Joyce Meyer - Discernment
Well, welcome to "Enjoying everyday life" today and we hope and pray that what we have to say will help you enjoy your life more. Today I wanna talk about discernment. It's actually one of the gifts of the Spirit that I think that we should pray for on a regular basis. However, you don't have to have a special gift to need discernment. It's something that we need to live by. And discernment is something that requires slowing down in life.
Sure you're gonna hear me say that a few times today. You can't really make the wisest decisions if you're always trying to make every decision in a hurry. And so I can apply that to myself because I make very quick decisions and, thankfully, a lot of them are good, but sometimes I need to take a little more time than what I do to really ponder something and think about it. And I think everybody today in our society is in pretty much of a hurry: and so, in order to hear from God, in order to be Led by the Spirit, I think we have to learn to slow down and we probably need to learn to be a little bit quieter so we can hear what God is saying and not just what everybody else is saying, or even what we happen to be saying to ourself.
I think discernment is something that's really, really, really important because it takes you deeper than the way things look. It takes you deeper than the way things feel. And you know, I'm sure you've all had the experience of being around somebody that there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with them, they seem like they should just be the greatest person, they say the right thing, they do the right thing, they look right, but there's something I always say, like, in your gut that you don't know what it is, you just don't feel right about them. And I think a lot of times we have to be careful when we get that feeling because it doesn't even necessarily mean there's something wrong with them. It may just mean that it's not a right relationship for you.
And so sometimes, we can get ourselves confused and start being judgmental or critical, or let's just say maybe you go to a new church and everything looks right and it feels right, they say the right thing, but it just doesn't seem right. You know, well, it would be so tempting to think, "Well, there must be some sin here. There must be something wrong. There must be something going on". It could just simply not be the right place for you because God wants to use you somewhere else.
So to discern, the definition of discernment means to distinguish between good and evil. You know, the Bible says that in the last days that people are gonna think that evil is good and that good is evil. And we're seeing that today. That's one of those biblical prophecies that we're seeing come to pass right before our eyes. But to discern means to distinguish between good and evil, between right and wrong, and I like this. To distinguish between what's good and what's excellent. And I think there's a lot of times in our life when we hang on to something because it, "Well, you know, I'm doing this, but it's a good thing". But you can stay busy doing a lot of good things that can keep you from doing the thing that God wants you to do or the more excellent thing. Discernment also means proper understanding regarding the true nature of a thing or a person.
Now, proverbs, we know, is full of instructions to be wise, to be discerning. The word is used a lot in proverbs. To be prudent and the word "Prudent" means to be a good manager, to have knowledge, to have understanding. So it's talking about all these deeper things, but in verse 5 it says: "The wise will hear and increase their learning". And I drew a circle around "Hear" 'cause we can read that real fast and think, "Well, the wise will increase their learning," but the wise will hear, 'cause that's why I say maybe sometimes we need to be a little bit quieter, and here again, I can certainly apply that to myself because I talk a lot. But when you're talking all the time, you don't hear. You don't hear, really hear, what other people are saying.
In proverbs, there's a lot of different kinds of fools that are talked about. If you've read proverbs, you know it says, "The fool, the fool, the fool, the fool". But it's interesting, there's a footnote of proverbs 1:7 that says, in proverbs, various kinds of fools are discussed including those who are closed-minded, over-confident, they reject instruction and correction — they're unteachable: they lack spiritual insight, hey're spiritually blind: they're flippant, hardened, and deliberately choose to reject God and wisdom - they are arrogant.
So really, the bottom line, this particular type of fool, it's talking about somebody who already thinks they know everything. So you can't teach them anything. The other kind of fool that the amplified Bible talks about a lot is the self-confident fool, the person whose confidence is in themselves. So 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verses 14 through 16. I've looked at these a lot in my life and I wanna share them with you today. "The natural, the unbelieving man," so a person who does not have a relationship with God. They don't understand spiritual things. "They do not accept the things, the teachings and the revelations of the Spirit of God, because to them, they are foolishness, they are absurd and illogical."
