The Importance of Discernment

A friend asked me about a popular app for Bible study she had been encouraged to use with her daughter. It is popular, well done, and very interesting. But, she had a few questions about the theology of the person who was doing the speaking. 

It wasn’t what he said; it was what he didn’t say that bothered her. She wanted some reassurance that she was doing a good thing with her daughter in listening to his teaching.

I hadn’t heard of him so I did a little hunting around. I read a lot of very positive feedback about the app and the ministry. I looked in the “About” section of his website, read a few other articles, and checked his theological training. Then I called my friend back and said that I had not found any reason to doubt his work. But, I also told her that I had not found any reason to be completely confident either. 

Several important things were simply never addressed. There is a lot of “omission” theology these days. The tough subjects are omitted for many reasons, and some of them are good reasons. 

In the end, I told her that I hadn’t found any reason for her to be concerned—or confident. I suggested that she talk about that with her daughter and then pray for the wisdom to listen together with discernment. 

Determined discernment 

We teach our kids to think for themselves. We teach them to consider words before accepting them as truth. We teach our kids to “read between the lines” and to “consider the source.” That’s discernment. 

But this generation of kids is growing up in a culture that doesn’t like lines, and information is passed around by so many that the source isn’t always easy to determine. 

  • Kids can be researching an important figure in history, then click on a website and find it is a porn site.
  • Kids can watch television shows that ridicule Christian thinking and honor the world’s opinions.
  • Kids can hear sermons that tell the truth, but not the whole truth.

Discernment requires some training 

In many ways, your kids will become smarter than you. Warning: they will think they are smarter before they actually are. The wise ones will be the kids who are discerning. Those will be the kids who know what to do with what they have learned. 

This generation will not lack information, but information is only helpful if they know what to do with it. 

  • Your children will see porn. Do they know what to do when they see it?
  • Your kids will be offered the chance to vape. Most will be offered the opportunity to drink alcohol before they are of age and a chance to take legal and illegal drugs. Do they know what to do when such offers arise?
  • Your child will be taught positions about science and philosophy that disagree with the Christian faith. Do they know how to confidently respond with their position of faith?
  • The culture will assume they do not really believe the Bible. Do they know why they really do believe God’s word?  

Hebrews 4:12 promises, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 

There are ways of protecting our kids for a while, but eventually they will need to think for themselves and choose for themselves. Their choices will tell you how they have discerned truth for their lives. 

Ask, teach, and watch 

I love that my friend is going to do this app with her daughter. They will spend some good time together, thinking about and discussing God’s word. The fact she will also teach her daughter to listen with discernment is a bonus. 

There is a lot of information around these days. Learning what to take to heart, discerning what has been added or omitted, and learning what to completely ignore will be a great gift to our overexposed kids these days. 

Discernment is a great thing to teach at an early age. In fact, you might be raising the smartest, strongest generation of Christians we have seen to date. 

Ask what they are thinking. Teach them how to think rightly. Watch for the lightbulb moments when they think rightly for themselves. 

Point. Game. Match. 

The trophy 

Discerning kids will probably carry that strength into their adult years. Think back to all of the things you could have done but thought better of. Remember the times you put discernment on the back burner. Your kids will do some of that as well. 

But, if they are discerning, it probably won’t take them long to find their way back. 

The Apostle Paul told the church, “But test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). 

Teach your kids to “test everything.” Then, imagine your kids finishing their life, having lived with God’s standards, holding on to what is good. One day they will be handed a trophy by the Lord, and it will be good as well.