Day 3: Discernment
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
One challenge of raising boys is that they are perpetually hungry (except at mealtimes when they like to mess around). So I must often remind my boys, “No, you may not have a snack half-an-hour before dinner.” We teach them that sugar is not a food group and, “Yes, you do have to eat your vegetables.” Dads, when children are young, you make most of their decisions for them. Yet as they grow older, you teach them to take responsibility: “What do you think about your friend’s comment? What’s the right decision in this situation? What are some ways you can spend your birthday money? What makes this college better than that one?” You train your children how to make decisions on their own, so that when they leave your home they possess a measure of wisdom for themselves.
Suppose my son goes off to college and one day gives me a call: “Hey dad. The guys are going out for pizza Friday night. Can I go? Can I?”
I would say to him . . .
“Son, that’s on you. I have trained you to make wise choices and I’m always here if you need to talk, but I will not make your every decision.” We all know there’s something wrong if we treat our children the same at eighteen years as we did at eighteen months.
The student of Proverbs must “understand words of insight” (Prov. 1:2b). The root word, “to understand” (repeated twice in the Hebrew for emphasis) means to divide in two and thus to separate. As Solomon had prayed, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kgs. 3:9). Discernment is being able to separate right from wrong, good from evil, truth from lies, and temporal pleasures from eternal values. It is the ability to look at two options and see what God sees. Thus right discernment must be based upon the Word of God. According to Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own [discernment].” Dads, many situations, which seem hazy at first, will become more and more clear as you seek God’s counsel in his Word. You will not see what God sees until you know what he has given you to know. So ask yourself: “This past week, what was the hardest decision I had to make? How did I know the right thing to do and did I finally make the right decision?” Discernment is looking at two options and seeing the truth which God sees.
The Bible, however, is not a topical index providing answers for every life decision. Rather, God’s Word guides you into a conversation with your Creator. Proverbs has much to say about choosing the right path, acting in wisdom, receiving blessed rewards, and avoiding deadly consequences. Yet the fear of the Lord underlies everything as the foundation of wisdom (1:7). God’s primary purpose in decision-making is not that you make the right choices, but that you mature as you grow in relationship with him. So try not to focus on individual decisions: “What school? Which job? Whom to marry? Where to live?” Instead, ask yourself at the end of each decision: “Have I grown in reverent obedience and worshipful joy in the Lord my God?” The truth God desires you to see is ultimately himself.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Enable me to see the truth in your Word and grant me discernment in the decisions of life. Like Solomon becoming king, I feel young and inexperienced as a new dad. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to father my children that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to undertake this daunting task alone? Help me to trust in you with all my heart, instead of leaning on my own understanding. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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