Ministry Musings: What Discernment is Not (4)

Discernment is not knowing God’s will “down to the detail.”

For example, we may have discerned that it is God’s will for us to go to school.  For God-given reasons, we need to study further (either in an actual degree program or some kind of continuing education) in order to better express our commitment to Christ.

But when we have discerned that, we do not necessarily need to believe that God must reveal the exact school we should attend.  The fact is, discernment is often an expression of the interaction between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit.

Once we know we are to go to school, God may very well leave it up to us to look at various schools and determine the one that offers what we need, and does so on a schedule we can keep and at a price we can afford.

To wait for God to reveal “the school,” may actually stop the discernment process which the Holy Spirit has begun.  God has revealed the divine will; now we are invited into the process of selecting the best process for expressing it.

Discernment often works this way.  God reveals His will in a more-panoramic way, and then invites us to join Him in the specifics of selecting the actual path that will bring it to pass.

The point is, “the will of God” can be done in more than one way.  In discernment, we are more-nearly asking, “God, what do you want me to do?”—not—“How do you want me to do it?”

It’s been my joy in teaching in the seminary for nearly 30 years to have students with “a heart for missions,” but then to rejoice as they go in all sorts of directions to carry out that desire.  So, as you practice discernment, seek first God’s “heart” and then allow your own powers of choice to become engaged.  The end will be true ministry—and joy.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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2 Responses to Ministry Musings: What Discernment is Not (4)

  1. Scouse mouse says:

    This is very freeing and should be taught at conversion. How many good Christians have spent too much time “waiting for God” to speak to us? (Writer included). YES we have been given our own glorious reason to discern! Praise God.

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