President’s Blog 6 – 2019 – Direction and Discernment
January 7, 2019
2019 – Direction and Discernment
As we enter 2019, I am led to blog on the word discernment. According to Webster’s Dictionary, discernment is the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discernment). In this current era, it seems that we American Christians are deeply in need of discernment.
The year 2018 ended with a partial government shutdown and a seemingly very divided electorate. This raises the following questions:
- How do we lead in such a contentious environment?
- How do we “know” that we’ve arrived at the “correct” understandings and decisions that confront us?
- How can we know with confidence that the actions we are taking are righteous?
To these questions I offer one answer: Biblical discernment!
In the book Following Jesus as Discernment, author Jon Sobrino stated that Christian discernment assists the believer in not only understanding the will of God, but in also carrying out that will. Henry E. Dosker briefly discussed the five Hebrew words for discern: bin, yadha`, nakhar, ra’ah and shama`. He suggested, based on certain biblical text, that (1) bin relates to “observation;” (2) yadha` transmits “discriminating knowledge;” (3) nakhar is associated with “discerning time and judgment;” (4) ra’ah is used when the focus is on “discerning between the righteous and the wicked;” and (5) shama` communicates “discerning good” (https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/discern/).
In the New Testament, discernment is characterized as allowing us to exercise wisdom aided by the leading, prompting, and direction of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, biblical discernment is commonly understood as: the sound judgment which makes possible the distinguishing of good from evil and the recognition of God’s right ways for his people.
Practically speaking, here are six steps you can use to discern:
- Adhere to the scripture and teachings of your faith tradition. This is more than just quoting scripture; it is the continual searching and knowing of scripture as a whole.
- Nurture the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) and give priority to the virtue of love (I Corinthians 13).
- Offer inner authority and peace to yourself and others. Practice providing a sense of calm, serenity, and humility in divisive situations.
- Promote community harmony through the Spirit, which is working toward reconciliation and harmony among people (John 17:23, Acts 4:32, I Cor 3:1-3).
- Enhance, rather than extinguish, life (John 10:10). Move to promote vitality, heightened selfhood, and relational health in everything you do.
- Arise with integrity in the discernment process with authentic pursuit of spiritual direction (through the spiritual practices of fasting, prayer, and personal Bible study).
Lord God, we confess that at times we are unable to understand the significance of your involvement and movement in our lives, our families, our church, our work, and our nation. We confess we have allowed frustrating words and deeds to move us to disharmony.
Yet, we thank you for the guidance we have received as we seek Your face and dwell in Your presence. We thank you for the sound judgment we have obtained and will obtain through discernment. We thank you for increasing our spiritual understanding of life and situations confronting us.
We ask that You continue to help us distinguish: The Holy from unholy, the Sacred from the sacrilegious, and the relevant from the irreverent. We pray for Your will for our ministries, classes, conversations, lessons, interventions, and services. Help us distinguish between spirits at home, at work, at school, at play. Help us to not underestimate our adversary and not over estimate our spiritual readiness for this battle. Please give us the strength to win this spiritual war! In Jesus Name we pray! Amen.
In Joy and In Justice!
Micah L. McCreary
President, New Brunswick Theological Seminary