The subjective witness of the Spirit must be balanced by the objective witness of the Spirit through Scripture and in the church. If we neglect Scripture and fail to live in mutual submission within the Christian community, we have no context in which to assess whether the inner witness we have is truly from the Spirit of God.
from Gordon T. Smith’s book Listening to God in Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God’s Will (p. 47). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
As a pastor, I am often privileged to speak with folks discerning God’s call in and on their life. Often these are moments in time where we reach a fork in our journey’s road and must decide which direction to take. And let me say this gently but firmly…unless you have been preparing before approaching the fork, you and I are in a difficult position. I like to use the analogy that the starting line of a marathon is no time to start training. Oh, there are some strategies to get through it, but it won’t be easy or pretty!
We do well to hear God’s voice and discern when we have taken time to prepare far ahead of time. Gordon Smith says in the quote above that this preparation involves prayer, Scripture, and community. These are the non-negotiables to being prepared to hear God’s voice and respond to God’s call. Week after week. Month after month. Year after…well you get the idea! The stronger the tie with God becomes the more astute we become in discerning God’s will.
So let me encourage you to keep on preparing. You never know when the day will come when you will need it. And if you find yourself needing discernment and haven’t prepared through prayer, Scripture, and community, may I give you a word of advice. Find someone who is prepared and stay close to them. Allow them to help you figure out what is from God and what is from somewhere else. Tap into the deep reserves they have dug and trust that God will use your friend to help you discern appropriately. And then, here is the tough part, follow their lead and begin to do the same in your life. Begin today preparing for the next time. For you never know when you will be asked to start that marathon we call discernment.