There is a practice common to Christians that summarizes a lesser way to find God’s direction.
It is based on the story of Gideon’s fleece, and the story goes like this. God sent a messenger to Gideon and told him that he would defeat his enemies if he attacked them with God’s strength. Gideon, however, needed assurance, and so he made a rather odd request:
Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, 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.” ¹
God graciously answered him, giving Gideon the sign he asked for.
Yet that was not enough.
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. ²
Gideon’s request was not an act of faith but an act of fear.
Yet, strangely, some of us follow Gideon’s example. We set out ‘fleeces’ for God. We look for direction in the turn of events and, without realizing it, we essentially follow omens just like the pagans did. Instead of acting on what we know God has said through His Word, we say to Him, “If this happens then I know you want me to do such and such; if it doesn’t then I know you don’t.”
We fall foul of seeing signs in everything, and we see more significance in circumstances than we should. It can get confusing and can cause us to subconsciously stack the odds in favor of the answer we want to hear.
Yet this is not my main concern with ‘fleeces.’
My biggest problem is best explained when describing a common scenario in my married life. The Foxy Lynn and I have been wed for twenty-seven years. Now, imagine that one day she walks into the living room as I am using the remote control to flick through the TV channels. She sits down and waits for me to choose a station.
There are three possible choices:
The cooking channel where Jamie Oliver is creating a fifteen minute culinary masterpiece.
The home improvement channel where a couple are choosing to “love it” or “list it.”
The soccer channel where England is losing a penalty shootout to Germany.
Now, imagine if I thought to myself, I wonder which channel she would like to watch? And then decided: I know! If she sits down and crosses her legs, it must be the cookery show, but if she curls up on the sofa, it’s the home improvement channel. However, if she scratches her head, then obviously she wants to watch the soccer.
That would be ridiculous, right?
I love Lynn, I have grown to know Lynn, I know which channels she would prefer. You might think that presenting the three options demonstrates that I care about her and her wishes, but I’m not so sure she would see it that way. I know that even asking her what she would like to watch will induce ‘the look.’
In her mind, If you know me, you will understand me.
Yet this bizarre routine is exactly what we are relying on when we put ‘fleeces’ before God.
I am sure that some of us have used ‘fleeces’ and can point to the fact that God answered our questions in the same way that he did with Gideon. That would not surprise me. God is faithful. More than that, He meets us where we are. He reaches down to our level and guides us as children. He is, after all, a very loving father. That does not mean, however, that He wants us to stay infants for the rest of our lives. So God may occasionally honor our fleeces, but what are they saying about our desire to get to know Him? And what difference is there between our Christian fleeces and a pagan’s omens or a witch’s crystal ball?
I think there is a better way.
A practice that makes His thoughts our thoughts, His dreams our dreams, and the passion of His heart the passion of our hearts. I believe that God does have a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, but that this plan is best recognized through the tupos of His Kingdom Patterns.
Can I therefore encourage you to practice asking questions? After all, vision comes from an awkward conversation with God. The drama of signs and wonders simply gets our attention but gives little revelation. Signs are used to pull us into a dialogue with the Father, whereby we ask Him a question and He replies with one. While the questions keep coming, so does the revelation. When the conversation stops, the vision stops.
This practice of ‘perpetual conversation’ leads to the progress of a pilgrim.
It begins with the question:
What is the most effective thing I can do for God’s Kingdom?
But when that question becomes your default inquiry, you are moving further into His purpose for you. The conversations that then follow help you to remember the most important thing about your journey as a pilgrim . . .
In Joseph’s slavery, Peter’s betrayal, Israel’s rebellion, and Nehemiah’s persecution, God never left them. He continued to journey with them because He always journeys with pilgrims. You can be going the wrong way, but His presence does not disappear. Even when you are on the wrong path, you will continue to see the signs of God’s activity in your life. God’s provision and His blessings are not always an indication that we are going the right direction; they are simply His way of showing us He still loves us. And He does still love us, even when we mess up and choose a path that we should not.
Therefore, the purpose of the question is never: “Will God journey with me?”
It is always: “Will I journey to Him?”
** This excerpt is taken and adapted from author Paul Clayton Gibbs’ book Kingdom Patterns: Discover God’s Direction, one of three books from the “Kingdom Trilogy.” Learn more about discovering God’s direction by getting your own copy of Kingdom Patterns today! **