Wisdom gives us intelligence in thought, word and deed; helps us get to the heart of a matter quickly. Understanding makes us able to skillfully reason with another person or make intelligent debate concerning disagreements or problems with others. Both of these apply to arguments or differences in situations where there is more than one viewpoint to solving a problem or deciding what course of action to take. Discernment is similar to the other two, but does not always involve interaction with someone else. It is to scrutinize, perceive, hear intelligently, consider thoroughly. Then, decide and judge for yourself.
Wisdom and understanding are learned through teaching, trial and error, and if a person is really hard-headed, the School of Hard Knocks! But discernment is something acquired from God through prayer, private study and reflection. It is a gift He bestows on us.
I was at a woman’s retreat some years ago. In one session they began a worship exercise that I felt was not right. Worship team people moved among us in the aisles speaking to people, touching them, and saying “Praise the Lord” and “Peace to you” as the music and singing went on. This is nothing too weird for a Charismatic meeting, yet it was making me very uncomfortable. Like my “creep meter” was going off. I slipped out of my row and began to move toward the door. One of the performers intercepted me and said in a sweet, wheedling voice, “Please don’t leave. Please don’t leave” I got the willies then. She reached for my hand, but I drew back and said, “Don’t touch me, I need to leave.” I walked past her. No others touched me, they stared as I walked on, and I could see whatever that was in their eyes. Out in the lobby I walked up and down, crying and praying. I had a mourning feeling like grief.
After a while one of my friends came out looking for me. She said she was worried I might be sick. I told her what I felt and she said she felt it too, but thought it was just her being silly. I told her it was NOT her and NOT silly. We confirmed to each other what we felt. There was something not-of-God in there, we both discerned it. We prayed for all those who did not discern and were still inside.
Then the meeting broke for lunch. In the afternoon session everything was back to normal and I felt fine. There was no more strange mingling amongst us. We learned later that the women of that worship team had a service to do in another town. They left the retreat right after the weird incident. This thing is still very real to me. I had wisdom, understanding and discernment that day. The only word I got was quite plain and simple: “Get out of here.” It is so important to obey when we hear from the Lord. It takes real spiritual courage to obey even if nobody else gets it.
The three elements of hearing from God this way–wisdom, understanding, discernment–are not handed to us at salvation, and cannot be earned. But we keep going, praying for spiritual strength through obedience and perseverance. We exceed, excel and are winners every day! We serve a risen Savior and fight an already defeated enemy!