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. (Hebrews 5:13–14—NKJV)

It is always a sad realization to wake up and find that you have lived the same spiritual year over again, not learning, not achieving, and not avoiding the same mistakes. You have sustained yourself on milk and have not done any fresh digging in the Bible, stretched your spiritual legs in some crucial matter of faithful obedience and found God more than able to meet the test. It has often been said that if a Christian is not advancing he is backsliding. We know that we are only as mature as our most recent decision, yet maturity in faith is the plan of God for your life (Ephesians 4:13–14).

Maturity in the faith does not come without spiritual exercise. Mothers are extremely careful to guard what goes into their baby’s mouth. Choking hazards abound in this world and a vigilant mom is a child’s best defense. Milk is what a baby needs, easily digestible and tailor-made for their little bodies to be nourished, strengthen, and thrive. Solid foods are slowly introduced because a baby’s growth requires that he have a different diet to grow as he explores his world and takes his first steps, flexing his muscles. He only ceases solid food intake when he is gravely ill and his life is in jeopardy.

The author of Hebrews uses this imagery as he discusses the need to grow up in Christ. Spiritual milk users are unskilled in the Word. The Greek word is a combination of “not” plus “trial, experiment.” It means to be without experience and untried. Untried saints are babes in Christ. When you are first born again, you are, of necessity, a baby in the faith. With life comes trials of faith and as the babe in Christ faithfully weathers the storms, and is sustained by the promises of God, he matures and is able to handle more solid “food” from the Word.

The text of verse 14 explains this maturing in the Word as “by reason of use.” It is the Bible put into practice by way of habit, familiarity, and experience that produces the mature saint’s capability to utilize the “meat” of the Word and rightfully apply its wisdom to practical use in life. The description of this process is called the exercising of the senses to discern. The senses refer to the faculties of perceiving, understanding and judging. “Exercise” is the strength and agility training of gymnastic competition. “Discern” is to distinguish and to decide between. All this spiritual “heavy lifting” is for the purpose of recognizing the differences between good and evil and choosing wisely.

“Good” things are those which are praiseworthy, beautiful, and excellent spiritual quality. To understand “evil” is a bit more tricky to discern. It cannot be decided based on cursory review or hearsay, it can only be discerned by its nature—it is evil that is evil in its core. This kind of discernment does not come easily and it cannot come from the five senses, horse sense, or even common sense. Successful determination of the will of God in both the everyday decisions and in the heavy-duty decisions requires consistent effort to grow in the solid food of the Bible and untiring commitment to fill your day with Spirit-led decisions (Romans 8:14).

In John 10:27 our Savior states, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Psalm 40:8 says, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law within my heart.” Knowing and doing God’s Word is the prerequisite to knowing and doing God’s will. If we are spoon fed milk we are not ready for the big challenges of discernment and obedience. Get familiar with the “voice of God” in His Word. Pray for wisdom (James 1:2–4) to navigate the trials of life. Search the Scriptures for God’s principles and seek out godly, dispassionate, mature counsel from believers a little further down the road than you who pursue the holy glory of God (1 Peter 5:2–3, Titus 2:1–14). Obey what the Scriptures make plain concerning God’s will and bathe the unsettled matters in prayer, trusting God that He will direct in His time (Romans 12:1–2, 8:28). Once these steps are fulfilled, await God’s settled conviction to fall upon your soul. As you investigate which way He would have you go, His abiding peace be evident and will rest upon the decision He has chosen for you (Colossians 3:15–17, Philippians 4:6–9). Trust and obey.