Monday, August 1, 2005

Reflections on Discernment

August Newsletter – 2005
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes
all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

I often hear from people who are trying to discern something. It might be a decision to be made,
the way to view a certain circumstance, or how to follow God’s will. When those situations arise, I have found a few things to be helpful in our process of discernment.

Prayer, of course, is first because it is God we need to seek above all for wisdom and guidance. God knows what we need before we ask, and all our ways are before Him. (Matt. 6:8, Ps. 119:168) So, we seek His perfect guidance, but especially, we remember to seek and desire God first. The best and most profitable thing we can start with is simply to love and seek being closer to God. This puts everything in the right perspective and gives us the proper detachment we need to begin discernment. Our mind and heart are in a correct attitude for receiving God’s pure and eternal knowledge. One way we honor Him first is by giving to God the ‘first fruits’ of our day, the first fruits of our attention, and our time. In all matters, our attention and devotion to God should come before other interests or needs. When we do that, we are naturally ‘in prayer,’ and sincere prayer naturally prepares us for receiving God’s direction.

Practicing faith is another necessary step. By this I mean that we continually believe in God and trust Him. Practicing implies that we are working at it. Sometimes we need to make an effort to have faith because it is not a natural part of our response. We need to remind ourselves that “the Lord is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His deeds.” (Ps 145:13) Or, as David sang to his soul, we “bless the Lord….and forget not all His benefits.” (Ps. 103:2) Actively using our faith is important because it is the avenue God works through in our life. Once, when I felt God asking me to do something that required a great amount of faith, I prayed, “Lord, you can do all things, but do you know how hard it is for us to just step out in faith and believe that something is going to work?” When I prayed this, I ‘heard’ in my mind a clear ‘Yes!’ in answer to my question. And in that ‘yes’ was also this explanation: whatever level of difficulty we have in trusting God, becomes the same difficulty God deals with in helping us. He works through our faith in Him. We can think a certain problem is not difficult for God because of His sovereignty, but we forget that He does not force His will on us, that He freely gives us choice and faith, and He still works through our cooperation with His grace. Our ability to discern is always benefited by actively using our faith to turn to God and trust in Him.

A third, and sometimes more difficult, step is patience. We do not see all that is taking place while we pray for discernment. The patience we need to exercise brings our faith to a deeper level where God’s grace can work in a deeper way. We have to wait. We have to let go. We have to trust. There is time to consider and avoid the traps of doubting, complaining, and becoming anxious. God is able to move more effectively without our self-focused obstacles. We gain much from the need to be patient. A deeper work is occurring in our souls - our sanctification, which is the will of God. (1 Thess. 4:3)

A fourth step is mentioned in the scripture from Philippians - thanksgiving. We give thanks because this gives honor and glory to God at the same time it shows our faith and reinforces it. Thanksgiving expresses love to our Creator. And in all of this – prayer with God first, faith that is active, patient waiting, and thanksgiving – the outcome is the peace of God which keeps us centered in Christ Jesus. It is in that peace that we are in the best place for discerning.
Blessings, Cricket Aull