As Christians, we are called to be discerning in many different ways. God gives us discernment in our daily lives; however, this is not the same spiritual discernment that I am writing about today. This article is about spiritual discernment. Biblically speaking, spiritual discernment entails understanding truth (and falsehood) and applying it to one’s life for the purpose of living out God’s will. It is rooted in the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth ( John 16:13 ). It can be described as ” an act of judgment stimulated by love .” Spiritual discernment includes both what we believe and how we live. We must take responsibility to study the Bible so that when tough decisions present themselves, we have a basis for making good decisions.
Examining 7 Biblical Principles of Discernment
“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teaches you; but as the same anointing teaches you about all things, and is true, and is no lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him. ” (1 John 2: 27)
The Holy Spirit Who lives within believers gives us discernment when we yield to Him through prayer, fasting, the study of God’s Word, worship, a meditation on Scripture ( Josh. 1:8 ), etc. The following are seven biblical principles of discernment with some brief about each principle along with some practical ways to implement it.
1) Seek God’s Guidance ( Isa. 30:21-22 )
This principle covers the following ideas:
· God is always at work, even when we can’t see Him ( 1 Cor. 2:11 ).
· We should diligently seek His guidance by prayer and study of His Word ( John 5:39; Luke 10:38-42 ).
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through seeking God : Memorize Scripture to make responses readily available when you need them most ( Josh. 1 ). Pray specifically about your decisions or have a practice of praying for insight into your decision making process. If you are struggling with something, go over what you know about that topic and ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight ( John 14:26; 16:13).
2) Know God’s Ways ( Deut. 28:1; Psa. 25:14 )
God is perfect and therefore His ways are perfect as well ( Josh. 11:15 ). They can be described as “the will of God” or “righteousness” ( Matt. 6:10 ). We have a responsibility to learn about God’s character and plan for us so that we will know how to live our lives in a way that pleases Him and honors His name ( 1 John 2:3-6 ). This principle includes an understanding of who He is, what He has done, and what He requires from us .
Practical sugges tions for cultivating discernment through knowing God’s ways : Memorize Scripture that describes God’s character ( 1 John 1:5-7; Deut. 10 ). Read biographies, history books, and other nonfiction literature that will help you to learn about the Holy Spirit in action in the past. Ask godly people to share wisdom with you so that you can learn how they faced challenges or responses to spiritual issues .
3) Exercise Faith ( Heb. 11:1 )
Faith is essential for living out our Christian lives because without it, we would not know what God requires of us . It is important to note that faith is not simply saying things like “I believe” or “I trust.” Rather, it is “active trust” ( Eph. 2:8-9 ). It involves taking God at His word and doing what He commands ( Isa. 1:19; James 2:14-26 ) .
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through exercising faith : When you face a challenge or decision, ask yourself this question: “What does the Bible say about _____?” Then, seek out God’s truth on that subject and make a decision based on what you find ( Acts 17:11; 18:28; Josh. 24:25 ). Trust God even when you don’t feel like it. Seek wise counsel from trusted members of your church , but hold fast to what the Bible says about the issue in question because ultimately, you must answer to God for your decisions.
4) Equipping the Church ( Eph. 4:11-12 )
The Holy Spirit has given spiritual gifts to members of His body so that they might function effectively in building up Christ’s kingdom . The apostle Paul wrote about these gifts in his letter to the Corinthians and defined them as “various kinds of speaking” that are meant for edifying others . This principle involves discerning how we can best serve other believers , attending faithfully to our own gift(s), and encouraging each other along the way.
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through equipping the church : As a Christian, you have been equipped with a gift from God – what is it? What does it involve? ( Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11 ). Make a list of how you can use your gift(s) in your church and among your friends . Learn about the spiritual gifts described in the Bible and find out what they look like in practice ( Eph. 4:11-12; Acts 2:17-18; 1 Pet. 4:10-11 ).
5) Seeking Spiritual Growth ( Matt. 7:7 )
“Ask and it will be given to you,” Jesus promised His disciples . That doesn’t mean that every desire we have will be granted immediately, but God wants us to approach Him earnestly so that He can lead us wisdom and truth ( James 1:5-8 ). The apostle James equated “pure and undefiled” religion with visiting orphans and widows who are suffering ( James 1:27 ). In other words, as we go about our daily lives as Christians, we should seek opportunities to help those around us who are in need .
