Be Filled with Spiritual Discernment
“Be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.”—Col. 1:9, 10.
1. What kind of decisions is the Christian called upon to make, and what is required to make right decisions?
EACH day the dedicated Christian is called upon to make decisions. Living in this world presents many problems, and issues arise that require him to make decisions. He has to make decisions in his home affecting his family, at his place of business affecting his relationship with those outside the truth; he has to act on matters that affect his relationship with his brothers and sisters in the New World society, or that affect his relationship to Jehovah and His organization and the Kingdom service. How to make right decisions, how to follow always the right course, that is the problem. To do so requires spiritual discernment.
2, 3. How should we view things in order to make right decisions, and what does this result in?
2 To discern things in a spiritual way means to view things the way Jehovah views them. Jehovah, by the operation of his spirit, has made known his viewpoint on things in his inspired Word. He tells us how he values things, what he considers to be valuable and worth while and what he considers to be vain and worthless, what works and thoughts are good and virtuous and those that are evil and wicked. Being in the fallen flesh, one tends to view things from the standpoint of the flesh. But if a person allows the tendencies of the flesh, such as selfishness, fear, pride or jealousy, to influence him when issues arise, then that one is certain to make wrong decisions.
3 To make right decisions the Christian must be filled with spiritual discernment. He must discern clearly right from wrong. He must come to love what is right and hate what is wrong, as Paul expressed it at Romans 12:9, saying: “Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.” Demonstrating that one has spiritual discernment by making right decisions is something pleasing to Jehovah and results in walking worthily before him. Wrote the same apostle to the Colossians (1:9, 10): “We . . . have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.”
4. What does it mean to “discern,” and what part does knowledge play in spiritual discernment?
4 How can we be filled with spiritual discernment? In those words to the congregation at Colossae Paul points to the first basic essential, namely, to have an accurate knowledge of God’s will, to be filled with such accurate knowledge. To “discern” literally means to “see” or “distinguish with the mind’s eye,” that is, to distinguish or notice one thing from another, whether it is right or wrong, important or unimportant, valuable or worthless. Knowledge is to the eye of discernment what light is to the natural eye. It illuminates, makes things stand out clear and sharp in their proper relationship to one another. Just as light is essential for one to choose the best path over rough and treacherous ground, so accurate knowledge is needed to discern the right and safe course to take through the treacherous and dangerous conditions of this old system of things. Thus an accurate knowledge of God’s will, along with the love for God that such knowledge brings, acts as a strong force for righteousness in one’s life and is essential to making right decisions, to one’s pleasing Jehovah.—Eph. 4:23, 24.
5, 6. (a) What kind of studying is required? (b) What is one way we can “make sure” of the things we study?
5 To fix firmly in mind the accurate knowledge of God’s will requires study. This is something so essential that it cannot be overstressed. The kind of studying required is the kind that fixes ideas permanently in the mind, and this calls for effort and concentration. We must be “working hard and exerting ourselves” in our Bible study. Yes, study means just that—study! It means meditation. Food needs to be well chewed if it is to be properly digested. While chewing food we savor it, getting the full taste out of it. Likewise with spiritual food, it needs to be chewed, turned over and over in the mind, getting the full taste of it. As an aid to this mental chewing of spiritual food we might ask ourselves questions as we read (as when studying this magazine), such as, Why is that? How is this so? No, not out of any spirit of criticism of what is being read, but so that we examine our own thoughts to see that we are grasping the points with understanding. Just as the apostle admonishes: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is right,” that is, understand what is read and then fix the points firmly in mind.—1 Tim. 4:10; 1 Thess. 5:21.
6 Spiritual discernment does not come just from learning a lot of facts. Many people have knowledge, they have information in their minds, yet they lack spiritual discernment. For us to have spiritual discernment means that we have understood and digested the facts, examined them in the light of other knowledge already learned, and placed the new information in its right relationship to the other, allowing it to enlarge or to correct and amend our understanding of matters on which new light has shone. In this way we ‘may prove to ourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.’—Rom. 12:2.
