A strong storm hit a coastal town bringing with it an inundation of rain. The weather forecast for the area had predicted the storm, so most people were ready for its arrival. However, the storm did bring more rainfall than anticipated. Several roads had to be closed due to streams and rivers flowing over the road surface.
In the areas where authorities closed the roads, signs and flashing lights blocked the way through. The signs indicated the road closure was due to flooding, and driving on the road could result in injury or death.
As you might expect, many people ignored the signage. Drivers would steer their cars off-road to go around the signs and then attempt to navigate to roadway despite the swift current and deep water.
Some were more successful than others. By the time the storm had passed, many cars had been swept off the road. Unfortunately, four people drowned in their vehicles as they were washed down the swollen waterways.
Researchers have tried to identify why people ignore clear signs of danger. There are many reasons; however, one reason is the glue that holds together the complex process of ignoring warning signs: disbelief. As one researcher summarized, even if the danger is clear and the sign plainly alerts people to the danger, if the individual (for whatever reason) perceives the danger is not as bad as stated, they will ignore the sign. Stated another way, we trust our own ability to assess danger more than we trust warning signs.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we hear the heartbreaking plea of the rich man (after he died and entered judgment) to Abraham, “Then I beg you, father, to send him [Lazarus-who is also dead but in paradise] to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-28).
He is asking for a warning sign to go to his brothers that they would believe God and avoid judgment. But the truth is they already had all the signs they needed, but they were ignoring them because they saw no danger. The sign they had was the Scriptures, which told of God and the need of all people to be reconciled to Him through faith.
However, the rich man didn’t think the problem was with his brothers’ disbelief; instead, he felt the problem was the quality of the sign. He told Abraham that if someone would rise from the dead and warn his brothers, they would believe.
Abraham understood what those warning sign researchers understood: it doesn’t matter what kind of sign people see; they will trust their own judgment more. Abraham made this clear in Matthew 16:31, saying, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
Abraham’s statement gives us some insight into what it means to live our life trusting the Lord. To live a life of faith in God means we learn to trust God more than our own intuition.
Why is this so important?
Because of one more thing that is worth mentioning about how people ignore warning signs. In every case there was a short-term benefit to ignoring the warning. In the case of the flooded road, most people didn’t want to be stranded. Or, they just wanted to get home and out of the rain. In one case, they were anxious to get to their favorite restaurant. The short-term benefits seemed to outweigh what was perceived to be signs making a big deal out of nothing. Why miss out on my favorite restaurant just because there is a little water on the road?
It is important as followers of Jesus to recognize that by default we trust ourselves more than the Bible, especially when it means we get things our way. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to God’s ways. As we read God’s Word and seek to apply it to our life, we will be tempted to borrow the devil’s phrase from Eden, “…did God really say?” We do this because the Bible is quite clear: God’s plan for our life will involve interrupting many things we would rather be doing.
When those interruptions happen and the Holy Spirit is prodding us, we will decide to either live by faith and the power of the Spirit, or trust our own judgment more. Romans 8:5-6 makes this point clearly, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Luke 16:19-31.
See you Sunday,