Spiritual discernment often has to do with discerning those things that are from God and those that are not. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

This means that there is a fundamental difference between those of us who have welcomed Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior versus those who have not. This does not mean that the Spirit of God is not active in the lives of those who have not yet surrendered their lives to Jesus.

We have to be careful in our judgments about what is good and evil because our lens can be clouded by our own perspective, tradition and upbringing, not to mention glaring sin in our own lives. Yet, with the help of the Spirit, we can discern what is of God and what is not. This is a delicate and difficult matter.

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when I observe something that is out of line. I try not to engage in character assassination when someone does the unthinkable. Hurt people hurt people. There may be plausible explanations for people’s reprehensible behavior that are not acceptable but at least understandable.

Yet there are those times when I clearly know in my spirit that something is off. I remember being in a conference when my wife and I heard screams around us. My wife turned to me and said, “That is demonic.” My wife does not usually speak like that. I had the same sense. There have been other times. However, more often I am not sure.

I have learned over time that people are complicated and that simply labeling people is not helpful. What people need is our love and compassion. Compassion does not gloss over what is clearly evil, but it does not come in a spirit of judgment.

I’ve sat through and led various inner healing and deliverance sessions using many different models. Half the time I didn’t really know what was going on other than that I was following the Spirit’s leading. Most of the time people experienced healing and greater freedom.

One Sunday morning a bizarre set of circumstances led me to leave a mission outpost that I was visiting with other national workers in the Dominican Republic. Because most of the conversation was taking place in French Creole, which I did not master, I relied on the advice of those surrounding me. When we got to the village next door where we had another church, we found out later in the day that the village witch doctor in the first place we visited had put a spell on the presiding evangelist. I knew something was off, but I didn’t know what was going on until I had the confirmation.

By Ralph Veenstra