Now, if you've ever tried to explain why the way you believe the way you do or why you do some of the things you do as a believer, to a non-believer, you know that it just goes right over their head. They just don't get it at all. And so literally, when you become a new creature in Christ, when anyone becomes a new creature in Christ, they begin to live by a whole different set of standards than what the rest of the world does. For example, if you would talk to an unbeliever about forgiving your enemies and praying for them and blessing them, they would think you're stark raving mad. Why would you do that? Because the whole methodology of the world is you get people back. You take revenge. You shut them out of your life. But God gives us a higher wisdom and actually teaches us that in forgiving people we're actually doing ourself a favor.
Giving away the first 10% of your income. What unbeliever is gonna understand that? They don't understand that at all because it's a spiritual principle. How about not worrying about your problems? You know, most people who don't have a relationship with God, and even some that do, they would think that they weren't being good parents if they didn't worry about their children. "Well, I mean, that's what I do. I mean, a mom, I'm a mom. I worry about my kids". But see, when you have a relationship with God, then you know that that's not the thing to do. And one of the big things that unbelievers know absolutely nothing about is the difference between what the Bible calls works of the flesh and the work of God. God never calls us not to work, but he does tell us not to get into works, with an "S" on the end of it. And works of the flesh is like our energy trying to do what only God can do. And it's useless, it's pointless, and it never accomplishes anything.
Going on with this scripture now, it says: "To him: it..." well, I'll just start over. "But the unbelieving man does not accept the things of God for they are foolishness to him they are absurd and illogical: and he's actually incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned". See, they are something that is discerned down deep on the inside of you, not something that just comes off the top of your head or something that's based on how you feel. "He is unqualified to judge spiritual matters. But the spiritual man, the spiritually mature Christian, judges all things, he questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit has revealed, yet he himself is to be judged by no one the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer's spiritual nature".
Now, let me just say it in the kindest way that I know how. A really full-on, fully committed believer, to the rest of the world, may look just a little bit strange. And it says here that they really can't be understood by somebody who's not a believer because we will say things that we believe the Bible tells us are ours before we actually have them in our possession. We call things that are not as though they are. We say what God says rather than what we have. Well, to somebody looking on, who didn't understand those principles, they would basically say, "Well, you're lying". But you're not. You're just speaking the same thing that God says and he's a God who calls those things that be not as if they already existed. So we say what God's will is, not what our circumstance actually is.
And sometimes, to people looking on in the world, it may look like we're doing something really, really, really foolish and absurd because it doesn't make any sense to them. The natural man lives off the top of his head, but the truly spiritual man, which I think we're all working our way towards that, the truly spiritual man learns how to live by the discernment and the guidance and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. "The spiritual man, the spiritually mature Christian judges all things. He examines all things. He thinks about things, but he cannot be judged by anyone. For who has known the mind and the purposes of the Lord, so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ to be guided by his thoughts and his purposes".
Now, I wanna give you a couple of really good examples in the Bible. A couple of different case points about this thing about discernment or about works of the flesh versus the work of God. We all know that when God gives us a promise that he's gonna do something, whether it's something we read in the Bible or something we really feel that God has spoken to us individually, we know that things don't happen right away, don't we? Boy, do we know that. The promises of God come to us by faith and patience. It's hard for us to understand why, if God can do something very easily, why he makes us wait longer than what we would like to. They're called tests. We're tested in areas to see if our faith is really real.
And so we have a couple in the Bible, Abraham and Sarah, who in this particular scripture were still called by their older name, Sarai and Abram. God gave them new names to be more descriptive of actually what he was calling them to be. Abraham meant the father of many nations and Sarah meant princess. But here it says: "Sarai, Abram's wife, had not borne him any children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar". Now, God had promised them that they would have their own child. But in the natural it was ridiculous because he was already almost 100 years old and she was long past the time when she could bear children.
