Luke 2:12 – This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Signs are helpful. They tell us where we are. They tell us where to turn. Have you ever made a wrong turn because there was no sign? Have you ever turned onto a road because of a sign but then wondered later if you made a wrong turn or missed a road sign somewhere along the way? It is to our benefit that highway departments periodically put highway number signs along the road to remind us that we are on the right highway. However, they rarely put signs every mile on the open road.
The assumption is that you may need an occasional reference, but once you have started on the right road you are still on the right road.
Sometimes in life we make major decisions in complete confidence only to question those decisions down the road. You may have decided to attended college hundreds of miles from home only to experience severe homesickness by the third week of October. Perhaps you took a new job that looked like a great opportunity at first only to later discover the culture and work environment were very unpleasant. If you made these decisions on your own, that is one thing, but many of us Christians believe that God still gives direction to his children as he did in the Bible. We believe that the Holy Spirit can “lead us into all truth” as Jesus promised he would in John 16:13. The Apostle said, “Those are being led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14)
Sometimes that guidance is subtle. Sometimes it is unmistakable.
I have experienced God’s specific direction many times in my life. Not too long ago, I moved from Washington to Florida, not because I wanted to live in the Florida sunshine. I did it because I had the internal sense of God’s calling that was confirmed by several wise friends, and an otherwise unexplainable prophetic word just five days before getting the invitation to take the job I am currently in. There were many unexpected challenges along the journey, but that word specifically warned me that God wanted me to know “it would cost me much.” Yet, holding on to that promise through one of the toughest seasons of my life has led me to a place where I cannot walk across the campus I work at without incredible gratitude that God would call me to serve him and his people here.
When I accepted the invitation to become pastor of Warm Beach Community Church in 2000, I also received a strong sense of divine guidance, but that did not mean there were not times I doubted I was where I was supposed to be. I often asked God for confirmation in the following years, but I did not “hear” that still small voice. I wanted to see a directional road sign every mile, but it was not there. However, as I look back, there were signs of a different kind all around me if I just would have taken time to notice. I had clear direction to start on that highway, and the journey continued for eight-and-a-half years. We loved that church, and the people loved us. Lives were changed. The church grew. I may not have received that specific divine direction I craved, but I had it in the beginning. I received it again when it was time to turn off that highway and into the ministry of higher education.
There was real, yet occasional, confirmation along the way if I had just looked.
God occasionally gives a second sign to confirm his guidance for us. In the familiar Christmas story recorded in the Gospel of Luke, a group of angels visited some shepherds with the news of the Savior’s birth. That was a dramatic sign in its own right, but notice that the angel told the shepherds they would see another sign to confirm this message: a baby in a manger. The shepherd saw that second sign “just as they had been told.” (vs 20) That confirmation helped them know they were on the right pathway. It also helped them know they were seeing something of incredible significance, and they knew God’s message could be trusted.
Perhaps today you are between road signs in your own life. You took a turn at some point in the past, but it has been a long time since you have seen a sign specifically saying you are on the right road. That does not mean you have made a wrong turn. Keep pressing forward. Be on the lookout. God may have another sign just ahead.