Athlete, Watch for Red Lights and Green Lights


Athlete, Watch for Red Lights and Green Lights

Morris Michalski

1 Timothy 5:21,22 (NIV)

I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

Did you ever play “Red Light, Green Light” as a kid? It’s a classic game where one person stands at a distance from a group and calls one of two signals, “Red Light” or “Green Light.” 

If this signal caller yells, “Green Light!” and turns his/her back immediately, it gives permission to the others to move forward. The group then advances forward until they hear, “Red Light!” declared as the signal caller turns back again to face those advancing. If an individual gets spotted moving their body at all after “Red Light” is declared by the signal caller, that one has to return to the starting line. 

The first person to successfully touch the signal caller without being caught moving wins. And they become the next signal caller. Remember?

The only way to win consistently at this game is to follow these tips:

  • No shortcuts taken. 
  • Be quick, but don’t be in a hurry. 
  • Know your limitations. 
  • Be decisive.

It seems like God could have had this game in mind (for all athletes and coaches) when 1 Timothy 5:21-22 was written. There in those verses God gives four practical instructions that outline how to play the game of life well. Three are red lights and one is green. Let’s take a look.


“Do nothing out of favoritism.“ Showing favoritism is a shortcut. It chooses comfort over principle, what’s easy over what’s right, what’s frictionless over what’s foundational. It is something that God resists and will make for our undoing. 

It causes all kinds of problems in the end and perverts whatever is just. Partiality must get NO playing time for the Christian. So let’s outlaw favoritism. There are better standards to use in making decisions than just what’s easy. This will take courage. 


“Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.“ The Bible here is talking about elevating people into leadership too quickly. That’s again giving into the gravitational pull of ease, doing what’s easy. 

God says to be plenty deliberate when it comes to hiring or promoting people into (spiritual) leadership positions. Train and prepare thoroughly. Leaders must be tested first, not just after. So be about growing people, not just filling spots on the roster. Often we get in trouble by extending power to people who are not ready to wield it properly. As Coach John Wooden often said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.“


“Don’t share in the sins of others.“ Sin is all around and often appears quite attractive … at least at first. It loves to invite us into its company. It contaminates and infects. It’s highly contagious. 

Don’t let it pull you in. Put up a big wall. Quarantine. Invest freely in the lives of others but do not share in their sin. 

This can be done. Know your limitations. Don’t be afraid to live differently (1 Peter 2:9; Philippians 2:15). Draw some gutsy boundaries. And make it a point to avoid fools (2 Timothy 2:16). Psalm 1 and Romans 12:2 teach well on this subject. 


“Keep yourself pure.“ Go for it. It can be done! God invites the chase, this holiness journey. Run toward purity. Fight for it. Live uncompromised. Live uncontaminated. Attach honor to all your competitions. 

This light is always green. It never disappoints. You can’t beat the feeling of being clean. The pure in heart see God (Matthew 5:8). 

The God of the Bible is so committed to not just expecting purity but empowering it. He sets the standard, delivers it in Christ, and empowers it through His Spirit and the Word. God wants us to get clean and stay clean. 

So always move in this direction no matter how many red lights and speed bumps you hit. Get right, make right, live right with God and others. 

And here’s some encouragement … Confessing our faults to God and others, asking for cleansing and healing, restores purity every time (1 John 1:9; James 5:16). And reading the Bible regularly and following it preserves purity too. The Word of God and the Spirit of God offer an amazing purity protection plan (Psalm 119:9,11; Titus 2:12).

Reflect:  Have you been running any red lights lately (showing favoritism, fast tracking untested, untrained leaders, joining in the sins of others)? Which red light needs to be better heeded in your life? 

Are you living in purity, decisively going in that direction? Playing with honor, winning the right way? Who else might you encourage with God’s good red light/green light coaching?

A prayer to consider:  LORD, thank You for another great round of instruction and encouragement. I need this! The world presses in on me, wanting to make me move when I shouldn’t and lack decisiveness when it comes to purity before God and others. 

Help me to move when I should and to put hard stops on my sin and my keeping of sinful company. Tether me consistently to your Word. And grant me courage to stop taking the shortcuts a life of favoritism invites and that a life of ease dictates. I would follow Jesus. In His name I pray. Amen.

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