When driving, we find guardrails in areas of uncertainty, in areas where there are unexpected changes. They’re designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off-limit areas, from going into the ditch, from going over a cliff. The thinking behind it is that you will do less damage to yourself or your car if you hit the guardrail rather than what’s on the other side of the rail. It’s better to cause a little damage on the rail in order to avoid major damage or even lose your life on the other side.
In our life, guardrails serve the same kind of purpose. Your greatest regret relationally, financially, morally, ethically, and professionally could, most likely, have been avoided if you had had some guardrails in place. That ditch you rolled off into relationally, that cliff you went off financially might have been avoided if you had had some guardrails in place.
A guardrail is a personal standard of behavior that, informed by the word of God, becomes a matter of conscience for us. It’s a standard of behavior that you are so committed to that when you bump up against it, it bothers your conscience.
In Ephesians 5, verses 15 through 18, Paul brings up the concept of guardrails.
15Be very careful, then, how you live
or, more literally, walk. Paul says, as you walk through your life, your relationships, your financial affairs, be very careful.
—not as unwise or careless but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity,
which is to say, redeeming the time. Or today, we might say, be very intentional about how we use our time. Because of the life you have been called to—because of the plan God has placed before you—you need to be careful. Don’t be a fool, Paul says, but pay attention to how you live your life. Be intentional in your behavior.
Why? Paul says because the days are evil.
You Ephesians are living in dangerous times. As are we. If we’re not careful, we’ll roll our car. If we’re not careful, we’re going to go into the ditch.
17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Now you can’t command someone to understand. What Paul is really saying is, I want you to face up to, I want you to accept, I want you to take hold of what you know God’s will is for you in your life. I want you to grasp what God’s plan is for you as it relates to your money, your marriage, your friends, your dating, the way you spend your time.
When we think of the knowledge God has given us, we need to be thinking, how does this knowledge change my behavior? How does this knowledge change how I act in my marriage, in my friendships, and with my money?
Paul then gives an example:
18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.
He’s saying, “Set up a guardrail. Don’t get drunk. It leads to the abyss. It leads to behavior that you don’t want to be a part of. Set up a guardrail so that if at any time you get close to that point, you will become so bothered by it that it’s like hitting a guardrail, and you don’t go past the indulgence that leads to permanent regret.”
He’s saying that in any area of your life where you—personally, and it’s different for all of us—have a tendency to hand control over to something else—a temptation, an attitude, an approach—you need to set up a guardrail. Create a margin of error for yourself—an area where you just don’t go to keep you from sin.
Paul goes on: Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
God wants to be the dominant influencer in our life. God’s Holy Spirit will guide us prompt us and direct us to set up guardrails.
None of us plans to mess up our life or our relationships. We just don’t establish guardrails. We can’t afford to think, “I can handle it.” Human nature doesn’t work that way. It wants what is in the present. So be wise. The times are evil. Redeem the time. Be intentional. Establish guardrails for yourself. Not for everybody else, but personal standards crafted just for you that tell you when to stop. Others might say, “What do you mean you’re not going to do that? Do you think it’s a sin?” And we say, “No, I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying I shouldn’t. For me, this is as far as I allow myself to go in this area. I know everybody else does this, and that’s fine, but for me, this is as far as I go. Establishing this standard is how God wants to guard me from going over the cliff.”
What would your life look like if you backed up to somewhere safe—in a problematic area of your life—and set up some guardrails?
No one has ever regretted establishing a guardrail, but we all have regrets because we didn’t.
PS. This Sabbath, our local Concord congregation will be meeting in a combined service with the local COGWA congregation in Lodi, CA.
The entire service will be webcast on COGWA.TV. Go to cogwa.tv, select the Redding/Stockton congregation and use the password “fot” (lower case), to get into the COGWA server to view the webcast. It is available on the internet or ROKU. Service time is 2:30 pm, Pacific.
Your prayers for a positive interaction would be appreciated.