Successfully Fleecing God

I tend to shy away from trying the “fleece method” when I'm seeking God's direction. After all, God often uses circumstances involving closed or open doors when we seek His counsel. He gives us brains to weigh our options.

And yet, sometimes the way forward isn't clear. Or, sometimes there are two clear and potentially good choices, what then? Is it ever appropriate to "lay out a fleece” before the Lord?

Let’s take a look at the original fleece story in Judges 6:36-40:

“So Gideon said to God, ‘If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said — look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.’ And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.’ And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.”

There’s a couple of challenges to this story that don’t translate very well. First, Gideon heard God’s literal voice give him His mission. How often does God verbally speak to us? Second, the fleece was tried twice for verification and it worked both times.

At face value, this story tells us God will answer genuine seekers of His will. It is to God's advantage to support the image of His willingness to answer prayers. Whatever method it takes, one can expect a response from heaven. God used dreams and a star to lead Median magi to Jesus because they believed that the gods (or God) spoke through dreams and stars.

I tried a fleece once and it worked! God responded clearly. Let me set the story up for you.

Years ago, I pastored the Nampa Church in Idaho. I had been there nine years and had started to imagine it may be time for a move. This was almost entirely because our oldest son was going to be academy age. I casually mentioned this in an NPUC gathering of conference ministerial directors. I wondered out loud about it with Gerald Haeger of the Upper Columbia Conference. Then I promptly forgot about the conversation.

Not long after, we received a call to the Spokane Valley Church. But the timing was terrible! 

We were just finishing an evangelistic series at Nampa with Jac Colon and it had resulted in FORTY baptisms! It was the best series I had ever been involved in. Forty new church members! I'm sure you’re thinking, "A pastor should never leave a church with so many new members."

I had two incredible opportunities but no clear direction.

The Spokane Valley Church had over 700 members, a full-time associate and secretary. It was, in the ways of the world, a “promotion.” Plus, our son could start his high school years at Upper Columbia Academy. There was a strong pull to say “yes” to Spokane. But there was a strong pull to stay, too.

Decision time came. But I didn’t trust my ego. So, for the first time in my Christian walk, I "put out a fleece."

I decided to make the terms very specific to the concerns I had about our new members. My fleece had three parts:

#1 Someone must volunteer their home to a small group for some new members.

#2 Someone should offer to personally mentor new members.

#3 And, sadly, I can’t remember what #3 was! But I know it was very specific to this problem.

None of these were mentioned publicly as volunteer needs. That meant God would have to move individually upon Nampa members to show a concern about the new members. They would need to be impressed to volunteer.

It was a big ask and I honestly thought there would be no way it could happen. Yes, I didn’t have much faith in the fleece method.

Can you guess the rest of the story?

That Sabbath after the service, I was approached by several church leaders. Each of them volunteered themselves to the three very specific areas of ministry I had presented before the Lord. I almost broke out laughing!

I had my answer. We accepted the call to Spokane Valley.

But that's not the end. Some years later, an article was written about the remarkable way in which those forty new Nampa members remained faithful in the church. The article pointed out how unusual it is to see such a high percentage of retention.

The moral of the story? If you're genuinely seeking God's direction and will for your life but you don't trust your discernment abilities or your own ego, know that He is always ready to answer your call — even via fleeces.

 

Author

Stan Hudson

North Pacific Union Conference creation ministries director
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