Wisdom vs. Discernment

At church a few weeks ago, our pastor gave a message on faith.  He taught us that faith doesn’t just believe; it also acts.  He challenged us with a question: “Are we asking in faith, or are we just asking God to fix it?”

When I first heard the pastor’s question, I thought to myself, Aren’t those both the same thing?  Don’t we ask in faith when we can’t fix it ourselves?  Don’t we trust that God is going to fix our situation because He has greater strength and resources than we do?

Almost as soon as I began to think about this, I realized the answer: Yes, but you need discernment to know when you’re boldly asking for God’s will to be done and when you’re just cowering in fear because you don’t want to go through pain.

Merriam-Webster defines “discernment” as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.”  When you first start reading the Bible, it appears to contain obscure and almost contradictory statements.  You are saved by faith, but you need to do works to show your faith, but don’t do works just to look like a good person.  If you save your life, you will lose it.  Bad company corrupts good character, but go into the world and preach the gospel to those who are far from God.  Be all things to all people in order to win some, but do not love the world or anything in the world.  Although these statements look like they contradict each other, they are all true and they all exist in perfect harmony.  However, you need discernment to comprehend the meaning behind the text, as well as to know how to apply the text to your life.

Wisdom involves the tools you need to live righteously; discernment is the way in which you use those tools.  But how do you get discernment?

  • The Holy Spirit.  Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the one who opens the eyes of our hearts and helps us to live righteously.  Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ because God revealed it to him (Matt. 16:17).  When Jesus resurrected on the third day, He revealed the Scriptures (and who He truly was) to some of His disciples (Luke 24:31-32).  When you need help understanding the Scriptures, and in turn understanding God’s will for your life, you can depend on the Holy Spirit to guide you.
  • The Bible. Despite what people may tell you, the Bible does not contradict itself. When you read a passage that does not make sense, read it in light of the context in which it was written, as well as in light of the rest of Scripture.
  • Wise Counsel (Accountability). I love the fact that there are people around me to help me interpret the Bible and to unpack what I feel God is saying to me.  You don’t have to live life alone; you were created to live in community.  If you are struggling with discovering where God is leading you, call a friend that you trust to encourage you to walk in faith in God.
  • Sermons/Devotionals. There are pastors, writers, and teachers who have dedicated much time and energy to studying and applying discernment.  Listen to what they have to say.  Spend some time praying over what God has spoken to their hearts, and see how those words can apply to you as well.  It is also helpful to do a devotional in community, so that you can come up with ideas together that you would not be able to on your own.

These beautiful words from the Apostle Paul summarize my prayer for those who read this blog:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:9-11


This featured image has been uploaded to Subsplash by Diz Play.

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