replies on discernment

Discernment Replies

Readers asking about burdens, guilt, and questioning

Resources On Christian Spirituality Questions on Discernment

What does God want me to do?


A site user asked :

Can discernment show me more than I want to know?

Yes. It tends to show you what God wants you to know.

I feel more burdened with the responsibility of what I feel God is showing me and unsure about what my response is supposed to be.

Pray for : (1) the Spirit to lead your response. (2) Inner peace about it.

Sometimes God is calling on you to do a hard thing that the work of others will be built on, or that will free others to do things. That usually has some sort of burden for you to discern. I don't know if that's you or not. If it is, usually God will open a door, and slam a bunch of others shut. God doesn't always grant peace of mind (sometimes the burden's essential for the task at hand), but usually God will supply you with an ease of conscience and a sense of certainty once you start moving in faith. Sometimes it breaks into flat-out joy. But this must be taken in prayer and into Scripture, meditations, and devotions. Please do at least some part of that with other Christians, preferably ones who have some grasp of what you're going through, but if not, just firm believers who care about you.

Something's up. Overall, such news is mostly good, because of Who's at work. Keep that in mind, because it won't always feel like it. Trust God, listen for the Spirit, and watch for the opportunities.

How can God help me?

Where Do I Go From Here?

Another site user asked :

Please help me to understand the Holy Spirit and back up your explanations with scripture. I am hungry for fellowship with other Christians and learning more of Him. I have been invited to a prayer meeting and have gone the past two weeks. Both times I was prayed for and over. I felt week in the knees, I cried uncontrollably and even shook, and at one point felt too weak to stand. [.....further personal details......]

I want to believe that they are very spiritual and it is God working thru them but I read something that does not quite go along with these actions. Can you tell me, Biblically, if this is of God; and his Holy Spirit? I do not want to be led down the wrong road.

I don't know. I can't and shouldn't give you an answer. I'm not in your shoes, or theirs. But I do know there are some things to do from here.

The first is to read the Scriptures. For this sort of thing, read Paul and John first, since they have the insights you need. Thirst for it. Drink it in. Think about what it says, and pray about it. The Spirit speaks most firmly through the Bible. The real question for you is not 'Is this of God?'; it is, 'What do you want of me, Lord?', and as you work that through the rest will come.

If you get weak in the knees and people pray over you, that can be a start of something big. Or perhaps, another passing fancy. And it can be that way whether this church is where you belong or not, and whether you already believed or not. Much will depend on how they handle your spiritual growth. Will they add new law to you, will they demand that you trust in your feelings first, will they keep you stuck repeating the moment after it has passed? Or will they take your questions seriously and walk through them with you, and help you rejoice in both the newfound power and the responsibility of following Christ that goes with it? If they are the first kind of church, you need to seek out the second kind.

This is something the Internet (and thus me) can't really figure out for or even with you. You have to do it yourself, with other Christians, in person.

What is God doing in me?


A reader says:

I don't think that I totally understand discernment. A friend of mine's whole family says they have this. But I don't think I understand how I'd know if I have it, or what exactly it is.

I'm guessing that you're talking about the spiritual gift of discernment (a rare thing) rather than the Spirit-led process of day-to-day discernment (a task for each and all of us). A lot of people really believe that they or their pastor or a friend have been given a special gift for discerning the Godliness of the spirit of something or someone. Very few have shown this gift when they try to put it to work. It tends to break down into an internal political thing. The gift of discernment is often sent by the Spirit for situations rather than full-time, and works like a strong intuition, but more Spiritually focused, like a laser. When it's there, it's to be used, like other gifts, to build others up, and it's always to be used in a very Christ-like manner (but you have to read the Gospels a lot to catch what that is).

Gifts are a mystery, to be lived rather than understood.

What does God want me to know?

Found in a church bulletin:

Let us remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church.

Show me more of You.

Feeling Guilty

A reader writes:

I did not return to the tent revival and in a way I feel guilty....
I wonder if God's disappointed that I didn't go to worship tonight. Usually "guilt" is God's way of convicting us.

Sometimes; often it's something the Spirit gives you to remind you to keep plowing ahead. But guilt can bog you down, and the moment you sense that, remember that the Spirit is in you and you have been forgiven your sins in the power of Christ.

Your task now is to move ahead from that new start, and that takes more than a tent revival. It takes tying yourself into a church and to believers within it who are eager to teach or model for you this new life. That can be really frustrating - you're just starting to find out the full range of what God has done. Yet many other Christians aren't being so wonderful or grace-full. But that is where we learn. I can't tell you where to go (I don't know you and don't know your local churches), but I can tell you to look, pray, and then commit to one. I also urge you to join a bible study -- hopefully connected to that church, but it doesn't have to be. Seek out the ones held in someone's home. You can find closeness there to other people who are taking that same walk in Christ.

I've asked for forgiveness and hope the Holy Spirit will continue to work in my life.

Be confident! The Holy Spirit **IS** working in your life. That is not a guess. That's true from the moment you're conceived, and it was what led you to go where you went. And will lead you beyond it. Trust God with that. It doesn't mean things will go right -- indeed, they may get really bad or (more likely) really boring. But keep at studying the Bible, worship, and most of all prayer. Make a habit of it. Slogging through the mud will give you strong legs for the climb. You'll look back years later and say, 'wow, I've come a long way'.

Your best witness is as a renewed person.

Pressured Outpourings?

