8 Ways To Grow Your Gift Of Discernment

Do you have a spiritual gift of discernment and would like to know how to grow and develop it more?

The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to grow in the gifts God had given to him, and the same is true for us today.
‘Do not neglect your gift…’ (1 Tim 4:14)

Knowing and Growing in the Gift of Discernment

A prophet visited our church in Auckland, New Zealand. He pointed me out in the congregation and said, “You have a gift of discernment.”

A few years later when we were living in another city, the same prophet visited our church there. He again pointed me out and said, “Has anyone ever told you that you have a gift of discernment of spirits?” I said, “Yes, you did several years ago.”

We all had a good laugh—but he remembered neither the earlier prophecy nor me. He ministered throughout New Zealand and overseas and had prophesied over hundreds of people in the interim.’[1]

It is one thing to know that you have a spiritual gift of discernment—it is quite another thing to know what to do with it, and how to use it.

A short time after this prophetic confirmation, I began to struggle in church life. I had not been taught the principle of honouring leaders and accountability in the use of my revelatory gifts.

I thank God that He allowed a time of trial to teach me and bring me through repentance to a place of fruitfulness in the use of my gifts. [2]

Discernment is a powerful gift, and a good gift from the Father! (Luke 11:13) Through good stewardship, we can reach our potential and our gift can be used to bless and grow the church.

8 Ways to Grow Your Gift of Discernment

Here are 8 ways that you can grow your spiritual gift of discernment of spirits. And yes, some of these I have learned the hard way—through trial and error!

1. Source It

True discernment comes from intimacy with the Father.

It is vital that we understand the difference between discernment that is from the Holy Spirit and suspicion, which can masquerade as discernment, but is actually sourced in our own human nature.

This is a danger that can trip even mature discerners up. The best means of preventing this is our intimate relationship with God.

When we get to know our Father more intimately, we gain first-hand experience of His love, and that helps us grow in our gift of discernment.

2. Plant It

‘Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.’ Ps 92:13

The Biblical context for growing in our gifts is the community of a church (1 Cor 12).

As with all prophetic people, discerners need to be cared for and pastored in a church environment.

Just as plants need the right environment to grow, we need to be nurtured in order for us grow and sharpen our discernment gift.

When we are planted in the life of a healthy church, we can flourish and grow in our gift. However, we must remember that it will not always be smooth sailing in community life—even in the healthiest of churches.

3. Submit It

It is vital, and a matter of protection for others and ourselves, that we operate in our spiritual gift of discernment with accountability, and under God-given leadership.

It is important that we encourage our insights to be weighed up (1 Cor 14:29). As the Apostle Paul said, ‘For we know in part and we prophesy in part.’ (1 Cor 13:9)

The discernment that we receive is incomplete without the insights of others, who will have different pieces of the puzzle and complementary gifts. (1 Cor 12:12-27)

Feedback is also a great tool to help us grow in our discernment.

4. Purify It

It is possible for the expression of a discernment gift to be affected by our response to negative experiences that we have had in our lives.

I had prayer ministry to help me break free of fear associated with early experiences of demonic encounters. I also received ministry in relation to difficulties with authority. As a result, I have a much more useful gift.

I have also had to grow a great deal in my character—a journey that is ongoing!

As we develop in our character, in wisdom and holiness, our gift of discernment grows and becomes sharper.

5. Study It

Another vital source to help us develop in our spiritual gift is to grow in our study and understanding of Scripture.

Find out what the Bible has to say about the gift of discernment:

  • Read examples of people who encountered unseen spiritual realities—how did they respond? What did they do as a result of their experiences?
  • How and when did Jesus use the gift of discernment to minister to people?
  • What does the Apostle Paul say in his epistles about how spiritual gifts operate in the context of church life and ministry?

6. Develop It

As with other gifts, discernment can be developed and strengthened.

The ability to receive a revelation from God is only one aspect of this spiritual gift. Other aspects include:

  • Having the wisdom to know what to do once you have received the discernment,
  • How and when to share your insight
  • How to weigh up what you have received against scripture
  • Procedures for submitting an insight, and so on.

Seek to be trained or mentored in the context of Christian community, where you have safe people who can give you feedback and encourage you on the journey.

Look for good training, along with books and other resources on the topic of spiritual warfare and related areas.

7. Use It

Don’t hold back. Even if you are starting out and tentative, God can use you powerfully. Use your gift of discernment to help guard and grow your church.

