DISCERNMENT AND MATURITY
By Rodney W. Francis
THERE IS A NEED for us all to understand the purpose and necessity for discernment to be actively working in and through our lives. It is a sign that we are maturing in our walk with the Lord.
Consider the following Scripture:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled (“inexperienced”) in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses (“organ of sense, mental faculty” – Young’s) exercised (“to use exercise, train up”) to discern both good and evil”(Hebrews 5:12-14 , NKJV).
Maturity here is linked to the way we use and/or exercise our discerning abilities. It comes about because we have learned to use our senses in a spiritual manner to discern both good and evil. The word “discern” means “1. to separate or divide up, to examine carefully, investigate, then to determine, judge of, estimate. 2. to distinguish, make a distinction; to separate one’s self from, i.e. to contend with one’s self”; or “toward a thorough judging” (Young’s).
The way we understand and then trust our discernment determines how we live, the decisions we make, the people we commit to, etc. It is a very important part of our Christian life. Yet so many of us doubt our ability to discern correctly.
THE GIFTS WORK TOGETHER
In the Bible, perception and discernment go together like hand in glove, as do the gifts of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. Perception precedes discernment in that it enables us to “see” things with the eye of our spirit. Then, having perceived something, we need discernment to know how to separate or distinguish that which we see, so we know what to do about it. Perception gives us the information or knowledge, but it takes discernment to know how to disseminate that information or knowledge we have perceived. Likewise it is the same with the word of knowledge. The word of knowledge gives us information or knowledge from the Holy Spirit, but it takes the word of wisdom to know how to apply it and/or know what to do with it. The word of wisdom is the gift that gives us “skilfulness in applying knowledge.” It is one thing to perceive or have a word of knowledge. It is entirely another thing to know how to apply it successfully to the glory of God and the building up of the people. Without the word of wisdom it is possible to deliver a right word of knowledge to the right person, but at the wrong time. That can have some disastrous results. Wisdom enables us to get the timing right. These skills are developed within us as we continue to exercise them. It is in the exercising of spiritual gifts and the ministries of the Holy Spirit that enable us to become more and more skilful in the purposes of God. Until we get “skilled in the word of righteousness,” we are merely feeding and living on the milk of God’s Word. And that means we cannot be anywhere as effective as God wants us to be. It is a very limited diet indeed to be only feeding on milk, milk, and more milk. Can you imagine what life would be like if you only had porridge for breakfast, dinner and tea every day? It wouldn’t be very long before you’d be approaching meal times with a gasp of “Yuk!” (Church has become like that to many – no variety and no adventure with the Holy Spirit.)
Maturity in God means we learn how to develop our senses to come into subjection to the voice of the Holy Spirit through discernment. Just as we have both natural and spiritual eyes and ears, so we also have natural and spiritual senses that need to be taught, trained and disciplined in the ways of God.
To develop in spiritual gifts and discernment we have to exercise them. We have to actively step out on what we are seeing and receiving. We will never know how accurate we are until we do. Then we can learn to make the necessary adjustments until we find ourselves moving sharply, lovingly and accurately in things spiritual. The Bible calls that the “solid food” realm. It is the realm where God is able to reveal to us more and more things through our perception and word of knowledge, and also entrust us more and more with ministering those things we see into the lives of people. We then discover the great joy of being able to minister the right word (of information or knowledge) to the right person in the right place in the right time in the right manner to get the right results. Praise the Lord! That is Holy Spirit ministry. And all of us can learn this by exercising that which we have already received.
Our discernment will be sharpened to exercise things both good and evil. Our discernment becomes a clear and accurate “compass, direction and guide” to lead us safely through all kinds of situations, both good and evil. If Christians learned to trust their perception and discernment more, there would be fewer “dumb” decisions made regarding things done in our lives and churches. Far too often we have aligned ourselves with the wrong person or persons, or the wrong project that then turns to “custard” and “wrecks” what we originally started out to achieve.
LEARNING TO TRUST OUR DISCERNMENT MORE
How can we learn to trust our discernment more? The Bible way is that we exercise that which we are “seeing” and step out on that. As long as we have a teachable spirit, we can then make the necessary adjustments until we know we are getting it right. Talking together with other spiritual people moving in discernment is also important. We can learn from one another, teach one another and encourage one another from our own life’s experiences. Take the time to discuss these things. Create opportunities for such discussions to take place. They are always very beneficial times.
Do not be afraid to step out on what you believe you are perceiving and discerning. Do not be afraid to try. Nothing happens while we remain dormant. We must step out and exercise that which we see in the spirit realm. It is the exercising of the things we see and hear that enables us to mature into the fuller purposes of God for our life. You will never know how right you are until you step out. The time is now. Step out, exercise your senses in perception and discernment, and grow into more maturity than you’ve ever known before. God bless you.