When we think of men who accomplished mighty things for God, we might think of David killing Goliath or Abraham offering his son Isaac or Paul facing constant persecution. But as Stephen points out in this message, the little things count to God as well. God might not call us to kill a giant or offer our child as a sacrifice, but He has called us to obey His Word daily. And that, in His eyes, is a mighty deed!
"Putting Away the Fleece"
I like the story of Gary Inrig (pastor of Bethany Chapel)
An old Model T Ford was pulled off to the side of the road with its hood up, and a young man was trying desperately to get it running. He had been working at it for a long time without any success when a beautiful, chauffeur-driven limousine stopped behind him, and a well-dressed man go out. He watched the young man working for awhile and finally suggested that he make an adjustment in one part of the engine. The young man was skeptical, but nothing else had worked, so he did what he was told. "Now" said the man, "Your car will run. Crank it up." So the young man cranked it once and sure enough, the engine started running as if it were brand-new. The young man was amazed that this kind of man knew so much about cars; so he asked him, "How did you know exactly what to do?" "Well," the older gentlemen replied, "My name is Henry Ford. I made that car. . ."
Now isn't it logical that a God who so creatively and carefully designed this planet, the worlds, the plan of salvation, who also designed the fact that you would cross paths with that believer, that church. . . would also know how your life is to work!
It'd be totally inconsistent to tell any new believer: "From here on out, you are on your own."
That's like taking a young man whose just decided to become a pilot - placing him immediately in the cockpit of a jet - "Congratulations on your decision to be a pilot - have a nice flight!"
And so with the believer, Christ the Shepherd has a path - the question remains - How do I discover it.
What we find in Judges 6 is the wrong way to discover it - Gideon started a movement that persists. . .
We last left Gideon blowing this trumpet and calling volunteer soldiers from a number of different tribes. God had revealed to Gideon that he would be the new judge who would liberate the Israelites from Midianites oppression.
Trouble arises, however during the lag time between Gideon's call, and Gideon's charge against enemy forces. Now, in the last part of chapter 6, Gideon is in a holding pattern - as difficult for him as it is for us today; it is always hard to wait. We prefer action. It was during this lag time that questions began to surface.
- Will the Israelites really support me?
- How many men will volunteer to fight?
- What type of strategy should I use?
- How can we overcome such a superior army?
What have I gotten myself into. . . am I really following God's will?! I need a sign to let me know that God really does want me to lead the Israelites; risk my life.
Somewhere in his agony he spotted some fleece - wool that had just been shorn from sheep. There it lay - Gideon went over, picked it up and laid it on the threshing floor. Thus he originated the idea that millions of believers have done since. . .
The idea is simple - you say to the Lord, "Lord, I have 2 options. If you want me to follow Plan A, then please do this certain thing by the end of the week; that's how I'll know you want me to take option #1. If the end of the week arrives, and you haven't done such and such. . . you're telling me take option #2.
Now understand, behind this practice is the sincere desire to do what God wants you to do. . . there is nothing more important to the believer than knowing and doing the will of God.
Even Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said (5:17) "So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is!"
The question remains, "Is the pattern of many believers - putting out the fleece; or let's go back to the original fleece flinger; Was Gideon right in putting out that fleece? Let me respond right up front with an answer - Gideon was absolutely wrong! Let's take a look at Judges 6:36.
3 Reasons Why Gideon was wrong:
1) Gideon's fleece was not to determine God's will but to confirm God's will
v 36-37. Then Gideon said to God, "If Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken.
v 37. Behold, I will 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 will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou has spoken.
Understand! Gideon was not using the fleece to obtain God's will, but to confirm it. He was putting God to the test, rather than trusting him.
A young man who wants to marry an unbelieving man may pray all he wants - he may lay out a series of fleeces:
- if he comes to church with me
- if he'll agree to let me read my Bible
- if he seems sensitive to my convictions, etc.
But God has already said, "Do no be yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship has light with darkness" (I Cor. 6)
A young man says, "I'm living with my girlfriend; why is that wrong. . . besides, our combined incomes are relieving debt - surely God is pleased with that." The Bible states, "Flee fornication - sexual relations outside of marriage".
A woman says, "I really believe it would be best for me if I divorce my husband, we've fallen out of love, so she says, it's destroying my self-confidence, surely it wouldn't be wrong - God seems to be leading me to break it off" I Cor. 7 - "But to the wife I give instruction, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband. . . and that the husband should not send his wife away."
Thousands of believers today are rationalizing away their commitment to the services of worship at their local assembly. Surely God doesn't care where you worship, right? Right, you can worship God anywhere. But the writer of Hebrews says, "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deed, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the habit of some - they had the problem in the 1st century.
Gideon's problem, and many believers, is not our lack of understanding but our lack of obedience to the revealed will of God.
Now notice verse 38. And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.
