for it:

"Give therefore your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this your so great a people?" And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. " (1 Kings 3:9-10)

The priests were instructed to teach the people of Godly discernment:

"And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." (Ezekiel 44:23)

God said in Malachi that His people would return to Him and be able to discern between righteousness and wickedness:

"Then shall you return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not." (Malachi 3:18)

In the New Testament, discernment is not an option for the believer - it is required. Believers have to discern who to believe and follow after. First Thessalonians 5:21-22 teaches that it is the responsibility of every Christian to be discerning:

"But examine (i.e. = discern) everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:21-22)

The apostle John issues a similar warning:

"Do not believe every spirit, but test (i.e. = discern) the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1)

We are taught that we must be diligent, making every effort to discern the Word of God. Paul wrote to Timothy:

“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing (i.e.= discerning) the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2: 15)

God intends for His people to grow in the Word, and in discernment, so that we can in turn teach others:

"For although by this time you ought to be teachers, you yourselves need someone to teach you these elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You still need milk, not solid food. Anyone who lives on milk, is still an infant, and is unacquainted with the teaching of righteousness. But solid food is for those who are mature, who have by constant use trained themselves to distinguish (i.e. = discern) good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Our key Scripture verse tellus us there are dire consequences when we fail to learn Godly discernment. We will be doomed to failure, we will fall to all manner of error, we will come to ruin. Failure to distinguish between truth and error leaves the Christian vulnerable to false teachings. It stunts our own spiritual growth, hinders our witness to others, and thwarts our effectiveness in fulfilling God's purpose. We each have to learn to discern if we don’t want to come to ruin!

Sometimes, however, the more difficult thing to discern is not the choice between good and evil: it is choosing between good, better, and best. Some choices we are faced with are not evil, they just are not what is truly best for us. We know that God wants only the best for His children, but if we don't learn to discern what is BEST, we end up settling for LESS. Then we're often left to wonder why we don't seem to be experiencing His blessings. We settle for second best, and often don't give it a second thought.

Take Martha, for instance. We know she was busy with important work, good work – things that had to be done. She was upset with her sister Mary, and we might tend to think justifiably so, for not helping out when there was so much work to be done. We all know the story:

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about with much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

Mary chose to let everything else wait, to sit and fellowship with the Lord. Martha was doing what was GOOD, but she failed to discern what was BEST - just being with the Lord. She replaced doing with busyness, and thus settled for less. Many choices we have to make are like that: they are not choices between evil and good, but between good and best.

Fortunately our God provides us with what we need to grow in wisdom and discernment. God has given us a sound mind - the ability to discern between good and bad, or between good and best. He has given us the ability to make wise decisions.

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power,
and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

It is only by spending time with the Lord - in prayer and Bible study – that we can learn to discern the difference between sound doctrine and false doctrine, between good and evil, or between God's best and second best. There is always something needing to be done, something that requires our attention. But if we allow busyness to replace our time alone with the Lord, we end up like Martha – settling for less than God’s best for us, feeling frustrated and missing out on our blessing.

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