Summary: Ask the Lord to help your decisions take into account Biblical, spiritual, moral, mental, social, historical, and interpersonal factors.
Quote: Jesus said, "If anyone is willing to know my will they will know of the teaching if it is from God or whether I merely speak from myself." (John 7:17)
Illustration:To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
1. Have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between a good idea, a better choice or the best evaluative decision?
The most difficult decisions require a God given wisdom that helps us discern between what is good, what is better or what is best from a Biblical perspective. Often, people evaluate information only on the credibility of the speaker.
Example: In the case of the first century disciples they had to decide if Agabus was a true or a false prophet when he predicted there would be great famine all over the world. (Acts 11:28) In the early church a true prophet could be recognized by his ability to speak the word of God with complete accuracy. The disciples were able to make a discerning evaluation of Agabus because they were in harmony with the spiritual discernment given by the Holy Spirit.
Application: Ask the Lord to give you a finer discerning sense of the Spirit’s leading in all of your decisions.
2. The disciples grew in their discernment by experience and through Godly associates. They were not averse to learning from the experiences of Godly associates. The writer of Hebrews wrote,
"But solid food is for full grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law." (Heb. 5:14)
Application: The more we become doers of the word, rather than merely hearers, the better we are able to make the best decisions in every situation.
3. The disciples based their decisions upon the teachings of scripture. When Agabus spoke they were able to evaluate if the thrust of his teaching resounded with the main Biblical themes. People who have exhibited a consistent delivery of Spirit led teaching are humble steward delivering merely what God has given to them. Learn how to be a good steward who can take the provisions from the Lord’s kitchen (The Bible) and not mess it up, dilute it or add to it during it delivery to the tables of those in waiting.
Application: Ask God to help you to be a better discerner of those who are doing the best job as scriptural stewards.
4. The disciples learned from the experiences of discerning phonies from their experiences with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter six. A counterfeiter tries to make an imitation of something genuine to deceive, defraud or pretend something to be what it is not in reality.
Example: Ananias’s lie to the Holy Spirit was probably the crowning act of a life of counterfeit goodness. Few people commit spiritual counterfeiting unless they have a pattern of deception in their past. Check into people’s background to examine their track record and you will become much more discerning of how to distinguish between good, better and people who have made the best decisions.
Application: Remember that God is more interested in those who have shown faithful obedience where He gave the fruit. Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruit."
5. The disciples learned from Peter who exposed the sin of spiritual counterfeiting for the benefit of the church in Acts six. It is often a painful task to expose someone who is guilty of lying to the church, but sometimes it is necessary. We live in a world that prefers people to be tolerant of everyone. Help people face facts of what is best in Biblical terms.
Application: Ask God to give you the wisdom, tact and courage to expose the sin of spiritual counterfeiting in those whose acts threaten to spoil the witness and purity of the church.
Quote: Open rebuke is better than secret love. Better is the reproof of a friend than the kisses of an enemy which are deceitful. (Prov. 27:5,6)
Illustration: One day a man met Spurgeon on the street, took off his hat and bowed, and said, "The Rev. Mr. Spurgeon--a great humbug!" Spurgeon took off his hat and replied, "Thank you for the compliment. I am glad to hear that I am a great anything!"
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 221.
Criticism is always difficult to accept, but if we receive it with humility and a desire to improve our character it can be very helpful. Only a fool does not profit when he is rebuked for his mistakes.
Several years ago I read a helpful article on this subject. It stated that when we are criticized we ought to ask ourselves whether the criticism contains any truth. If it does, we should learn form it, even when it is not given with the right motivation and in the right spirit. The article then offered these four suggestions: (1) Commit the matter instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or countercriticism on your part and teach you the needed lessons. (2) Remember that we are all great sinners and that the one who has criticized us does not begin to know the worst about us. (3) If you have made a mistake or committed a sin, humbly and frankly confess it to God and to anyone you may have injured. (4) Be willing to learn afresh that you are not infallible and that you need God’s grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path.