“Ask me for a sign.” Isaiah 7:11
The digital clock read 3:33 – my first conscious thought upon waking in the middle of the night. Could it be a sign from God of His comforting presence and the promise of His faithfulness in the face of anxiety I had been battling? The three white luminescent “3’s” offered me a glimmer of hope in the darkened room reminding me of the Trinity.
God speaks in multifarious ways. Would it not seem plausible to think that in response to heartfelt prayers, especially in times of desperation, He would use even this simplest of signs to underscore that He hears and cares? That is how I chose to interpret my waking at exactly 3:33.
The preceding day, the first of a three day conference for which I was supplying the audience response system technology had been a stressful one. To complicate matters, during the opening meeting that evening, my computer, for which the operation of the system depends, began to malfunction. We were able to salvage the session but afterward to my consternation were unable to identify the cause of the computer glitch. When I turned in later that night my heart was deeply troubled. With the prospect of two intense days before me with an unreliable computer and the responsibility of supplying the voting needs of over 400 delegates I was in a frenzy. Faith, like my sleep, was hard to come by as I tossed and turned and tried to pray for wisdom and a measure of peace.
Seeing the 3:33 as a sign from God settled two critical issues for me. First I felt like God was saying “let not your heart be troubled, I have everything under control.” Peace began to permeate my soul with that thought and like a harbinger of faith began to brighten my perspective. Secondly, and this thought came with a sudden clarity, I realized the best course of action was to cease fussing over and with the ornery computer and use instead an old back-up computer I had with me. Embracing those two realizations prompted by the 3:33 sign, enabled me to approach the rest of the conference in faith, trusting that God would be faithful to His promises – and He was!
The phrase “signs and wonders” have jokingly been referred to as signs that make you wonder. Ironically that is not as far from the truth as one would think. Signs, whether of the end-time variety that will one day emblazen the skies, or of the garden variety that could be easily missed, are things that do make us wonder about God’s intentions.
Gideon asked for a sign to confirm God’s call upon his life to lead Israel to battle against the Midianites. Although motivated by doubt and fear, Gideon was obliged by God on two successive occasions with miraculous signs that encouraged him to take bold actions that eventually led to an amazing victory with an army of just 300 men. (Judges 6:36-40) Although this story is the quintessential illustration of guidance by “putting out a fleece” some view modern day uses of Gideon-like fleece signs as a form of guidance that is too contrived if not less than.
It is my conviction that any form of guidance including fleeces, when prompted by the Holy Spirit, is a viable means for God to speak to us and direct us in His ways. We dare not put God in a box lest we limit Him nor keep God out of our box lest we limit ourselves. Signs are often more by God’s initiative than ours.
There are two guidelines that I have found helpful in specifically seeking God’s guidance by asking for a sign. They have been learned the hard way, through repeated failures.
1) Use guidance by signs only as a last resort – after much prayer and having exhausted attempts at every other way you know of hearing God’s voice. Have it in your guidance toolbox, but it should be buried under all the other tools by virtue of its very selective use. God’s ultimate purpose is that we develop a personal relationship with Him and learn to hear His voice. “My sheep listen to My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
2.) Seeking God’s guidance by a sign should be a big ask. In other words, if circumstances are such that you feel you must ask for a sign, make the sign so incredibly improbable, that only God could perform it. That way you will know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that God has spoken. Make it too easy and you’ll be subject to even greater doubt or even worse you could be misled. Gideon’s ask of God regarding his wool fleece first being dry and then being wet was just such a sign.
When I first became a Christian, in my naiveté, the use of guidance by signs was so frequent that it bordered on the whimsical. At one point I became so capricious in its use that I actually dropped out of college based on seeing more than five gremlins (the car) on my drive home from work one day.
In contrast, four years ago, being in desperate need for confirmation to something I felt God saying to me, I was prompted by the Holy Spirit while on a morning run through my neighborhood to ask for a miraculous sign. Early in my run I found a golf ball lying in the grass by the sidewalk. Living in a golf course community, it was not unusual for me to find a golf ball periodically while out for a run. In all my years, before or since, I have never found more than two on my regular tour through the neighborhood. Since I was in prayer about my dilemma, I decided to present a big ask of God. I asked that, before my run was over, I would find seven golf balls, specifying that if the count was six or even eight or more, I would know that He was not speaking to me. It had to be exactly seven and within the bounds and timeframe of my normal run. Long story short, with growing astonishment I found lying in front yards right along the sidewalk, spread out along my run, six more golf balls to make an exact total of seven. I was flabbergasted and after that found myself, during the last leg of my run hoping and praying I would not find any more and I did not. It was unmistakable, God had spoken. The passage of time since that sign have proven that it was indeed a promise from God and it is still being fulfilled in my life.
What have you learned about guidance by signs?
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