We have talked about what discernment is and how to increase it in the following ways:
1.) Ask God to give you greater discernment. We established that He is more than willing to give it, based on James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all men liberally, without upbraiding, and it shall be given to him.” (Discernment is a component of wisdom.) A prevailing principle of Scripture is that promises laid out in the Word do not just fall into our laps. We must actively ask for them: “We have not, because we ask not ” (James 4:2).
I gave you three more Scriptures which can be used in asking for increased discernment:
Isaiah 50:4, 5
Isaiah 11:2, 3
Ephesians 1:17, 18
2.) Listen to the Lord for His perspective. Listening is an active exercise, in that it involves asking the Lord questions, and then waiting for His answer. We can ask, “What is on Your heart?” “What is Your perspective on this world/national event? Give me Your vantage point.” “What is the root problem in this situation?” “What is motivating this person to react the way he is?” “Should I respond, or should I keep silent?”
We can gradually form the habit of staying in a listening posture before the Lord. It takes effort, but we will get there, as we ask for the Lord’s help in developing this skill.
Part of listening is also training ourselves not to immediately form opinions or jump to conclusions. We must learn to wait for the Lord to reveal His viewpoint. Too many of us are acting, speaking, and praying based on the opinions of our mind, rather than on the leading of the Lord in our spirit.
3.) Immerse yourself in the Word of God. Do this by daily reading it, studying parts of it more closely using various Bible helps, meditating on it (which means to continually think on a verse or passage which is meaningful to you, throughout the day or week), and listening to an audio Bible or reading Scriptures aloud to yourself.
Immersing ourselves in the Word helps us to think like God thinks. Paul said “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Word is one of the most effective tools we have to experience the reality of that. It provides a way to renew the mind, as mentioned in Romans 12:2, and it cleanses us as well. Jesus told His disciples, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
Here are a couple more tools to help you increase in discernment:
4.) Listen for checks and nudges. A check is an inner hesitancy in your spirit, which is really the Holy Spirit telling you, “Don’t do that.” “Don’t say that.” “Don’t go there.” “Wait.” Nudges are the positive side of checks. They are persistent promptings to do, say, or pray something, even when it seems silly to your rational thinking.
The Holy Spirit frequently attempts to guide us by means of checks and nudges, but most of us ignore them and plow on our merry way, getting ourselves into trouble which could have been avoided and missing doors of opportunity which could have been accessed. Why do we ignore them? Because our natural mind rationalizes them away. “What could be wrong with doing that?” “But I want to say it! What can it hurt?” “Why should I use the checkout aisle with the longer line? I’m in a hurry!” “Why would I take that route home? The other way is closer.”
If we will stop dismissing these promptings and start obeying them, we will find that not only will life have less problems, but we will begin to see God using us to bless other people unexpectedly. Developing a sensitivity to checks and nudges is a big part of increasing in discernment.
5.) Pay attention to the little details going on around you. God will use the honing of our physical senses to also sharpen what we pick up on with our spiritual senses. There is a thin veil between the two. Discernment sometimes crosses back and forth between what we see, hear, feel, and otherwise sense naturally, and what we observe through the spiritual senses.
Hebrews 5:14 says, “But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age [maturity], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” As we deliberately form habits such as the five I have listed, and consciously practice using them, our discernment muscles are built up by the exercise of them. We go beyond the limitations of natural thinking and the actions it brings to becoming mature spiritual people, moving with the Lord into supernatural, miraculous living.