And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11—NKJV)

We live in a day of constant sensitivity training. Every time you turn around there is some new malady, social or otherwise, to which you must learn new behaviors. Does it strike you that there is a short lifespan to such mandated training, and that you are never far from the steep drop-off towards obsolescence in what you have learned? There is no end to newly minted “experts.” Is there any sensitivity training that never has an expiration date?

Biblically speaking, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Hebrews 5:13–14 reads, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Maturity in spiritual sensitivity is the goal. Senses exercised to discern both good and evil is an enduring crown.

While it is true that you are only as mature as your last decision, there is no substitute for maturing in Christ-like character and heart. To discern is to have developed the faculty of perceiving, understanding and judging (to distinguish and decide between).

My father, as a quality control engineer for an oil company, had developed the ability to see dirt on a filter which to others appeared to be clean. The dirt he detected in the filter forced action on the part of the oil company to protect the customers’ interests, and sometimes their lives. Spiritual sensitivity to distinguish between good (praiseworthy and beautiful to God) and evil (not necessarily overt, but evil by nature) is only developed by the “workout” of going to the spiritual gymnasium. It is not inadvertently collected through a mysterious process of spiritual “osmosis.” Spiritual sensitivity is intentional. It is not wrapped up in feeling and emotion as the beginning and end-all, but rather deliberately and thoughtfully moved.

The Apostle Paul enlarges on the spiritual sensitivity theme by placing it as the total emphasis of a prayer which he offers up to God concerning the Philippian believers. His prayer consists of four requests which are fitting for anyone concerned for a maturing, spiritual sensitivity in a loved one. Parents will find themselves praying accordingly for their children, disciplemakers will echo these requests for their disciples, believers will be bombarding heaven on behalf of their governmental representatives, and Sunday School teachers will be whispering these requests before each class.

Paul prays first for their devotion in their determination to abundantly love, tempered and directed by knowledge (full and practical) and all discernment (perceptive senses). Then he prays for their decision as they test, sift, and assay things they have distinguished and discerned, to approve only the most excellent (things that differ, to discern finer points and delicate nuances and approve only what surpasses). Next, he prays for their direction as they navigate the murky waters of life-relationships that they do so with the purest sincerity (unsullied, unmixed), and without lending cause for someone to suffer offense (not cut against, not stumble against). Finally, he prays for their development of full fruitfulness of righteousness by which God will receive the praise and glory.

Devotion gives spiritual sensitivity the balance it needs to anchor it in God’s heart. Decision awakens spiritual sensitivity to the pursuit of heaven-sanctioned excellence. Direction guides spiritual sensitivity to avoid needless hurt of others while administering potent aids for spiritual healing and restoration. Development brings spiritual sensitivity to a focused end-point of lives transformed eternally by Jesus Christ for God’s glory.

Are you purposely on a regimen of spiritual exercise of discernment that will allow God to develop within you the kind of spiritual sensitivity training He has planned for you? Are you molding your prayer life so that you are praying for greater spiritual sense in the lives of your loved ones? Trust and obey.