2014-10-24 - A to Fleece to Call My Own
Originally Published 2010-10-02
Author's Note: Some decisions have been weighing on my mind these past few weeks. So I have been thinking back to the cows mentioned in this devotional so I hope as it helps me to reflect on God's past care and guidance that it will bless you again as well.
Almost a year ago, I was presented with an opportunity to become the Student Pastor at a church in a town not far from where I live. My wife and I wrestled with this decision and prayed about it. I had been doing youth ministry for nearly ten years and was finally being offered a Pastor position so it seemed like a natural progression. I was called to preach several years ago as well so it seemed like the right blend of obedience to the purpose for which I was called and working with youth which I am passionate about. It would also give me an opportunity to do youth the way I thought it should be done instead of just helping others do it their way. But on the flip side it meant leaving a great church home for some place new and my wife is more than a little shy so leaving was a rather unsettling idea for her. I too had a good many friends there who knew me and I felt comfortable talking with. It also meant leaving a youth group that I had worked hard to build relationships with for a few years in order to go to a new place where no one would know me and I'd have to start all over. Not trying to pat myself on the back but I also felt like I was a valuable member of the church in that I was a deacon, Sunday School Director, computer guy, and kind of the right hand man for the Youth Pastor there. I didn't want to leave where I was being used for some unknown place where I might not be as useful. Bottom line it was two goods and I couldn't decide which was better; I really wrestled with what to do.
I spoke to a few friends about it and two of them told me to "put my fleece out" referring to this passage in Judges.
Judges 6:36-40 (NASB)
Like any good Christian, I thought they were religious nuts or something and didn't think much else about it. I just kept on praying for wisdom to know which way to go. I often prayed about it on my way to and from work. On my route I would always pass a cow pasture only I began to notice I hadn't seen cows there in quite awhile. One day on the way in to work, I decided what the heck I'll try the fleece thing. "God, if you want me to go show me some cows here." I prayed half meaningfully and half sarcastically. I was desperate - I hadn't heard from God so I'd go with the nuts.
No cows were suddenly beamed down to the surface from a mother ship that morning. On the way home as I approached the front of the pasture I still saw no cows. I turned the corner and started up beside the pasture and prayed, "OK God so there's no cows. Does that mean you didn't answer or that you did answer and I should stay where I'm at?" Then out of the woods behind the pasture, I saw what must have been forty or fifty cows heading straight towards the fence and towards me. I had never seen a single cow back in the woods there so I felt sure I had my answer. I took the Student Pastor position at the new church. It still wasn't easy to leave the old church behind but we did. There's been ups and downs but I knew I was doing what God wanted me to do. But lately, I have been discouraged by our diminishing numbers in the church and in the youth group in particular. There also just seems to be a lot of apathy in the pews. As for the cows, since that day, I have not seen a single cow back in that area again.
This past Wednesday was a big outreach night for the youth. I worked extra hard on the message making sure it was both applicable to the regular attendees and to any newcomers that may or may not be saved. I prepared for weeks for this one night. I picked out some awesome activities got bigger than normal giveaways. My wife bought and prepared a lot of food to help out. I poured over many songs trying to pick the perfect ones for the night. This was to be the first big outreach night since school began and I wanted to make it amazing. I prayed that the youth would turn out and bring friends. I just knew that we would double from our standard eight and was hoping for maybe even thirty. I went early and spent an hour getting the room set-up with chairs cleared for the opening activities, setting out the food. I was excited.
Six showed up. We ate and a seventh appeared. "OK God is this the first of many more to come in late?" We did the opening activities and the youth loved it. We sang the songs I had prayerfully selected; well I sang the first song and the youth talked or stared at the ceiling. I cut the music short and enthusiastically dove into the message that God had laid on my heart. We wrapped it up and the teens all left. I cleaned up and headed home - discouraged. "God what am I doing here? When I came we had so many that we had to enlarge the room. Now we could meet in a closet. Am I doing what you want me to do?" I stayed up late and sent messages to all the youth that have become my Facebook friends.
The next morning I went to work still very discouraged. "God what am I doing there? I never should have left the old church." I came home still discouraged. "God what am I doing wrong? Should I step down and let someone else do it?" And then I turned the corner and up in the woods, stood a dozen or more cows.
"Thanks God! I get it. I'll keep on doing what I know you want me to do. Thank you for the pep talk."
God is amazing! He is the great encourager. He holds my hand when I need it most and even gives a warm shoulder for me to lean on or cry on.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV) - May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
All scripture references are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.