Is discernment a spiritual gift that some believers have and other believers do not? Why is it easier for some people to discern when something is spiritually amiss, and others fail to notice? I have noticed that spiritual discernment is a lot less common than it used to be. Spiritual discernment sounds an alarm that something is wrong with an event, location, or words spoken. It seems like it used to be common for people to notice. It is like someone who has been driving for many years and can just “feel it” when another driver is about to cut them off or do something careless while driving. Inexperienced drivers have less built-in radar for all the possible risks around them. It is an acquired wisdom that comes with age and experience and usually an accident or two.
I have thought for a while that discernment was a spiritual gift that some have, and some do not. It is getting less and less common. But after looking in Scripture, I have come to another conclusion. I have come to believe that it is available to all mature believers, just as wisdom in driving is available to all mature drivers. Mature drivers have spent much time driving and practicing the “Rules of the Road.” Mature believers have spent much time reading and living the Rules of God in His Holy Word. But it is not just about information and practice. It is also about learning from our mistakes. It is about correcting wrong habits and learning right ones. It is about spending time examining what we or someone else did wrong and learning more responsible and God-honoring actions.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines discernment as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.” By implication it is the ability to see deeper than surface perceptions, and typically more than most other people notice. Discernment also implies wisdom and good judgement and the ability to make good decisions. Discernment for good seeks and speaks truth. Godly discernment is based upon wisdom and truth. It reflects the character of God.
It comes more readily to some people than to others, but I am convinced that the closer and longer we walk with God, the more mature, wise, and discerning we will be. The greater our commitment to truth, the greater will be our discernment. Here are some truth nuggets:
- Know and obey God’s Word. We cannot discern truth without being an obedient child of God.
- Understand that God’s ways are different from our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
- Understand that God’s timing is different than ours. God is never in a hurry and yet He is never late. He wants us to wait on Him.
- Do no not listen to false teachers.
False doctrine sometimes gets our attention because it sounds good. Bits of truth that are mixed in with lies and half-truth. (Always remember, a half-truth is a whole lie.) Partial truths are easier to detect if we are anchored in pure and undefiled truth. One of Satan’s most significant strategies is confusion. Remind yourself often that God is not a god of confusion. If you are starting to feel confused by something you are hearing or reading, stop listening and/or reading. Stop and pray and ask the Lord to reveal truth to you as you do some research. Other signs of false teachers include authoritarian arrogance, subtle irreverence, and self-focus, making a name for themselves, and forming a following.1
Just like having built in sensors for other drivers around us, we can have built in sensors for false teachers around us.
Standing on His Promises,
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting ….” James 1:5-6a
“….. solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
1J. Aaron White, Redeemer Bible Church, Signs of a False Teacher sermon, 6/19/22