Come to think of it. If you have sharp discernment, you can easily keep yourself out of trouble, be relaxed and less stressed. You’d be less busy trying to figure out what to do. What more if you have sharp spiritual discernment? Accurate discernment in the physical is good, but sharp spiritual discernment is better.
Physical discernment comes with experience. The more you closely study human reactions—especially the wee movements of the eyes and limbs—the sharper your discernment becomes. See my article on this here. If you are the observant type, you’d easily hone your discerning ability.
But spiritual discernment is different. It comes as a gift from God, and it comes automatically. Once you receive Jesus as Savior and Lord into your life, you automatically also receive the Holy Spirit and his 9 gifts—wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracle, tongues, prophecy, interpretation of tongues and discernment (or the ability to differentiate between, or identify, spirits).
However, it’s all up to you if you believe and use them or treat them as trash (it’s funny how some church people believe in the Holy Spirit but trash his gifts. You can’t believe one and mock the other). But God equips all believers with the gifts for ministry, for edification and for protection, to be used as weapons during spiritual warfare.
You can’t defeat the devil with your titles, degrees, theology, church doctrines or your nice church singing or Sunday sermons. You defeat him with Christ in you, the spoken Word, prayer and worship, along with the gifts. The spiritual gifts are a vital part of God’s ways.
How It Works
It all works by faith. Believe it. As simple as that. If not, nothing’s going to happen. Or you’d make up stories about your ability to discern. Or invent discernment scenarios and make a big circus out of it. Worse, trash it altogether and say it’s obsolete. But in truth, operating in spiritual discernment is as easy and natural as prayer. A prayerful person automatically prays, whether in need or otherwise. In fact, he prays without ceasing. The same with discernment.
Daily we’re faced with situations where we need to judge between right and wrong, good and bad. The bible says, do not be wise in your own eyes. Instead, in all your ways you should acknowledge God. Thus, discernment comes with prayer. Never decide by your own natural understanding. Always consult God. And if you pray without ceasing, it can come automatically. As situations come, God opens up your eyes to see beyond the natural.
For instance, we need to discern what kind of spirit God has put in our hearts. A lot of believers don’t see (or can’t discern) this. They always give the excuse that they’re only human and no one is perfect. Or, God understands their weakness and accepts them as they are, and all that garbage. This is the spirit of the world. They just allow themselves to succumb to the flesh, to temptations and trials. This is due largely to lack of discernment—they’re not flowing in this gift.
So one day, Paul said:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. [Ephesians 1.18-19]
Discern what kind of spirit is in you. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If you fail to use your gift of discernment, what you’d always detect is the spirit of the world in you. “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” [1 Corinthians 2.12]
No wonder many Christians find it hard to believe there’s awesome, tremendous power inside them, more powerful than a thousand nuclear warheads exploding at the same time. You tell them this and they just smile, unsure about what you’re talking about. Or else, they mindlessly shout “Amen!” without really understand it. They lack spiritual discernment.
Consequently, they’d automatically reach out for painkillers when they have a headache than command the pain to go. Or, send out solicitation letters (or begging letters) when they have needs than rely on the supernatural provisions of God.
First, they find it silly—actually using spiritual powers is ridiculous to them (they’d rather laugh at it than believe it). Second, they cannot discern God’s real power in them. It’s in them but they can’t believe it. They say they can’t “feel” it. All gifts are triggered only by faith. So, without faith, nothing will work. No gift will operate. It’s never by feeling or effort or self will.
How It Works for Me
In my experience, spiritual discernment just comes. I can’t explain it in detail. All I know is that I believe the spiritual gifts with all my heart—I desire them—and that does it. Paul hinted to, “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” I believe that and eagerly desire to operate in them. And it works!
Often, I can easily differentiate between spirits or identify what spirit a person is operating in, whether spirit of envy, jealousy, anger or dissension. Or a spirit of humility, love and forgiveness. A guy may be smiling and nodding his head in agreement with you, but inside he may be harboring bitterness and jealousy. You won’t know unless God reveals it to you supernaturally. And he will. Problem is if you can’t discern his leading and instead rely on what other people say about the person.
Or worse, you just rely on what you see in the physical. Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might…He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; [Isaiah 11]
Uses of Spiritual Discerment
Spiritual discernment is often given you for your own benefit. You shouldn’t divulge the information to anyone. It’s kindof secret information. It is designed to protect you and your loved ones from wrong, evil or deceiving spirits. Second, it’s given for prayer. If you get hints from the Spirit about a person, it’s because God wants you to be accurate with your prayers for him.
Spiritual discernment is also for edifying other people. You use it for counseling, correcting and warning people who are under you, like in a discipleship or when people seek your opinion or your advice. Never use your own understanding. Acknowledge God and the gifts he’s given you. Everything in Christ is spiritual.
Third, sometimes God would tell you to expose fakes who mean harm for other people, especially harm to your ministry. In this case, you confront the guy concerned and reveal outright what you discern about him in the spirit. Like what Peter did to Simon:
May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin. [Acts 8]
Or, like what Paul did to Elymas:
Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit,looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun. [Acts 13]
Some think discernment makes you judgmental. On the contrary, spiritual discernment protects you from being so. Judgmental means you accuse people unreasonably, without proof. Spiritual discernment gives you accuracy, not for accusing, but for correcting wayward people. And anyway, you very seldom release information to people. The information is meant for you, to keep it secret—to protect you and aid you in prayer.
You release it to others only when they want to or ask your opinion or help. Or, if someone is beginning to be a pain in the neck in your ministry.