I remember the sad expression on his face that day. He was pitifully sad, abandoned, and lonely. He felt his world spinning and coming to a standstill. Daniel (a pseudo name for privacy) had invested a lot of money in an online Ponzi, and it had come crashing. What was painful for him was that this was not the first time he had lost money in several financial scams in his quest to make money. I met him sitting sad, and the sorrow ate him deeply. This was a time for him to reflect deeply on life and ask deep questions. The loss of money brings us to a standstill in life.
A momentary pause to reflect on life. A reminder of our frail human condition to lose. ‘If only I knew, he said to me. He was regretting the choices he had made in life. He was blaming everyone in life. There was anger, regret, and pain in his eyes. ‘That woman is the source of my problem,’ he uttered sadly. He felt his decision to marry his wife was the source of his problem. He leaned forward as though to say something very secretive and said in a low tone, ‘She is the source of my problem’. He faced his problem like Adam; he blamed it on his wife. He believed her greed had informed her advice to him, which had always misled him in life. He absolved himself of the responsibility for his choices and blamed it on someone else.
Like Daniel in this story, most Christians today face the pain of choices they made in life. They chose the wrong spouses, careers, and businesses and are living in regret. It is not the intention of God this should happen. So, many are at crossroads in life and seeking direction and guidance. So many Christians wish they could perceive deeper into the will of God and receive guidance daily on how to make decisions. No one ever saw the covid-19 pandemic, which has grossly affected business decisions in board rooms worldwide. Business strategists, board room gurus, and counselors have human limitations. I believe by God’s design that Christian is never to be misled on choices.
When Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit, he said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you in all truth…” John 16: 13a NIV. In other words, God has provided our daily guide in His sovereign will for our lives through the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of God can never be misleading. So, why are Christians not discerning enough? Why are Christians unable to perceive the will of God? Why are they unable to see through his guide at crossroads in life? This is not a new experience in the Bible. We are not alone. Joshua, a great man of God, was deceived by the Gibeonites in Joshua Chapter 9.
The great prophet of God Samuel, who the scriptures gave the witness that “The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and let none of his words falls to the ground” 1 Samuel 3: 19 NIV. Yet, at the choice of King David, Samuel almost missed it. Samuel was accurate in his prophesies that none of his words came as inaccurate. But when Samuel saw Eliab, David’s elder brother, he almost made a mistake, thanks to God for intervening immediately in his choice of David. If The Gibeonites could deceive biblical characters like Joshua, it shows how deeply we must work on maturing in spiritual discernment. We are all spiritually vulnerable. The reason we most times cannot discern God’s will is that we are in a hurry. We want easy and fast answers.
One of the defining indices of the end time that will characterize the return of Jesus Christ is deception. Our generation is the speed generation. Fast speed internet, high-speed trains, fast jets, we have no patience. Patience does not mean a lack of speed. People in a hurry are vulnerable to deception. Lack of patience is a spirit of the end time. Jesus warns his followers to be cautious in these times, not to be deceived, but to be discerning. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10: 27 NIV. This explains spiritual discernment in simple, clear words. We must learn to hear God daily, listen to and follow him, and then grow in discernment. This is how to grow in discernment. It looks simple, but it carries deep spiritual wisdom as we will see and examine it.
This is a lifetime journey for a believer. So, how do we listen to God?! We listen to God in His Word, study the Bible, speak to us in dreams like Joseph, speak in a still small voice as he did to Elijah, and sometimes give promptings in our hearts. The first path to growing in discernment is learning to hear God. The ways God speaks are inexhaustible. It will, however, come with peace and inner witness in our hearts and never contradict the Bible. God can never tell you steal! That will contradict the Bible. Hearing is different from listening. Jesus said the mark of his sheep is that they listen to him and can identify his voice from others.
Naturally, our listening disposition allows us to differentiate different people’s voices. We can differentiate the voices of our children, spouses, and siblings. The more we consistently listen to God, we develop a spiritual “ear” that can differentiate his voice from others. Listening is what Jesus was addressing here, our ability to listen to God consciously.
So many Christians have lost their spiritual listening ability. We grow in discernment through consistently developing a spiritual “ear” to listen. When we grow in listening to God, we gradually mature in discerning his voice from that of others. The second thing Jesus said in that verse is, “I know them.” The discerning Christian must have a walk with God so that God can identify him as his own.
Listen to how Paul puts it “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription “The LORD knows those who are his” 2 Timothy 2: 19a NIV. God must identify you as his own because you live a life of righteousness and holiness as a mark of sonship that reflects his character. … “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” 2 Timothy 2: 19b NIV. Holy living draws us to a deeper fellowship with God…”Without holiness, no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12: 14b NIV. This is God’s requirement. When Isaiah saw him, he cried out as he saw his sinful life before a holy God. As we grow in holy living, we draw closer to God, which brings us deeper fellowship with God, and we can discern his will.
The final thing Jesus said in that verse in our study is they “follow me.” When we consistently follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ daily, we grow to be like him. Jesus Christ was in constant fellowship with the father, and he desires that we follow in his footsteps and come in constant fellowship with God. This is the path to growing in spiritual discernment. Being like him is a lifetime journey as we grow to perfection. We will explore more spiritual discernment in our next study.