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through seeking spiritual growth : Ask God to make you more sensitive to the needs of those around you. Pay attention throughout your day to how He might be directing you toward a certain circumstance where He wants you to do good or share His love with someone else . Pray for opportunities to show kindness or mercy toward people who have been placed in your life by Jesus Christ.
6) Living out Love ( Matt. 22:37-39; 1 John 4:7-21 )
Every interaction we have with other people is an opportunity for us to love them as Christ loves the Church ( Eph. 5:1 ). That doesn’t mean that everything will go well all the time because everyone you encounter will not always reciprocate what you show them . However, God’s commands are not dependent on our feelings, but they are based on His character . As Jesus told His disciples , “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” ( John 14:21 ). It is clear from these verses that obedience to God’s commands (in this case, loving one another) is evidence of true faith .
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through living out love : Pray for opportunities to show kindness or mercy toward people who have been placed in your life by Jesus Christ. When you mess up (and you will), apologize with all your heart ( 1 John 1:9; Ps. 51 ). Make it a goal to spend time with other Christians regularly where you can be encouraged and grow together . Ask God to give you the strength and courage to speak kindly even when someone offends or hurts you .
7) Moving Forward in Faith ( Heb. 10:32-39 )
Finally, if we find ourselves struggling with doubt, fear , or spiritual dryness, the best thing we can do is continue seeking God’s presence . The author of Hebrews encouraged his readers to “run with perseverance” the Christian race marked out for them so that they might “attain the resurrection from the dead” ( Heb. 12:1-2 ). Rather than being discouraged by their current circumstances, they should look at trials as opportunities to draw closer to Christ and press on toward their eternal reward .
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through moving forward in faith : Ask God to increase your trust in His character and plan for your life. Make a conscious effort not to let irritations or disappointments distract you from experiencing His grace. Spend time each day, meditating on , and praying through Scripture to remind yourself of God’s attributes and His promises. Be patient with yourself ( Matt. 11:28-30 ).
8) Trusting in Jesus’ Provision ( John 12:1-8 )
Jesus voluntarily humbled Himself by becoming fully human, dying on the cross , and rising again so that believers could experience eternal life . He promises that He will never leave or forsake us ( Heb. 13:5-6 ), because He is always with us even in our time of need ( Rev. 1:9; Matt. 28:20 ). As we draw closer to Him each day through prayer, reading the Bible , and sharing testimonies about Christ with others, we can find comfort knowing that all things work together for good for those who love Him ( Rom. 8:28 ).
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through trusting in Jesus’ provision : Make it a goal to spend time in prayer each day where you can express your gratitude , confess sin, seek guidance in decision making , and talk about your fears . As much as possible, align yourself with other Christians who will encourage you in the faith and help spur you on toward love ( Heb. 10:24 ).
9) Confidence in God’s Promises ( 2 Cor. 1:20; Phil. 4:4-7 )
Our times are known only to God ( Eccl. 3:1 ), but because He loves us , His plan is always working for our good ( Rom. 8:28 ). That means that we can trust Him to provide what we need as we seek first His kingdom and righteousness ( Matt. 6:33). When we experience difficulty, the best thing to do is praise God for who He is and continue obeying Him by engaging our strengths and talents for His glory .
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through confidence in God’s promises : Pray throughout the day, asking God how you might glorify Him with your time , words , money , possessions , relationships , gifts of the Spirit , body, and life ( Rom 12:1-2; Phil. 1:20-21 ). Confess any sin or selfishness that hinders you from doing more God’s work ( Eph. 5:15-19; 2 Cor. 1:11-12 ).
10) Surrendering to God’s Will ( Matt. 6:25-34 )
The final step in cultivating discernment is later you should make it your goal to always be ready for Jesus’ return . The best way to do that is by surrendering yourself completely to His will ( Luke 9:23; John 12:27 ), because He knows what we need even better than we do ( Ps. 33:11, Prov. 16:9 ). That means making decisions based on where God would have us serve others rather than our own ideas or interests .
Practical suggestions for cultivating discernment through surrendering to God’s will : Set aside time each day to study God’s Word, pray , and sing hymns or worship songs to the Lord . Ask yourself if what you are doing right now will be pleasing to Him . Think through how you can more faithfully follow His commandments ( 1 John 2:3-6 ).
As we begin this new year, let us earnestly seek God’s wisdom by praying these 10 points of practical advice throughout our day. Let us ask for insight to make both big and small decisions based on His perfect plan for our lives. And let us put our trust in Jesus Christ who is “the same yesterday today, yes forever” ( Heb 13:8 ).
Thank You! Please feel free to comment below thoughts or questions.