7. Why is Jehovah’s spirit so essential to becoming filled with spiritual discernment? So what should be done on each occasion of personal study?
7 Then, too, it is necessary to have Jehovah’s help by his spirit if one is to become filled with spiritual discernment. It is only by the spirit of Jehovah, along with study and meditation, that one can gain accurate knowledge and full understanding. This all-important fact must never be forgotten: It is impossible to be filled with spiritual discernment without the help of God’s spirit. God’s own Word states: “For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God. Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, as we combine spiritual matters with spiritual words.” So when you study, yes, on each occasion when you study privately at home, pray to Jehovah for his spirit to help you in your study, to help you to understand, to help you to grasp the meaning of the things you read, that you may grow in spiritual discernment.—1 Cor. 2:11-13.
8. We should study with what purpose in mind, and what must we make sure to avoid?
8 Along with such prayers for the spirit there must be the necessary effort in personal study, with the purpose in mind of enlarging one’s understanding and appreciation of God’s Word so as to grow in spiritual discernment. Such study can and should be joyful and exhilarating. Casual study in preparation for congregational meetings, such as for the Watchtower study, does not lead to spiritual discernment. Some may have the habit of leaving their study preparation to the last minute, maybe to an hour or two before the scheduled congregation study. Perhaps there is time just to look up some of the easier questions and check the answers in the paragraphs so that at least some comment can be made in the Watchtower study at the Kingdom Hall. But that is not study, is it? What information one may get in that way is quickly forgotten, and probably will not be remembered a day or two after the consideration of that particular material.
9, 10. (a) Of what benefit is review in our personal study? (b) Why is there a need for a regular schedule for personal study?
9 In scheduling definite times for personal study and preparation for the Watchtower study and other meetings sufficient time should be allowed for meditation on the material as one goes along, chewing over the information so as to get it fixed firmly in mind. To see whether this has been accomplished it is good to review after each period of personal study. Then is the time when the information is fresh, and the best time to see that it has made a deep impression. Making an effort to recall the information to conscious thought immediately after the period of study trains the process of memory and the ability to recall, and will do much to fix the points firmly in mind. The final review could be with a closed magazine or book. We have the title of the article; now, how much can we remember of the high lights, of the main arguments? Do we recall some of the proof texts that were used? Can we relate the main points together in a brief summary of the article? If not, we need to go through the article again, consciously looking for the high points, the main arguments.
10 One may say at this point, “But all this takes time.” True, but it is time well spent, time that must be spent if an accurate knowledge of God’s will is to be fixed firmly in mind and the proper basis provided for being filled with spiritual discernment. There is no short cut. Study, regular study, is essential to being filled with spiritual discernment. As Paul wrote to Timothy: “Give constant thought to what I am saying; the Lord will really give you discernment in all things.”—2 Tim. 2:7.
11. What will result from growing in understanding and appreciation of the truth?
11 As you follow this wise course you will rejoice in growing in understanding and appreciation of the truth. It will sink deep into your mind and heart and become part of you. Then, indeed, you will be “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you.” Your mind and heart will be strong, mature, sound. You will see clearly the way to go. You will not fall from the narrow path of truth and sound doctrine into the morass of false teachings and sectarian ideas; you will avoid having extreme views on things, and will be guarded from falling into the all-too-easy snare of leaning to your own understanding. With your mind filled with accurate knowledge and your thinking abilities guided by Jehovah’s spirit you will discern the right way to go, the way that is full of light, and be delivered from the bad way that leads into darkness. “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things, from those leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.”—1 Pet. 3:15; Prov. 2:13.
12. What does the Christian need to do when issues arise in his life, and what does he need to discern when making decisions?
