Have you ever felt called to do something but weren't sure if it was God or something else calling you? I have. Life is full of difficult and challenging decisions and choices. How do we know what to choose? How do we know what God wants us to do? How do we know which way to go in the fork in the road?
You may or may not be familiar with the story of Gideon and the fleece. That's okay. After this post, you'll hopefully never forget it. This story is one that when you face major decisions in your life, like where to go to college, who to marry, where to live, or which job to take, you'll remember Gideon and follow his example. Gideon's story is found in Judges 6-8, but we'll be looking at Judges 6. Before I give you the text, you'll need some context. Some foreign armies are ravaging Israel (what else is new?) and God calls upon Gideon to save his country.
"'But Lord,' Gideon asked, 'how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.' The LORD answered, 'I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.' Gideon replied, 'If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.' ... 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.' And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. 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. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.' That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew."
I know that's a lot of Scripture but don't tune out. Look at what just happened. Gideon felt called to do something (save his country), but he had doubts ("I am the least..."). He wanted assurance from God that this was really His will. That isn't unreasonable. Let's use college for an example. If you feel like you know where God wants you, but you don't feel a peace about it (you still have doubts), ask God to show you proof that He wants you there. It's up to you to decide what your "fleeces" are. You do need to understand that God may lead you to go somewhere else. If your fleeces show that God is telling you "No", accept it and look for where He really wants you.
So how do you know what your fleeces should be? Let's use my college decision-making process for example. I wanted to stay relatively close to home (only because of finances). I wanted to go to a small, private Christian school. I wanted to be on a campus with a Christ-like atmosphere. I didn't want to go to a college with a bad reputation for partying, pregnancy, bigotry, or drugs. I wanted to go to a college that had excellent professors. And I wanted to go to a Christian university where my beliefs were similar to the school's. I would mark the colleges that didn't have what I wanted off my list.
Pensacola Christian has a terrible reputation of being unreasonably strict, legalistic, and snotty. Not for me. Belmont recently handled some controversy over a lesbian female soccer coach very poorly, and besides that, many friends who go say the atmosphere is secular and several professors aren't Christians. Regardless of how true these reports are, I wasn't wanting to go to a place with a bad reputation, so I marked Belmont off my list. Next, I looked at Lipscomb. They are Church of Christ, which doesn't really match my desire to go to a university with like-minded beliefs (I'm Baptist). I found nothing wrong with Union University other than the fact is was too far away to commute to. Besides, I never really felt a peace about going to Union.
I found everything I wanted at Trevecca Nazarene University. It had everything I wanted and more. It didn't fail my "fleece" tests.
However, there are times when we feel called to do something and we should automatically know it's from God. For example, if you feel like you should tell your lost friend about Jesus, you don't have to ask God if it's His will. You should already know that it's God's will (...make disciples of all nations...). Things like that should be no-brainers. By reading the Bible each day, we should accumulate enough knowledge over time to know how to respond in these no-brainer situations. Reading the four gospels, Paul's letters, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Proverbs will help build your knowledge of how to respond in day-to-day situations.
You must also discern the difference between Essential fleeces and Optional fleeces. I gave you a list of Essential fleeces when talking about my list for college. An example of an Optional fleece would be me saying I wanted to go to a college with great cafeteria food. That would be nice, but if the college where God wanted me had bad food, I wouldn't say "No" to God. It's just optional; preferred.
Right now, I'm putting together my list for my future wife. I'm learning that I can't be as rigid with this list as I was with my college list, simply because God may have someone picked out for me that is very different that what I think I want and need. I don't want to limit God. There are many Optional things that I want, but aren't important. For example, physical attributes. My ideal woman would be between 5'4" and 5'7", with brown hair, brown eyes, and a very appealing physique. The reason this is Optional is simply because I may end marrying a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl. Or a short girl. Or a tall girl. And so on. These are preferred and optional things that are what I want, not what I really need. I'm not going to turn the woman God has picked out for me if she is blond just because she isn't a brunette.
As we wrap up this post, I hope you understand the importance of fleeces. Fleeces are invaluable tools in our lives. They can greatly improve your decision making and build your wisdom and discernment. I encourage you to pray and think about what your fleeces should be for the different big decisions in life. Take time to prayerfully consider these things and you'll do well.