Has God ever spoken anything to your heart that sounded so impossible? If God didn't do it, there was no way that it could be done. And so Abraham actually released his faith in God and he believed, but many, many years had gone by, and just like anybody else would, I think they started to weaken in faith and maybe think they needed to help God. Do you ever think that maybe God just needs a little help? I find myself suggesting sometimes to God what he could do. "Well, God, you know, you could do this to fix my problem". So Sarah got into one of those moods that day, I guess, where she felt like she could help God fix her problem, but you'll see real quickly how just totally dumb her idea was.
"So Sarai said to Abram, 'see here, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. So I'm asking you now to go in to the bed of my maid so that she may bear you a child: and perhaps I will obtain children by her.' And Abram listened to Sarai and did as she said". So he behaved just as unwisely as she did. Now, just to take a little bit of the pressure off, men having concubines in those days was not as odd as it is now. It still wasn't something that God desired or approved of, but it was a little more of a common thing. However, any woman should have enough sense to not give her husband another wife because there could be nothing but trouble. You cannot put two women in the same house, give them one man, and expect them to not have a fight.
She said, "Perhaps I can bear a child by her". So... and it's important for everybody to listen to this today because what is it that you want right now that you're waiting on and you've gotten tired of waiting, and so now maybe you're trying to make it happen yourself. "After Abram had lived in the land of Canaan ten years, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar her Egyptian maid, and gave her to her husband to be his secondary wife. And he went in to the bed of Hagar, and she conceived: and when she realized that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress regarding Sarai as insignificant because of her fertility".
So bottom line is — she got what Sarah wanted. Sarah couldn't bear children. She got pregnant, so now, immediately, she gets a bad attitude. "Now, he's gonna like me better than he likes you". But here's the funny thing. "Sarah went straight to Abram and said, 'may the responsibility for the wrong done to me by this arrogant behavior of Hagar be upon you'". So now, let's remember it was her idea. She talked him into it, but now it's his fault. I just wanna stop here and say something. Whatever kind of problems you might have in your life, the only way out of trouble is to take 100% responsibility for your life. Blaming other people for our problems is the oldest story in the Book. It started all the way back in the Garden. When Adam and Eve sinned, Adam said, "It's the woman you gave me". And Eve said, "It was the devil".
Somebody's always wanting to blame somebody else. I went through that for a lot of years. I had bad behavior because I'd been abused in my childhood. That was my way of thinking. And God really spoke to my heart and said, "The way you are is because of what happened to you, but don't let it be an excuse to stay that way". We have to take responsibility for where we're at. Even if something unfortunate happened to you that has kind of gotten you into the situation you're in, nobody else is gonna come and get you out of it. Only God can get you out of it, and he'll only do that if you stop blaming other people for your problems. But she said, "May the responsibility for the wrong done to me by this arrogant woman be upon you. I gave her into your arms, and when she realized she had conceived, she then despised me and disrespected me".
Well, Abraham turned and put it right back on her. In verse 6, he said to Sarah, "Look, your maid is in your hands, subject to your authority: now you do with her as you please". And I'm not gonna really read any more of this except just to simply say that this doesn't work. You've gotta be very careful when you're waiting on God to do something and you just get a bright idea. Now, I'm not at all saying that there aren't things that God shows us to do. But the difference in the work of God and the works of the flesh is that, first of all, the work of God works, and works of the flesh don't.
So one of the things we might do, and I wanna say this to those of you watching from home, I don't know what it is you may be doing right now in your life to try to get what it is you want, but I guess the first thing I would like to ask is, is it working? And even if it might be working, do you have peace to go along with it? And do you have joy? Is it really producing the things in your life that you feel are the absolute most important?