If you discern warfare or have a warning, remember that God’s heart is always to redeem and restore. Seek the Father for a promise and His prophetic outcome.

The gift of discernment can also help give you insight as to how to respond and pray for breakthrough in any situation.

It is only through stewardship and use that we can grow our spiritual gift of discernment.

8. Persevere With It

In the development of every spiritual gift there are times of trial.

In some testing times, God may be allowing us to lose confidence in our own ability to perform in our gift. For example, we may have a period when our discernment becomes cloudy, or we may make an assumption that turns out to be in error.

During these times He is calling us to become more dependent upon Him, and to grow in humility.

You may have true discernment but have been misunderstood or feel as though you have been set aside for a season.

These are times to persevere, and not to allow offense or discouragement to divert you from your calling.

Wilderness seasons are allowed by our Heavenly Father to help us grow in our character or to direct us into new areas of fruitfulness.


DISCERNMENT Front Cover SmallAre you sensitive to what is taking place in the spiritual realm? Have you ever been adversely affected by a negative atmosphere?

You may have the spiritual gift of discernment.

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 have 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 to help you grow in your gift of discernment.

To view ‘Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment’ in our e-store, click here

Related posts:

A Checklist For Developing Your Spiritual Gifts

3 Levels of Discernment and Signs of Each

8 Signs You May Have The Spiritual Gift Of Discernment

[1] This is quoted from my book,
Grow Your Prophetic And Prayer Gifts
[2]I tell the full story in
‘Prophetic People In A Changing Church.’ For a brief testimony check out the Enliven Publishing ‘About’ page.

© Helen Calder 2010

Enliven Ministries: In the David McCracken Ministries family

26 thoughts on “8 Ways To Grow Your Gift Of Discernment

  1. Charlie

    Hi Helen, i agree with most of what you say here but just one point re: “When we are planted in the life of a healthy church, we can flourish and grow in our gift.”

    what do you mean by church? cannot the same development happen in a home-group or were ever Christians get together to fellowship and pray together. Does it have to always be in a church? For me this gift stared to develop when i was in a small church who did not move in the gifts. At first i was not sure why i felt certain things but as time went on i began to understand this was from the Lord.

    I found the gift of discernment functioned both in the negative as well as the positive and over the yeas has been a very valuable to gift for me to function in.

    the points number 4 and 6 that you raised are very important points to be aware of.

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Charlie,
      I guess that depends on what definition of church you and I are using 🙂 I do agree with you that development can happen in small groups (church!). The key, I believe, is Godly leadership. Will get back to you later as I’m on the way out the door…

  2. Helen Calder Post author

    Hi again, Charlie,
    ‘church’ is a very broadly used term. On one end of the scale, it can be used to define an institution, and on the other, to define any group of ‘2 or 3 gathering together in Jesus’ Name.’
    I do agree with you that growth of a discernment gift can be nurtured in a small group environment. A prayer group is an example of that. However, and this I believe is the key issue, even with a small group there should be relational accountability and/or oversight outside of itself in the wider church body.

    Here is a definition of a ‘healthy church’ I have used in my book ‘Prophetic People in A Changing Church:’

    ‘A healthy local church, generally speaking:
    · Is under governmental and relational accountability to mature Christian leaders both inside and outside of the church
    · Has a biblically-mandated vision, both in principles that apply to all churches and those specific to that particular church. Its leadership is teaching and preaching from a balanced scriptural perspective
    · Whilst always aiming for maturity, is not a perfect church—and leaders of a healthy church will readily admit to this imperfection, and
    · Has an evangelistic outlook, seeking to influence the surrounding community and win people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.’

  3. victoria

    I have as described above, always had an ability to know if someone is genuine or not. I never really thought much of until a few years ago, when i started feeling the outcomes to situations. On one occation i was told by my Lord that something would happen, a few years later it did happen. Since then i have felt many things, my biggest problem is me, i expected instant results and this is not my Lords plan. My Lord’s timescale is not the same as mine, and i must wait on him. I do get times when i feel redundant. I often fear i miss judge the feeling. I am learning my first instinctive thought is the genuine one. Learning to excercise this gift (if i really do have it) is something i pray for.

  4. Helen Calder Post author

    Hi Victoria,
    Thank you for sharing!
    It does sound as though you have a gift of discernment that may also be combined with a prophetic gift ( a sense of what is to happen in the future).

