The gift of discernment of spirits is the spiritual gift that has continually given me the most difficulties and challenges.

In the early days of our ministry, my husband Malcolm and I often travelled. We stayed 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!

  • If we were staying in a place in Asia where strange spirits were worshipped, I encountered them in my dreams.
  • And those times we were ministering in a region where there were 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 a sign.
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. And some Christian believers are stronger in this ability than others.

  • This gift is a Spirit-given ability to distinguish whether the source of what is presented is of Divine, human or demonic origins .
    It may 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. These are from my personal study, observation and experience.
You may not identify with all of them, but if you do have the gift, you will recognize 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.
  • Or, you may want to be more effective in prayer and spiritual warfare
  • You may have a desire for holiness
  • Perhaps you are simply 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.
It is 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.
Especially when it is 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 realized, we also live in a double camp where there is constant spiritual activity. Those with a gift of discernment 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 a 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. So, 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 spiritual gift of discernment 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. He can anoint that ability for His use, so that you can serve Him and minister to others.

As a child I “saw” things in the night and as a teenager was sensitive to the spiritual realm. Sometimes, I encountered 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 notice if someone is manifesting a demonic spirit and be able to identify what that spirit is.

When a prophetic message is brought, someone with a gift of discernment may tell whether or not it is anointed of the Spirit. They may discern if it is from the speaker’s own heart.

This is not always the case, and as with other revelatory gifts such as prophecy, you will sometimes be mistaken. Or, you may 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. for example, 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 identified and acknowledged by leaders in the church and that it is useful for its purpose.
And that 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 recognized for its effectiveness.

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

These kinds of abuses are common and have brought disrepute to the gift of discernment. So, 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 identified some signs you have the gift of discernment?

The gift of discernment of spirits is a powerful weapon in times of spiritual warfare. It can be of great assistance when ministering freedom to individuals. And yet, many who recognize they have signs of the discernment gift, have difficulty with it. They do not know what to do with what they are feeling or sensing.

“Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment” incorporates wisdom from Enliven Blog. Plus, it has 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


Related Posts:


© 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. Dear Helen,

    Thank you for such an enlightening article.

    I wish to share my experience. As a child a developed a negative attitude towards my grandma little did I know it was for a reason. Years later after I finished uni and left my home country (Kenya) to work, I had vision of a huge snake while praying for her healing. I wasn’t a mature christian then so I did not understand what it meant. It was a year later, a prophecy confirmed that she was a witch. This was also confirmed to my born-again paternal cousins. Another thing I have noticed is that I get nauseated to the point of vomiting when I encounter evil in a person or place. This first happened when I was in uni. During my first date with a guy, I just could not finish the soda I had ordered. i run to the bathroom and vomited. Later I came to find out that he was a devil-workshipper with a mission to defile born-again girls.Also once it happened that I was sharing a house with a buddhist friend. The friend moved out then I moved into her room. My first night in the room, I began to feel and experience the rejection and loneliness in my buddhist friend’s life. I later found out she had gone thru pain.I have had other strange experiences and some of my christian friends tell me that that is not normal.

    God bless.

    Idah

  2. Dear Idah, thank you for sharing, yes sometimes we don’t understand our responses until we realise that there is something behind them. You may have already done so, but I would like to encourage you to find someone to help you pray through any effects that your grandma’s witchcraft may have had on your life. The nausea may be a sign that you could benefit from some prayer ministry in this area.
    It does sound as though you are gifted in discernment as you are aware of things in the spiritual realm, that others aren’t.
    How wonderful that you and your cousins have found faith in Jesus in spite of your grandmother’s beliefs and practices to the contrary! God is good 🙂

  3. Here are some further thoughts that may help those of you who are negatively affected by discernment…i.e. something you have sense in the spiritual realm/atmosphere or around someone’s life leaves you with a feeling of oppression.

    The first base re responding to this situation is always faith-filled prayer in Jesus’ Name. Here are three types:
    preventive prayer, putting up the shield when you know you are entering a situation that may affect you
    dust-off prayer, praying when you leave a situation where you have discerned something or feel oppressed as a result of being with someone who is affected
    warfare prayer, when you discern demonic influence at work

    Another reason discernment may leave you feeling oppressed or with other feelings reflective of what you have discerned is that you have a gift of intercession, and need to actually release the burden of what you have discerned to God in prayer.

    Having another person agree with you in prayer may be helpful, especially when spiritual warfare is taking place.

    Finally, if all of these types of prayer are consistently unhelpful, it may be worthwhile seeking some personal ministry for yourself. Like I have in the past, you may have an ‘open doorway’ of unhealed hurts, generational oppression, and so on that needs to be closed (not a big deal—nothing too difficult for our Father to handle). Once identified, these can be very effectively dealt with in prayer ministry.

    Feel free to ask any further questions below.

  4. Wow! This is awesome! I know that God has graciously given me the gift of discernment. So many things that I have seen with my “spiritual eyes” I have been reluctant to share because I know not many would accept it or believe it-for example, Many times I am able to see demons in people through their eyes, also I’ll often engage in Spiritual warfare and i’ll experience a hazy environment-almost as if I’m stepping foot into the spiritual realm, I often feel the effects on my physical body as well-for example I have been ministering to some very troubled people lately and I feel an urge to interceed at random times of the day and when I do I often feel the haziness and sometimes even nauseous. As God cultivates this gift inside of me, I pray that He gives me the wisdom on how to use it. I have felt these things for about 10 years now and I recently have joined a deliverance team and I am witnessing how God wants me to use this gift and I’m pretty humbled yet blown away at God’s infinite power. God bless you all always and May God continue graciously using us for His glory amen.

