Last week God spoke to me through a very unusual dream. Although I’ve never even been to a NASCAR race, in this dream I was a NASCAR driver.
The dream was short and uneventful, except for the stunning punchline blaring through the raceway loudspeakers: “PAY ATTENTION TO THE FLAGS!”
Although the NASCAR Hall of Fame is just 26 miles from where I live, I honestly have never had much interest in the sport. And until my dream, I never considered the spiritual significance of the NASCAR flags.
Yet now I see that we experience unnecessary frustration when we fail to heed God’s “flags” and recognize the new seasons He’s bringing us into. In order to successfully navigate the course ahead, it will be crucial to pay closer attention to which “flag” He is displaying at any given moment.
Let me explain…
THE GREEN FLAG: As you might expect, the green flag means GO. As I prayed about the significance of a green flag, I sensed the Lord’s displeasure that many believers have gotten stuck at the starting gate. The flag is green, yet they remain in place, year after year. While God is calling them to take some step of faith and make progress on their journey, they’re paralyzed by fear. And although they claim to be waiting for the “right time” to get started, the perfect conditions never seem to arrive.
Friend, has the Lord given you a vision for some grand new adventure? If so, make sure you’re not procrastinating in getting started. If the flag is green, there’s no time to waste!
THE YELLOW FLAG: A yellow flag instructs the drivers to slow down and exercise CAUTION. Often that means there’s an accident ahead, right around the corner but not yet in view.
I’m the kind of person who hates yellow flags. Delays are agonizing, for I want to go full speed ahead.
However, God wants to assure impatient people like me that we can trust the wisdom of His delays. We can’t see the dangers around the corner, but He can.
During our seasons when God pulls out the yellow flag, it’s also necessary to be alert and use discernment. We live in perilous days, and it has never been more important to “understand the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
The apostle Paul warned about how we must live when surrounded by an ungodly culture:
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is…be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-18).
We live in days when the yellow flag is out! We must be careful and discerning, continually filled with the Holy Spirit.
THE RED FLAG: When drivers encounter a red flag, they must STOP. No, this doesn’t mean abandoning the race. Instead, it usually means that it’s time for a pit stop – refueling, getting new tires, or making other adjustments that will help the drivers be successful on the laps ahead.
Have you ever experienced burnout? I’ve faced this often over the course of my life, and it happened to me again in recent months. My spiritual and emotional tank had become empty, and it was time for a much-needed pit stop to get refueled and revitalized.
Please understand, if you sense that God is giving you a red flag, it doesn’t mean He’s mad at you. Quite the contrary, it means He wants you to pause and get retooled for the race ahead.
THE CHECKERED FLAG: When you cross the FINISH LINE, you’ll be greeted with a checkered flag. If you’re a young person, you may be tempted to think the checkered flag is many decades in the future and therefore irrelevant. That would be a tragic misconception!
Many years prior to his death, Paul was already focused on the upcoming “checkered flag” and his need to finish the race well. He was acutely aware that some believers will be greeted at the finish line by “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), while others will discover that their lives had no eternal significance (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
The older I get, the more conscious I am that life should continually be lived with the checkered flag in view. Through our relationships and how we spend our time and resources, we should be preparing an eternal legacy.
Friend, I hope you will pay attention to these “flags” as you navigate the raceway of life. Not only will your Heavenly Father greet you at the finish line, but He will also be present to guide your journey all along the way.
As his life was drawing close to the end, Paul was confident about what he had accomplished and how he would be rewarded:
The time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
If we live our lives in constant awareness that the checkered flag awaits us, we can finish our race with this same confidence. Of all the flags, this is the one that matters most.