Book Review: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment


The Discipline of Spiritual DiscernmentDiscernment. The Church is in chaos because of a lack of it. Many believers have little patience for practicing it, cultivating it and putting it to use. Yet, we as Christians are called to practice this discipline. How to start? How to continue? How to evaluate our growth?

Tim Challies, the self-employed web designer and blogger extraordinaire ( is a man with a heart for discernment, and he believes we shouldn’t leave the discipline to those who are in full-time ministry. We should all desire spiritual insight and wisdom.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (Crossway, 2007) contains almost 200 pages of helpful advice for the Christian leader or layperson who wants to succeed in the area of discernment. Challies begins by issuing a call to discernment, laying out the reasons why the absence of discernment can prove spiritually fatal and why the presence of discernment is a sign of spiritual life.

Challies challenges readers to actively pursue growth in spiritual discernment, which he defines as “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong” (61). Challies answers common objections to discernment (“Isn’t it wrong to judge?”) and then makes a strong case for why we should think rightly about God. Challies believes that thinking rightly about God will help us think biblically about everything else.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment contains several chapters that are extremely helpful for laypeople. In “The Will and Discernment,” Challies exposes some of the incorrect ways Christians go about trying to discern God’s will for their lives, and then he offers sound, biblical advice that frees Christians up to make choices within God’s will and not stress over the details.

In “The Dangers of Discernment,” Challies lists some common pitfalls that discerning Christians must avoid, including the tendency toward witch-hunting or oversimplification of the issues. The book ends with some practical steps for discernment with Challies using the lyrics of a Christian song as an example.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment might be Tim Challies’ first book, but Tim writes with the wisdom and insight that he has been cultivating for years. The fact that a book of this caliber could come from a person outside of full-time ministry is a testament to his devotion to the Word. It should be the goal of every pastor to make not only disciples, but discerning disciples and Tim Challies is an example of a disciple worthy of emulation.

written by Trevin Wax. © 2008 Kingdom People Blog 

Learn more about the relationship between TGC and the blogs we are honored to host.