WOW! Gideon put out the fleece. . . said, "God, if it's your will for me to fight the Midianites, let the fleece be wet, and the floor dry. . ." AND IT WAS SO!
Some argue here - Gideon couldn't have been wrong - because God responded! Let me say, that I believe God responds to some of our fleeces also, not because He approves of our method but because He understands our frailty, our weakness, our faithlessness.
What God does in Judges chapter 6 is record in Gideon's story. He does not approve Gideon's system for finding God's will:
THE SECOND LAW:
2) Gideon's fleece did not acknowledge God's authority, it violated God's authority.
Look back at the twice repeated phrase v. 36b & 37b -"As thou hast spoken" - His will was clear - yet Gideon begins to dictate to God - frightened or not.
Gideon set the parameters, Gideon determined the formula, Gideon gave himself the right to tell God how to communicate to him.
"If you really want me to serve you God, here's the requirements." Human nature! We're no different.
There are times when my wife says, "Sweetheart. . . would you do something for me?". . . I finally say, "Sure, I'll do just about anything for you." Ten years of marriage have slipped the words, "just about" into the sentence. I want a little more information for something minor.
I can't fault Gideon's nature - I've got the same one - but I must realize that the fleece was nothing more than a great big sign that said - "I'm not really sure I want to do for you what you want me too".
The fleece then for Gideon became another way of saying; Lord I really don't want to submit to your leading and authority.
3) Gideon's fleece did not strengthen his faith; it weakened his faith.
39. Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let Thine anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece and let there be dew on all the ground.
I really believe that Gideon didn't trust the authenticity of the wet fleece. . . perhaps he reasoned. . . "Fleece would naturally retain moisture, while the threshing floor would dry almost immediately under the early morning sun. I'm not sure God did this!
Have you ever noticed you have a similar problem. "Lord, if your will is for me to take that job, let my phone ring at 8:00. It rings at 7:55. Is that the Devil trying to trick me! Or it doesn't ring at all, but the next night it rings at exactly 8:00.
This raises the entire problem of the subjective nature of our fleeces.
"THE RING FIT" of course, who would argue with that logic. Trouble is, what happens if she gains weight; or loses the ring!
You see, Gideon's faith was not bolstered by the fleece - it actually crated several results between himself and God that God never intended the believer to experience: (make room in notes)
- insecurity - he was more uncertain than ever!
- primarily fear! Look at vs. 39a again. Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let things anger burn against me that I may speak once more, please let me make another test "Lord, I am afraid of some frightening bolt; please don't strike me dead - can I speak to you once more, pretty please. Compare that with Hebrews 4:16 - "Let us draw near with boldness to the throne of grace."
What Else is Wrong With Fleece's (5 other flaws)
1) They are usually motivated by fear - should I, will God come through with His part; He was not looking for a right decision but for enough faith to believe that God would do what he had promised through him.
Let's face it. . . sometimes the will of God may be frightening! I don't want to be too quick to critique this farmer from Ophrah. "God says it; and I believe it; and that settles it for me may make a snazzy bumper sticker, but it doesn't neatly cover the struggles of the believing experience.
What I observe, the Lord is definitely seeking to stretch Gideon's faith. He basically wants Gideon to "promise" to fight the Gideon's without so much a inclination as to how it is to be done. If fact, it isn't until the army is selected and whittled down that God reveals the plan.
So if I sense God leading me to do or say or act . . . I will probably want more information - information He may not want me to have - because, like Gideon He wants to stretch me before He instructs me.
2) They are often a result of time-mismanagement - fleeces usually appear when we feel we're out of time to make the decision. Lord, we need to know by tomorrow if we're to apply for that job; but that house;
We haven't given the Spirit of God time to develop in us whatever His will may demand of us. Trouble is we have so little time to allow God to lead us through prayer, the Word and the circumstances of life.
Dr. Henry Foster, a medical doctor was a man of mighty power with God. He had a marvelous insight into the ways of God as it pertains to guidance in the affairs of life. Visitors who came to his hospital, after he died, wanted to know the secret of his life. An old Doctor who knew well, the answer, took them to Dr. Foster's former office and pointing to two ragged spots in the carpet, worn there by the knees of that dear saint, said, "That was the secret of Henry Foster's wisdom in the things of God."
Therefore, it is far less important to spend so much time with our fleeces, as it is to spend time with our Father.
3) There are sometimes an avoidance of Biblical counsel from others
Many times we resort to last ditch fleece flinging experiences because we don't like what others who are wise in the Lord are saying to us.
