Over these past several weeks, we’ve looked at ways the Holy Spirit works in and through our lives. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity and is often rather brushed over in our western culture. In eastern tradition, the Spirit is related to Sophia, the Wisdom of God, which is from the beginning and infuses all life. That Wisdom helps us to make decisions and to discern what to do and say and be.
Discern is a word not used in every day talk. Yet it is something that we practice every day. The word comes from discernere, formed from two Latin words dis (apart) and cernere (to separate). Discernment happens when we look at all the pieces of a decision or an idea or plan in order to see if it will work. Mostly we do this unconsciously, without specifically listing all the pros and cons of something. I might discern that I want the red dress and brown shoes because I’ve decided/discerned in the synapsis of my brain that they would look better together than the orange dress and red shoes. Sometimes we do make lists of pros and cons to help us decide what to do about a major life change. In all decisions the Spirit of God is present, even if we don’t think about that.
In I Corinthians, we are reminded, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are discerned spiritually. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:10-16)
In this letter, Paul is telling the Corinthians that all things are revealed by the Spirit, “so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God”. How often do we really stop and think about our day to day actions as being inspired by God? We tend to think that we are autonomous and in control of what we do and where we go. With God’s free will that is true. On the other hand, when we offer our life to God in prayer we may discern that there is a different plan.
Have you ever looked back over your life and marveled at the way God has worked? I am constantly amazed at how just the right job came along at the right time, or how the exact amount needed to pay a bill arrived, or how a friend ‘happened’ to call or write and say just the right words.
Through the Spirit of God we “have the mind of Christ”, Paul says. That mindset helps us discern and see the hand of God in our life and to discern what we should do to further the Kingdom. We have “received…the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God”. The gifts given us by God may or may not be grand, and may not bring fame, but they are exactly the gifts needed by you and me, where we are on our faith journey.
The Holy Spirit, God's Wisdom can help us discern what the next step is on the the path. All we need to do is ask. As the graphic from Jude 1:20 advises, we should Pray in the Spirit in order to build up our faith.
Consider asking God to help you understand and discern the work of the Spirit in your life.
Take time to look back over your life and see where God has acted. One way is via ‘stepping stones’. Break your life timeline into 5 or 10 year segments and note the God highlights of each period. You will find that God has been providing discernment for you all along.