I really enjoyed Hannah Anderson’s book Humble Roots [reviewed here] and I was eager to read All That’s Good. The subtitle is “Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment.” I read Tim Challies’ The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment [review here] and hoped this book would be another welcome addition to a subject the American church needs so much more application of.
I love how she emphasizes that discernment is not primarily to identify what is bad or unworthy. Rather, biblical discernment directs us to identify what is good. With that principle firmly rooted, she turns to Philippians 4:8-9 and Paul’s instructions to “think on these things” as she unpacks each element of spiritual thinking:
- Whatever is true
- Whatever is honorable
- Whatever is just
- Whatever is pure
- Whatever is lovely
- Whatever is commendable
I was not disappointed. Her introductory chapters (1-3) were fantastic. I did think the book bogged down a bit in the middle. However, there are great nuggets throughout. Her chapter on “what is commendable” is truly remarkable (worth talking about) and has powerful application to our modern information-overloaded culture, especially as we relate to social media.
“Whatever is commendable, it is calling us to something greater than niceness – it’s calling us to speak what is right and good. It is calling us to speech that is richer and more robust than either platitudes or silence. Remember that discernment is not concerned primarily with our social comfort. It is concerned with goodness. And sometimes pursuing goodness will lead us outside the boundaries of polite conversation.”
Paul’s word to the Philippians in verse 9 is direct. “Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me..” Anderson points out that discernment is not just for us to think about certain things but to begin to practice those things. We look for models and mentors and we associate ourselves with a community of faith that will nurture these qualities as good.
It is not enough to sound off about the negative, the detrimental and the bad. What the church and culture need are people who will speak graciously about what is good. People who identify the good, promote the good, work for the good and reveal the good.
I find it profoundly interesting that when Jesus was called “good teacher” by the rich young ruler in Luke, He deflected with a question, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18.19) It was because the rich young ruler brought Him flattery in his compliment. He didn’t know that he was speaking the truth to the man who is Truth Incarnate.
As we seek to identify “all that’s good,” it will inevitably lead us to the author of all that’s good – Jesus. May His good captivate our hearts and minds and lead us away from what is not good.
I highly recommend this book.