Discerning Hearts

“He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:2-3).

The Pharisees tested Jesus, asking for a sign from heaven.  There was a plethora of evidence for them to consider.  The problem was not a lack of facts, testimony, or miracles to pore over.  No, the error lay in their lack of discerning hearts.  Please note, they were able to use their minds to discern the temporal but failed to discern the eternal: that God was among them, fulfilling His promises.  The Lord expected them to have discerning hearts.

Discernment is the engaging of one’s mind – weighing the evidence to distinguish and come to a just conclusion.  God through the ages has encouraged and expects His people to have discerning hearts. Nowhere does God give or expect an impossible task; this is not beyond our abilities. This is something we can do!  Scriptures teach us that we are made in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26).  We, like none other of God’s creation, have an internal ability to discern, like Him. God is seeking for souls who have discerning hearts.  He looks for those who are willing to take the time to consider, think, seek and make righteous judgments.

As the young man Solomon came to the throne with the great responsibility to lead the children of Israel, the Lord appeared to him in a dream, asking “what shall I give you?” Solomon humbly asked for an “understanding heart” to govern God’s people, that he could “discern between good and evil.”  Such a desire pleased God so much that He gave Solomon things he didn’t ask for. ESV says Solomon asked for, “understanding to discern what is right” (1 Kings 3, 3:11).

Should we not seek to have a discerning heart, to understand what is right in God’s eyes?  Will not God be pleased with such efforts? Later in his life, Solomon, using his God given wisdom, wrote, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).  God’s word is the source for our discernment.

The word of God, when absorbed and applied to our lives penetrates and probes the thoughts and intents of the heart.  It gives us the tools to discern, to judge right from wrong (Hebrews 4:12).

 “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 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 exercised to discern both good and evil”  (Hebrews 5:12-14).

The inspired writer desires for us to weigh the good and evil and to evaluate what will be pleasing to the Lord – what will be helpful and beneficial not only to ourselves, but also to others.  We must be able to distinguish between truth and error.  

I imagine in my mind a large scale. On one side is the word of God – THE truth (John 17:17) – and on the other side is the thing we are considering.  How does it balance with the wisdom from above?  We must do this so that our lives are not weighed in the balance and found wanting, as happened to Belshazzar, king of Persia (Daniel 5).

We must have our senses exercised, skilled in the word of righteousness.  To have spiritual discernment —the ability to use our minds to comprehend and make godly judgments or decisions – is vital to the Christian’s spiritual growth. Paul prayed that Christians’ love, knowledge, and all discernment may be growing more and more to the glory and praise of the Lord.  Love, knowledge, and discernment go together (Philippians 1:9-11).  Our Father has equipped us for all that we need to grow and develop, to be mature and pleasing unto Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Maturity filters everything through God’s word.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so(Acts 17:11).   May it be said of us, too.