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Learn to Discern

Education Spotlight

on April 1, 2009; last featured August 14, 2011

Knowing facts is just the beginning of education. The next step is to develop the habit of seeking what’s good.

Our generation is probably the most educated in history, at least as far as time and money spent on schooling. But what good is education without the discernment to use it?

Discernment is the ability to look beyond what we see on the surface, to distinguish what is true.

When presented with the opportunity to ask one thing of God, Solomon asked for “an understanding heart” so that he could “discern between good and bad” (1 Kings 3:9). Mature Christians, by definition, are people who “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

So how do we acquire this ability?

The first step is to develop the habit of testing everything. As Paul says, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The word test describes an assayer at a mine. That’s the person who melts down ore to see if it contains any gold. He wants to see if it’s any good.

To become a good assayer, every young Christian must learn the Scriptures. That’s the flame we use to test everything. There’s no shortcut to discernment—it requires diligent study, week after week, year after year.

But knowing Scripture is just the beginning. The next step is to develop the ability to choose what is right and shun what is wrong. As Peter says, “Turn away from evil, and do good” (1 Peter 3:11). Making right choices is a lifelong challenge, but we need to help our children to start early, with little steps, when the consequences are minor.

Christians need to study the things that are good and pleasing to God, and then develop a plan for pursuing good things. Knowing the Bible and developing discernment are both vital to every Christian.

For more on this subject see The Source of All Wisdom on page 86.

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