    You are so right about our timing and the Lord’s timing often being different. That can be difficult, can’t it? I know there have been times when I have felt a warning with urgency but the actual timing was not for then. The urgency was a prompt from the Spirit to pray.

    The gift of discernment is a valuable one; as you grow and are faithful you will certainly learn how to exercise it–the Lord will honour your desire to honour Him in the use of your gift. 🙂

  5. Shelley

    Thank you for having such a blog. I have always been extremely sensitive to what is going on around me. Seeing things way before other people see them and of course, not really knowing what to do with the information that I have. I come from a back round where of course I had to be pretty hypervigilant and I think sometimes that some of my old hurts get mixed up with how I should handle the discernment ability that God has given me. I am a sold out believer and definately not a mainstream Christian. I live in a small town where people are definately more religion minded than kingdom minded and I oftentimes feel very alone in what I see. One of my issues is that I was never encouraged to trust what I see and as a result, my confidence level is low and my fear of making the wrong decision is pretty heightened. I have to say, though, that reading this information has been so healing because I thought maybe I was giving myself a little too much credit for my sensitivity. I truly want what is in the Heart of God for my life and those around me, but I cannot deal with the “stuff” I see sometimes in the midst of the church. I love my pastor, but I have also been exposed to many more things than this town could imagine and I also know that God is far bigger than the box that people try to place Him in. Thank you. I am encouraged and will use the resources on this site.

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Shelley,
      I’m glad you have found the articles helpful. It can be challenging when you have a spiritual gift but feel isolated in it (as often happens with the gift of discernment). I pray that you will continue to find encouragement and learn to grow in your gift. You may find a couple of my e-books helpful in your journey too. If you have any specific questions, leave a note here and I’ll do my best to answer them. Blessings, Helen

  6. Nathan nyabuto

    Dear brethren
    Greetings to you in the mighty and blessed name of our lord jesus
    christ.Iam Nathan nyabutofrom kenya,..Iam a servant of the truth
    and the gosple.Brethren! its today that i have been brevelleged and
    blessed to have visited you web site and i have found it teaching and
    so much touching in spritual matters up to have reached the point that
    iam filling to partner up with you so as to teach me this truth deeper
    and also to expand the kingdom of God to other brethrens.
    Hope to hear from you as soon as you are able.
    Yours in the lord.
    Nathan nyabuto

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Nathan, thank you for leaving a note on my site, I pray that you will find much material here to encourage and empower you in your ministry.

  7. Matt

    Hi Helen. I am beginning to wonder if I have the gift of discernment that manifests itself with people. It seems like I can sense what people are actually feeling or thinking to a certain degree. It’s not always but sometimes it seems like I can sort of read between the lines with people. There has been times when I haven’t wanted to have what seems to be insight into what may be what people are really thinking because it can be painful and hard to handle the reality of it. I also get slight feelings with a few people I know that they may be under oppression as it seems like one guy who practices meditation actually has a slightly different appearance which gives me the impression he’s oppressed. Does this sound like a gift I may have? I also have to be careful as well because I have had mental health difficulties in the past that can confuse my thinking and possibly cause my thoughts to not necessarily be in reality. That’s part of why I’m checking with you here as well to check and make sure what I have been experiencing as listed above is discernment.

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Matt, that certainly does sound like an aspect of the discernment gift that you are experiencing, I do have a couple of recommendations that may help:
      1. Check your discernment with others in leadership around your life (e.g. church oversight, health professionals) to take care of potential overlap with the difficulties you have had health-wise. With discernment, I never take for granted I’m sensing 100% perfectly anyway, so this makes sense even without the additional problems you have experienced (by the way, I pray you will receive a further release of healing from God in this area of your health)
      2. The test for a gift of discernment will include accuracy (i.e. are you hitting the mark with what you sense) and fruit, (is good fruit coming out of what you are sensing and sharing, i.e. are people being drawn to God, protected, encouraged, something helpful taking place, and leaders recognising this)

      Hope this helps 🙂

  8. Matt

    I’ve never really put it to the test so to speak, but I get these feelings about people that indicate to me what they are really feeling or thinking. It’s not all the time I must say… And sometimes it can be hard to handle. The truth behind things I guess isn’t always easy to deal with, has that been your own experience? That is if what I am sensing is accurate. It’s almost like sometimes I can very quickly with very little information see what they are really feeling which is probably contrary to what they would want people to know. Can you relate to this?

