Discerning vs. Deciding


Genesis 2:4 In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Here we have the origins of human beings, placed in the context of the rest of God’s creation. V.5 notes there was no vegetation because God had not sent needed rain. Nor was there someone to work the field. There is a clear definition of function here.

First, it is God who grows things “Out of the ground the Lord made to grow every tree…”. It’s the role of man and woman to care for, curate, steward what God creates, but agency for initiating and sustaining growth belongs to God alone. God is Creator, we are creation. Why is it important to remember this? Because presuming to step into the role of creator is a mistake many of us make, particularly when discussing things of spiritual importance.

I tend to be an idea person – you know, the sort who has 100 ideas before breakfast. Most of them are quickly forgotten, but a few hold my attention. In my younger years I would spring into action pretty quickly: ready, fire aim! Most of the time these projects went nowhere. Why? Because I was too impatient to discern if an idea was borne of God or of my own imagination. I wasted lots of time going the wrong way.

These days I try very hard to “discern” instead of “decide”. Discernment is looking for places where God is already at work – and getting behind it. Deciding is when I try to make something happen because it makes sense to me. Deciding looks like 2+2 = 1. I can scratch out a little something, but the results tend to be meager. Discernment looks like 2+2 = 10. When God is at work the outcomes far exceed the inputs.

Think about the ideas or projects you’re working with right now. What is their origin? Have you been discerning or deciding? Lord give us wisdom to wait upon you, for when we do there is no limit to what you can do through us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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