The Discernment Dilemma

Philippians 1:9-10
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…

It’s hot and humid here in the Deep South. Just like I like it. I know it sounds crazy, but give me hot and muggy over cold and rainy any day. This summer, I have had the pleasure of leading a small group of young professional women leaders in my church. We have taken the time to read and discuss Lysa Terkeurst’s book, The Best Yes.

I am happy to be leading these young women through the ideas and principles within this book because I wish someone had shared them with me when I was young like they are. Oh, how much easier my life could have been if I had heard these ideas early on! Have you ever just handed out so many yeses that you thought you might collapse under the weight of them all?

FullSizeRenderLysa bases her book from the verses from Philippians above. She hopes to teach people to have the ability to know when to say yes, when to say no, and how. Because the hard truth is, every opportunity that presents itself isn’t supposed to get our yes.

Remember the song in the musical, “Oklahoma”, that goes, “I’m just a girl who can’t say no”? Sometimes that is me, because if someone asks something of me, I think I should say yes. Not because I always really ought to say yes, (or that I even truly WANT to say yes) but if I do say yes, then I think that person will like me more. Which is really all about me, and not so much about them or the task to which I now have to apply myself.

Knowing when to give out what Lysa calls our “Best Yes” only comes after we master discernment. Discernment is an ability, a spiritual gift and a spiritual discipline even, mentioned time and again in scripture. Discernment comes after we gain wisdom. From where does this wisdom come?

The Bible tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We must first come to appreciate the nature of God through His holy word to gain wisdom. Then, and only then, will we be able to discern good from evil. Only then will we be able to decide if an opportunity deserves a yes from us.

Most of the time, we aren’t willing to ponder our opportunities enough before we hand out our yeses. We feel pressure from those asking things from us to give an immediate answer, and lots of times, when we answer without thinking the thing through, we end up regretting our decisions made in haste.

We have to learn to follow our decisions to their ultimate end BEFORE we commit.

In The Principle of the Path, Andy Stanley says, “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” How many times have we had great intentions, but chose poorly our direction, and ended up at a destination we never would have planned? If we had just taken a few moments to think our decision through to its ultimate end, we would never have said yes to the offer or request in the first place.

It reminds me of the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse Cookie. It’s a nonsensical story about a boy who thinks through all the ramifications of serving up a cookie to a mouse. If you ever read that book to your kids, you know that what seemed like a simple enough action on the front end, ended up being quite the involved situation. I’ve given out a few cookies in my time.

Sometimes we have as much problem telling ourselves no as we do telling others no. I’ll tell you, I have come up with some crazy stuff all on my own. I’ll jump on an idea I have and run with it without thinking it through completely. Lysa suggests taking any decision, whether it’s your own idea or someone else’s, through a list of qualifiers.

Is the opportunity financially sound?
Is the opportunity going to bless me emotionally?
Is the opportunity going to grow me spiritually?

There are certainly other factors you might consider (time investment, impact on others, etc.), but you get the gist.

Learning to have good discernment follows our ability to put our desires under God’s authority. When we do that, we want what He wants more than we want what we want. We care more about pleasing Him than we do about pleasing others or ourselves.

Discernment is available to all who seek the wisdom of God’s word. We cannot truly ask God for discernment and expect to gain it without a willingness to spend time in His love letter to us. It’s an investment, and an opportunity deserving of our “Best Yes”.

So what do you think?

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