Acquiring Discernment

When we view God’s insight as a precious treasure, He reveals all we need to know.

Proverbs 2:1-11

Discernment is the ability to make sound judgments by perceiving what is not readily obvious, and it is critical to our life in God. For example, what should you do when you want to follow the Lord but have multiple choices that appear promising and good? How can you know if you’re hearing from God or simply listening to your own desires?

All we have to do is ask. Proverbs 2 says, “If you cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding … then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:3-6). Those verses are a clear promise from God that when we ask for insight, He will answer.

Though discernment doesn’t appear overnight, it does develop when we “search for her as for hidden treasures” (Proverbs 2:4). So don’t wait until you’re facing a critical decision—start asking the Lord for His wisdom today. We need time to practice this kind of humility so we’ll learn to hear His voice among the noises of life. And in the meantime, rest assured that no matter what decision you make, God will be with you (Psalm 139:7-12).

Developing a Discerning Spirit

Discernment isn’t an innate quality—we must be trained by the Holy Spirit to distinguish between good and evil.

Hebrews 5:11-14

No matter how long a person has known Jesus, every faith journey ebbs and flows—with regard to doubt, intimacy, despair, joy, and more. Today’s passage discusses one such area of fluctuation: our ability to discern.

Comparing discernment to a baby’s diet, the writer of Hebrews observed that Jewish Christians at the time lacked spiritual wisdom and needed help consuming information. However, he went on to say that they could mature; they just needed to “have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). In other words, it’s possible to acquire keen discernment.

If you’re experiencing cloudy judgment right now, you can lean on two sources for guidance: God’s Word and God’s Spirit. When we listen for His Spirit and read Scripture over time, we will gradually be trained to sense the difference between what is righteous and what isn’t. Even if you face a situation that isn’t addressed in the Bible, you have a Helper whose job is to guide you into all the truth (John 14:26; 16:13).

God has given all believers access to His wisdom. So if you need guidance today, don’t hesitate to ask Him. He wants to help you.

Pledging Allegiance to the Wrong King

Don’t trade God’s best for lesser things.

John 19:13-16

The chief priests were the power brokers of their day. They had spiritual authority over the Israelites and influence with the Romans who controlled the land. When Jesus became a threat, they negotiated with Judas to have Roman soldiers arrest Him.

The governor, Pilate, treated Jesus just as he would have any other Jewish prisoner—having Him flogged and brought before the crowd for a “trial.” Twice, Pilate noted that he could find no grounds for charging Jesus (John 19:4; John 19:6). Still, he gave in to the priests’ demands and ordered his troops to crucify an obviously innocent man.

The priests underscored their disgust with Jesus by promising fidelity to Caesar. In that moment, they violated the first and second commandments in order to accomplish their goals (Exodus 20:3-7). These men forgot their calling and pledged allegiance to the wrong king. But it is important to remember this: Rather than stand in judgment or declare them all irredeemable, Jesus headed to the cross to die for us—and for every person who condemned Him that day.

A Caregiver’s Love

Jesus is our role model—when we serve others sacrificially, we show love the way He did.

John 15:12-14

Pop songs, movies, and books shape the way we think about love. Attraction, emotion, romance, and sentiment color how we expect it to be. But when the Lord told His followers that they’re to love the way He does, He wasn’t talking about what we find in popular culture. Jesus gave them the ultimate image of self-sacrificing love: a person laying down his life for a friend (John 15:13).

The kind He was referring to looks far more like the sacrificial service of a caregiver changing a soiled adult diaper. It looks like a family opening their home to foster children. Or like a woman interceding daily in prayer for her prodigal daughter. Sacrificial love is humbly given by countless modern heroes of the faith every day as they lay down their hopes and dreams to meet the needs of the sick, helpless, and broken among us.

The delightful feelings of “being in love” are distant cousins to the self-giving action that Jesus was referring to. And we should remember that when He spoke the words in today’s passage, He was just hours away from laying down His innocent life for each one of us—those He loves.

Reflecting God’s Love

Are you struggling to show God’s heart to others?

John 13:34-35

Sometimes when the night skies are clear, a full moon illuminates the landscape, making everything clearly visible. However bright the scene may be, the moon doesn’t emit light but simply reflects it. This example from nature illustrates a valuable spiritual lesson: We can be empowered to do what may not seem possible in our own strength.

Loving others can fall into this category—some personalities make doing so a thorny challenge. But in today’s passage, Jesus said to His followers, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). The disciples may have thought that was impossible, and yet the commandment itself contains the answer to how we can, in fact, obey it: Before we can love as Jesus does, we must first receive His love for us. Only then are we able to mirror it to those around us and point them to the One who cares more deeply and abundantly than they could ever imagine. The Lord empowers us to be “imitators of God, as beloved children.” Only then are we able to “walk in love, just as Christ also loved [us]” (Ephesians 5:1-2). And when we do, we carry out something grand and glorious—and are blessed as a result.