4) They are frequently a refusal to obey the revealed will of God
A businessman knows that his job should come second to his family. He's offered a promotion that makes great sense - career wise - but poor sense in relation to his family and broader family (church home and ministry). God's will should be clear - refuse the promotion - it's not a wise decision in relation to higher priorities in his life. So he begins to bargain with God - I've seen it happen - Lord if you will sell our home for this much profit, thus allow me to buy a bigger home for my family over wherever; I'll take it that you okay this move. Lord if my son will say, "It's okay Dad to move" then that will be even greater evidence. If the company will agree to pick up my moving expenses plus a certain allowance for relocation, then I'll go . . . these are all fleeces!
Our problem is not what we don't know about God's will, but what we do know.
5) They are usually related to issues best served by God given common sense.
They usually revolve around purchasing something, moving somewhere, doing something. . . my point is, God has given us minds to use in decision making. Whether it's putting on a pair of blue socks or buying a blue car or painting the house blue; God never intended the believer to commit intellectual suicide when he received Christ.
George Mueller; a man of faith who organized and administrated several orphanages, actually managed on today's market the equivalent of $25 million dollars. He developed the journal method - drew a line down middle of page pros and cons He called this his balance sheet. . . revising the list form day to day as seemed necessary.
He also wrote - "Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.
How Does God "Speak" to Us Today
1) God doesn't reveal His will through audible sounds, dreams or visions.
The Bible is clear that it is complete and capable of equipping every believer for every good work "2 Timothy: 3."
There isn't any doubt that one of God's methods of leading is through the inward impression of the Holy Spirit through what we refer to as the peace of God.
Colossians 3:15 & 16 - let the peace of Christ "call the shots" let the word of Christ dwell "take up residence in your heart".
But stay away from the statement - "God spoke to me". It seems God is speaking to everybody nowadays. From deluded bus drivers, to presidential assassins to Shiite Muslims. God doesn't speak audibly, so quit implying He does. How do I know that - because in the Book of Hebrews 1:1 - God after He spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets in many portions and in many was, in these last days, has spoken to us by His Son!"
So when some bird closes his eyes in some TV religious show and says. . . "God just told me someone out there has a hurt right hand, take your right hand and turn the channel!"
It negates the authority of His revealed word and opens the door to subjective experience and emotion.
2) God doesn't always receive obedience, after revealing His will.
Think of it - an angel had appeared and touched his meal offering and turned it into smoke. God spoke from the heavens confirming the visit of the Angel of Yahweh; then the fleece was wet and the ground dry. . . yet, Gideon was still fearful and disobedient after all God had done! Consider as well the remark of Christ toward His own generation of rebellious religionists, "You adulterous and evil generation, do always seek for a sign."
3) God doesn't make it difficult to find His will nor does He hide His will from believers.
God promised the Philippians that He would work in you both to do His will and to do of His good pleasure."
Now would God promise to work in your life that which He now makes impossible for you to discover. If He promised He'd work through your life His will, surely He will allow you to obtain the necessary direction!
Positive Methods of discovering the will of God:
1) Begin with giving God the privilege of taking His time.
I like the legend of the man who was granted an opportunity to talk with God. He said, "Lord, how long is a million years to you?" God responded, "A million years is just a second to me." Hm, well, how much is a million years to you? The Lord said, "A million dollars is just a nickel to me." The man thought and then, with a sly grin, said, "Well, Lord, how about giving me a nickel then. The Lord said, "Certainly, it'll be there in just a second."
Our thoughts are not God's thoughts. . . His timing, His values.
2) Believe by faith that God desires for you to discover His will.
That may sound simple - but there are many believers defeated by the misconception that God is playing hide and seek with His will for your life. God says, "I'm over here. . ." You run over there, he swoops somewhere else and says, "Ha, fooled you, I'm over here."
Paul wrote to the Colossians that God's desire is for them to be "filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding."
3) Make three trips in your discovery of God's will:
Go to your knees - James 1:5 - If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and doesn't rebuke you for asking. Be sure your motive is unselfish and pure.
Go to the Word - Psalm 119 - Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.
Be sure the decision doesn't contradict Scripture.
Be sure it's the Lord who is speaking
Go to the wise - Turn over to Proverbs 13:14, 20 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death. Verse 20. He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Read through the Proverbs sometimes with this thought in mind. You'll notice how wise people are able to interpret the circumstances of life through God's perspective, using the word as their guide.
F. B. Meyer wrote:
When I was crossing the Irish Channel one dark night, I stood on the deck by the Captain and asked him, "How do you know the Harbour on so dark a night as this!" He said, "You see those three lights? Those three must line up behind each other as one, and when we see them so united we know the exact position of the harbour's mouth."
When we want to know God's will there are three things which always concur; the inward impulse, the Word of God, and the trend of circumstances. God in circumstances, God in the heart, impelling you forward; God in the Book, corroborating whatever He says in the heart; these three, which are always indicative of His will."
Ladies and Gentlemen, it will do us well, to wait, to pray; to receive counsel, to reason; to stop until the lights are in place.
Then if faith, throw the fleece aside and follow God!