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Matt, yes I know it is not always easy to deal with what you sense in the area of discernment. I believe the best thing is to ask God, ‘What would you like me to do with this insight?’ It should never be a weight that we carry. The answer could be different things, for example, not to do anything except to pray and intercede, and in that release it back to God in prayer. It may be to take (humbly) our insights to someone in oversight who could weigh up our discernment – perhaps it is even confirmation to something a leader is aware of already. Of perhaps it is simply to give us a gift of compassion for that person, or to help them in some way.

  9. Matt

    Thanks Helen for the information. I notice lately like it seems God has kind of pulled back a little so to speak. I don’t sense his presence very strong right now and I don’t seem to have very much discernment of people right now. Could this be part of God’s plan to not allow us to experience a closeness with him at times for some reason or could this be something I’m doing or not doing?

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Matt, yes I know how you feel and I believe the answer would be, it could be either. Sometimes that sense of His near Presence is removed to stretch us in our faith, so that we continue to step out from what we have previously learned of Him without the ‘feelings’, other times He desires us to respond with hunger and press in to Him, and sometimes I have found that a gift will go through a season of being ‘on the backburner’ because it is time for other gifts or aspects to be focused on and strengthened in our lives. Pray about it and see what He says. 🙂

  10. Asia Davidson

    This is very helpful! You know the first time i read this i didn’t let it set in and i ignored it cause i was just…lost. Everything that you have mention here is like the story of my current life right now. I am stronger. just like you, in the beginning i dealt with the spirit of fear and i asked my pastor to help and he either doesn’t care, believe me, or doesn’t know what to do cause he blows me off. he is a good guy but i need to grow spiritually and i think God is calling me to this great church my family grew up in. When i say the pastor and church is gifted, i mean gifted! they have classes for people with spiritual gifts! so i am excited and can’t wait to join this Church again if that is where God wants me. I have had this desire to go to this church for years! So I think God wants me there but i am still praying about it.

    I just recently didn’t want this gift, i have asked God to take all the gifts he gave me away repeatedly, and in the end after my tears i repent and praise my LORD and he comforts me! He has just stregnthen me so I can endure this wilderness and i am so thankful for this and the gifts. God also gave me a dream showing me he was going to restore me, well thats what I believe it was about. every since the dream i hear a lot about restoration. If you don’t mind I’ll tell you the Dream and see what you think.

    Dream: I was sitting in my livingroom on the couch and in the livingroom there is a ceiling fan. My Mom’s Husband was there, he took the end of a broom or stick and stuck it in one of the holes where the lightbulb would go. Then he would twist the stick right to left and brown dust would fall out. Then he turned with the ceiling fan taking a step closer to me and repeated sticking the stick in the hole and twisting it til brown dust came out. Then he turned with the ceiling fan taking a step closer to me standing in front of me and repeated. This time when the brown dust fell out he put himself in front of the dust so it wouldn’t fall on me.

    Then End.

    I knew it was from God because I could feel it, and i remembered a lot about the dream. The number 3 means Trinity and Resurection. In the Bilbe Trinity is The Father, Son, And Holy spirit. (God) Resurection in the Bible means to restore, or actual raising the dead.

  11. Matt

    Hello again Helen.
    Sometimes it seems like I know what a person needs to say in certain situations in order to calm people down if there is a disagreement or something. Kind of hard to explain. Can you relate to this and is it discernment?

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Matt, that is a wonderful gift and sounds like a word of wisdom to me. The gifts of the Spirit all work together, I guess it doesn’t matter about specifically identifying the gifts, most important is giving Holy Spirit the leadership and watch how He intervenes and transforms lives.

  12. becca

    Hi, I am seeking to find my giftings and came across your site. I am not sure but I think I might have spiritial discernment. I have a lot of trouble sleeping in hotels and sometimes other peoples houses because I will have terrible dreams and feel the presence of something evil, usually I am tormented with fear in these places. Most of the time I feel I know when someone is telling the truth or not, I always thought it was just me I didnt realise it was a gift of the spirit to know that about peoples motives. DOES THIS SOUND LIKE DISCERNMENT?

