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You don’t hear much about discernment these days, but there are few things more important to your writing journey. And, in today’s belligerent world, to your life. So what is discernment and how do you develop it? Come listen in to find out.
But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
What is Discernment?
Definitions from Webster:
- To discern: “to detect with the eyes; to detect with senses other than vision; to come to know or recognize mentally; to recognize or identify as separate and distinct.”
- Also: “to see or understand the difference.”
- Discernment is the ability to discern, or the act of discerning.
- “Discernment stresses accuracy.”
What Is Opposite of Discernment?
- Dullness – Not seeing, not hearing. It’s like trying to prepare food with a dull knife, it can’t make sharp cuts, or sharp lines. Everything is mushy. Cutting with dull knives can even be dangerous.
- Folly/Foolishness – To make bad decisions, dumb decisions, hurtful decisions, or to act foolishly. You make decisions on a false understanding, or you simply can’t recognize that it’s a bad idea.
- Mindlessness – All three of these (dullness, foolishness, mindlessness) can be summed up by simply not thinking, seeing, heeding, knowing, or paying attention.
- Making Decisions Based on Emotion Rather Than Thought – to make a decision without thought, but rather based on a feeling we have.
Types of Discernment
1. Discernment Based on God’s Word
Wisdom, decisions, understanding all need to be based on God’s Word. Anything that goes against God’s Word should send off warning signals in our minds. An example is the documentary on Jim Jones that Karen watched. The kinds of things Jones was saying didn’t add up. It blatantly went against what Scripture teaches. Yet his followers didn’t discern the falsehoods he was saying and the things he was doing that violated Scripture. They bought into his teachings and his lies.
But deception can be subtle too. Satan is a master of twisting, of giving just enough legitimacy to something that it sounds true. Scripture taken out of context or one verse proportionally over-weighted can become deceptive teaching. Satan used Scripture to try to tempt Jesus. So our sense of discernment needs to be fine-tuned. Details matter.
2. Discernment Based on Leading from the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit lives within each believer and prompts us in various ways. He guides us, warns us, and enlightens us, so we can steer clear of danger or perceive when something “isn’t right.” It’s not something we can rationally know from facts. Instead, it’s something the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, minds, and spirits.
3. Discernment Based on Personal Experience
This type of discernment involves recognizing something you’ve seen, something you’ve experienced, AND something you’ve learned from. It has to be all three in combination. You can be trained to recognize something others won’t because of your personal experience. But this is a process and takes time, patience, and a willingness to keep working at it.
Why do Writers Need Discernment?
1. Your Job as a Writer is to Speak and Write God’s Truth
- You need to both have and understand truth in order to speak and write it. That means you have to be well acquainted with God’s truth to recognize it––and its counterfeits. If you don’t have truth, then what do you have to say?
- You need to speak truth correctly and accurately.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
James 3:1 has a warning for us too: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” If you’re a writer, you’re a teacher whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.
- You need to speak against falsehood. Many believers are afraid to speak against falsehood because they’re afraid they’re going to come under attack. Well friends, you will come under attack. 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.” We are watchmen to speak truth, and we’ll be held accountable if God is telling us to speak and we don’t.
2. You Need Discernment to Make Good Decisions Regarding Your Career
- Will you focus on indie publishing or traditional publishing? What about picking an agent? Picking a publisher? What genre suits your gifts? What are you passionate about? How will you choose your timing and strategy for marketing? You need discernment to make good decisions about all those things.
- You need to be able to rely on that discernment even when things don’t go as expected. And they often don’t. But second-guessing isn’t helpful. Confidence in God’s leadership helps you move forward with a mind set on the things of God rather than the things of this world.
3. You Need Discernment to Avoid Temptation of all Kinds
Satan is called the father of lies. His greatest weapon is deception. Some temptations writers face:
- Thinking too highly (or too lowly) of yourself, chasing the wrong thing (money over calling perhaps), temptation to sell out, pad numbers, put writing first (over family obligations), etc.
- Over-committing or committing to the wrong things. Having discernment helps you understand that just because you can, just because you’re able, and even if it’s something good, none of that means it’s what God wants you to do. You have to rely on discernment to decide where to spend your time, energy, and giftedness.
How do You Develop Discernment?
1. Understand That Developing Discernment is a Process
Like we said before, you need to be so familiar with God’s truth, and with God, that you can tell His voice from the false voices seeking to derail you. That doesn’t happen overnight.
2. Know and Study God’s Word
Really study. Not, “Gee I have to do my Bible reading today…” But dig in. Ask questions. Interact with God’s Word. Ask, “What does this mean today? What is this speaking into my culture and my world right now?”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
You can’t be equipped without the Word of God.
3. Then APPLY God’s Word Everyday
Applying God’s Word gives you experience. It proves itself. For example: What does it mean to love someone––your spouse, your reader, your parents? You can find that in God’s Word, and you can put that into practice.
4. Ask God for Discernment
Solomon asked for discernment in 1 Kings 3:9. “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” God was pleased that Solomon asked for discernment, and He’ll be pleased when you ask as well. And He’ll give it to you.
5. Experience Things, Listen to Others with Experience, and Pay Attention to What You Learn
Don’t make excuses when mistakes happen, dig in and learn from them.
Hebrews 5:14 talks about training ourselves to discern good from evil. That’s a dig-in process, which typically comes with mistakes. Embrace that education.
6. How Do You Grow in Discernment Specifically from the Holy Spirit?
- First, Listen! Stop dismissing nudges and sensations. Second, pay attention. The Spirit speaks in so many different ways, from gentle nudges to what can feel like a hammer to your chest. Don’t just dismiss the inner voice or urging when it comes.
- Test everything:
1 John 4:1 says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” It’s not a sin to test.
1 Thessalonians 5:20 tells us, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good.” So some “prophecies” won’t be good. We have to recognize that. Again, test everything.
- We not only test by looking at it based on Scripture, but also by praying about it. Pray about your decisions, choices, activities, and inner nudges. Offer everything up on the alter, and don’t hold on to anything tightly. Learn to identify the Holy Spirit’s leading, His voice, which is easier when we don’t already know what answer we want.
How do You Keep Discernment?
1. Maintain Your Skills
Keep practicing discernment. You can’t take a day off because “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The enemy keeps practicing, keeps refining his ability to get into your mind and heart, so you need to keep practicing as well.
2. Avoid Activities that Lure you into Complacency
Avoid things that dull your senses. Things that––especially in our culture––lure you to believe there is no truth. Or no need to be so “judgmental.” Be careful, because truth is still truth even if our culture refuses to acknowledge that.
3. Avoid People that Lure you into Complacency
It’s not that you shouldn’t have friends to whom you’re being a witness, but you can’t do it lightly. Go in with protection, with deliberateness.
Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” So we need to be careful about who we’re spending time with and why.
Gain discernment. Continue to work on those skills. Continue to work on recognizing God’s voice and God’s leading in a way that you can’t be fooled by deceivers. There are a lot of them. Discernment isn’t just Christian-ese. Discernment is a reality and it will save you in times when nothing else will. So continue to refine that ability and may God bless you as you do so!
We want to hear from you
What ways have you learned discernment? How has it helped you in your writing journey?Discernment is vital to your writing journey! Here’s why. #amwriting @KarenBall1 Click To Tweet
Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
Special thanks to our November sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir, Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which will be published by Redemption Press. You can find out more about Priscilla and the blog she writes for the TBI/PTSD community at her website: priscillasharrow.com.
Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!
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Excellent! I discern that both of you are discerning. 😉
Jim, I discern that your discernment is spot-on!
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