God Rules in Your Circumstances

God’s light often shines brightest through us in our darkest moments.

Philippians 1:12-20

If you could change your present circumstances, would you? Most of us would say yes. Even if we’re experiencing relatively peaceful and comfortable conditions, we can always imagine a better life. And those of us enduring difficult, painful, or trying situations long to see the burden lifted.

But as everyone knows, there are some circumstances over which we have no control. We can’t maneuver our way out, so our only option is to go through them. As redeemed children of God, however, it’s important to remember this: We are exactly where God wants us, because His sovereignty rules over all our situations at all times.

Let’s look at Paul. He was sitting in a Roman prison, chained to a guard after a fruitful ministry of sharing the gospel. But even though the Lord brought him into difficult circumstances, His work in and through Paul didn’t stop. A negative aspect of the apostle’s life—being chained to a jailer—turned out to be the means God used to deliver the gospel to the entire praetorian guard and Caesar’s household.

The sovereign God who used Paul’s circumstances for His good purposes can do the same with yours. But like Paul, you may have to go through them trusting that the Lord will comfort and strengthen you to endure, and yes, even rejoice.

Persevere in Passing Down Your Faith

Our efforts may at times look like failures, but that doesn’t mean God has stopped working through us to achieve His purposes.

James 1:2-4

Is there someone with whom you’ve consistently but unsuccessfully tried to share Jesus? It can be disheartening, but God’s Word encourages us to not grow weary of doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13). That’s the third way to pass along your faith: perseverance.

Yesterday we read about how to tell loved ones about Jesus through our actions, but doing something once or even a few times isn’t enough. There must be consistency. Does what you believe have merit in small situations as well as in major ones? Do you still trust God in those times when circumstances look impossible? How do you react when things don’t go your way? What do you do when life gets tough? Do you keep loving others no matter what?

Don’t be discouraged or feel guilty when you fall short. We all are human and will respond imperfectly at one point or another. What’s important is what we do next. Whenever you’re in a difficult moment, remember the wonderful words Paul wrote to the Galatians: “In due time we will reap, if we do not become weary” (Galatians 6:9).

Pass Down Your Example

Our actions really do speak louder than our words.

Matthew 5:14-16

Yesterday, we looked at one way you can pass your faith down to future generations. Today, let’s look at the second: by your lifestyle. You’ve no doubt heard the popular saying “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s important to tell others about Jesus, but we need to show His love through our actions, too.

Today’s verse is from the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus is describing the righteousness that should characterize His followers, but it’s not what they’ve been taught by the religious leaders. In fact, most of the sermon focuses on actions—loving enemies, being merciful, and reconciling with those we’ve wronged. In verse 16, Jesus says, “Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

So, what can we pass down to our loved ones? We can give them a day-by-day, year-by-year example of faith. We can teach them how to love Jesus and others well by imitating what they have seen in us. We can show them how to respond to a difficult situation in a Christlike way. And most importantly, we can come before our heavenly Father to intercede on their behalf.

Pass Down Your Principles

The best gifts are eternal, and they impact generations.

Deuteronomy 6:1-7

What do you want to leave your loved ones? Maybe it’s money or family heirlooms, like a favorite necklace or beloved photo. But if you’ve trusted Christ as Savior, you have something far more valuable. Material things can be spent or lost, but your faith—what you believe about Jesus Christ—is precious and eternal.

Choosing to follow Jesus is a personal decision, one you can’t make for anyone else. But through your words and actions, you can lovingly point others to the heavenly Father. Over the next few days, we’re going to look at three ways you can share your faith.

The first way is to share what you yourself have learned and practiced. For example, you can tell others that …

God will give us direction. His Word is “a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105).

God will provide for our needs, drawing from His unending riches (Philippians 4:19).

God will enable and strengthen us, whatever we go through. He’s a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

God owns everything, and we’re His trusted stewards.

What godly principles are you passing on to others? Is there anything you would add to the above list?

When God Is Silent

Our heavenly Father is always working for His glory, which is also for our good.

John 11:1-44

When we face an urgent need, our prayers become fervent and our desire for a quick answer intensifies. It seems that if the Lord doesn’t intervene soon, the very thing we dread could happen. And without a detectable response from God, we may feel as if He doesn’t care—but Scripture assures us He does (1 Peter 5:7).

This may have been how Mary and Martha felt after asking Jesus to come heal their brother Lazarus. They knew the Lord loved them, but when He didn’t show up on time, their pain overtook their faith. Both women voiced their disappointment: “If You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32).

We’ve all said or thought something similar when God didn’t answer our prayers as we hoped. But unlike Mary and Martha, we know from Scripture that God’s purpose in all His choices for us is His glory (John 11:4). His goal is not to inflict pain unnecessarily but to let Christ’s life shine through us in hardship, to stabilize our confidence in God’s goodness, and to strengthen our trust in His loving sovereignty. His glory is for our good, and in this we can rejoice.