Maturing in Insight

Understanding Biblical truth is a matter of life and death.  The Psalmist was acutely aware of this fact when he pleaded with God, ‘give me understanding that I may live’ (Psalm 119:144).  The implication being that if he does not comprehend – if he does not ‘get it’ –  then he is destined for destruction.   People without understanding, after all, are ruined (Hosea 4:14). 

The term ‘understanding’ is defined in the book of Proverbs.  In fact, the word ‘understanding’ appears no less than forty-two times in that great book of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 states that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding’.  There it is!  The cultivation of our skills in ‘understanding’ is equated with the knowledge of God.   Author A.W. Tozer rightly observes, ‘it is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate’.   In other words, if we don’t know God and do not know about God, we will never understand how it is that we are to live.  It is, in fact, a recipe for disaster.   A similar term to understanding is the word ‘discernment’.  If there’s one thing that people lack in today’s world, it’s discernment.   This word can be found in Philippians 1:9-10: 

And this I pray, that your love would abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may be able to approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ. 

The Greek word there in verse 9 for discernment is ‘aisthesis’, which means a high level of Biblical, theological, moral and spiritual perception (definition from John MacArthur’s commentary on the book of Philippians).  It implies also a right application of knowledge.   And this is necessary because then the Christian is able to live a life of obedience and spiritual devotion because they have been trained to distinguish not only between good and bad, but even between good, better and best.  This is because they have been taught to critically analyze and carefully think through and identify what is crucial and what isn’t.   They know what things are categorized as excellent and what things are not. 

Without maturing in discernment, insight and understanding, I will succumb to every personal impulse and emotion.  I will be tossed to and fro by the culture, and consequently live a life of instability and insecurity because of bad decisions, unfruitful relationships and meaningless endeavors.   Maturing in insight and understanding requires hard work in the scriptures.  There are no shortcuts to knowing God.  It is a demanding proposition.  If I want to understand, I must know God.  If I want to know God, I must strive and pursue after Him by studying His Word with all my might… and I must pray for His Holy Spirit to teach me.   But it takes time and effort. 

And then even after I may have put in much effort, sometimes I feel as though I am still lacking in understanding.  So I asked myself what things hinder me from understanding?  What makes it so difficult to understand certain things at times?  The Bible has the answer to such questions.   In that same passage from Hosea, the prophet tells me in 4:11 that ‘harlotry, wine, and new wine take away the understanding’.   This vivid picture couldn’t be any plainer.   Adultery and drunkenness not only dulls the senses and callouses the heart, but they are sins that destroy marriages and other relationships.   What Hosea is trying to tell me is that if I have gone after other things besides God, then I have committed spiritual harlotry, and with that I become so dull and calloused that I could never understand anything that God is trying to teach me.   Falling in love with other alluring gods (like status, the praise of men, money, etc) is such an affront to God that my relationship with Him is fractured to the point where He will not impart the understanding that I claim to have so desperately been seeking.   A complete forsaking of all other loves must take place in my life.  I must rid myself of all interests that are cause for my stumbling if I would gain this great gift of understanding.