What Do the Flashing Caution Arrows Mean?

Over the past several years in towns and cities across America, a new traffic help has shown up at stop light corners. When the light changes from red, there may be a green arrow allowing the people in their proper lane to turn left. It stays on for a while and then sometimes will turn red and then begin to blink a yellow caution arrow. Some just go from the green arrow to a yellow blinking caution arrow. What does that mean?

For those who have been driving for a long time and have never seen that configuration, it takes some learning to realize that the arrow is making a blinking yellow caution that you can with care and a clear traffic pattern, turn when all is safe. I think it’s a great help to keep traffic moving where there is no traffic coming. The problem is that sometimes people do not know what it means and they think when the green arrow is gone they cannot proceed even when traffic is clear.

Recently, I was behind a person who missed the green light and sat there for what seemed like 30 minutes while the caution blinking yellow arrow was giving them opportunity to move forward cautiously. No, they just sat there waiting for the light to turn back to red and finally after what seemed like 30 – 45 minutes, it turned red. I started to honk my horn and then I thought better of it. Then I thought maybe if I just gently bump them they will know they can go forward, but I thought even less of that idea. I just sat there while the light finally turned red. After the cross traffic went, we got back to the green arrow. I eased on out and proceeded.

We might as well get used to the yellow blinking caution arrow because it’s found all across our land. It really does help when you know what it’s trying to tell you and you are permitted to go ahead and turn when the coast is clear.

The reason I mention this is because many of our churches come up against a blinking caution light and feel like it means stop and never move forward again. There are things that happen in our churches that are moments of pause and reflection and evaluation of a situation and then moving forward and making progress — but no, it’s like the car that was sitting in front of me. Sometimes they just see a caution light and interpret that it means stop and never move again. Let me give you a few examples.

One cautionary moment that could come in a church’s life is the loss of a leader.  Often it is a heartbreaking, grief experience when a church loses its pastor or a staff member sometimes through death and other times because they feel led to go to another place of service. The church finds it so hard to face the future without their strong, caring shepherd leader. I understand that but like the caution arrow, it’s okay to pause long enough to evaluate the situation, gather yourself together, then by God’s grace and help, begin to move forward even though it will not be with the previous leader.

The Church of Jesus is not built on earthly leadership but on heavenly leadership. God will provide leaders who will come and eventually go, who will serve His people and serve Him with glory. We must not be stymied, frozen, or stuck simply because a leader changes in our church. We can celebrate those leaders who God has sent to us through the years, but we will also confidently trust Him as we move through that moment and move into the vision He has for our future. Don’t get stuck at the blinking caution lights of life.

Another one of those caution lights may be at the point of a lull in a church’s growth or activities or financial support. Immediately the naysayers will say, “Oh, the good times are all in the past and there’s very little future left for us.” Not so. It can be that way and you can sit at the caution light all day, all decade, all life if you want to, but simply pause and look at the situation. See what God has done for you and what He promises He will do for you. Don’t miss the blessings ahead by just sitting at the blinking light.

A third caution light might be a lack of confidence. I say confidence, meaning faith in God. There will always be those things that we come upon that we do not see how in this world or the world to come we could ever get through it, except for the power and grace of God. It’s like Israel in the Old Testament. Moses led them from Egyptian bondage all the way across the desert to Kadesh Barnea and there before them was the Promise Land. Did they go in? No. No, they didn’t because there was a caution light there. The blinking arrow was pointing the way but they ignored the opportunity and chose to listen to the faithless spies’ report that said they could not take this land. There are giants over there. There are good things, sure, but there are so many bad things we will stay where we are.

Now I know it wasn’t something wrong with the future; something was wrong with their faith. God wanted them to trust Him. He had promised the land to them. He had brought them that far. He wanted them to move forward and they wouldn’t do it. Have you in your own personal life and maybe in your corporate life as a believer with other believers in your church had those moments of lack of confidence and faith in God that you couldn’t even imagine moving forward? You need to say, “God, we’re following you.” The future is in God’s hands. The brightness of the future for God’s people is to say, “We believe You. We will follow You. We are focused on You.” For Israel, there would be 40 barren years come and go until finally a generation of people arose who said, “God, we believe You. We will go into the land.” Sure, all around us every day in so many ways we are constantly facing the caution blinking lights that come before us. God says, “See where you are. See where I want you to be. Now go ahead and move forward. Don’t get stuck on stop.”

The author can be contacted at directions@mbcb.org.

Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer