The Still Small Voice

The Power of Discernment: Checking our Track record


Chapter Six, Part Twelve


Checking our Track Record

‘I shall go back to Calormen,’ said Bree, his face mournful as only a horse’s can be. ‘What?’ said Aravis, ‘back to slavery?’ ‘Yes,’ said Bree. ‘Slavery is all I’m fit for. How can I ever show my face among the free Horses of Narnia? . . . I’ve lost everything.’

‘My good horse,’ said the Hermit, ‘You’ve lost nothing but your self-conceit.’ [17]

The fact that we hear the Lord accurately in one area of our life is immensely encouraging. For every word we hear correctly, however, there remains a 99% iceberg of insights that we are either not privy to, or are hearing less accurately about.

If we are wise, we will check our track record as carefully and as objectively as possible – and learn from our mistakes. As we ponder the things we believe the Lord has said to us, and analyze how accurate they have proved to be, we may see patterns emerging – areas where we hear with considerable confidence, and others where we are far less reliable.

Some of these mistakes may be rather more serious than the ‘once-off blips’ we would like to dismiss them as. They may be early-warning signs that we are vulnerable to deception in that particular area. Nothing but total honesty (and openness to correction) will help us to recognize where there is some root problem that needs dealing with.

Gun crews employ spotters to mark the fall of shots. They identify when the gunner is over the tope (OTT), short of the target, wide of the mark or bang on the bull’s eye. OTT listening happens when we confuse faith and presumption. The two run much closer to each other than most people realize, but lead to diametrically opposing outcomes. Most of us stray the wrong side from time to time – but those who are wise are quick to get back on track.

We go wide of the mark when we follow some wrong leading, or fail to embark on some proper course of action. For convenience, we will call this ‘error.’

When a Christian lies, steals or lives with his heart set on someone else’s wife or husband, how can the flow of God’s Spirit not be hindered? Ultimately, there is no such thing as secret sin. What one person does always has implications for the wider Body.

Heresy also takes us wide of the mark, but it differs from error in that it often starts by taking some true idea and pushing it too far. Many people persist in pursuing some wrong course of action to the bitter end, hoping against hope for some never-never breakthrough that will lead to a fairytale ending.

If the Lord never sanctioned the project, however, all their very considerable efforts will come to naught, and they will merely go further and further off course.

When people are heading wide of the mark, and their error remains unchecked, there is a real danger of sailing right off the spiritual chart and into the blue yonder. Others wake up to what is going on, and make a determined effort to get back on course.

When people become aware that what they had thought was discernment is actually something quite different, everything depends on their response.

Some are so shocked at discovering how wide of the mark they have strayed that they lose confidence altogether in seeking the Still Small Voice. For fear of getting it wrong again, they frequently retrench into a supposedly ‘safer’ form of the faith – and thereby greatly reduce the likelihood of ever taking part in any further Spirit-led adventures.

We are no wiser if we hold back at this stage than if we vow never to get into a car again after an accident. It makes it all but inevitable that we will fall short of targets that, had we been willing to persevere, the Lord would have helped us to achieve.

Where pride holds sway, and denial cuts in, the whole process logjams. Lack of humility can jeopardize everything. Great is the rejoicing in Heaven, however, when error is acknowledged, and sin confessed. Everything is once again possible.

May we be sensitive to the warnings the Holy Spirit sends us! Most often, these will come through His Word and His people.

No wonder David prayed in Psalm 141:5, ‘Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head My head will not refuse it.’ Not every rebuke will be justified, but it may contain grains of truth that we need to face.

If we find even helpful criticism hard to accept, is this because we are to proud to admit our mistakes? Or is it because we have such a low opinion of ourselves that we regard any criticism as a threat?

Humility is good, but self-belittling is not. Since the Lord is not writing us out of the script of life, nether must we. Whatever mistakes we have made, the Lord can always pick us up one more time than we can get it wrong!

For Reflection and Prayer

Lord, please show me when I am over the top,
short of the target, or wide of the mark.

Where I have got things wrong,
may I not be too proud
or too stubborn
to retrace my steps.

So, Lord, I give You my many mistakes.

Help me to learn from them,
and to recognise when I am in danger of repeating them.

May Your grace redeem what I cannot undo,
and turn all things around for good.
I give You especially the matter of . . .

17 C.S. Lewis The Horse and His Boy (Harper Collins) pp. 164-5