A reader reports :

I recently attended two services at a church .... and I wonder if you have any information on that outpouring or its pastor. It started after he took a two-week trip to [a major revival church]. There was great music, but the atmosphere, to me, was not comfortable, with a lot of pressure for money and talk of God rewarding us for giving by, in turn, blessing us financially.

Among other things, he told the assembled that they were not to criticize or judge [a certain Word of Faith preacher] because that was just negative and harmful to the church. There was more, but all of it was pretty subtle. I'd appreciate hearing what you know about it.

I always flinch when someone says 'don't criticize'. I say be wise and be aware and sometimes be critical, but not judgmental. When they say, 'shut up', they're saying 'do what I command of you'. Commands are God's job; service is ours -- no matter what rank we have. I also get nervous when someone's endlessly talking about money. The more they talk, the more likely someone's hand's in the basket. It's important to raise money, but the offerings are a voluntary gift from God's people for the tasks of mission and service. The money helps the church do as Christ would have us do, because most real service costs real money somewhere along the way. But what are those services? What specific mission works are funded? Are the missions succeeding? Do they allow people to check it out thoroughly? What role do the givers (all of them, not just the largest ones) have in guiding the work of the service or mission? If the preacher wants an office building for his ministry, but not enough money is given for it, is that a message from the Spirit? Are the poor helped by it, beyond just an occasional can of beans stuffed into their hand? (The church in Acts was pretty relentless about that.) The church's main manifestation is not miracles, but the love and faith shown in daily living.

These questions are meant for the church to 'get real'. When we fail to be real, we present a counter-witness to the Gospel, which is what's really real. And that may undo all the hard work of the local laity who speak and live the faith. It is the lay believers, not the preacher, who really do most of the evangelism.

[ A recent note: One of the Obama (US) administration's buzzwords was 'transparency'. It's what keeps government honest and keeps people involved. The same is true for churches and their leaders. Their actions must be kept transparent, with accurate information and truthful answers at hand. Or, for the kinds of questions that aren't meant for quick answers, at least a real effort to give a reply. Transparency must be a way of life for churches, or for anyone else who values truth. ]

Learn to discern.

Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

prophetic burdens and who is a prophet

Burden Of the Lord

A reader writes:

You are saying that a word from the Lord which almost always carries a burden with it can possibly be considered a prophecy.

When I speak of a 'burden', I am speaking less about how to know what is vaguely prophecy (which God can give to many), but rather how to know who is living the role of a prophet (someone whose overwhelming gift and primary calling for their life is to deliver prophecy to those for whom it is meant). We use the term 'prophet' far too loosely nowadays. You don't have to have a specific burden to speak prophecy. But one of the key features of a prophet is that they have the burden of the Lord upon them -- whatever burden the Lord puts onto them. It is a burden about God's people and those in authority around them, before it is anything else. And it is a burden within them, too; they feel it in their gut, it wracks their soul, preoccupies their mind -- God gives them a taste of what His love is like to Him as He sees us live as we do.

For instance, what if you feel like someone who will be traveling is in danger and God impresses this upon your mind?

That's a 'word of knowledge' of some kind. I usually separate that gift out from 'prophecy'-as-such, a la Paul. Even so, you mention something that's been reported many times. In fact, when there's a big plane crash or other traveling disaster, there's often reports of someone who was warned off the flight by someone else.

But, these type of circumstances can not be found about individuals whose names aren't even in the Bible.

Of course they can! The Bible is the foundation of everything a Christian does. But you are a continuation of the Bible's story, and so are the 1 billion believers around you. (Not that you are Scripture, but if Acts was being written today, you could well be found in it.) The message, the miracles, the changed lives, the conflicts, the role models, the problems, the gifts --- they're all different today, yet at their core still the same as then. The gospel train is still running. This is an awesome responsibility that we can't take lightly. But then again, it's nothing to dread, for Christ sent the Spirit in His stead.
more on prophecy

What does God want me to do?

Discerning Spirits

A reader asks:

Can you please tell me what is Discernment of Spirits?

Discernment of spirits is when your mind combines with a spiritual 'sixth sense' or intuition about what lies behind something that is being done. This sense is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Like all gifts, it is to be used with love, and used thoughtfully so that it is kept within scriptural lines. In practice, this sense can be wrong - not so much in detecting motive or purpose as in detecting possible effect. You can detect the spirit rightly, but still show poor judgement in what you do with it.

Just a couple of days ago I had a dream that my brother was shopping for clothes, that very same day I came to know that he actually did that.

That is not spiritual discernment. It can match many other descriptions (dream interpretation, psychic activity, or merely knowing your brother and his routine well). Shopping for clothes is not an act that springs from a spiritual problem (unless he obsesses over owning stuff). You didn't sense the shopping as being evil or good, you just dreamed he was shopping for clothes. Discerning the spirits is a detection of the spirit in which something is said or done.

Are there different types of Discernment?

Yes. There is the gift of discernment (the Spirit-given sense or intuition of what lies behind something), the skill of discernment (the use of wisdom and factual knowledge to reveal the markers that show the real purpose or motive or spirit behind something), the talent for discernment (for some, the skill or gift comes much easier and works more thoroughly than it does in other people), and the processes of discernment (how those who lack the gift or talent or skill can still figure out what lies behind an action or happening; also, how a body or group of people do so). Some people are good in all of these. Since I haven't seen you at work in a situation which (unlike your brother's shopping) has something spiritual hanging in the balance, I can't tell if you have or use any of these. Those in your life, those around you, are the only ones in a position to know. Think about your actions in such situations; ask others who were with you when such things happened. They have a better clue than I do.
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