–May of 2008
“Give your servant an understanding heart … that I may discern between good and evil.” I Kings 3:9
When Solomon ascended the throne, he was keenly aware that he was not another David. He was a scholar, not a soldier. He knew nothing of cold lonely nights in the Judean wilderness protecting sheep from preying lions and bears. He had never faced a Goliath, fled from a Saul or put down an insurrection led by his own son. As the new Commander in Chief, he had never worn armor, wielded a sword or killed a Philistine. In a word, he seriously lacked the life experience that qualified him to be King. It’s no wonder that when asked by God in a dream, “What shall I give you?” the answer was already on his lips, “Give your servant and understanding heart…that I may discern between good and evil.” Solomon wanted and needed the kind of discernment necessary to lead a great nation of people.
Solomon’s prayer needs to be pulled out of the archives and prayed again. Discernment seems glaringly absent from Washington to Wall Street in both saint and sinner alike. The Church desperately needs saints that possess a healthy dose of discernment. Yet, from all appearances, discernment has not become one of the more coveted gifts.
Discernment is crucially important because the purpose and goal of spiritual discernment is to know and do God’s will. To desire a discerning heart is to tell God that His will is valued above all else. To gain discernment is to gain the ability to bring God’s point of view to any issue or decision that confronts us. Not all of the issues we face have a simple “book-chapter-verse” answer. Many if not most require the application of a biblical principle that sometime lacks specificity. We need a discerning heart in such cases so that we may please God by making a consistent and proper application of His Word in our lives.
Discernment can come as a special gift from the Holy Spirit, but most discernment comes from exercising and developing our spiritual senses (Hebrews 5:14). This happens in a number of ways but actually begins in parental training. Parents play a crucial role in developing discernment. They build a foundation of honesty, respect for authority, self-control, sensitivity to God, moral judgment, wisdom, etc…from the toddler days to the teen years. The spiritual and moral training given in these formative years is indispensable to discernment. If neglected, it is almost impossible to construct them at a later time. During the teen years, godly counsel and life experience help further the development of discernment.
For the Adult, the most important means of developing discernment is through a thorough knowledge of God’s Word. Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” The Word serves as both a guide and a gauge for all our actions, activity and attitudes. As we saturate our minds with Scripture we develop Biblically oriented discernment and propriety. This enables us to both live and walk in the Spirit as mature Christians should.
The Church and individual Christians are facing an onslaught of issues in today’s world that seem to demand Solomonic wisdom. We needn’t waste our time longing for Solomon’s wisdom, but we can pray the prayer of Israel’s young King and find that the same God who was pleased with such a request will again be pleased to grant us insight into His will. After all, desiring discernment is just another way of telling God we highly value His will and are willing to do what pleases Him most. And that, my dear friends, not only opens the door to His storehouse of wisdom, but to a host of other blessings as well!