How do I know the difference between spiritual discernment and fleshly suspicion?
This is a really sharp question. Discernment is an incredibly important thing, but it is also little discussed in a lot of churches and Christian circles. This can lead to some confusion to exactly what we mean when we talk about it. So thanks for holding us accountable and giving us an opportunity to explain. I really appreciate these kind of questions.
The main difference between discernment and suspicion is the role that wisdom plays in each. Suspicion is a gut reaction. Some people talk about how “going by your gut” is a virtue, but it really isn’t. Being attune to your instincts can be a good thing, but it is the beginning of discernment, where it is the whole of suspicion. Discernment takes that instinct and goes about getting some facts, some council, and wisdom, before making a call. Suspicion just goes on the snap judgement and never takes a second look.
Going by suspicion sounds good from a worldly point of view, because it can be couched with terms like “going with your gut” and “being super decisive”. The problem is that making decisions based only on something emotional is that it is impossible to remove your own predispositions and your emotional state out of the equation. So something that might be fine when you are in a normal state of mind is all of a sudden totally suspicious when you tired, hungry, and angry about something else.
The Bible talks about discernment as a skill you can develop. Hebrews 5:14 (ESV) says: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil”, and Philippians 1:9-10 says “it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent”.
As you mature in Christ you discernment should grow, as you get more used to listening to the Lord, as you have gotten more and more wisdom from more mature believers, and as you have simply seen more things play out. Discernment begins when something feels off, but it doesn’t end there.
-Matt from The Bridge