What do you think of when you hear the word discernment? The dictionary defines it as making a distinction between good and evil and truth and falsehood. As believers, we all desire to be discerning and wise in our choices. As we mature and grow in our knowledge of the scriptures, the hope is we will use that information to make choices in line with God’s will.
Hannah Anderson describes discernment in, All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, as “the ability to sort between a host of options and pick what is good.” She continues, “discernment does not change the challenges we face; it changes our ability to face them.”
We become discerning people by not just knowing what to think but how to think. Being spiritually discerning is an ability to see the world the way God does. This comes about as we grow and mature spiritually into the likeness of Christ. It is about seeing “All That’s Good.”
Think About These Things:
In section two of her book, Hannah walks us through Philippians 4:8-9 where the apostle Paul has laid out a grid of virtues for us. Each chapter walks through the virtues listed in Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
These are true of the character of God, and this is what we are to pursue as believers. I appreciated the layout of this section because it helped to work through each virtue listed in Philippians 4:8 and ask ourselves questions such as: Do we desire to pursue things that are of value and good? Is it true? Is it good? Is it lovely? When we seek truthfulness, we’re seeking God because He is truth.
As we pursue these virtues laid out in Philippians 4:8, we will always find Christ. The hope is as we mature spiritually we will be changed and transformed and have the wisdom to see what in this world doesn’t measure up to that standard.
Hannah’s metaphors in each chapter bring to life truths that help us to begin to put discerning principles into practice practically. Chapter ten had a great reminder that “every good gift is from above.” We need to be people who can spot goodness and not miss it.
The example of thrift store shopping with her kids was a helpful analogy in helping us to see what is good or what is best. There are many items in a thrift store that are full of potential. The cost is low but do we consider the cost of bringing this item into our home. As you see that item at the thrift store, do you find yourself asking: Is this good? Is this worth the price they’re asking? Do I need it? Do I need to bring into my life and bring it home?
“In order to make good decisions, you must become a discerning person, a person skilled in wisdom and goodness itself. And to be these kinds of people, we must be humble enough to be willing to learn.”
~ Hannah Anderson
If we need wisdom to make a purchase at a thrift store, how much more do we need wisdom, God’s wisdom, in the decisions we face daily that have eternal value. The virtues in Philippians 4:8 that Paul lays out help us to develop a taste for goodness. All of scripture is valuable but another area to help train us in recognizing goodness is the wisdom literature of God’s Word—Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Wisdom literature helps us to learn to see the goodness of God in the world as we navigate through it.
Wisdom is important in discernment but so is humility. When we find ourselves responding to situations with “I know,” it can be a hindrance in learning true wisdom thinking we have nothing to learn. We don’t always have a clear vision and may not be seeing the world through clear glasses. The first step in learning remembers “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and when we recognize we’re not God and we don’t know everything we find ourselves in a place of dependency. This is where true wisdom begins because we begin to ask God and seek His Word. Humility will also extend to learning from others who know more than we do.
“you develop discernment by becoming a person who knows how, not simply what, to think.”
~ Hannah Anderson
All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment reminded me that discernment is a skill that’s learned over time. There are no shortcuts, and when we look for them, we can find ourselves undermining the growth process. Discernment isn’t just a mindless checklist of do’s and don’ts. It is seeing what isn’t good but doing it without a critical spirit. As we work through Philippians 4:8 for the various decisions we have to make in our lives, the hope is we would check our motives, pause, and evaluate all our choices in light of those virtues.
God is a God who gives good gifts. The Scriptures are more concerned we become wise people, and wise people make good decisions. Discerning people make discerning decisions. Spiritual growth is growing in our ability to see the world the way God does. As we continue to grow in maturity and Christlikeness, we will continue to gain the eyes and perspective of Christ and through that process become more discerning people.Spiritual growth is growing in our ability to see the world the way God does.
Our hope is, by the grace of God, that we cultivate hearts that long to be like God in this world.
“When we pursue whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable, we are actually pursuing the character of God. When we seek these ‘treasures of heaven,’ He will make a way for us to find Him.”
~ Hannah Anderson
*I was provided with a copy of the book All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment through Moody Publishing for an honest review.