12 The Christian must exercise spiritual discernment in the way he walks “in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” When issues arise that affect one personally, the imperfect flesh is quick to react, and, if one is not careful, it can lead one into a wrong course of action. One must restrain the fleshly impulses and passions and be guided instead by spiritual discernment. So, when issues arise, there is need to stop and think: What do the Scriptures say about this? How would Jehovah and Christ Jesus view the matter? Often a number of factors are involved that may not be taken into account if one acts hastily; such as factors affecting various interests—the interests of one’s fellow witnesses and of the Christian congregation, divine interests, and, perhaps, one’s own life interests. Consider the following inspired counsel: “That your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment, that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.”—Phil. 1:9-11.
13, 14. (a) How will the one having spiritual discernment act in the face of some difficulty in the congregation? (b) What will help him have the right viewpoint?
13 Perhaps something in a congregation is not handled just right, or at least so one may think. Even if something is not handled just the way it should be, that would be no reason for one’s getting upset to the point of agitation, possibly letting his temper get a little out of hand. If this were to happen, he would most surely lose his sense of balance. His acting hastily under such circumstances would be from the standpoint of the flesh and not from mature spiritual discernment. Even if at the start one is in the right about something, acting hastily will not help, and such one may find himself also taking a wrong course, and that would not put anything right. At all times we must watch that we do not run ahead of Jehovah and his organization, becoming impatient, taking things into our own hands. There may be times when someone goes wrong, and perhaps because he holds some office in the congregation things become a little difficult for a while; but such are the times for demonstrating Christian patience, and, if there is nothing that we can do theocratically to handle the situation, then we need to wait for Jehovah to remedy the matter. The one filled with spiritual discernment will do so.
14 It is a matter of getting the right perspective, of viewing things with a right sense of proportion. Local difficulties or problems may arise from time to time because of human imperfections and they may result in inconvenience and a test of one’s patience, and even put a strain on one’s affections; but by our stopping and meditating a little these problems would soon come to appear small when compared to other more important things.
15, 16. (a) What are some of the more important things on which we should fix our attention? (b) How does Paul in his letter to the Philippians encourage this mental attitude?
15 Consider for a moment some of these more important things. The fact that we are living in the last days of this system of things; that Armageddon, the battle of the great day of God Almighty, when he will magnify and vindicate his universal sovereignty, is at hand; that Christ Jesus is now ruling in Kingdom power and is directing the great work of having “this good news of the kingdom” preached in all the earth; that as a result of this preaching work, persons of good will from all lands, tongues, races and peoples are being gathered together into one united, harmonious New World society. As one considers these things and the wonderful privilege and undeserved kindness of knowing them and sharing in them, one’s heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude to Jehovah. How petty and small one’s problems now seem when compared to these so much more important things! So, when small problems come up, or even big ones from a local standpoint, the one having spiritual discernment will not allow such problems to become so big in his mind as to distort his vision. He will keep his balance and always view things in their relation to the more important things.
16 Happily, problems and difficulties do not arise all the time in the New World society; indeed, they are few and far between in comparison to the joys that are ever present: experiences in the field, the finding and feeding of the sheep, the happy association with the brothers at the Kingdom Hall. These are the things to have our minds on. “Whatever things are righteous, . . . whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” Let such things flood your mind and you will always keep your sense of proportion. You will be able to discern spiritually.—Phil. 4:8.
17. How have some come to stumble out of the truth over little things?
17 One who is overcritical, always looking at others from the standpoint of the imperfections of the flesh, loses sight of the more important things. Such a one is likely to find himself becoming an unhappy complainer. Some, indeed, have allowed trifling things to stumble them right out of the truth. How? They allowed a little thing to become a big thing in their lives, so big that it crowded out everything else. They lost their spiritual discernment. Instead of stopping to consider things from the standpoint of God’s Word, they allowed some fleshly passion, such as pride, fear or jealousy, to motivate them. They were led along by their own understanding into a course ending in spiritual disaster.