  13. Helen Calder Post author

    Hi Becca,
    yes having a sense of whether someone is genuine, and having insight into what lies behind a person’s words or actions can be one sign of a spiritual gift of discernment. I would recommend continuing to pray about it and see if there are any more signs – a true gift of discernment will bear fruit – results that bring glory to God, help people, and so on.
    In my early days, I experienced demonic encounters in my dreams when staying somewhere where there was demonic activity. However, I believe our spiritual inheritance is to have peaceful sleeps.
    Try praying over the room before you sleep in a new place. Also, it may be helpful to receive some prayer in case there is an area of fear that needs healing.

  14. Beverley

    Hi helen, when I sense something what do I do? this happens all the time, I can also relate, when you mentioned demonic oppression in your life, I am being set free at present, god showed me a brief vision how I needed to shut a door which was open to the enemy, constantly I pick up quickley between good & evil, even as I read the inspired word of god. Thankyou luv Beverley

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Beverley, knowing you a little bit, I believe this is a time for you to grow in the area of your faith, your trust in God and the Word. When we sense demonic presence or oppression, it can be easy to make that a focus, but it can become a distraction. Here is a suggestion: continue to do whatever it is that you are doing to journey towards freedom, with receiving prayer etc, but always make Father God your primary focus, and when you sense an oppression, ‘bounce’ off it and use it to remind you to put your focus on and praise to God. The best advice you can get on this will be from those who are leading and ministering to you, even if they are not strongly gifted in discernment, I believe that they will have the wisdom you need as your pastors and leaders to help you journey forward.

  15. Cheryl

    Hello Helen,

    Just recently I was talking with a pastor that I respect greatly. After telling of some of my experiences, I was told I had the gift of discernment. From some of the experiences I spoke of, I was also told that I experienced open visions.

    I have been able to “sense” things. Namely, telling when people are lying, dishonest in nature and sometimes evil. I have also felt the presence of evil in certain places and when evil has taken over a person’s character.

    Also, I have had dreams that have come true and seen and felt things that have later happened. Some time ago, I was visiting the small island where I was born. On my way to the airport, I got physically sick in one place and told my friends that something very bad was coming and something terrible was going to happen there. A few days later, the strongest hurricane in the country’s history devastated the island. A hurricane that came out of nowhere. There have been a number of other instances where I have dreamt, seen or felt something was going to happen, and it did.

    Is this a gift and if so, what kind of gift? These things, in retrospect, have been happening to me since I was a child. The first “open vision” I had, was when I was a child of about 6/8. This scares me as I do not know if it is a gift and what to do with it. I have remained silent about the things I have seen and felt as I always believed people would think me crazy or “occult”, especially as some of the dreams I’ve had and some of the things I’ve seen, are quite dark and evil.

    I have always felt a special closeness to The Lord, but only in the last few years, have I truly been seeking Him. I have felt myself changing for the better since I began my journey with Him. I have been praying for Him to use me, and show me what He wants me to do with the life He has given me, and for me to live my life in a way that would honor Him and bring credit to Him, as well as help others. I have never felt as close to Him as I do now. I am confused as to whether this is His answer. If you think what I have described to you is a gift, how do I develop it? How do I not be afraid? How can I use it to help others?

    Thank you for any advice you can give. Blessings and grace to you.

  16. Sue

    I have just recently came into my gifts prophecy and discerning of spirits The Lord is still teaching me sometimes i can feel what somebody is feeling i see things to such as the other day i saw smoke white billowey smoke in front of my mother here at my house i dont know what it was maybe u know what it was also at times i feel a cold spirit that will chill u to the bone do u know what that means sometimes i smell fire smoke and i have smelled flowers im still learning i also have dreams and visions

  17. Chris

    Hello I believe I have the gift of discernment
    I see people with white faces than quickly they will go back to a darker shade
    Sometime people faces will go white and they will tremble
    Other times I will shake
    I often have dreams with demonic I have only seen 2 entities
    Both the same a female
    I hear voices as well they are in my head but I believe I know the difference from dark to light by the tone
    I have heard voices tell me what people are thinking
    I have no clue to what to think and no one has ever validated it
    I have no clue how to use this
    Mostly when I see white
    Lately in prayer The Lord will give me shivers when he is speaking
    And shivers when I hit the right words.
    I am confused
    I have been accused of getting this through demonics as well
    Thanks Chris

  18. Helen Calder Post author

    Hi everyone, thank you so much for all the comments that have been left on this post.
    Due to time constraints, I am no longer able to answer questions relating to this article. If you do have a question about something to do with discernment in your life, I encourage you to read through all the earlier comments and my responses, (and on my other discernment articles) as you may find the help you are looking for 🙂

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