I suppose that every young child who has ever ridden in a vehicle with their parents has learned what the traffic signal lights mean. Green means Go. Red means Stop. Yellow means Caution, or Be Careful. If you’re a parent, you have at some point been commanded from the back seat to “GO! “It’s GREEN!!”, as you sit waiting for the car in front of you to move. Or perhaps you’ve been startled with the scream of “STOP! It’s RED!!” as you’ve approached an intersection. Small children are acutely aware of the colors and the meanings once they’ve learned them and react intensely with their instructions to the drivers.
Several years ago I was driving with my granddaughter in the back seat. In between our play where I was the child and she was the parent and the imaginary birthday party we were planning, we rehearsed what she knew about the traffic signals….
“Kylie, what does the green light mean?”
“What does the red light mean?”
“What does the yellow light mean?”
Hmmm….perhaps I need to have a conversation with her mother….
We have been given a guide – the Holy Spirit. He was sent to dwell in us for the purpose of leading and guiding us through this life as a follower of Jesus. He is constantly signaling the right direction to go, the right action to take, the right words to speak. But I wonder how many of us are so acutely aware of these signals that we are quick to obey?
As we learn more about the Holy Spirit and study God’s word, it becomes easier and easier to recognize the signal to “GO!”. The Bible is very clear on actions we are to take in loving, giving, serving, witnessing, etc. Many opportunities to obey are clearly seen – the homeless man on the sidewalk, the need for a worker in the children’s class at church, the offering plate passed during worship, the co-worker going through difficult family issues. We make daily choices to obey or not, but the signal to “GO!” is often very clear.
The Holy Spirit is also very quick to signal “STOP!” The Bible is very specific in the definitions of sin and the instructions to stay far away from it. When the temptations come, He is screaming from within “STOP!” If we’ve studied the word at all, we hear Him. He knows the dangers and the consequences ahead and His love for us deeply desires to protect us, but we must choose to obey the signal.
I think where we have the greatest struggle is that the signal to “Be Careful” doesn’t seem as clear. It’s not a “GO” and it’s not a “STOP”. We must take the time to look at the circumstances around us and listen to His direction as we consider different factors. I suspect that many of us are impatient with this process and prefer to follow Kylie’s instructions to just “HURRY UP!” We quickly look around and hope that we can continue on with our original direction without interruption, and certainly without crashing! It’s a risk.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever raced through the yellow light and watched it turn red before crossing beneath. We happily continue on our way, relieved that we’ve saved that extra minute or two in our extremely important need to get to lunch or some other pressing matter. What we seldom consider are those we just passed by. Perhaps we just scared the young mother with children in the car as she slammed on her brakes. Or the elderly driver whose eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Traffic is no longer about people but viewed as a necessary evil that is constantly thwarting our plans. The signals are there for a reason. For our protection and for the protection of those around us.
The Holy Spirit’s signals are for our protection and the protection of those around us. Our words and actions matter and He wants to guide us in the right way. His prompting to slow down and look at the factors surrounding us will reveal things impossible to see if we rush through with only our agenda on our minds. These signals are given often at seemingly insignificant times, such as when we are impatiently waiting in the checkout line as the cashier struggles to make change with the customer ahead of us. Listening to His signal may reveal that the young cashier is new in the position and nervous about her first day without assistance. He may give us a “GO” with some words of encouragement for her. Slowing down to hear His voice may expose the deep loneliness of the woman at the office that no one seems to befriend. We may be signaled “Go, invite her to lunch”. Obeying the signal to be cautious may lead us away from spouting the words of anger that are forming in our minds.
“But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall everything I have told you.” John 14:26
I love the way the New International Version states:
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25
It’s not our job to determine “why” He’s leading us a certain way. Our part is to respond to the signals with obedience.