I recall a situation, I'm just thinking about it now. Dave and I were shopping out at the mall, and we were looking for a picture for our home, and he saw a picture that he liked, but I didn't like it and I didn't want it. And he wanted it and I didn't want it. So you know where that goes from there. And Dave is a pretty peace-loving, easygoing guy, and if you keep at it long enough, usually he'll just, just to have peace, he'll just say, "Do whatever you want". Well, we argued and argued and I didn't like it and didn't like it and finally he said, "I don't care. Just do what you want".
So when we walked out of the store and started walking down the mall, I could feel my flesh just felt kind of smug and satisfied, like, "Hm, I got my way". But the Lord had something else to say in my heart. He said, "You think you won, but actually you lost because you got what you wanted using carnal fleshly means rather than waiting on me".
So see, sometimes you can make something happen. I mean, you can go out and buy a new car, but you could do that the whole time knowing down deep inside that it wasn't the right thing to do, and yet, if you don't really take the time to discern and listen to why you have that little gnawing, uncomfortable feeling inside, you can end up signing on the dotted line and you can pay for it for seven years or however long now they give you to pay stuff off, which is getting longer all the time. And I can tell you, a week after you get it, when it's dirty and not shiny anymore, you're gonna wish you had your old one back that was already paid for. So we need to be very careful about this works of the flesh compared to the work of God. God always gives us things to do.
I'm finding more and more that when I'm praying about something, a lot of times God shows me something to do or he shows me something not to do, and I find that in particular with health situations. It's like, many times you can be going to every doctor you can find and nobody's helping you and you're trying this and that that the doctor said and nothing's helping you and, honestly, I mean, God may just show you, "Stop drinking so much caffeine". That happened to my husband. He was not feeling good and he was getting what he called "The jitters" all the time and didn't know what it was, and this has been many years ago. And God just showed him that he was drinking too many sodas every day. He was going by these drive-in restaurants and getting these quart sodas and drinking them and, you know, he'd been able to do that for a long time, but now he couldn't do it anymore.
And so sometimes, maybe you've been able to do something for a long period of time, but I can tell you, as you get a little bit older and your body changes, you just may not be able to do everything that you used to do at one time. And I think we can get a lot of good information from God if we'd learn how to listen a little bit more. So there are things that God will show us to do, but you gotta be really careful about just bright ideas that just are coming from you that don't work. I say often and everybody laughs when I do, so you can laugh when I say this too.
You know, Dave loves sports and I didn't like any of 'em because I never grew up being able to attend any kind of sporting event, so I just didn't like 'em and I was quite strong-willed and controlling, and if I didn't like it, I didn't want him to like it. And so I grumbled and complained about it all the time because I always say he liked everything that bounced and rolled. I don't care what it was, it wasn't just a sport, it was sports on a broad scale. And so it took me a while, but one day, literally, I walked into our family room where he was watching television. He was watching a baseball game, listening to a football game because, you know, the pre-season stuff kind of crosses over, and he was shining his golf clubs. And so my lightning-fast brain said, "This is not working".
So I guess what I'm asking you today is to consider how much peace do you have about the things that you're doing? What kind of fruit is it really bearing in your life? Do we really think that we're smarter than God? I mean, do we really think that he needs our advice? You know, the spiritually mature person, the Bible says in Hebrews 5:14. "Solid food is for the spiritually mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between what is good and what is evil". And I don't even think that has to be what's morally good and morally evil, although that's what this particular scripture's talking about. I think it could even be can you discern between what's good for you or what's not good for you?
You know, maybe you're the kind of person that needs more rest and more sleep than all the other friends that you have. Maybe you have other friends that can go on four hours' sleep every night and they do just fine, but when you do that, you're gonna feel bad the next day and you're gonna be cranky with everybody and you're not gonna walk in the Spirit and you're not gonna wanna pray and all these things. So you have to know what works for you and what doesn't work for you, and you have to be wise enough to say, you know, "I just can't do what you can do". We always wanna keep up with everybody else, but so often, we're just causing ourself trouble.