“To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits …”
1 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV
Most of us, by socialisation and cultural beliefs, already have a mental picture of how the devil and angels appear. We have seen movies that depict the devil as an ugly, two-horned monster that whispers in your ear. However, we know that the devil is an expert at disguising. So, as believers, we must be able to discern when the devil is at work. Discernment of spirits is a gift of the Holy Spirit, through which a spirit in operation—whether good or evil—is revealed or exposed.
One of the ways the devil tries to deceive us is by pretending to be an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He will not always come to you openly displaying evil. Sometimes, he will come to you as someone on your side. He will come like he has good advice and your best interests at heart. When Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He would die, it might have looked like a good thing to tell a friend, but Jesus who knew His destiny could discern the devil in that communication.
In Acts 16:17-18, there was a girl who followed Paul and Silas, declaring that they were servants of God. It looked like a positive event; it appeared as if she was doing the Lord’s work, but Paul, discerning that she was possessed by a foul spirit, commanded it out of her.
The Bible, in 1 John 4:1, instructs us to “test every spirit.” This task would be near-impossible without the gift of discernment and the Word of God. With the gift of discernment, we are able to differentiate between good and evil, both in the big situations and in our small, everyday decisions. We can identify false doctrines and teachers, know when demonic spirits are in operation, and recognise when the truth is being distorted. The gift of discernment will help us know what is good and what is God.
Note that discernment doesn’t only work in discovering the devil, it also helps to see when the Lord is at work. As believers, we should be attuned with God so that we can recognise Him in people and in situations.
Now that we know what discernment is, we can tell what it is not. Discernment is not suspicion. We can’t use our natural senses to try to judge people and situations—we need discernment by the Spirit. Otherwise, we will call our friends enemies and our enemies, friends. Discernment also shouldn’t bring fear, it should fuel confidence in God.
Friends, the devil hasn’t changed. He still pretends to be an angel of light, and so our discernment must be sharper than ever. In order to grow in this gift, we must exercise it every day.
Bible Reading Plan: Leviticus 19-20