18. How can we guard against such a course of stumbling?
18 Certainly all of us want to guard against such a course, do we not? We will do so if we have increased and keep on increasing in an accurate knowledge of what God’s will is for us, if we hold the more important things in our minds and hearts and if, when issues arise, we take notice of Jehovah’s way of looking at things as set out in his Word and do not become wise in our own eyes. In this connection note the timely counsel Jehovah gives us at Proverbs 3:1-7: “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you. May loving-kindness and trueness themselves not leave you. Tie them about your throat. Write them upon the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and good insight in the eyes of God and of earthling man. Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight. Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.”
19. How do we show that we trust in Jehovah with all our hearts?
19 Even when one thinks he is in the right about something he must be on guard against being overly righteous, wise in his own eyes, and thus being carried away by his own self-righteousness. The Christian must maintain his balance, keeping control of his spirit, not giving Satan any opportunity to overcome him and lead him in a bad way. Time must be taken for one to consider a matter, using spiritual discernment, turning to God’s Word to get His mind on matters. There is hardly any problem that can arise in the Christian’s life about which Jehovah’s Word does not give wise counsel and guidance. One shows that he trusts in Jehovah with all his heart by seeking His counsel and then following it at all times, by letting agreement with the accurate knowledge of God’s will be ‘the force actuating his mind,’ and by thus putting on “the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.”—Eph. 4:23, 24.
20. (a) How does spiritual discernment guard against our becoming angry or upset? (b) What proper course did Jesus advise in dealing with one who gives offense?
20 Spiritual discernment leads one into the right relationship with his brothers and sisters in the New World society. For example, if a brother feels he has been wronged he will not act in hasty anger, being upset because of what his brother may have done toward him or said about him. What is it that would cause a person to get upset and angry under such circumstances? Is it not because he is thinking just of himself, is disturbed perhaps because his good name has been misrepresented? But is not something more important involved? If someone in the congregation has acted wrongly, the spiritually discerning Christian sees that his brother’s wrong course is an evidence of some spiritual weakness on his part and that his spiritual life is therefore in danger, and that is surely something more to be concerned with than any real or imagined wrong his brother may have done to him. Rather than “keep account of the injury,” the mature Christian is moved to go to his erring brother, not in anger, not to get some personal satisfaction for the wrong he may have done, but out of love for him, to help him up from his stumbling if possible, before it is too late. Is not this just what Jesus advised: “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother”?—1 Cor. 13:4, 5; Matt. 18:15.
21. How does the mature servant of Jehovah view himself?
21 Having spiritual discernment, God’s faithful servants see themselves for what they are, just earthen vessels, of little worth in themselves, yet, through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, containing valuable treasures of knowledge to be used in his service. This keeps them humble, always appreciating that what they have that is of value has been received from Jehovah and is no cause for boasting in themselves. At 1 Corinthians 4:6, 7 the apostle wrote: “Learn the rule, ‘Do not go beyond the things that are written,’ in order that you may not be puffed up individually in favor of the one against the other. For who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” Having this Scriptural point of view will guard one from becoming proud and self-centered, or touchy and resentful, thus making him difficult to get along with. He will be filled with appreciation for Jehovah’s goodness and the privilege of knowing Him and his Son, Christ Jesus, and he will forget himself and be interested only in sharing the good things he has with others.
22. While we are remaining humble, what extremes must be avoided? How?
22 Yet, while we are remaining humble, there is need to guard against the opposite extreme of having an inferiority complex, being apologetic, feeling dissatisfied with oneself to the point of discouragement. Recognizing the power of Jehovah’s spirit, one discerns with a sound mind that, with Jehovah’s help, he is able to do what is God’s will for him and so he tackles any assignment of service with faith. As we read at Romans 12:3: “For through the undeserved kindness given to me I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has distributed to him a measure of faith.”
23. How does spiritual discernment contribute to unity among the brothers?
23 This humble yet realistic viewpoint toward himself enables the Christian to have an honest, frank and realistic attitude toward his brothers, which makes for refreshing companionship and godly harmony. Spiritual discernment enables us to work together in unity, appreciating the needs of one another, enabling us to give practical expression to the quality of love. So, be filled with spiritual discernment, make right decisions, “in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.”