A sleepy driver is a threat to himself and others. His dulled senses and his weakened reflexes can prevent him from discerning danger on the road, or even notice traffic warnings. A sleepy Christian is not much different. He is a menace to himself and others. His lack of spiritual sobriety undermines his discernment, and prevents him from noticing warning signs along the way. We must be prudent and alert, growing in discernment, and applying the reproof and counsel of others to our own situations in life.
A prudent Christian considers warnings and applies them intelligently to his own life. A warning is a statement or an event that signals possible or impending danger. It can take the form of a traffic sign, a blinking light, or a sticker. Spiritually, it can come to us through a friend, a spouse, a preacher, or even a complete stranger. Warnings may be shared with a single person or with many people through any of the available means of communication. Sometimes they may come directly from a person, and at other times indirectly, such as when an accident stops us in our tracks, or someone else’s choices and consequences speak to our own way of life.
Often, warnings are unpleasant. They come at inconvenient times. They come swinging at us from people we may not know well or even appreciate much. But bitter as they may be, they can save us from even more unpleasant situations. They help us see danger at a distance before we ourselves are forced to feel the searing heat of a hot engine, the hardness of a slippery floor, the whack of a cow’s tail, or much worse. Spiritual awareness and discernment, which we will speak more on later, will keep us from many unpleasant things in life, but warnings can help us become aware of a hazard before we experience it. The Bible says that he who regards reproof is prudent (Proverbs 15:5). But a person who utterly dislikes and constantly resists reproof is in danger of forsaking the way, as Proverbs 15:10 says: “Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way” (Proverbs 15:10).
There are some among us who spend much time studying and examining the work of the enemy on our current paths of life. We must open up our dull ears, and listen to what they have to say. The Bible teaches in many places that listening to reproof is wise. Proverbs constantly speaks of this. It says that those who hate and refuse reproof are erring (10:17), are brutish (12:1), despise their own soul (15:32), and shall die (15:10). In another place it says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15).
Warnings are as good as we are in interpreting and applying them to our own situations. Speeding through a red light, and hitting the brakes when the light is green doesn’t mean the traffic lights are useless, but that we are reading them wrong, or perhaps we are not paying attention. Running a stop sign has more to do with our own lack of understanding or willingness to make use of an important signal, than with the effectiveness of a red piece of tin. This points to our fundamental need for spiritual awareness, understanding, discernment, and concern, without which we helplessly drift away, “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). There are those who are more than willing to sit in our driver’s seat if we aren’t.
You will find in life that warnings are very helpful and necessary, but if you want to be prudent, you must invest time into developing your own awareness of right and wrong through your personal study of God’s Word. You need to keep a watchful eye and be concerned about the truth. Many Christians seem to think that they can reach maturity and stay in the truth simply by coasting down the river of life on a boat called “Heavenbound”. But in a time where even Christ wondered whether there would be faith on the earth, we must feed on the strong meat of God’s Word. And for this we must have our senses exercised in order to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
A prudent Christian is a discerning person, with keen insight and judgment, concerned about the state of his soul and of others, and with a growing understanding of the dangers of life. This doesn’t mean he has no more need for advice, admonishment, or warning, since someone else may have already traveled the unknown path he may be about to follow, and knows where the dangers lie. A prudent Christian has learned to manage the information he receives. When he is warned about a danger, he does not ignore the warning, but considers it and applies it in the most edifying way. When he is prompted by the Spirit to take another closer look at a matter, he takes his Bible knowledge and compares everything with Scripture. And if he is wise, he will internalize what he has learned, adjusting his life according to Truth, and sharing his conclusions with others who may benefit from it as well.
A prudent Christian will consider reproof and counsel, and will do what it takes to be more discerning of what is right and wrong, correct and incorrect, truth and untruth. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).