Three Discerning Men
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7 August 2013 - 0:00, by , in Leadership, No comments

Question: Why did wise men bring three gifts to the baby Jesus?
Answer: Because they had knowledge, wisdom and discernment.

Knowledge is acquired through study.
Wisdom is gained through experience.

Discernment is a rare gift.

In the Gospel of Matthew account of Jesus’ birth, the Magi exhibited knowledge of Old Testament prophecy foretellingJesus’ birth, wisdom not to trust King Herod and discernment to bring three insightful gifts… gold, frankincense and myrrh… representing Jesus’ forthcoming deity, holiness and crucifixion.

To live an abundant life

or have a more abundant bottom line,

knowledge must be

coupled with wisdom and discernment to

chart a new course.

All of us have benefited from someone who chose to see beyond who we were into what we could become. They are people with an ability to probe behind the “Everything is fine” small talk in our first response. More than knowledge, they have wisdom and discernment to “see” beyond the obvious.

Knowledge informs us of the “as is”. The internet has made knowledge a plentiful resource. Wisdom and discernment, however, are in shorter supply.

“Strictly defined, wisdom is the ability to assess a situation accurately and come up with a workable plan to reach a desired goal.” (1) Wisdom is acquired by remembering experiences and not repeating our mistakes. Many people and companies live redundantly … making the same mistakes over and over yet expecting better results. To live an abundant life or have a more abundant bottom line, knowledge must be coupled with wisdom and discernment to chart a new course.

Discernment is the ability to grasp and comprehend that which is obscure. Discerning men and women see the forest and the trees. People with the gift of discernment are shrewd and perceptive, able to find where evil lurks in good things. When asked to select from a group of alternatives, going with a discerning person’s hunch is a good option.

Even though Jesus used twelve ordinary men to spread the gospel to an entire world, His story began with three wise men. Many organizations have downsized discernment. To thrive in ’05, employing knowledgeable, wise and discerning staff or outside advisors will increase the likelihood of success for you or your organization.

If you have the gift of discernment, people will search you out. If you’re the one searching for wisdom and discernment, seek family, friends, business associates or consultants with three attributes:

  • Wisdom comes with age. While I agree with my wife that our 25 year old daughter has always been an old soul in a young body, like every young person, Valerie has made some unwise decisions. Some of the most creative, knowledgeable people I know are young men and women. Through no fault of their own, they lack depth and breadth of wisdom simply because they’ve not had time to apply all their knowledge in a variety of situations.
  • Second, seek people who are good listeners. People with discernment rarely leap to conclusions. They weigh and consider all the facts before making a decision. Discerning people are rarely openly opinionated. Even though they often hold strong convictions, they listen to both sides before speaking.
  • Seek men and women of faith. Discernment is a spiritual gift. Solomon says in Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” He then adds “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Discerning people approach situations with a three-step, Knowledge-Wisdom-Discernment process.For example:

K: You know from reading books that Activity Based Management (ABM) typically finds 20% of a company’s customers result in 80% of the profit.

W: Based on case study experiences of similar companies, you’re confident that your company would have the same 20/80 findings.

D: Because you expect your company to grow in the next year, you discern that now would be a good time to identify and eliminate unprofitable customers and re-deploy their capacity to new customers that fit a profitable profile.

Habit 2 in Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the end in Mind”While knowledge is necessary to begin any task, wisdom and discernment consider the end result. Here’s a recent example from personal experience:

K: With obesity as a growing problem in America, the pancake eating contest planned for my church men’s breakfast would be fun to watch but was possibly in poor taste (pardon the pun).

W: Before the breakfast, a young man expressed to church elders his concern that the contest was inconsistent with Biblical teachings regarding gluttony.

D: The elders discerned that pancake contestants were not destined for hell but canceled the contest none-the-less. They felt affirming this young man would encourage him and others who heard of the decision to grow in their faith.

One of my favorite movies is Patch Adams. A memorable scene is a doctor and a group of interns evaluating the condition of a suffering patient. Surrounding her bed, the doctor tests each intern’s knowledge of the patient’s medical condition. Based on his knowledge and experience, the doctor confirms their diagnosis. As they leave the doctor asked,“Any questions?” Intern Patch Adams replied, “Yes, what’s her name?”

Patch showed discernment. He knew that when you treat the disease, in the end you either win or lose. But when you treat the patient, you always win.

Like Patch, it is ICMS’ goal to make you feel like a valued person. We appreciate those who have purchased books and software or asked us to come onsite to help improve your business.

As we bring to a close our 16th year of business, I am humbled that you’ve spent valuable time reading these articles. I’ve benefited from your insights, opinions and words of encouragement. And I commit to continue to discern with you how we can best work together to add value to the world we live and work.

Here’s hoping you give and receive the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and discernment this Christmas and apply them during the upcoming New Year!

(1) Destination Wisdom, Carol D. Mayberry, Discipleship Journal, March/April 2003

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Tom Pryor
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