I read your article about discerning of spirits and I have a question. How do you go about telling a person what you’ve seen and discerned about them without seemingly being a flake?
– C. From Oklahoma
Discerning wisely (Part 1)
Let’s first redefine the gift we are talking about here for any who are not familiar with it. It is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10 as one of the Holy Spirits gifts given to the church: “…and to another the distinguishing of spirits.”
“Those who discern spirits are able to see/perceive into the spirit realm and know the roots of issues and true motives of people, whether from a good or evil spirit. To the person possessed of this gift, there is an ability to skip to the bottom line faster and not be sidetracked by the appearances of things.” (Definition taken from my Holy Spirit Gifts handbook.)
Okay, now I can get to the answer to your question. I’ll start with a question of my own. What makes you think you need to tell a person what you have discerned about them? You need to consider that “knowing” does not necessarily indicate “telling.” That seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? We feel that if we have information it must be for a reason and that surely it would be helpful for someone to know what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us.
But your question indicates you see the potential dilemma too because you want advice about how to tell them without appearing to be a flake. Yes, that’s one possibility and there are others. How do you tell them without appearing judgmental or know it all or arrogant or downright off base? The answer is to NOT tell them until you have received a definite next step from the Holy Spirit. Remember that YOU were given the information, not them.
There may be several reasons for that but often it comes down to God giving you a prayer strategy for that person. You may never be called to share any of it with them at all. That is actually probably the most frequent outcome. It is hard for us because we are so excited about knowing something supernaturally that we want to spill it out, either with them or our close friends. Greater maturity is exercised when we keep God’s information close to our vest unless and until he says to do something specific with it.
A time to share (Part 2)
Is there any time to share what God has revealed then? Yes there might be and this is where wisdom and diplomacy are needed. There may be a time when sharing the information is for the leadership of the church, not the individual. If you feel a situation has arisen that brings confusion or potential trouble you may need to tell someone with spiritual authority who will handle it from there.
An example might be someone who works with the children’s ministry and whom you have received strong discernment is untrustworthy to do so. Perhaps you see a spirit of perversion or lust or molestation. This could put the children in danger so you go to the proper spiritual authority and in a very straightforward way just tell exactly what you received. You carefully avoid claiming 100% accuracy by starting with something like; “I don’t know for sure if this is from God but I just want to tell you what I saw and then you can pray and decide if it is accurate and what to do with it.”
There also might be opportunity to share your discernment with the person in question but make sure you have a well-established relationship of trust before you do so. Think about how you would feel if a mere acquaintance walked up to you and said something like: “God has shown me that you have a manipulative spirit. I thought you ought to know.”
Thinking through how you would want to be treated is in fact a good way to approach someone else. If a person seeks counsel with you, that is an open door and you can share what God has given you—with a humble and gentle spirit. Again, there should always be a hesitancy to claim 100% accuracy. Leave room for the possibility that you have missed it.
I would say that if you are itching to tell a person what you have discerned about them, it is better not to but rather to lay it on a shelf and simply pray. If timing is right all things will fall into place and the Holy Spirit will help you with the right words that will edify the person instead of wound them. Never forget the bottom line of every Holy Spirit given gift: “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)