|Sermon Studies

Small Group Sermon Series Discernment - Session 2

Sermon: Understanding and Following Your Heart

Speaker: Rich Villodas

Date: January 13, 2019

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Phillippians 2:12-13 [ESV]

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.


When we discern, some of us wait until we get a clear external answer, while some of us impulsively decide based on a positive or a negative feeling. Today we look at what the Word says about our hearts, what we are called to do, and what God is doing in us to help us discern.

Opening Questions

  1. Think of a decision you need to make this week. Is it moving you towards God or not towards God?
  2. How are you able to tell the difference?

To discern is to make a distinction between the voice of Jesus and those competing voices that invariably speak in our hearts and minds.

- Gordon Smith

  1. Read verses 12 and 13. What does it mean to work “out” your salvation?

Leader’s Note: You cannot work “for” your salvation. It’s a gift. To work “out” means to live out and express your salvation as God is working in us.

  1. What does that mean to work it out with fear and trembling?

Leader’s Note: Our decisions matter, do not take them lightly. A decision is holy and sacred.

  1. What does it mean that God is working in us?

Leader’s Note: God’s working in you to stir in your heart. The Holy Spirit addresses all the inner material of our lives. It’s all to fulfill his good purpose (Your kingdom come, will be done from previous sermon)

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
– Jeremiah 17: 9

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26

Love God and do whatever you please. For the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the one who is beloved. – St. Augustine

  1. Many times we have desires that are pulling away from God and sometimes pulling towards God. How can we discern when we can’t make sense of it?

Leader’s Note: We need discernment of Spirits:

  • Doctrinally - Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. - [1 John 4:1]
  • Demonic activity - influence of God vs. influence of Satan or some other force.
  • Discernment - true spirit and false spirit.
  • What is a true spirit and a false spirit? Can you share one of the most recent events where you experienced this?

Leader’s Note:

True spirit: the inner pull toward God’s plan and toward fatih, hope and love.

False spirit: the inner pull away from God’s plan and away from faith, hope and love.

The false spirit is also referred to as the “evil spirit of the enemy” of our human nature. This is also called consolation and desolation.

Consolations and Desolations

Are we moving towards God or are we not moving towards God?


  • Our focus is directed outside and beyond ourselves
  • Bonds us more closely to others
  • Generates new inspiration and ideas
  • Restores balance and refreshes our inner vision
  • Shows us where God is active in our lives and where he is leading us
  • Releases new energy in us


  • Turns us in on ourselves
  • Drives us deeper into our own negative feelings
  • Cuts us off from others
  • Makes us want to give up on things that used to be important to us
  • Drains us of energy

  1. We often desire answers to come to us externally to help us decide instead of doing the spiritual work of praying, waiting and listening. Pastor Rich calls this spiritual laziness. Is there an external answer you are looking for while delaying the spiritual work?
  2. We often manipulate positive feelings (oh, this feels good) into consolations and negative feelings (ugh, i hate this) into desolations. How are we able to tell the impulsive feelings apart from consolation and desolation?
  3. Anxiety and fear pulls us away from God. Is there anything (like life changes experienced in a pandemic, unknown of future plans, etc. ) that is giving you anxiety and fear? How can we discern when we experience these feelings?


Pick one decision you have to make this week, pay attention to your heart, what do you notice? Is it pulling you towards inner peace, joy and God? Or if you’re honest, is it pulling you away from God (anxiety, fear, guilt, shame)?

Pray Together

Father, we invite you in our hearts to help us discern your will so Your kingdom comes, and Your will be done. Help us to slow down, pause, listen to the inner voice of love that leads us to you.