Ignoring the Warning Signs

If you know me, you know I am not a big fan of spending lots of money on automobiles. I’m kind of a “point-A-to-point-B” kind of guy when it comes to cars. So we always buy cars for cash, and that usually means we get them after someone has driven them for many miles already. At last count I think we as a family had had eight different vehicles that had passed 200,000 miles on the odometer, and we have two now that are rapidly approaching that milestone.

One thing I have discovered is that even a car that is in pretty good shape, after it has a lot of miles, will usually have some kind of sensor issue that triggers the “check engine light” to come on. So, most of the time, with most of our cars, there is a persistent light on the dash, always lit up, telling me to check the engine.

So I did, and it’s still there.

Actually, if you go down to the auto parts store where they check the “check engine” diagnostics for you, you often find that the light is warning you of something that, in the big picture, is not that big of a problem. We could spend lots of money to fix it–more than the car is worth–or we can just get used to the light shining every time we turn the engine on. Which is the option we usually choose.

The problem with that scenario is that if something else goes wrong–something that may be more serious–the light doesn’t give us any additional warning. It doesn’t flash or turn a different color to tell us, “This time we REALLY mean it….you REALLY need to check your engine!” So, I’m always wondering if there’s something more sinister going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about. One of these days there will be, I’m sure.

I read about a guy who woke up in the night to a loud beeping sound coming from his smoke detector. His wife sent him to check on it, and when he couldn’t get it to stop beeping, he just pulled the battery out of it so he could get back to sleep. When he came back to bed and his wife questioned what he had done to stop it, he told her he just removed the battery. Her reply: “You can’t do that. There could be a fire in the house somewhere.”

“We’re upstairs,” he explained. “There’s no smoke, we can’t smell anything, there’s not heat coming from any place. Do you smell smoke? I don’t smell any smoke. It was clearly a battery problem. Trust me. I took care of it.”

The next morning he went to work, and shortly thereafter was interrupted from a meeting with a message that he needed to go home immediately. As he pulled up in his cul-de-sac he saw several fire trucks at his house, and smoke billowing from beneath his roof. It turns out that birds had built their nest inside the chimney casing, which eventually started smoldering and set off the smoke alarm. Because he didn’t do anything–other than remove the battery from the smoke detector–a fire started behind the wall and did extensive damage. Just because he wanted to get back to sleep.

The smoke detector wasn’t his enemy. The fire was his enemy. The smoke detector was simply trying to help.

There are many things in our lives that the Lord uses to get our attention, and alert us that something is amiss, that under the hood or beneath the surface, there are problems. We can try to ignore them, but we will likely end up regretting that decision. We would do well to deal with the issues before the smoldering nest turns into a blazing destructive fire.

It may be with your health, with your finances, with your marriage, or with other relationships. It may be emotional “check engine” lights–as you struggle unnaturally with worry or fear or bitterness. All of those things indicate something is not right with your faith life, with your walk with Christ. Or, perhaps the flashing light on your dashboard indicates guilt, that you would just as well ignore. The light–the guilt–is not the enemy. The sin behind the guilt is the issue, and there are always consequences to our sin, especially if it goes unchecked, and un-repented of.

So here’s a friendly exhortation to not ignore the warning lights and beeping detectors that the Lord has placed in your life, for your protection. He loves you, and He doesn’t want you to break down on the side of the proverbial road, or come home to smoking ruins. He is trying to get your attention. He warns you, because He wants what’s best for you.

May He always have our attention, and may we respond with faithful obedience. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken