How to handle discerning of spirits

Straight Talk

The Question:

Lately in my life, I not only see as ordinary but I see/know the spirit of people and things almost immediately when I look at them. It’s sometimes scary because people/things I love are perceived as defiled and the Word of God always speaks in these times. It makes me more determined to give people the Word of God that they may resist the devil and fight the good fight of faith for themselves and their loved ones. This has been more intense for the last couple of months. How do I handle this new emerging sensitivity that is happening to me now?

– D. from Baltimore, MD

The Answer
Part 1: Developing your gift
Part 2: Practical issues

Developing your gift (Part 1)

It sounds to me like you have been given the Holy Spirit gift of discernment of spirits spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:10: “and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.”

With this gift you are able to see beyond the natural realm to what is really happening in the spiritual realm behind it. This is an important gift that the church has often ignored and therefore hasn’t given much training on. That’s why you wonder how you are supposed to handle it. Fair enough.

For an understanding of the gift itself, I would like to recommend DISCERNING SPIRITS which answers a question that came to me from a father about his teenage son. That article will give basic information about the discerning of spirits. Now, what should YOU do with your newly emerging gift?

We don’t always know what activates a gift. Some people are aware of their spiritual gifts from the time they are children. Others, like you, begin to notice something different in the way they operate spiritually when they are older. There are also those who receive help in identifying their spiritual gifts through a “gift assessment” sponsored at their church. I think that is ideal because a church interested in gift identification will be interested in helping people develop their gifts.

The best case scenario is that you affiliate yourself with a church and with spiritual leadership that understands and operates in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Notice I say “operates” because there are churches out there that believe in the gifts of the Spirit but make no room for them.

I believe the Holy Spirit gifts flourish optimally in a team atmosphere. Each person with a fledging gift needs to be mentored by those who are more mature in that gift. There needs to be a venue for asking questions and sharing experiences. Mature spiritual wisdom is needed for oversight and development.

Look at the churches around you and the spiritual leadership functioning in your area. Find a place where your gift can grow.

Practical issues (Part 2)

I hope you can follow my advice above but I am aware that there is a big gaping hole in equipping of this kind in some areas of the country. Therefore, if you have no resources around you such as I’m describing, what do you do next?

Based on your specific questions I would like to give you the following advice.

When you see something in the spiritual realm, your first direction should be to pray and wait. Ask: “Lord, why are you showing me this?” Just because you know the spirit behind something or somebody; you don’t necessarily need to tell the person or act on the information. Remember, it was there before you saw it.

Once you have seen something, the awareness of it is heightened for you beyond what anyone else sees or feels in the natural. That could cause you to launch out without wisdom and say or do something unhelpful to the person or situation. Keep your revelation to yourself until you have sought God on the next direction.

With discerning of spirits, expect that most action steps you take will be behind the scenes just like your gift. If there is a word to be given to the person involved, make it a positive and encouraging word – not condemning.

Find a trusted mature Christian friend to share your gift and insights with, even if they do not operate in that gift. In fact, it may be better to have someone who does not possess the same gifting as you to create a good balance. You need someone who can absolutely keep a confidence. You will want confirmation and prayer support for yourself as you discern your own gift.

Watch out for the devil. He may try to mimic the gift by showing you things which are not actually from God. He may try to tempt you to pride. He may try to induce you to a harsh or condemning attitude. Cultivate humility; you will find that with discerning of spirits, it will be your best friend.

Finally, thank God for all your spiritual gifts. Read the Bible everyday because it chronicles many spiritual heroes for us to emulate. Their stories are given for our benefit so we can follow them in their successes and avoid their failures.

I don’t know why your gift has become more intense lately but I do know that it is no accident. God must have some work for you to do in these exciting times. Listen to his voice and obey. He is coming back soon!