By Constant Practice


Serious musicians are amazing. They are amazing to watch. Their hands have been trained. Their muscles have been taught. Their fingers move with grace and speed along the strings, the keys, the valves. It is amazing! Their minds grasp an idea, a melody, and then with style and freedom the melody emerges from their fingertips and into our ears. How can they do it with such ease?

Serious musicians practice for hours every day. They devote themselves to learning their instruments and pushing through the distractions, the mental exhaustion, and even the pain!  It is hard work to learn an instrument. It takes dedication, time, and even cramped muscles.

And it is only after many hours of practice that the melodies begin to emerge, freely flowing from their fingers.

Hebrews 5:14 says that mature Christians are those who have “their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (ESV). If we are going to please God by growing in maturity then we need to be able to sniff out good and evil in the nitty-gritty of life. And if we are going to get good at this “sniffing” then we need to get practicing.

We need to get into the habit of practicing discernment.  F.F. Bruce explains that these words in Hebrews 5:14 “by practice” (dia tēn hexin) could equally be translated “by habit.”

So if we are going to grow in maturity as Christians we need to develop good habits of discernment as we seek out what pleases the Lord in the day to day situations we find ourselves in. Learning discernment is all about figuring out where righteous influences are and then pursuing them – like spending time in God’s word, spending time with godly friends, spending time learning from solid teachers, writers, and poets. Learning discernment takes time, energy, and dedication. Spiritual maturity doesn’t come in one big burst. Not really. It comes by constant practice. It comes by work. Yes, it is the work of God too – He works in us and helps us. But it is also a work we must devote ourselves to.

And the result is that we, like any serious musician expressing their craft, experience deep freedom and joy in Christian living.


5 thoughts on “By Constant Practice

  1. Hi Mark,

    “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

    In my experiences, the terms “discernment” and “judgement” seem to have been mixed up a lot by Christians.
    … I think that one of the differences between being discerning and being judgemental is that discernment doesn’t always mean coming out and saying something condemning or divisive about others, but rather discerning the best path of action to take for oneself, including when(not) to open one’s mouth (as you seem to be saying). The most discerning person I know is also one of the humblest, and therefore one of the most attractive.

    Just wanted to add that, because I’ve heard the word “discernment” used to justify criticizing people behind their backs, thereby fostering unloving attitudes towards them. YIKES. That is not being discerning. “Hate the sin love the sinner” is another meaningless platitude used to justify this. We gain personal pride in our own position and a wounded sense of offence by rehashing the sins of others while they’re not around. This is an attitude which I feel that I, along with lots of other WASPy people (hence the stereotype), were raised with and that I’m really trying to grow out of. It’s a peace, love and joy-killer.

    SO, if you ever get to preach on this- make sure you add that “being a discerning Christian” does not mean it’s open season on vocally judging others from inside a glass observation tower.

    • Thanks Adrie – that is good nuance, and much needed. Sometimes we WASPs can sting and destroy.

      And yet a good doctor knows when, where, why, and how to sting in a way that innoculates, benefits, and gives life instead of taking life…and a good doctor also knows that he or she needs a little innoculating now and then too. But that is much different than appointing yourself as God’s police. We need trust and humility when speaking onto each others lives.

      Come visit us soon 🙂

      • We would love to visit one day! Let all of us WASPs become BEEs, spreading viable pollen and making sweet honey out of all our encounters. (I don’t actually know what BEE might stand for but the world needs more bees.)

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