The gift of discernment of spirits is the one spiritual gift that has continually presented the most difficulties and challenges to me personally.

In the early days of our ministry, my husband Malcolm and I would often travel and stay in many places in Asia and throughout New Zealand. It seemed that no matter where we were, my intrepid husband could sail through any situation, but it was a different story for me.

  • Staying in a place in Asia where strange spirits were worshipped? I would encounter them in my dreams.
  • Ministering in a region or church where there were trials or strongholds? I felt them acutely.

We were often led to wage spiritual warfare or intercede through my sensitivity to the spiritual realm.

It took me many years to realize that my encounters with the spiritual realm were one of the signs that I had a gift of discerning of spirits.

Now, because of my journey, I like to share what I have learned with others.


What is the Gift of Discernment?

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits…All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Cor 12:7-11)

Discernment of spirits is a gift of the Holy Spirit given to some Christian believers. It is a Spirit-given ability to distinguish whether Divine, human or demonic origins are the source of what is presented—whether it be in an atmosphere, encounter, event, or prophetic message.


8 Signs You May Have the Gift of Discernment

Following are some signs that you may have the spiritual gift of discernment, from my personal study, observation and experience. You may not identify with all of them, but if you do have the gift, you will recognise some of these in your life:

1. Desire for the Gift

As with other spiritual gifts, desire is often the first sign of a gift of discernment of spirits (1 Cor 14:1).

  • You may have a longing to see people set free from demonic bondage.
  • You may want to be more effective in prayer and spiritual warfare
  • You may have a desire for holiness
  • You may simply be curious about the spiritual realm.

2. Love for God’s Presence

One of the benefits and signs of having a gift of discernment of spirits is a heightened awareness of God’s Presence and anointing. A true discerner will have a passion for the un-grieved Presence of the Holy Spirit.

This is because—and I will continually reiterate this—the highest use of the gift of discernment is not to see what the enemy is doing, but to discern what the Spirit of God is doing.

3. Sensitivity to the Spiritual Atmosphere

You may be more sensitive to spiritual atmospheres than most other people. In the early stages of developing the gift, you may be affected adversely by the presence of any demonic activity in the environment around you.

The reality is that we live in a natural world and a spiritual world concurrently. In the Bible, when Jacob came across a group of angels, he named that place Mahanaim, meaning “double camp.”  (Gen 32:1-2)

Like Jacob realised, we also live in a double camp where there is constant spiritual activity, and discerners have spiritual senses that are attuned to this.

4. Feeling Different from Other People

Most people, even in church life, experience life through their natural senses. However, someone with an emerging gift of discernment of spirits can see and sense things that others do not see.

This ability can result in us feeling different, lonely or misunderstood at times, especially when starting out. It is vital that someone with a developing gift of discernment finds a safe place to journey with others who are similarly gifted and accountable in the life of their church.

5. Unusual Signs

It is not uncommon for someone who is gifted in discernment to experience unusual events or manifestations.

People who are incubating a discernment gift begin to see or feel things that others are not aware of. This may include unusual visions, dreams and sensations that alert them to what is happening in the spiritual realm.

6. Childhood or Pre-Salvation Signs

It is not uncommon to experience things relating to your gift even before becoming a Christian. Our creator-God prepares us for our calling and gifts from conception. Even when a talent or gift is misused, God can redeem it and anoint it for His use to serve Him and love and minister to others.

As a child I “saw” things in the night and as a teenager was sensitive to the spiritual realm, sometimes encountering demonic spirits in my room or dreams. Later, as a fully committed Christian, God redeemed this spiritual sensitivity as a gift of discernment. I know Christians who have a gift of discernment who were drawn to New Age counterfeit gifts prior to becoming a Christian.

7. Ability to Know What Lies Behind a Person’s Words or Actions

Someone with a gift of discernment has the ability to see behind what a person is saying and presenting. You may know whether they are telling the truth or not. You may also recognise if someone is manifesting a demonic spirit and be able to identify what that spirit is.

If a prophetic or revelatory message is brought, a discerner can often tell whether it is anointed of the Spirit or from the speaker’s own heart.

This is not always the case, and as with other revelatory gifts such as prophecy, you will sometimes get it wrong or have incomplete discernment (1 Thess 5:19-21, 1 Cor 13:9-10)

8. Confirmation of the Discernment Gift by Others and Leaders

You may have the gift confirmed through a prophecy given to you. My gift of discernment was identified through prophecy twice (perhaps this was because I was reluctant to accept it!)

However, the bottom line of the presence of any gift is that it is recognised and acknowledged by leaders in the church and that it is useful for its purpose—which is to help build up the church and bring people closer to Jesus.

When you submit what you are seeing or sensing, your leaders confirm your accuracy and your gift begins to be recognised for its effectiveness.

