Text: Philippians 1:9-11

Intro: “Discernment is the Hallmark of Spiritual Maturity!” Spiritual discernment does not automatically come to the Christian but we must have it in our lives.  It will enable us to make the right choices spiritually.

Christians must make a decision to focus our minds on the things good from God. Romans 12:1-2 tells us that we must seek a spiritual-minded renewal in the midst of a mindless society. Colossians 3:1ff urges us to “seek the things that are above rather than the things on earth.” I John 2:15-17 shows us the importance of always striving to make the things of God our priority.

We must escape from “earthbound thinking” (1 Corinthians 1:18). We live in the physical real so we interpret everything through a physical prism.

God helps with discernment, but man must pray, seek and train for it.  Discernment can be developed, but it requires the heart of a seeker and a commitment to study. The greatest obstacle to a person’s developing discernment is one’s own heart.  An unbiased search for the will of God requires that we put our own will aside. We must desire above all else to know the mind of God, the subject of our study, and be willing to surrender to it when we find it.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to always put our trust in God’s Word.  1 Peter 2:21-25, especially verse 22, tells that Jesus is to be our Example.

What is spiritual discernment?

Discernment is:

  • The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.  (Dictionary)
  • The quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.

Spiritual Discernment is: A term used by Christians to derive the process of deciding God’s will for one’s life.

Illustration: “A man asked a farmer why the cow he was leading had no horns. The farmer explained, some kinds of cows are born with no horns, others have them removed while they are still calves, and a few have them broken while butting other cows. On the other hand, this cow has no horns because it is a pony.” (Illustration: via Wayne Polk, Shelbyville, IL)

Discernment is having the ability to tell the difference between a cow and a pony. It requires a certain amount of knowledge and the sense to apply it.

Spiritual discernment is essential because there are many false teachers today (1 John 4:1). Let’s deal now with Philippians 1:9-11 in a little more detail.

I. Why pray for discernment?

Verse 9 “And this I pray, that your love  may abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment” Verse 10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent” (noun form of this Greek word in NT).

  • To approve that which is excellent (v. 10a).

  • It takes discernment to know what the will of God is and how He wants us to live spiritually, which is the “excellent way,” We are on the “royal route to heaven,” being children of the King.  We are to praise Him for “translating (conveying) us out of a kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:12-14). Once we know the more excellent way, we have the command, yea, privilege, to tell others (1 Peter 2:9)  how  to be rescued from the domain of darkness.  As we grow more in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18) we will grow in discernment also.
  • To be sincere and without offense (v 10b “that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” We don’t know when Jesus is coming again, but growing in discernment will help us to draw nearer to Him as we continue our spiritual pilgrimage.  We will desire to keep His commandments more faithfully because we love Him who first loved us.
  • To be filled with fruits of righteousness. V. 11 “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” By growing in discernment, we will, more often, make right spiritual decisions. As we said earlier, “Discernment Is The Hallmark of Spiritually Maturity.”
  • What a lack of discernment produces: fear of Jesus Luke 9:45 (only verb form in New Testament).

This is the account of what transpired after Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration.  The disciples did not understand what He was telling them and were afraid to ask.  The application to us is that if we are not willing to do what it takes to grow spiritually, we are in reality, not trusting God to keep His Word. In that He has promised, we could know His will in our lives.  By our lack of growth, it shows that we do not completely believe that He will equip us completely with the Whole Armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-18)   If we are willing to grow as a Christian (2 Peter 3:18) and be more discerning spiritually, God will not let us down.

  • How to increase discernment: Hebrews 5:14  (exercised).  “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

What Are some ways to develop spiritual maturity?

  • Set it as your goal to become spiritually discerning and pray. Discernment does not come automatically; it must be cultivated. It takes time and effort.
  • Learn what the Word of God says. Learn the truth and you will recognize anything different.
  • Be disciplined in your reading and your study (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Based on your Biblical knowledge, establish a set of unshakable core values.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Refer back to Hebrews 5:14.


  • God, the Sovereign ruler of the universe has a will and a standard for all of us.
  • We must not let the world convince us that we live amid shades of gray.
  • The truth of God’s Word and discernment are eternally linked.

-Larry Miles lives in Louisville, KY and worships with the Cherry Street Church of Christ IN New Albany, IN