And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ -- to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
People have a hard time discerning what is best.
A number of years ago a young couple came to me for pre-marital counseling. The young man, who had never been in a pastor's office, was nervous. After a few minutes of trying to put him at ease, we began. Apparently, my efforts to relax him had been ineffective. When I asked the first question, he froze. That question was, "Are you entering this marriage of your own free will?"
The wait for his answer was lengthy.
Finally, his fiancée looked at her intended with a stare of dissatisfaction and commanded, "For heaven's sake, tell him you want to be here." I've often wondered how that couple is doing. I do know, on that day, the future groom had a tough time discerning what was best.
People have a hard time discerning what is best. It was a couple of years ago that a cake decorator in New Zealand was asked to put 1 John 4:18a on a wedding cake. 1 John 4:18a is a beautiful wedding passage. It reads, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear."
The decorator, not knowing a lot about the Bible, substituted John 4:18. There is a big difference between the book of John and the book of 1 John. John 4:18 is not a good verse for a marriage. When the cake was delivered to the wedding, it read, "The fact is you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband."
The decorator had not discerned what was best.
Sooner or later almost all of us have that problem. Most of us have made meals which sounded good but tasted terrible. That wasn't discerning what is best. We have counted on people who betrayed us. That wasn't discerning what was best. We have gone the wrong way when we traveled; picked the wrong line at the grocery store; spent a bunch of money going to a movie that was incredibly disappointing. You see, we have a hard time discerning what was best.
Thankfully, in these trivial matters not much damage is done, and we can dust ourselves off and move on.
Of course, there are times when good discernment is important. The apostle Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit's direction, encouraged God's people to discern how their lives can glorify the Savior by being pure, blameless and filled with righteousness.
Paul knew that when someone has been washed of their sins by the Savior; when they have been rescued from hell and promised heaven, they will want to respond to God's grace with a life filled with thankfulness. Further, he wanted us to remember that the world was watching our actions to see if Jesus had really made an impact in our outlook.
Finally, Paul knew, as we should know, that if Jesus doesn't make a difference in our days, well, we haven't discerned what was best.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, give me the wisdom to discern what is best and the courage to walk that proper and God-pleasing path. May everything I do glorify the Savior who gave His life for my salvation. In Jesus' Name I pray it. Amen.
Check out Lutheran Hour Ministries' video sermon series, "Footsteps of Paul." Click here!
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries