Putting out fleeces can feel like an awkward subject to talk about. We don’t like to broadcast our insecurities about God, nor do we like to talk about the little games and desperate measures we resort to in order to get some clear guidance from Him. But putting out fleeces is nothing to be ashamed of. For the sincere Christian, this strategy can play an important role in learning to recognize God’s Voice and develop faith. In this post we’ll take a comprehensive look at the subject so you can understand how to use fleeces properly and what role they play in building faith.
WHY IS IT CALLED A FLEECE?
Whenever we try to determine God’s will for us by asking Him to do some specific event, it’s called using a fleece or putting out a fleece. We get the term from Gideon, who used an actual fleece—a piece of wool—to seek confirmation about God’s will (Judges 6). Today most of us aren’t using wool, but the term stuck as a catch-all phrase for asking God to give us a specific sign.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF A FLEECE?
Here’s where we get into heart motivation. Fleeces are only appropriate to use when we are UNCLEAR as to what God’s will is in a situation. When we know exactly what He wants us to do, yet we keep asking Him to reconfirm His will to us by performing miraculous signs, then we’re just playing games. Now sometimes God gives us instructions that completely overwhelm us. This was the case for Gideon. He knew what he was supposed to do—he just didn’t want to do it, so he kept asking God to reconfirm His instructions by performing miracles. Gideon asked for two separate miracles in order to “prove” that he was hearing God correctly. Because God is gracious, He granted Gideon’s requests. But it is unwise to follow Gideon’s example in this area, for God does not enjoy playing games with us. Too often we use fleeces or signs as a way to try and get out of doing what we know God wants us to do. When our sign doesn’t happen, we use it as an excuse to say “I guess I misunderstood God.” Such behavior is going to result in discipline. To use fleeces properly, we need to first check our heart attitudes and make sure we are treating God with respect.
Sometimes reverent Christians who are sincerely desiring to please God will think that He is leading them to do something but they aren’t sure. Rather than risk disobeying God or running out ahead of Him, they try asking Him for a sign in order to confirm that they are properly interpreting His leading. Other times, we feel like we get an idea on our own about something that we want to do but we want to make sure we have God’s approval before acting on it. Still other times we think we hear God say something to us that perhaps seems too good to be true, and we want to make sure it was really Him before we rely on His words as a firm promise. One way or another, we find ourselves in a serious discernment dilemma and asking God for some sort of sign seems like the only way we can get clear leading. When our core motivation is to stay in alignment with God, putting out fleeces can be an appropriate course to take. God understands how difficult it is for us to try and sort through the static of demons, our own expectations, our emotions, and other people’s opinions. He knows that His leading often seems very vague or nonexistent even to those who are sincerely seeking Him. God is mysterious by choice: He could write His will in the sky for each one of us if He wanted to, but He does not. Instead, He slowly teaches us how to discern the many forms His leading takes, and providing specific signs upon request is one of those forms.
Understand this point: you are not going to get in trouble with God for asking for a sign if your heart attitude is correct. On the contrary, God is quite pleased whenever any of His children are sincerely seeking His will in a matter. Now just because you ask for a sign does not mean that God will give you one, and it’s important not to read personal rejection into this. But before we expand on that point, let’s talk about how to set up an appropriate fleece for God.
HOW TO SET UP A FLEECE
The general pattern of a fleece that is being set up for the wrong reasons goes something like this: “God, if You’re really calling me to be a missionary to China, then have a pink elephant walk down the street in the next five minutes. If You don’t, then I’ll know that was just Satan talking.” The problem with this set up is that it is one sided and ridiculous. The person has intentionally chosen a disruptive, senseless miracle which they believe God would be unwilling to do. The way it is proposed, there is no option given for God to indicate that He does not accept the terms of this test. If He doesn’t bend the laws of the universe in the next five minutes, then He will be interpreted as saying His words came from Satan. This is not a sincere desire to seek God’s will, this is trying to use God’s personal boundaries against Him. God doesn’t perform stupid circus routines at our command.
Let’s remember that asking for a fleece is different than asking God to open doors of opportunity. If I feel He’s leading me to preach, then I might ask Him to open a door and I’ll have a general idea of what to look for. Asking for God to open doors of opportunity is about aligning with His timing: we know what He wants, we just don’t know when He wants it, so we wait for Him to clear the way. Putting out a fleece is about trying to clarify what He wants because we are sincerely confused. In these cases, it’s good to use neutral props. We like to recommend the tossing of coins to Christians who are trying to determine God’s will in this modern life. Coins are nice neutral props that are easily accessible, plus they follow God’s model of having the high priest of Israel toss the Urim and Thummim (which were like two coins) in order to determine God’s will for His people.
Coin tossing is a very biblical principle, but ONLY when it is pre-approved by God. It was ONLY the high priest who carried around a pair of two-sided objects in his sacred breastpiece (Exodus 28:30). God set up rules for how the Urim and Thummim were to be used and how they were to be interpreted. He did not go around giving signs to any Israelite who happened to toss two coins onto the ground.
Before going forward with any fleece, you must first give God the opportunity to say He is not interested in giving a sign to you at this time. This is where using two coins comes in handy. You can say, for example, “Are You willing to give me a sign regarding this situation? If You are, then have both coins land heads up. If You’re not, have both coins land tails up.” You then flip the coins. Now if one lands on heads and the other lands on tails, God is showing you that He is not willing to communicate His will to you through a fleece at this time. It is very important that God be given the option to remain silent in any test we design. When we set up a scenario like the pink elephant, then we are forcing a yes or no answer. If God rejects our test, we have no way of knowing it. The pink elephant won’t appear and we’ll erroneously assume that He has answered us when in fact He hasn’t said anything. Poorly designed fleeces only lead to further confusion. This is why using two coins is an excellent method because three options are always available to God: He can say yes or no, or He can remain silent.
Always make sure God is willing to speak to you through your chosen method before you try asking Him your actual question. If you’re using coins, you will end up needing two tosses: the first to determine if God is willing to speak through them, and a second toss to ask your question.
Sincere prayer is the first step in asking God for a sign. Get alone with Him and take a moment to review your dilemma in your mind to make sure you still need clarity. The Holy Spirit might take that opportunity to show you His will by another means. If He does not, and you want to try asking for a sign, get out your two coins and be very specific about how you will interpret the outcome of the toss. If you don’t lay out clear rules, you’ll only confuse yourself. Assign the three possible toss outcomes (head-head, tail-tail & head-tail) a meaning of yes, no, and silence. Then toss.
If God indicates that no, He does not want to speak to you through this method, or if He remains silent, then you need to put the coins away and continue to wait on Him for some other form of clarification. We’ll talk more about why God will refuse to give us signs later on.
If God indicates that yes, He is willing to give you a sign, then you need to set up your second question. Ask a clear question, like “Do You want me to talk to my friend about the affair she’s having?” and then decide what combination of heads and tails will indicate yes, no, or silence. Notice that even though God has indicated He is willing to communicate with you through coins, you still need to give Him the option of silence because He might not want to answer the specific question you are asking. In order to minimize confusion, we must always give God the option of passing on any question we ask Him.
Now you do your toss. If you get a yes or no answer, you need to then act on that answer. This is where many Christians fall down: they go through all the trouble of setting up a fleece, God cooperates, and then they bail on Him. Realize that as soon as you start down the “give me a sign” road, you are committing to obey God’s instructions. After you have received clear instructions on what He wants you to do, don’t think you’re not going to be in trouble with Him for willfully disobeying Him. Providing signs is not a game to God.
Suppose on this second toss, God indicates silence—He refuses to answer you through coins. At this point, you need to try and ask Him a different question. Take a moment to pray and give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to bring up the question He wants you to ask. God usually has different priorities than we do in a given moment. There might be some other unanswered question that you’ve shoved to the back of your mind which God now wants to answer for you in a very clear way through the coins. We need to give Him plenty of opportunity to lead in any fleece session.
DO I HAVE TO USE COINS?
We recommend coins because it is simple, clear, and easily provides the three critical options of yes, no, and silence. But there is no law that says you can’t use something else. Gideon’s test using a wool fleece was a very poor set up because he did not leave any way for God to reject the test. In both of his tests, he made “no” the most likely option while “yes” required the breaking of physical laws in the universe. Gideon’s poorly designed tests reflected his poor attitude: he already knew what God wanted and was looking for an easy way out.
You can use anything you want to be a fleece, but asking God for theatrics is simply unwise. We must stay focused on our main goal, which is to clarify God’s will. Asking God to perform miracles and dramatic stunts is simply not necessary and we want to be guarded against our flesh’s desire to be entertained.
SIGNS ARE ABOUT SIGHT
When we ask God for a sign, our focus is on sight, not faith. We want Him to communicate to us in a way that our senses can clearly interpret rather than have to struggle with trying to discern a more obscure form of His leading. In real life, Christians often use signs to get extra confirmation about something they already know God wants them to do. Rather than continue forward in faith, as Gideon should have done, they hold back and ask for extra reassurance. Gideon knew that God wanted him to march out in battle with the odds totally against him. Rather than go forward in faith, believing that God would grant him the victory as He promised, Gideon started playing fleece games.
All humans begin life relying entirely on their physical senses, logic and emotions to guide them. Christians who are going to thrive in the faith must learn how to do life completely backwards: we must learn to rely on faith and God’s good Character as our guides instead of our senses. We must learn to put more trust in what is unseen—God—than what is seen. There is nothing easy, quick, or comfortable about learning to do this. It takes a lot of time, struggle and perseverance. Along the way we’re going to feel foolish, clumsy, dense, and frustrated. Just as children today would rather watch television than do their homework, we Christians would rather continue through life relying on our senses instead of learning new skills. If God would only keep the signs coming, then we would never have to struggle over what to do. This is why asking God to communicate to us through signs is highly addictive. Once we experience Him speaking to us through this method, we’re naturally going to try and use it as much as possible. This becomes problematic for God, because He wants us to grow strong in faith, not stay dependent on the crutch of sight. This is why God will quickly discourage us from using signs once we get started with them. He’ll use them for an occasional clarification to help us over some hump in the road, but His main focus will be building our faith up enough to wean us entirely off of the need for visual confirmations.
THE VALUE OF SIGNS
God is not against signs. In fact, there are many occasions in the Bible when He gives miraculous signs to people who aren’t even asking for them, just to give them an extra anchor to hold on to. When properly timed in a Christian’s life, signs can help speed up the development of faith. Overdo the signs, and the faith will wither like an over watered houseplant. It’s a tricky balance which only God knows how to properly maintain. This is why we must be willing to part with signs when God starts stonewalling us.
Because signs are so tempting to overuse, it’s easy to start using them to try and get extra confirmation about things we already know are true. This is when God often lets Satan into the mix in order to discourage us from putting out more fleeces. We’ll start getting a lot of silence from God and then we’ll start to get answers that we know are wrong. “Do You love me?” we’ll ask and then our test results will indicate “no.” Obviously this isn’t God talking, it is demons who have gotten permission to toy with us. As soon as this sort of thing happens, it means it’s time to take a break because God is done speaking through signs for a while. This is where Satan will rush in to try and make you feel embarrassed for trying to ask God for signs in the first place. He’ll also try to tell you God is annoyed with you. We must remember that any conviction which makes us feel rejected, hopeless and distant from God is from a lie from demons. When God has problem with us, He is clear about what it is, He shows us how to get back in alignment with His will, and encourages us to do the right thing. He doesn’t beat us down and mock us for our past mistakes.
God loves all of His children dearly and He enjoys every stage of our spiritual development. When He takes signs away from us, we mustn’t read personal rejection into it. Instead, we need to realize He’s ready to move us on to bigger and better things. God wants the absolute best for us, and living by faith will lead us to far more peace, confidence and joy than living by sight ever could. It’s important that we don’t let Satan sell us a picture of God being impatient with us and quick to throw up His hands in aggravation whenever we stumble. The many transitions we go through as we mature are difficult to get through, and God understands this. He has great compassion for our struggles and He never gets annoyed with us for being human. When we get frustrated and upset after He blocks us from something we really want—like a clear sign about what to do—He is going to respond like the good father who pulls his child onto his lap and reassures him that everything is going to be alright. God knows how disappointing it is when He refuses to give us something we really feel like we need. But whenever God blocks us, we must realize it is because He has something better in mind. Never interpret God’s rejection of your fleece test as Him rejecting you personally. God loves you and wants you to grow into a strong, confident, tower of faith. He knows how to get you there. You need to trust Him.
SIGNS ARE TEMPORARY
At best, signs are only going to be in our lives for short seasons of time while we learn how to live by faith. The stronger our faith becomes, the less signs will play a role in our lives. God is not going to let us have a steady diet of signs, and those who think He is doing that with them have probably fallen into a dangerous pattern of self-deception. By using poor tests that are biased in our favor, we can pretend God is giving us signs when in reality He is not. We must remember that God is always focused on maturing us. The more willing we are to listen to Him, the more firmly He’s going to push us forward and the less time He’ll let us have relying on any physical props. While signs can be a good thing and totally appropriate at certain points in our walk, we must view them as only temporary helps which we want to mature past as quickly as possible. As always, when we sincerely desire to please God in our hearts, we cannot fail to do so, regardless of how many signs He does or does not give us.
REVIEW OF THE COIN METHOD
Step 1. Get two coins and go somewhere that you can be alone with God and focus.
Step 2. Respectfully ask God if He is willing to speak to you through coins at this time. Indicate which combination will mean yes.
- “God, if you are willing to speak to me through coins, please have coins both land heads up.”
- Flip both coins
- 2 Tails or 1 Head & 1 Tail = God is telling you that He does not want to communicate further through this method at this time. Don’t take this as personal rejection. Just put the coins away and expect Him to lead you through a different method.
- 2 Heads = God is giving you a clear YES that He is willing to communicate to you through coins at this time. Continue on to Step 3.
Step 3. Ask your first question. Be sure to word it in a way that it can be clearly answered by a yes or no. Indicate what your combinations will mean.
- Ask your question, then add, “If yes, please have both coins land heads up, if no, please have them land tails up.”
- Flip both coins.
- 2 Tails = God is giving you a clear NO to your question.
- 2 Heads = God is giving you a clear YES to your question.
- 1 Head & 1 Tail = God is not answering this question. Since He has already agreed to speak to you through coins, He has a specific question in mind that He plans to answer, but so far you haven’t asked it. Take time to pray and ask God to show you which question to ask. He will probably bring to mind another issue that you’ve been wondering about. Once a new question surfaces, try again.
Cautions. Don’t try to carry on a long conversation using this method. God does not prefer to speak through these kinds of signs. Stick to issues you have serious doubts about, then put the coins away. If God gives the silence indicator (1 Head & 1 Tail), don’t mistake it as a clear NO. Silence simply means He does not wish to answer your question through this method at this time.
Often when God refuses to give us a clear sign, it is because He wants us to practice relying on faith instead of sight. If He will not speak to you through coins, don’t be discouraged. God is always speaking to you through many different means. Ask Him to have His way in your life and then trust that He will.