Are you growing spiritually? You should be closer to God today than you were yesterday. You should be more mature spiritually today than you were yesterday. One indicator of spiritual growth is the ability to discern between good and evil.
Listen to the words of the Hebrew writer on this matter. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). The word “discern” indicates the ability to see and identify by noting differences. It is the ability “to make judicial estimation”. A Christian must learn discernment. I must discern between “good and evil”. I must discern between “right and wrong”. I must discern between “truth and error”. Discernment is not a matter of choosing between the pleasant and the unpleasant. What may be pleasant may be bad, and what may be unpleasant may be good. This idea of discernment is the ability to choose that which is best.
Christians often struggle in this area. We are not alone in our struggle. David struggled with discernment when tempted by lust in 2 Samuel 11. Judas struggled with discernment when betraying Jesus for money. The rich young ruler walked away sad from the Christ because he was unable to discern that which was best. Demas made an error in discernment when turning back to the world.
Life is about choice. It is often a choice between “good and evil”. Most are against any attempt to distinguish between good and evil. To many all moral practices are good and almost all religious teachings are right. To these individuals, right or wrong is in the mind of the participant. Right or wrong is not a matter of personal thinking. This thinking does not line up with God’s Word.
There is good and evil. There is right and wrong. God makes these distinctions for us. Isaiah describes the lack of discernment within the nation of Judah with these words in Isaiah 5:20. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light; and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” The Bible speaks of the good man and the evil man. The Bible speaks of good works and evil works. The Bible identifies a good path and an evil path. The Bible encourages us to seek good advice and warns against evil counsel. The Bible challenges us to build a good name rather than an evil name. The Bible speaks of both the good heart, and the evil heart.
The development of discernment is not automatic for a Christian. It takes practice as is described in Hebrews 5:14. The rich fool described by Jesus in Luke 12 needed more practice. This man was smart enough to make money, but he was not wise enough to discern between material and spiritual values. Martha also needed additional practice. In Luke 10, Martha was faced with a choice between something good and something better. The discerning heart chooses that which is best.
How can we develop the ability to discern between “good and evil”? The path to discernment has been laid out in front of us by our Father. Walking hand in hand with the Father will lead you down the path toward discernment.
Moses stands out as a positive example of a discerning heart. Note the choice Moses faced in Hebrews 11:24-26. “ By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”
Moses had everything the world had to offer at his feet. Money, fame, and power were at his fingertips. Moses chose God over all of this. He “considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” What choice would you make in this situation? If you had everything the world had to offer at your fingertips, would you discern God as being more valuable?
How was Moses able to make this inspiring choice? The Hebrew writer gives us insight into the decision making of Moses with these words; “He was looking to the reward.” Moses’ hope was bigger than this world. Moses hoped for something better; something more valuable; something eternal. He hoped for heaven. When facing a difficult choice, think about heaven. Moses shows us how to postpone instant gratification for something better. Hope can help you make godly decisions.
Solomon offers words of wisdom in Proverbs 22:3. “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naïve go on, and are punished for it.” Paul also encourages us to be cautious in our decision making in his letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good abstain from every from of evil.” What process do you go through when making an importance choice? What steps do you take to find the best path to follow? Do you take time to “examine everything carefully”? . Take time to investigate the paths before you. “Grab hold of what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
The path to discernment also involves trust. Put your trust in the right place. When faced with a difficult choice, I wish I could say I’m always brave. That would be a lie. I’m not always brave. I’m not always courageous. Children often become frightened and afraid. How often did you run to the arms of your mother and father when you were scared as a child? I always became braver in the arms of my dad. I instantaneously became more courageous in the presence of my father. You might be too big to jump in the arms of your physical father. You’re never too big for God.
In Genesis 39, Joseph was bombarded with sexual temptation. Day after day he was pressed by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph ultimately ran away from this temptation. Before running, he took a stand. Joseph chose the waiting arms of his Father over the open arms of Potiphar’s wife. In Genesis 39:10, Joseph resists temptation with these words, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” Joseph was able to discern between good and evil in this situation because he trusted God. When you are faced with a difficult choice, trust God to lead you. Trust God to give you the direction you need. I am braver in the arms of my Father. I am more courageous in the presence of my Father.
Life is about choice. Each day we must make the choice to live for God. The Christians addressed by the Hebrew writer were not maturing in their decision making. They needed more practice. The path to a discerning heart is paved for us by God. Before making important decisions take a walk with your Father and consider your hope; proceed with caution; and trust God.