Have you ever heard the expression: ‘She (or he) has the gift of discernment’?
Perhaps you have been invited to a session of ‘discernment’ – to discern God’s will or purpose for a person or a congregation.
If you have, briefly reflect on such times, and share your experiences.
Discernment is about making judgements; it can also be about perception. There are a number of different Greek words in the New Testament that have to do with discernment. To follow are just a few of them. Reading the suggested text will put the word into context.
- Diakrisis (the act of judgement – for example, see 1 Corinthians 12:10)
- Kathoraó (to discern clearly – e.g. see Romans 1:20)
- Aisthésis (perception – e.g. see Philippians 1:9)
Read 1 Corinthians 12 where ‘discernment of Spirits’ is listed among the gifts of the Spirit, and ponder: What is the distinction between ‘discerning between spirits’; and discernment in general?
Discerning the will of God covers a very wide field of actions.
In this study, I am focusing on personal acts of discernment. These might be any one of the many decisions that you or I make in our lives. They may be big decisions. They may be small. But they all have consequences.
What sort of decisions do you make day by day? How do you ‘discern’ your answers?
People of different ages might face different questions. ‘What will I do when I retire?’ ‘What will my study choices be when I move into Year 11?’ ‘What school will I send my kids to?’ Answering any of these questions or others takes an act of discernment or judgement. We are also reminded of our responsibilities to nurture and guide young ones as they learn how to discern.
As Christian people, we believe that the Lord already has plans for us.
Read Jeremiah 1:1–5. God has always had a plan for you! How far back do God’s purposes run in our lives? Can you see some of his purposes emerging in your life over time? What was your role in some of those unfolding plans in your life?
Discernment might also simply be a matter of saying: ‘Lord into your hands’, and letting God go to work, based on the plans he already has laid down for you. Or is your act of discernment to prayerfully follow the open doors wherever he leads you? For example, I never set out to become a pastor. In fact, as a teenager, I rejected the idea! But I have been a pastor now for more than 30 years.
Do you think some people have a stronger sense of discernment than others? What’s been your experience in this? Can other people play a part in an individual’s discernment and, if so, is there someone you might go to for advice? How can we help each other?
Read about Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13 and 14. How might they have served as God’s prompting of discernment in each other’s lives?
Read the first half of 1 Kings 3. Contemplate how Solomon asked for wisdom – or the ability to discern wisely. Can we – and should we – ask the Lord for wisdom in our choices?
Finally, consider Romans 12:1–5.
What is the pathway to discernment that God offers us?
Particularly consider Romans 12:2.
Remember, you are never alone. Pray. Read the word. Learn. Consult and trust. Then decide.
Lord, guide my thoughts and attitudes in all the decisions I make. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Pastor Tim Klein shepherds the flock at Faith Lutheran Church Warradale in South Australia.