  5. This was an awesome blog to read. I have questioned this gift for years. After reading this I feel as though I have it, and also know that I have used it wrong and sadly not to the full extent. I have been told I have it and encouraged in it, however it wasn’t until the other day when I asked a person who clearly has the gift and is quite prophetic to help me decipher whether my feeling on something was me or God. Her response was, to me, amazing, she agreed with what my feeling was but said it was not for me to fix anyone, that I needed to pray that the spirit would intervene and stop the lies. It seems so simple, but if I think I have information it never occurred to me to pray about it. She also said to me that although she believed what I had said to be true, she had to pray into what God’s original plan was, despite someone apparently throwing it away. I didn’t understand that until I read your blog, and I think she meant that she had to look for God’s plan not just what the enemy had taken away. WOW! It brings tears to my eyes.

    Since I was a child and not saved I used to hear someone calling me, all the time, I would literally say what to my mom and she would say I didn’t call you. Later when I was saved someone spoke over me, and said God says he has been calling you like with Samuel. Next big thing when I was a teen, I can’t say for sure now that it was Satan himself and not some demon, but at that time and even now I believe that Satan himself stood at my bedroom door, I was raised Catholic and really knew nothing about Satan, but I knew and know he stood there, I was so scared all night just waiting for what would come I even called my mom’s friend who I knew worked nightshift to sit on the phone with me, and I told him that Satan was standing at my door and yes he did think I was crazy. (my parents were away at the time).

    Growing up I would know things, like I was going to see someone I hadn’t seen in years, or similar items, I used to tell people I was psychic. Later when I was saved I rebuked that. Once as an adult visiting my mom, I slept in her bed, and woke up to being choked by a demonic force. I kept repeating in the name of Jesus be gone, and what seemed like forever it finally left. I called my husband scared to death telling him of the situation. If I feel irritated when someone speaks, like I just want to tell them to be quiet I usually believe its demonic, and in one such instance a person was prayed over at a womens conference and delivered from that torment and the original feeling I had towards her never returned.

    The problem is as you can probably tell, I’m not sure that I hear God’s good as much as the devil’s bad. I know there are sometimes when I believe I have an encouraging word to tell someone, but the other side seems to be more often. Anyways thanks for your words, I am going to start praying that I would be open to hear God all the time and know that not all things are for me to share at that moment. Thanks again I know this is ridiculously long.

    1. Hi there Sherri,
      well I can certainly identify with many of your experiences, I could have written this myself!
      So be affirmed in your gift and also in God’s call to develop and grow you to your fullest potential in your gifts, in your faith and in intimacy with Him. The feelings of uncertainty you have are so familiar to me too, one of the issues I had, was that I’d had so many negative experiences and demonic encounters, that it took a while to break through the lies [that the enemy was stronger than Jesus… when it came to me]. It can be helpful to identify these wrong beliefs, renounce and replace them with God’s truth, but it is most important to simply become more acquainted with Jesus, in intimacy and to catch the truth especially of God’s Father’s heart. I share some of my recent journey here: http://enlivenpublishing.com/blog/2010/09/05/no-longer-an-orphan-how-i-discovered-the-fathers-love/

  6. Wow! I just read through all the posts – I’m 40 now but can remember when I was younger, in my late teens and 20’s that I always thought I had a “sixth sense” about people and situations – only to come to understand that it was a gift of discernment. Growing up, I always lived in the same house – my parents house. My mother was a STRONG Christian but the atmosphere was EXTREMELY volatile – my dad was verbally abusive to her and really really abusive to me. My dreams were most of the time very dark that involved dark black ocean water or death or people possessed by evil spirits or even one common theme in my dreams that I’ve had as recently as last night: my mothers house, me trying to get out of it and an evil spirit doing things to try and keep me there – also, I would like to add on that I’ve felt something running over my back and covers slowly being pulled off me all while still sleep! I say all this to say that I’m realizing that my gift of discernment makes me not just sensitive to things in the unseen about people and situations, but also sensitive to happenings in the spiritual realm that many would just shrug off or not feel at all! My question is: why am I feeling things physically? Is there a reason? Also on a last note, ever since I was a kid, I’ve had many many occurances where I wanted to wake up and couldn’t move and felt like I was about to suffocate – I believe the medical field calls this sleep paralysis but I believe it to be a lot more than that! Even though I’ve had them all throughout my life, I’ve recently started having this occurance yet again – any insight?

    1. Hi Veronica,
      I do understand some of the things you have mentioned from my own experience, including the suffocation sensation during sleep, which I had as a teenager (I also believe had demonic elements to it).
      These kinds of experiences are common to those of us who have an enhanced awareness of the spiritual realm, such as through the gift of discernment, HOWEVER, I believe that our inheritance as Christians is freedom, including freedom from oppression, and that freedom includes our sleep. Check out verses such as, Psalm 4:8 ‘I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.’ Proverbs 3:24 ‘when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.’
      My personal experience is that I have journeyed into freedom in this area–not instantly, but over a period of time as I received prayer ministry, and discovered areas in my life where there were ‘open doorways’ that needed to be dealt with through repentance, comprehending the truth of God’s Word, and so on, and also realised the freedom that was available to me. May I encourage you to pray about this, not accept the physical attacks or sleep disruptions, and seek ministry (sharing with a leader or mentor can be a good thing). Feel free to ask me any more specific questions too. Perhaps the recent re-occurance means that something is surfacing in order for you to enter a greater level of freedom. I love that about the heart and timing of God.

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