Spirit of discernment

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The isolation of lockdowns, limited travel and working from home is hopefully behind most of us. I enjoyed more time to study and read the Bible, to spend more time with Pam, and the slower pace of not having to travel and meet train and plane departures. Extra time just to reflect and be me. However, I missed the interaction of fellow human beings, the banter and jokes, the proximity and especially the challenge of having to see things from a different perspective because of the reality others face. 

Now that I’m travelling and connecting with people who are not in my usual circle again, I’ve noticed a number of trends. I’m pleasantly surprised to hear of young people reading the Great Controversy, retirees and youth continuing with small group fellowship, study and worship, and the growing influence of those who use social media wisely in disciple making. The community support offered by Adventists all along the east coast of Australia with flood relief has been outstanding. These are positive trends. 

However, I’ve also heard of people believing that Jesus is a son of God and not the Son of God; that the Holy Spirit is not a person; that Ellen White’s writings are more valuable and inspired than the Bible; and that Jesus is waiting for the last generation of believers to get things right so He can return. There are also those who have an unhealthy interest in spiritualism. These ideas and trends are not new, but it seems that in the isolation people have had more time to explore ideas without really “testing” them with others in the broader community of the church. Another trend is that some are resistant to returning to in-person worship for a variety of reasons.  

Because of the pandemic I accepted the ideas that were generated by those around me in the SPD office as the only reality. While I value their perspective and expertise and want to keep hearing from them, the fact we have not travelled and only conducted business via Zoom has meant we missed a lot of the reality in other’s worlds. We can all fall captive to believing our own stories without reference to others. 

With volcanos, tsunamis, floods, cyclones, extreme drought, war, genocide, the pandemic—the fury of the enemy to destroy people is evident. People like us want to make sense of all of this. How do we live in such times?

To study and explore biblical and spiritual ideas is important but sharing them widely with various people of different ages, backgrounds and experience will help bring balance to the message. The rigour of a good committee can create a better action if all participants really listen and contribute. 

Those who strive for a better understanding of truth pursue a noble task but this too must be balanced with ministry action. Are we listening to our neighbour and their addictive patterns, helping a friend who is struggling financially and seeing a need in others and meeting it?

Discernment is a characteristic that I, and perhaps we, all need as we live in this troublesome world. 

“The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving” (Proverbs 14:8).

In Isaiah’s time the people believed their own propaganda—things were going well and they believed it would remain that way. They worshipped God but also trusted in other gods and their own work, business and finances, but Isaiah reminded the leaders and the people a number of times, “They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand” (Isaiah 44:18; also 44:19, 27:11). Self-absorption in our own small worlds has a consequence. 

Discernment of God’s will is possible (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:10, Philippians 1:9, Hebrews 5:14) but it comes through prayer, constant practice in the real world, doing good to others and exposing our thinking to others. 

A contemporary of Isaiah, the prophet Hosea, wrote, “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (14:9). Truly following Jesus ensures discernment. 

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