Our Own Efforts

I don’t know if folks still do this, but people used to refer to putting out fleeces, you know, where we say, “Lord, I’m not sure I am hearing you correctly.  if you want me to do this . . . you do that . .. “ Or, “God, if you want me to do this, then have that happen . . .”

When I was pastoring, one brother owned his own business and whenever he was faced with a major decision, he would pray, “Gawd (that’s how he addressed our Lord), if you want me to sign the contract, have the sun shine through my windshield and warm my face.” I’m serious. If he felt the sun shining on his face it was proof that the Lord was in favor of his decision.

Well, that was pretty extreme (yeah, yeah. I think he needed to take the aluminum foil off of his head, too), but many of us will test whether the Lord is instructing us to do something because we just aren’t sure. Yes, we obviously want to make sure we are following the Lord’s will for our lives. I mean, the safest place to be is in the middle of God’s will. Scriptures tell us, “The world is passing away and the lust of it; But the person who follows God’s will, lives forever” (I John 2:17). Hey! If you are following God’s will, you have eternal life!

David Livingstone stated, “I would rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of England out of His will.” But really, are we expected to ask for signs as verification that we are in God’s will?

Well, I suppose if nothing else, it would certainly save a lot of time and inconvenience of praying. You just put out a fleece, a test, and you don’t have to exercise any faith, you just follow the sign!

This idea came from an event with a fellow named Gideon. You find his story in the sixth chapter of Judges. The Lord had directed Gideon to gather the Israelite troops to defeat the Midianite invaders, and Gideon wanted to be sure it was really the voice God he was hearing and that he understood His directions. You can’t blame him. I mean, to go into battle against a strong enemy is not a small task. All he was asking for was a sign to prove that this was truly what his God was directing him to do.

So, he put out a piece of wool overnight and to determine if it was really God, he asked, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised [there is the key!], I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” Sounds simple enough.

Well, Yahweh was so gracious, He actually did as Gideon asked. When Gideon woke up, he checked the fleece, and what do you know, it was wet enough to produce a bowl of water when he wrung out! And, the ground that surrounded the wool was bone dry. Wow! So Gideon got the answer he asked for, and it should have settled the matter. All Gideon had do was gather together the men and go fight the battle. Well no.

Sadly, Gideon’s faith was so weak that he asked God for another sign. “Do not be angry with me [so obviously he knew he was on dangerous ground, here]. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.”

Once again, the Lord complied (He is so patient with us sometimes), and Gideon was finally convinced that his God meant what He said that the nation of Israel would have the victory that the angel of the Lord had promised, back in Judges 6:14-16. Now this was the second time Gideon put out the fleeces and asked for a sign that God was really talking to him and would do what He said He would.

I have to admit that our God is incredibly gracious and patient with us, especially when we are immature in our faith. He certainly knows our weaknesses, doesn’t he? However, the story of Gideon should not be a model for us. Two times Jesus said, “The people of an evil and unfaithful era look for a miraculous sign” (Matthew 12:39; 16:1-4). In other words, all of the signs Jesus had already given them — His fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy, healings, and miracles — were sufficient. At least if were seeking truth, but clearly they were not.

But the good news was given by Ezekiel. He told us what to expect:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you — a new heart with new and right desires; I will remove from you your heart of stone — that stony heart of sin — and give you a heart of flesh — a heart that is God-willed. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees — in fact, it will make it possible for you to do what I tell you and be careful to keep my laws. —Ezekiel 36:26-27

Ooh, that is definitely new! But let’s be honest. Gideon’s fleeces were demonstrating a weak and immature faith that would not be convinced by all those signs anyway! Gideon had received more than enough information without any signs of using his fleece. The Lord had already told him that He would have victory (Judges 6:14). What? Did you just say, “Hey, he was just a man!” Yeah well, so was Abraham and we are told that “when hope was dead within him, he went on hoping in faith, believing and relying on the word of God.” That this is what earned him the declaration of being righteous!

Think about it, Yahweh did respond to the first request for a sign with a miraculous display of power in fire (Judges 6:21). But Gideon still asked for two more signs because of his own insecurity. Hey folks, even when the Lord fulfills whatever sign we ask for, it won’t give us what we are actually asking for. I say that because our faith will still doubt. Which will then lead us to ask for a bunch of other signs. But those won’t help, either, because the real problem isn’t with God’s power; it is with our lack of faith in what He can and will do. Quite simply, we don’t believe Him.

Fortunately, our God has a better, more intimate way of leading us. We have something totally different than Gideon. If you have believed in Jesus as your savior, you are now alive and filled with the Spirit of God!

When Jesus died on Calvary, the curtain that concealed the Holy of Holies was torn in half (from top to bottom) and Yahweh moved out. He has never again used man-made buildings. He dwells in us! (As I love to say, we don’t go to church — we are the Church going!). In the New Testament, Spirit-filled Christians are not to put out fleeces: “Lord, if you would (fill in the blank) then I would know . . .”

Rather than looking for guidance through miraculous signs, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our steps! Think of what Paul instructed us to do:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16)

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17)

If you are willing to hang your hat on these, all of our decisions will be inline with what your Lord wants for your life and He will bless you immeasurably with His peace and assurance. And you will no longer need to put out fleeces or ask for signs.

Nickolas

(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)

With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.

The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.

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