11 Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, Proverbs 2:11 (NKJV)
A friend shared the above verse in response to my last post. I ended it saying, “We need to learn to discern and discern to learn!” A nice sentiment, how do we apply it in practice? How do we discern anointing in others? I wrote a brief article in June of 1992 in which I defined discernment as follows “scriptural discernment is basically making right judgements by seeing the reality that lies behind appearances in order to agree with what the Holy Spirit is doing.” Over the years I have shortened is to simply say that “discernment is seeing the reality that lies behind appearances.”
Imagine looking at a window covered by a curtain, all we see is the curtain. When the curtain is pulled back a whole new vista is opened up. This is what discernment does, it pulls back the curtain and we suddenly see things. I have a dear friend who is 89 and now in poor physical health but still has very deep spiritual discernment. I remember many years ago spending time in meetings she also attended. In debriefing after it was like we were not at the same meeting, she shared numerous things she ‘saw’ that I completely missed. Yet they were there for me to see as well and I could see them after she shared. What hindered me from seeing in the first place? A lack of discernment. I think I still miss a lot but I now see much more than I used to see because I was discipled into developing my discernment through what she shared with me and through the questions I asked. The questions and sharing both led back to the scriptures, a great place to end at!
How does this work? The best scriptural definition of discernment is in Hebrews where we find that discernment is the fruit of maturity, it is not a gift as so many keep referring to it, there is a gift of discerning of spirits noted in 1 Corinthians 12:10, it is however something that helps in discernment, it is not discernment itself. Look at Hebrews.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 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 5:12-14 (NKJV)
We have spiritual and physical senses and just as we can become adept at a physical skill through exercise we can become spiritually adept through practice. As we learn to monitor what is happening both internally and externally, that is, as we observe with our natural senses while simultaneously paying attention to our spirit we become aware of things happening at different levels. While we may not have seen it Paul laid this out in the scriptures.
24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (NKJV)
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 1 Corinthians 14:31 (NKJV)
Many claim that preaching is prophecy. While preaching may have a prophetic edge or anointing there are a number of scriptural reasons that refute that positon in relation to what Paul wrote above. One obvious one is that Paul is here referring to a revelatory gift, which is made plain by the context.
Discerning what is in the heart of others as Paul noted above is not a novel gift available to a select group of believers. It is available to all who believe and we are encouraged to seek and grow in the gift. My process is to regularly try to listen with my ears, eyes, and spirit at the same time. I particularly seek to do this in a church group setting. Those of you reading this who know me can likely reflect on many examples of me telling someone something about their life I have no natural way of knowing. This is the fruit of learning to discern. For example this past week I listened to a message by Rob Parker, the Director of the National House of Prayer in Ottawa. Rob had laid hands on me and prayed for me prior to his message, yet the greatest impartation I received was something the Holy Spirit stirred in me while he was speaking. It happened twice and was only a few seconds long each time but I was very conscious of things happening in my spirit on these two occasions. This happened because I was conscious of the anointing on his life and message and seeking to discern as he spoke.
If some of what I have shared seems odd I encourage you to search the scriptures. What I have shared is not unscriptural, for most of the church it is simply unfamiliar. Unfamiliar not because it is not available to us, rather it is because we are part of a Western church that is not very mature and these things are not being broadly taught.
So in closing, if we want to receive impartation and partake of the solid food that is described in the Hebrews passage above we need to practice and grow in discernment. This comes not by focusing on developing our knowledge and intellect, not that learning is bad, I greatly value learning. I just know by experience, as many of you do, that it is no substitute for learning to tune into our spirits. I pray more and more of us learn to discern and discern as we learn!