Whenever a gift is used to criticise or tear down a church, person or leader, you know it is being misused, or is simply a person’s hurt, frustration or agenda masquerading as discernment.

Because these kinds of abuses are common and have brought disrepute to the gift of discernment, I will take some time over the next couple of posts to share how the gift of discernment can bring value to church life.


Unlocking the Gift of Discernment eBook

Available for purchase from the Enliven Ministries e-store.

Have you been struggling to understand your gift of discernment, or would like some guidance on how to operate in it?

The gift of discernment of spirits is a powerful weapon in times of spiritual warfare, and can be of great assistance when ministering freedom to individuals. And yet many who recognize they have signs of the gift of discernment, have difficulty knowing what to do with what they are feeling or sensing.

“Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment” incorporates wisdom from Enliven Blog as well as additional valuable material on how to be protected as a discerner in times of spiritual warfare.

To view “Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment” in our e-store, click here

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© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching
Enliven Ministries—in the David McCracken Ministries family.

85 thoughts on “8 Signs You May Have The Spiritual Gift of Discernment”

  1. Honey, this is so well written. From our life together I know how tuned you are in this specific gift. I trust that all who read this blog will be mightily encouraged to pursue the gift because (even though its tough at times)it holds one of the main keys to seeing people set free and serving God in our time!!
    Thanks for your great insight.

  2. Appreciate this blog on the Gift of Discernment. I work in the mental health field & have been feeling a terrible sense of fear & rejection in the last few months regarding the drama that takes place with the clients on a daily basis. I recently had to take leave from work twice because of the terrible feeling. I felt refreshed both times & did not feel this terrible feeling of fear and rejection. As soon as I got to work I felt it again so strong, and always thought something was wrong with me. But I didn’t know where it was coming from & I had to ask myself if it was an evil spirit in the severe environment that I was in. I deal with the most severe cases of clients who suffer from schizophrenia & multiple mental illnesses. Today for the first time, I had peace and did not feel the terrible feeling at work although I still had to deal with severe attacks from clients influenced by the evil spirits. For the first time I was able to stand firm and establish my ground & not feel this terrible feeling that I had difficulty “shaking off.” I literally had to pray and ask the LORD what it was ’cause it was such a terrible feeling. I got a sense that it was a “spirit of fear & rejection.”

  3. Hi Flora, thank you for the comment. What you say is often so true for those of us who are discerners and sensitive to the spiritual realm.
    There are times when we are actually picking up on the spiritual atmosphere in an environment (such as fear) but we mistakenly think it is ourselves. It is so freeing when we realise that it isn’t us and we can step back and put up the shield of faith and counter it in prayer (Eph 6).
    I remember when Malcolm used to travel to Asia a lot and every time he came back from one country in particular he would be oppressed for weeks afterwards. Finally we realised it was the place he was visiting (where there had been genocide) and we learned to pray over him when he came out of that country.
    Another time we can be affected is when people close to us are oppressed and we can be affected by contact with them, we come away from encountering them and wonder why we feel flat. In those times we need to be mindful to pray too.
    You might find the series on spiritual warfare I wrote helpful, too. It starts here:
    http://enlivenpublishing.com/blog/2010/03/11/12-signs-of-spiritual-warfare/

  4. Hi Helen–Thank you for the feedbank. It was really enlightening for me and helpful. I will read the series on spiritual warfare. Thank you for making it availabe to me.

  5. You are most welcome, Flora.
    I’m happy to share ideas and discuss questions on the blog anytime 🙂

  6. Thank you Helen, What a wonderful blog you wrote on us with the gift. There is just not enough taught on this gift let alone on how to use it. Many of us go through life with nobody to help us and like you said, we feel alone and different. I will be teaching about Spiritual Warfare next month and I will be addressing a lot of women who might not know that this is one of their gifts. I want to bring it to light so others might not feel as alone as I have.

    1. Hi Pamela, wonderful to hear from you.
      One of the challenges those of us with the gift of discernment face is that sense of aloneness you mention–like you, I know this from personal experience 🙂
      Keep an eye on the blog in the next few weeks as I am planning to get back on the subject of the gift of discernment and have a couple of posts planned, one on how to grow the gift and another on how to exercise the gift in terms of church life (especially in a warfare context). One of the biggest challenges discerners face is how to express what they are sensing or seeing to Christian leaders, and to others around them who may not have the gift but would benefit from its use!
      I pray your teaching on spiritual warfare this month bears much fruit.

      (P.S. Have just added the next post on 8 Ways To Grow Your Gift Of Discernment. You can find it here: http://enlivenpublishing.com/blog/2010/09/13/8-ways-to-grow-the-gift-of-discernment/

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