God is at work all around us and so is the demonic realm. Each person has a spirit man also and the dynamics of all three at work is truly “real life”. Wouldn’t you like to have a better understanding of how this unseen spirit world functions?
Discerning of spirits is one of the spiritual gifts Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12:10. We believe it is available, and vital, for every believer so that each can co-operate with God more fully and also wage spiritual warfare more effectively.
What does it mean to have the gift of discerning of spirits? At the simplest level, people who operate in this gift are able to know and understand, in particular life situations, what:
- Holy Spirit is saying and doing
- demonic spirits are working in a person or scenario
- the state of a person’s spirit is (are they born again or not?). This can be a little tenuous because only God does know for sure but I’ve seen God give revelation on this issue at times.
Why is this gift important? Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but the true culprits are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms and in this dark world.
How can one fight against something that you cannot see? It’s like a blindfolded boxer flailing in the air! We also need to hear the voice of God and see the hand of God at work in life and relationship situations so we can co-operate with Him as He moves on our behalf.
I would like to lay out six specific suggestions to begin moving and growing in this gift. Some of what follows is common to hearing from God, which is one aspect of discernment but not the only one.
Developing the Discerning Spirits Gift
1. Ask for it and believe that you have received it. God is a giver who gives good things to His children. We are to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1 and 1 Corinthians 12:31) and the word “eagerly” implies that our passion for them should be sincere and persistent.My experience is that some manifestations of the gifts do not appear until we begin to move in them with expectancy.
Mark 11:24 reminds us that whatever we ask for (in accordance with God’s will) we must believe that we have received it (emphasis added).We see this with healing, for example. One must begin to move and pray for healing so that the restoration can happen. Ask the Lord for the gift and declare this:
“Thank you, Lord for giving me the gift of discerning of Spirits. You give gifts generously and I receive this gift by faith. Thank you for helping me grow in this gifting as I ask you for wisdom and clarity and move out in faith.”
2. Be part of a church/body that believes in it. You need a safe place that will nurture and support your efforts to grow in this (and other gifts). Many churches subscribe to the notion that many of the spiritual gifts are not for today. Some even minimize the need for any kind of spiritual warfare because why fight when Christ has already won the victory.
We feel that they are missing some important elements of Christ’s finished work on the cross.You should be in a church that is eagerly desiring all of the spiritual gifts that Father has for His children!
3. Ask the Lord for discernment in each life situation. If you believe you’ve received the gift, then ask God for wisdom and discernment in life and relationship situations as they unfold before you. See with the natural eyes but ask Him to reveal the spirit realm to you in all ways. James 4:2 reminds that often we do not receive because we do not ask.
4. Quiet your flesh so your born again spirit man can hear. The voice of God is typically not brash and loud, but slight and fleeting. It can be a simple thought that flashes through our mind or a sense of “knowing” when we quiet ourselves to listen. Some will report “seeing” spirits on people. All of these are valid evidences of the discerning spirits gift operating effectively.
5. Be quick to pray and slow to act. When we discern what God is doing, the natural (flesh) response most often is to press into action. That course is frequently the least desirable because it often leads to rash results. Once you think you have discernment, the next step is clarity on what to do next!
Often, the best response is simply to pray. If you discern demonic activity in another person, I suggest you proactively apply Matthew 16:19 in your personal prayer time: binding the demons and loosing the Holy Spirit. These declarations should be done out loud.
Years ago, I did not follow this advice myself and the result was not positive. I sensed that the Lord revealed that a man at our church (whom I did not know well) was involved in pornography. I went to him, told him what I thought the Lord had shown me and he did not respond as I had hoped.
He became defensive, denied that he was involved and shortly after left the church.Was my discernment wrong? I do not know but I should not have approached him as I did, even though it was in a gentle and non-condemning way. I should have waited, prayed for him and also wisdom on how to proceed rather than rush ahead. My experience is that God’s preferred path most often is to pray for that person, not go to them right away. Sometimes it is a warning to us also, especially if we discern demonic activity at work.
6. Give yourself grace to be wrong. Every spiritual gift we receive requires honing and maturation through practice. Do not be alarmed if you miss it. Every spiritual gift needs to be developed and discernment is no exception. Prior points have emphasized the need to act slowly but there will always be a desired action that accompanies any revelation from God. Prayers for wisdom and direction will not go unanswered.
The enemy of our souls, the demonic realm, is still actively at work to kill, steal and destroy today. We must understand their schemes and see them in action. We also needs to not only hear God but discern what He is doing in certain situations.
Do you want to move this gift? Start to implement some of the tactics above and be expectant. God will not disappoint you!
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