As believers in Jesus, we are invited to live the discerning life by choosing to prefer God’s Word, his will, and his ways over our own or any preferences espoused by our unbelieving culture. Christ Jesus our Lord cares very much about our deformed and misinformed souls and delights to reform, conform, and transform them for his glory. Our priorities must emanate from the priorities of God.
The discerning life is for individuals, families, small groups, ministry teams, churches, and organizations. Discernment is for our daily life and is achieved by our deliberate and determined attentiveness, not just in special times of big decision-making, but as a moment-by-moment and day-by-day growing awareness of God’s divine invitation to come close, draw near, and follow him into a deeper place of intimacy and companionship.
Such a lifestyle of practicing a preference for God begins first and foremost in the hearts and lives of individuals, then moves to communities and teams that are tired of the old way of manipulating agendas and desire instead to be molded and shaped by God. From that invitation to intimacy, God offers his divine intention to empower us to fulfill our rule of life as we fulfill his will for our lives on a daily basis and throughout our lifetime.
Ideally, it will become a conviction shared by all who embrace and embody the life-changing gospel of Jesus. When we practice a preference for God with those of like heart and mind, then our community life is transformed from the inside out. Leaders create the space for this to occur, as it doesn’t naturally develop, nor is it passed to others by osmosis.
The discerning life is for all, but not all will live it unless we start a revolution of sorts, a movement defined by spiritual discernment as a way of life.
If practicing a preference for God is our daily priority, then our posture matters. The discerning life is marked by the following postures:
- Humility—content and open-handed; never arrogant; motivations in check
- Listening—far more than talking; attentively and non- judgmentally present
- Honesty—full disclosure and without pretense, posturing, or hiding what’s true
- Abandonment—willingly releasing our preconceived notions in order to remain open
- Indifference—caring less about process or outcome; open to various possibilities; Suspending one’s desires, even for a time
- Detachment—letting go of our attachments in order to properly attach to God
- Openness—honoring another’s opinion, option, and opportunity
- Friendship—seeing the other as wiser, smarter, and choosing to prefer others for the sake of harmony, unity, and grace
- Community—the our/we/us is always more important than I/me/mine
- Consolation—peace, joy, delight, harmony, grace; held in times of desolation
- Prayerfulness—prayerfully permeating and not merely punctuating the process; staying open, amiable, pliable, lucid, transparent, graced, forgiving
- Decisions—not made prematurely or under compulsion, but freely, generously, hospitably, relationally, compassionately, organically, and systemically
None of these postures are easy to live, but with the guidance of the Spirit and the help of our spiritual communities, we can indeed choose to live this way with and for God.
At times it’s obvious what God is up to. Enjoy a lovely sunset. Engage in a community worship service. Rejoice and give thanks for a story of restored relationships. But when it gets harder to distinguish and discern, to see God and the things he wants for you, lean fully into your relationship with a loving Father and wait for his empowering presence to help you discern his presence and trust him unconditionally. The more familiar you are with him in the obvious times, the more you’ll be able to notice him when things are less clear.
Spiritual discernment becomes a part of us as we embrace the lifestyle of practicing a preference for God, noticing God in everything, and receiving the hospitality of God in the very places where we are learning to be hospitable to others and even ourselves.
All of this will take a lifetime to rehearse.
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