Discernment is most simply defined as the ability to judge well. Discernment is something that anyone can have or develop at least to a certain degree. But for Jesus followers, beyond basic life experience, discernment is something that God gives and reveals to us. It is a gift and a blessing from him, but like every gift it can be abused.
Recently I was a little frustrated and annoyed at the actions and choices of a friend of mine, mostly because it created an inconvenience for me. Discernment derived from life experience told me that these choices were self-centered and an attempt to find satisfaction in life. My God given discernment recognized that while these choices were not, in and of themselves, sinful they were not going bring this person the fulfillment hoped for and in fact would lead away from intimacy with Jesus.
So what’s a person supposed to do with this discerned understanding? My first reaction was to criticize. I had a strong impulse explain emphatically to my wife how foolish and immature this person was being. Being the (ahem) mature spiritual leader that I am I resisted that impulse and instead decided to pray. “God look at how foolish and immature this person is being! Would you please give them a smack upside the head and smarten them up?” Those may not have been the exact words I used, but it’s pretty much the spirit of the prayer.
Oswald Chambers has said, “God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but only that we may intercede.” My prayers were not intercession; they were nothing more than criticizing this person to God instead of my wife. Graciously, my God given discernment quickly revealed to me my own foolishness and immaturity. I quieted myself and listened for God’s prompting and found my annoyance began to transform into compassion (again God given). I was then able to truly intercede. I prayed that God would work through these self-centered choices to reveal to my friend that the fulfillment sought is only in total surrender to Christ.
So what will you do with the discernment God gives to you?