One afternoon when I was a senior in high school, I received a letter from a sales company recruiting young people to work for them. It caught my attention, because it advertised good money and flexible hours. They were offering open interviews that evening, so I made a quick decision to go for it.
When I showed up, they gave a presentation and interview, then called me into the office and offered me a job on the spot. While I was thankful for the offer, something just didn’t feel right about it. I didn’t know these people or their company. I wasn’t sure if I would even like that type of work. Things were moving really quickly, so I told the manager I’d like to think about it. He acted surprised and wanted to know why I wanted to wait. When I told him I wanted to talk it over with my dad, he questioned me further and said, “Well, are you going to let your dad determine your future?”
I ended up calling the manager the next day and turning down his offer. I just didn’t feel right about committing to something that I knew so little about. I also didn’t appreciate how he ridiculed me for wanting to consult with my parents. I felt that if he truly had my best interest in mind, he would understand and support me, but he did not.
I never heard any more about that company, but I’ve always been glad I made the decision to turn down their offer. Looking back on it now, I believe God was using that experience to teach me about the importance of discernment. Discernment is the practice of distinguishing good from bad, even when it’s not obvious on the outside.
You see, this job opportunity looked great on the outside. But I truly believe that if I had moved forward with it, I would have discovered it wasn’t so great after all. It would have brought unnecessary stress into my life and pulled my attention away from things that were more important. I also suspect I could have been treated unfairly by their management.
Thankfully, God will give us the spiritual ability to sense when things don’t seem right, to pick up on important keys to help us make good decisions. As Christians, and especially as leaders, we desperately need discernment.
Yes, the head of a leader is filled with wisdom and understanding, the eyes of a leader see the potential for a better future, and the ears of a leader tune in the right messages. But the nose of a leader can sense when something smells fishy; that’s discernment.
Jesus taught His disciples about discernment. “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” He warned (Matthew 7:15, NLT). A lot of times, the situations we deal with are more than meets the eye. When things look good, they can be much different than they appear.
Jesus continued, “You can identify [false prophets] by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit” (Matthew 7:16-17, NLT). This means we need to pay attention to more than what people tell us or promise us; we need to watch how they act and treat people. The fruit of a tree tells what kind of tree it really is.
The psalmist David prayed, “Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; Make Your way straight before my face” (Psalm 5:8, NKJV). There may be several “good” paths out there, but ask God to show you the “right” ones. Pay attention when something just doesn’t feel right, and ask God to guide you. He will lead you along the best pathway for your life, and He will give you discernment to help you.
Leadership Lesson: Leaders need discernment to detect the truth and determine the right paths.