The Fullness of Discernment
Are there things that you pray for every week or every day? Things that are ingrained as part of your daily life?
As the Executive Director of a non-profit rescuing and restoring sex trafficking survivors my days are filled with a lot of counseling, ministering, discipleship, and pouring into people – whether it’s the staff or women in our residential program for sex trafficking survivors. I am in constant conversations almost all day, non-stop. And they aren’t just casual conversations. They are intense, deep, life-altering conversations that sometimes aren’t always the easiest to have. Being sharpened and looking in the mirror or sharpening someone else and holding their mirror up in front of them is not always easy and things get messy.
Because of the extreme intensity of this type of work, throughout my daily routine, I have several things I pray for constantly all day. One day I was pondering the question, “what (not who) do I pray for the most” and began intentionally paying attention to my otherwise normal prayers as I went through each day.
After a month, I realized the one thing I pray for the most is discernment. I find myself CONSTANTLY praying for discernment because I need it in every conversation and interaction in the line of ministry I serve. There are times when I am actively listening or engaging in a conversation and in my spirit praying, “God give me discernment in what you are telling me to say, if anything at all.” I genuinely don’t want anything of “me” to come out because I will mess things up. I truly want God’s discernment to know how and what to say, again if He wants me to say of do anything at all.
For the past year and especially few months I have really been praying about what exactly discernment means when I am praying that over and over repeatedly in my head throughout the day and while in meetings and conversations.
This revelation was so amazing for me and I pray it blesses your life as well.
Discernment to the fullest for me has 3 separate parts that each requires its own discernment:
1. Hearing from God
2. Interpreting what God is saying
3. Acting in obedience to the interpretation
That’s not the profound part. I have witnessed people and myself experienced discernment:
A. In 1 and not 2 (this is ignorance or being oblivious)
B. In 2 and not 1 or (this is ignorance)
C. In 1 and 2 and not 3 (this is outright rebellion)
Let's flush this out, starting with A. Step one in discernment is having a desire, willingness, and posture to hear from God. There were seasons where I didn’t want to discern because I didn’t want to hear what God had to say because I knew it would come with responsibility and frankly, I wanted to do what I wanted to do. So I didn’t have the desire or willingness to hear from God.
Then there were seasons where I desperately wanted to hear from God, so I had the desire and the willingness, but I was so busy that I didn’t make time to hear from Him, making it hard to discern what God was trying to say. I wasn’t spending time in His word (which is one way He speaks to us). I wasn’t spending time in His presence. I wasn’t spending time with like-minded people and was eating bitter fruit – yes even from Christians who were caught up in webs of gossip, criticism, or complaining.
It’s really hard to have number 1 in discernment – to hear from God – if you don’t position yourself to discern the voice of God. He speaks to us so uniquely and differently. I’ve seen people have the gift of discernment but they don’t spend time with God so they aren’t experiencing the fullness of discernment. This isn’t judgment. I’m raising my hands because I’ve been there far too many times!
Then there’s B. There are those who are clearly hearing from God and discerning His voice but they aren’t interpreting what He is saying accurately. Do you see the elephant in the picture above? You can see the picture and not interpret what the artist was really trying to portray.
The best way to explain this concept is through two examples:
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and the words came out of your mouth and into the ear of the other person and somewhere in between your mouth and the other side of their ear there was a breakdown in how it was received or interpreted? Sure you have! We have all experienced this. We call it a breakdown in communication. We say something and that person receives it in a way we didn’t intend or in a way that flat out wasn’t communicated because their interpretation of what you said is being filtered through their lens of life. When this happens it’s so hard to backtrack and explain yourself because that person already has their interpretation. Especially if the person has the gift of discernment and God is using them profoundly to give words to people. So when it comes to themselves, they automatically think they are interpreting things right because they have the gift of discernment and are operating in the giftings in other areas of their lives.
Discernment in the interpretation is so deceptive these days. Another added layer are situations where people with the gift of discernment use the gift to fill a void in their life to make themselves feel whole. Again, I have been in all of these places, so none of this is judgment. The Lord showed me something so ugly that was hard to face about the gift of discernment. If I ever used His gift to fill a void it was a form of manipulation. Because I am using something that is Holy to fill my personal benefit and needs.
How about another example? Have you ever heard someone minister in a powerful way and listened to the words coming out of their mouth knowing what they are going through and thought, “are you even listening to the words coming out of your mouth” knowing that the same word they were giving also applied to them? Put in an extreme way it’s like a woman living with a man and having sex telling another woman who is also living with a man and having sex, that she is living in sin because she’s having sex before marriage. She's doing the same thing and telling someone else it's a sin. Now that is blatant obvious hypocrisy. But the enemy is the mastermind of deception and so not having discernment in the interpretation is not always as recognizable.
So a person can discern what God is saying (point 1) but not interpret what they are hearing accurately. Therefore, when they provide the inaccurate interpretation or act according to the wrong interpretation they are ignorant or oblivious of the fact that they definitely heard from the Lord but they aren’t applying or interpreting it accurately. As I sit in prayer meetings or other settings I am discerning this more and more. People with the gift of discernment hearing a word from God but what I am discerning as the interpretation being something totally different. I'm confident I've done this as well and thought I was right!
Being in point B is so dangerous because even a slight shift in interpretation can throw you way off course. Think of a compass. A slight degree over and you can end up thousands of miles off-course and in a totally different place. The interpretation to what you are discerning is so important. Your destiny is at stake and there is so much deception right now where I am seeing people doing good things for the Lord but are they God's things?
And then there’s point C. You accurately hear from God, you accurately interpret exactly what He is saying and you refuse to act in obedience to what you are discerning. Wow! That is flat-out rebellion and according to the word, is like the sin of witchcraft. That may hurt, but it’s the word of God. Look it up – 1 Samuel 15:23.
This is such a dangerous place to be and I’m watching this play out as well in people’s lives. It’s so hard to watch because you want to shake them. But many times when someone with heightened discernment is in this place, they are often not in a space to receive, so you pray. In praying and asking God for discernment for what spirit to bind in those situations of rebellion with discernment, a few are haughtiness (arrogance), pride, and jealousy. If this person is confronted (I hate that word but hey we are called to confront things) and they are actively in rebellion their response will often manifest in the form of arrogance, knowing everything, or even false humility. They aren’t teachable and use God and their gift of discernment as their reasoning but in actuality are in rebellion. How can this be coupled with false humility? A person may have a prophetic anointing and everything looks and sounds like it’s directly from God, but in actuality, they are being disobedient in the action. Again, I’ve been there!
Part of point 3 in terms of acting in obedience to what you are hearing and interpreting is timing! Knowing when to act in obedience is critical. And sometimes the action is to do nothing in the physical (be still) but in the natural go to war. I am in a season of this in several areas. I want so badly to act but God is saying it’s not time. Tarry. I am dealing with things and you will get in the way because the timing is not right or the person or situation isn’t ready. So part of discerning the action is knowing the timing. When you get this wrong it can be catastrophic. I’ve shared or done things too soon and lost friends and opportunities. I’ve waited too long and lost friends and opportunities. God’s timing is perfect.
These have been very profound revelations for me in terms of my constant prayer for discernment in every interaction I have throughout the day. I want the fullness of discernment! And I am sure there are things I haven’t discerned about discernment 😊 but these sure have been revolutionary for me. God give me discernment to hear your voice. God give me discernment to interpret what you are saying accurately. And God give me discernment to act in obedience to exactly what you are saying in the time you are telling me.