Spiritual discernment is an imperative requirement for a believer to lead a life of significance and impact. In I Kings 3, at Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream & told him, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon responded rightly and prayed, “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people that I may discern between good and evil . . . ” (V9). God told him “You have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right (V11 b). “Behold I give you a wise and discerning mind (V12a). You see here, God is the source of spiritual discernment and wisdom.
What is discernment?
The worldly people also have some kind of discernment and wisdom. James in his letter (3:13 to 18) explains this kind of wisdom is from the devil and ignited by hell. But born-again Christians are expected to have and live by spiritual discernment and godly wisdom. This is the reason the world is exactly opposite to the true Christian living.
According to Tim Challies,“Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”
Today’s evangelical Christianity has lost its original standards. Young people ask how we can find God’s will and they seem to grapple with it. Other Christians seem to have set their own way of living and their standards of conduct are influenced by the culture and world around.
The Word of God clearly teaches that all believers in Christ should pursue and grow in spiritual discernment.(Philippians 1:9-11). We also note from Hebrews 5: 14, there is a close connection between spiritual maturity and spiritual discernment. Low spiritual discernment is a sure indicator of low spiritual maturity. We seem to have drifted from this path laid out by God our Father for our blessings and growth. Sad indeed. This is the time for us to examine our ways and return to Him.
Knowing God and doing His Will:
If you would desire to take decisions according to His will, you desire the right thing like Solomon the wise and discernment is the key. Spiritual discernment, however, is not only to know the will of God to make decisions, but to know and live by the truth itself. Because God Himself is truth, it leads to affirm that we need to know the God of truth. You need to understand His Character. Then we will rightly fear (not in horror but in awe and wonder) our creator God who is wisdom personified and obtain wisdom from above (Prov 1:7). Wisdom is in fact the application of fear of God to our living.
When Solomon prayed to God for understanding heart (which according to Hebrew scholars is listening heart or discernment), God gave him wisdom and discernment (I Kings 3). The reason is both wisdom and discernment are two inseparable sides of the same coin. Discernment is wisdom in action.
Word, Spirit and Discernment:
There is no doubt, as you study the Word of God that discernment is a critically important inner skill and God expects every practicing Christian to develop it. In Hebrews 5:11-14, we read that spiritual lethargy among believers has led to spiritual immaturity leading to poor spiritual discernment. They are exhorted to learn the deeper aspects of the truth and keep practicing and training their inner skills for discernment to make progress in their spiritual life. But people today seek more spoon feeding of milk and not interested in going deep in the study of the Word taking meat.
Word of God plays a central part/role in discernment. It provides the needed lens or light for us to know the mind of Christ in every issue of life. As we train ourselves in rightly dividing and understanding the Word of Truth, we are better equipped to distinguish between what is true and what is false.
We live our life moment by moment, day after day. The Spirit of God who is the Spirit of Truth empowers the hungry and yielding soul to lead a life that pleases God. The work of the Holy Spirit is obviously enormous in building us in truth. We need to depend on Him and humble ourselves for His guidance. Then we can know Him, Know His ways, grow in Him, glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, even as we do what is well pleasing in His sight.
Paper prepared by OPEC Chair.