I hate red traffic lights!
Even though traffic signals have green and yellow lights, they are still called “red” lights. Regardless of the fact they are meant for my protection, they signify stopping, impeding my progress, restricting my actions. In other words, my reactions to them reveal that I am impatient, inconsiderate of others and insensitive to the fact that they deserve to have green lights as well.
In my past, when a traffic signal turned yellow, I sped up to get through the intersection before the dreaded red light appeared. Occasionally I cut things a bit too close, and the light turned red before I entered the intersection. Notice, I used to do this – I’ve tried to mellow out as I’ve grown older and (hopefully) wiser.
On my way to work one recent morning, I had an opportunity to demonstrate my mellower and wiser side. My approaching traffic signal turned yellow and, instead of stomping the gas pedal, I braked to a stop. Unfortunately, the driver in the lane beside me chose to speed through on red and narrowly missed causing a nasty wreck. At that moment, God’s Spirit spoke to me about my impatience – not with red traffic signals, but with His sovereign red flags.
For those times when I run a red light, I think I am gaining on my life schedule. But in reality, I am needlessly rushing ahead, placing myself and others in danger, and positioning myself where I am not supposed to be. Consider this: how may times has an accident happened just in front or just behind you? Or a vehicle turned right in front of where you could have been if you had been rushing? Mere coincidences? I think not.
I’ve come to realize that of every stop sign, every red light, every traffic jam, none are a surprise to God. He sees all and orchestrates everything to place me exactly where I’m supposed to be. That is, IF I am surrendered to Him, IF I am following Him and IF I am heeding His spiritual traffic signals.
In a spiritual sense, God places us where we need to be and, more importantly, where He needs us to be. If you need proof, read the story of Philip in Acts 8. Religious persecution moved him from Jerusalem northward to Samaria. While he was in Samaria, a great revival broke out with many people believing in Jesus Christ. We would think, “Hey, Philip! God is blessing! You’d better buy a home here and settle in while continuing to lead this great revival!” But we would be mistaken.
Shortly thereafter, God prompted him to leave that spiritual awakening and head south, below Jerusalem, into the desert. Not questioning why, Philip obeyed – and met the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading Isaiah and needed someone to lead Him to the Messiah referenced there. So Philip was spiritually positioned to lead him to Christ. If we were Philip, we would be tempted to think, “Hey! Great catch, God! This guy doesn’t know much, so as his spiritual leader, I’ll hang with him and teach him as much as I can.” Again, we would be wrong. Right after the baptism service, the Holy Spirit physically transported Philip to the distant town of Azotus, over by the Mediterranean Sea.
Yes, God will definitely “green” light a willing person. But, He also has “stop” signs. In Acts 16, we find He stopped Paul from “preaching the word in the province of Asia” and “they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” Why would God stop them from reaching those people? Because He wanted Paul in Macedonia.
In His sovereignty, God orchestrates things far beyond our comprehension. But one thing we know for sure: He loves us and wants the very best for us. Sometimes that means stopping us from what we think is good in order to give us His best.
What are some of the spiritual red lights God uses? The most obvious is when He clearly says, “No.” If we listen closely, sometimes the Holy Spirit influences our movement with His conviction and counsel. Other times, the stop signs come from the mistakes other people make – or even as direct warnings from them as they share their lifelong learning experiences with us. It is wise (and healthy) to slow down, ask questions and seek godly counsel for every intersection of life, even if we don’t see any immediate warning signs. Just because the railroad caution arms are stuck in the air doesn’t mean a train ain’t comin’.
What are some of these intersections? Jobs and career choices, buying a home, dating and considering marriage (this is HUGE because of its lifelong impact), plus a thousand other smaller decisions you will face.
He stopped Philip. He stopped Paul. He stops you and me as well. At least He puts His “red” flags in our path – if only we are discerning enough to see and consider them.
Even when there are no specific stop signs or red flags on our journey, we are wise to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we don’t wait patiently for Him (Psalm 37:7), we are in danger of “outrunning our destiny,” stepping out from His provision and protection, placing ourselves where He never intended us to be, and missing His best for our lives.
What red lights are you running today? Is the Holy Spirit whispering, “Hey, it’s time to pump the brakes and slow down”? Please listen to whatever cautionary influence God places in your life.
You owe it to yourself to wait for His best instead of settling for what you consider good.