There are two more areas I want to cover in relation to discernment.
– Testing our discernment.
– Understanding that discernment develops and is the fruit of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:13-14)
As I look at testing our discernment I am focusing on my definition, ‘Seeing the reality that lies behind appearances.’ The other qualifier is that I want to focus on discerning what the spirit is saying and look at how to bless others with what we discern.
Years ago in a message I heard Francis Frangipane say, “The only thing we need to find problems in the church is one good eye and a carnal mind.” That expression has stuck with me as I used to be good at that and I think much of what we put forth as discernment is really suspicion and judgment. We do need to discern and deal with what is wrong but we first need to walk in love and speak life.
So, how do we test our discernment? Over the years in teaching I have done on conflict resolution a number of times I have taught about the distinction between intuition and insight and where there was an openness have shared that intuition is in fact a spiritual function (insight is a function of the mind). Very briefly I believe our soul encompasses three parts – our mind, will and emotions. I also believe our spirit has three functions – conscience, communion and intuition. I want to focus on the last one from a scriptural perspective.
11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NKJV)
In the verses above in Greek the word ‘know’ refers to being aware of something rather than an acquired knowledge and in the rest of the passage we can see that this ‘knowing’ something via our spirits is an intuitive knowing.
The same Greek word is used in the passages below that refer to Jesus intuitively perceiving or knowing something.
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Matthew 12:25 (NKJV)
When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?” John 6:61 (NKJV)
Now, unlike Jesus, who was always accurate, when we perceive or become internally aware of something we need to test it. In essence we become aware of or discern something in our spirit but need to test it with our mind. The process is that we discern something via intuition, a ‘gut’ feeling in our spirit that initiates a process. We then engage our mind to test it and the ‘aha’ experience, insight completes the process. In essence to test our discernment there needs to be a marriage between our spirit and our mind.
So how does this work in practice? In ministering to people, usually in a group setting, I have frequently shared with people things about their lives that I had no natural intellectual way of knowing. For example I remember sharing with someone that the Lord wanted to dance with them. I only knew the person’s name and nothing about them. The person was deeply emotionally impacted by what I said and it was confirmation of the accuracy.
I have done this numerous times and remember many of them. Once many years ago when leaving a job I shared with the manager some things I sensed in prayer that morning. He was not a believer but was interested and asked me about them later in the day to write them down. They both took place within a few months.
A very important factor is that when I share this way, and I encourage others to do the same, I always share it as my sense of something I believe I am hearing from the Lord as I offer it to them. I often preface what I am sharing with, ‘This may sound odd.’ This is wise as on a few occasions I have not been accurate. We need to test what we discern and present it as something for others to weigh (1 Cor. 14:29). I only remember one occasion of being insistent on something and the person became angry with me. A week later they came back and affirmed that I had been correct.
So, discerning requires paying attention to what we are hearing in our spirits and then testing that discernment with our minds. There is much more that could be said but I think this lays a basic foundation for knowing how to test what we believe we are discerning. I give the last word to Malachi from a portion of 2:16
“Therefore take heed to your spirit.”