Although I am on a blog holiday at the moment, it gives me great pleasure to welcome my friend and newly published author, Tim Challies, to the blog for the next portion of his blog tour. Today he will answer a question submitted by another blogger.
As I discuss spiritual discernment with other people, one of the questions that always seems to arise is this one:
“Isn’t spiritual discernment a gift of the Holy Spirit?”
The answer to this one is, “Yes, but . . .” Let me explain.
“In 1 Corinthians 12:10 Paul writes about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in that list is “the ability to distinguish between spirits.” The Bible provides no further elaboration on this gift and does not tell us all that it entails. Whether this gift is the gift of discernment as we understand it today or whether it is a little bit different we can’t know. What we can know with some certainty is that there is a spiritual gift of discernment in operation today. There is a wide variety of gifts (certainly far more than the Bible lists) and discernment must be one of them. This gift will allow those who have it to identify and expose the spirit of Satan. While all believers are exhorted that they must “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1), those with the gift of discernment have been given special ability and responsibility. They are equipped by the Spirit to expose the lies of Satan in the teaching of men. They are able to see to the heart of the issues and to see Satan’s shadow behind what does not accord with the Word of God. These people are given special skill and special responsibility in doing the work of discernment. These people are to be a blessing to the Church.
So while this gift does exist, it is important to realize that this does not let everyone else off the hook. I like to draw a comparison to the gift of evangelism. There are some people for whom evangelism comes so naturally. Where some of us are terrified at the thought of sharing the gospel with a stranger, there are some for whom this is completely natural and they like nothing better than meeting strangers for this very purpose. I knew a man who, several days a week, would head to the local train station and stand on the platform for hours, sharing the gospel for five or ten minutes at a time. It was his passion and he woke up in the mornings excited to do this. I can scarcely imagine such a thing! But even though there are some who have been blessed with this gift, it does not mean that the rest of us have no responsibility for the spread of the gospel. All of us are called to take the gospel to the lost. And discernment is similar in that, though there are some who are specially gifted, we are all to practice it and are all to understand its importance to our faith.
So is there a gift of discernment? Yes, there is. But do not allow this to preclude you from understanding discernment and putting it into practice in your life. For most of us, discernment is a discipline, a way of thinking about life and a skill that we must sharpen with constant practice.