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Practicing Discernment: A Reflection from Chris Gorman

October 31, 2022

by Greg Henson, CEO Kairos University; President of Sioux Falls Seminary and David Williams, Kairos Executive Partner; President of Taylor Seminary

 

Last week, we looked at discernment and its relationship to being attentive and growing in wisdom. We noted that an open and responsive posture for growing in wisdom requires a commitment to discernment – to an ongoing process of showing up, listening, and responding to the Spirit of God.

Today, we have the privilege of hearing from Chris Gorman, a graduate of Sioux Falls Seminary, one of the legacy partners of Kairos University. Chris serves as the Director of Support Services at the fire department in Lacey, Washington. We asked him to share a few thoughts on how he thinks about discernment.

As I sat down to write this at 5:00 a.m. this morning, my son came home from work. He has been struggling a bit lately, and I’ve been really concerned for him. He opened up about the discontent in his life and his desire to make some much-needed changes. An hour and a half later, he went to bed and I headed to work without writing a single word on discernment. However, as drove to work thinking about this topic, I realized I had just experienced it.

Over the years, I’ve thought about discerning God’s will as something really tricky, mysterious, and mostly for big-ticket items (i.e., change of careers). In recent years, I think I’m learning that it is simply paying attention to what God is doing in all aspects of my life and then joining him in it. This is what happened this morning with my son. I had plans to write a piece on discernment, and God had other plans for me, better plans, at that moment. So, discernment is paying attention to what God is up to in everyday life, the big things and the small things, and then having the courage to set aside good things for the best things, God’s things.

This is the example that Jesus set in Mark 1:35-39. He rose up early to go pray in solitude, and his disciples came to find him because the crowds were waiting for him. He calmly said, no my Father would have me go to the next town (my paraphrase).  In reading through the gospels, we see that this was Jesus’ way of life. So let us be more like Jesus.

I think Paul’s words to the Corinthians church are a good guide for whether I’m paying attention to what God is up to (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Here are some questions that arise from this text:

1. Do I fear God above all?

2. Is God’s love, as demonstrated in Jesus’ sacrificial death for sinners, the dominating factor in my life?

3. Am I living for the sake of Christ?

4. Do I see every person I come in contact with as being made in the image of God, worthy of love and respect, no matter what?

5. Do my life and demeanor lead people toward reconciliation with God and others?

6. How is my life bearing witness to who God is to those around me?

7. Is my life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5)?

In other words, if I’m growing in my love for God by walking closely with Jesus, seeking to be more and more like Jesus, desiring that others know Jesus, discerning where Jesus is at work, and then praying for the courage to join him in that work, that is discernment.

Chris sent this reflection to us without having read anything we wrote in this series and in response to a text message we sent the day before he bumped into his son at 5:00 a.m. We are not only grateful for his gift of time but also for his desire to walk closely with Jesus. It is a good reminder that discernment is a natural result of formation.

Ruth Haley Barton puts it this way, “Happily, the rhythm of discerning and doing the will of God is what brings it all together in a somewhat cyclical way: spiritual transformation leads to the ability to discern the will of God so we can do the will of God.” This regular rhythm of making ourselves open to the transforming presence of Christ draws our attention to the work of the Spirit.

The work of the Spirit. That’s an important phrase. All of this talk about discernment can sometimes lead us to think that the burden of “getting things done” falls on our shoulders. Yes, we need to discern and do the will of God but we need to recognize that transformation comes through the power of the Spirit. Let’s dive into that next week.

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