Ministry Musings: Discernment Is… (1)

We begin an exploration of some of the things that discernment is…

Discernment is a disposition of the heart–a general life orientation.  It is not so much figuring out God’s will in a given situation as it is a desire to do God’s will in any and all situations.  Discernment is what we express when we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Nancy Bieber has written a good, practical book on discernment entitled, Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment.  This is precisely the point she makes in the book— that discernment is the search for God’s will in relation to our willingness to do it, once we know it.

This willingness, she writes, brings a new level of attentiveness into our lives, which creates a spirit of responsiveness.  These three elements: willingness, attentiveness, and responsiveness enhance the entire discernment process.  They are like the hidden infrastructure of a building, holding up the rest of the edifice.

Similarly, it is the disposition of our heart which is the prerequesite to discernment.  It’s what the Bible has in mind in the phrase “incline your heart to the Lord.”  As we do so, we position ourselves to be receivers of God’s revelation.  This is where discernment begins—in the attitude which says, “Lord, I want to know your will.”v

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Ministry Musings: Discernment Is… (1)

  1. Ed says:

    This is a great post Prof…thanks!

    I especially liked “…It is not so much figuring out God’s will in a given situation as it is a desire to do God’s will in any and all situations”.

    When we look through God’s Word the emphasis appears to be on DOING what he has already revealed to us and not trying to figure out what is not revealed. And this DOING primarily centers around loving him first and foremost and others as ourselves (Luke 10:27). When we love God we show this by obedience to his Word (John 14:15) and when we love others it is expressed in service to them as well as sharing the Gospel (Luke 6:31).

    One may be thinking “this is great” but how does this help me in deciding if I should take this job or move to this place or… [fill in the blank]?

    In this regard, we should trust that the Lord will get us to where we need to be or what we need to do as we put him first in all things (Proverbs 3:5-6). We also must not rule out the need to be honest with ourselves (and God) about why we are requesting what we are as these petitions may need to be further embraced or adjusted or withdrawn or even repented of (James 4:3).

    Overall, let’s take heart in God’s word when it says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this (Psalm 37:4-5).

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