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Guardrails Participant's Guide
By Andy Stanley
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011North Point Ministries, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Direct and Protect
Good fathers want to keep their children out of harm's way. So they set protective barriers, and they talk to their children about them. They establish rules and boundaries to keep their behavior from getting them too close to damaging consequences.
Isn't that exactly what a good father should do?
This fatherly approach is a big part of both the Old and New Testaments—just as we might expect, knowing how much God, our heavenly Father, loves us. He wants to keep his children away from life's danger zones. And in his goodness, he's done what it takes to help us do exactly that.
He knows the kinds of boundaries we need to set for ourselves. Are you willing to look at this with him, to hear the kind of help he wants to give you?
Have you ever been in a traffic accident (or seen one) where a vehicle hit a guardrail? If so, what function did the guardrail serve? What did it prevent?
How would you define a guardrail's purpose, in your own words?
For Session 1 of the Video
We can think of a guardrail as a personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience. Whenever we bump against these guardrails, we receive an internal warning.
In our culture there are behaviors that almost everyone agrees are bad—serious mistakes and dangerous actions to avoid—whether relationally, financially, morally, ethically, or professionally. Nevertheless, our culture's warning system can be very weak.
In fact, our culture doesn't like the kinds of guardrails we're talking about here. They're seen as stupid, silly rules—too confining and restrictive.
In the book of Ephesians, as he addressed people living in a culture even more immoral than ours, the apostle Paul lists several things people needed to be on their guard about. And to help them do this, he also uses the concept of guardrails.
He urged them to "be very careful" how they lived, reminding them that "the days are evil" (5:15–16). They were living in dangerous times, as we are today.
Paul adds, "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is" (5:17). He wants them to face up to God's will for their lives in every area.
The first illustration Paul gives of a guardrail concerns alcohol. He tells his readers not to get drunk, because it leads to debauchery—the kind of extreme indulgence that results in loss of control. Paul sets up the avoidance of drunkenness as a guardrail against something worse.
Throughout the Scriptures, we discover warnings to avoid whatever leads to this kind of loss of control in our lives—whether it's lust, drunkenness, greed, anger, gluttony, or whatever.
To emphasize his point, Paul presents a contrast. He says that instead of getting drunk, they should "be filled with the Spirit" (5:18).
Paul knows that our heavenly Father wants to be the preeminent influencer in our lives. And the Bible teaches that when we put our faith in Christ, the Spirit of God comes to live in us in a unique way, to prompt us, guide us, and direct us.
Paul is saying, When you sense that still, small voice warning you on the inside, then pay attention. Be careful! Because your life's too important and time's too short and the world's too dangerous not to.
1. Andy defines a guardrail as "a personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience." Why is it important that we think of these guardrails personally—as something individually for us and not necessarily for everyone?
2. In establishing guardrails, why is it important that they be linked to our consciences?
3. What are the kinds of disasters and danger zones that you especially want to guard against—in your marriage and family, as well as financially, professionally, morally, ethically, relationally, and in other areas?
4. How can establishing guardrails help open us to the protective love of God?
5. What kind of protection from God should we be able to count on? What kind of protection from him should we not count on?
6. In various areas of your life, how strong is your desire to live by God's will and God's plan? How well do you know his will and his plan in each of these areas?
We all need to establish guardrails in significant areas of our lives. They protect us from the "danger zones," where the consequences are most destructive.
Guardrails are valuable because they help us avoid the great regrets of life. All of us have areas of regret that could have been avoided if we'd established guardrails in those areas.
A guardrail is a personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience. It's personal—meant just for us (and not as a rule that applies to everyone). And it involves the conscience, so that it triggers our sense of danger and brings a sense of guilt when we bump against it.
At this point, what is your attitude and response concerning the whole idea of establishing guardrails in your life? Is this something you see a need for? Why or why not?
CHANGING YOUR MIND
Allow this passage to help you focus on our highest aim when we establish guardrails:
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Ephesians 5:17
PREPARATION FOR SESSION 2
To help you prepare for Session 2, use these suggested devotions during the week leading up to your small group meeting.
Look at Proverbs 13:20. In your own words, how would you restate both the promise and the warning found in that verse?
How does 1 Corinthians 15:33 relate to the truths you saw in Proverbs 13:20?
Look at what we're told to do with others in Hebrews 10:24–25. To what extent does this happen when you are with your friends?
Look also at what we're told to do with others in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. To what extent does this happen when you are with your friends?
Look also at what we're told to do with others in Hebrews 3:13. To what extent does this happen when you are with your friends?
A guardrail is a personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience. We need guardrails in every significant area of our lives, because they protect us from the "danger zones," where we're likely to be deeply hurt. These guardrails help us avoid the big regrets of life.
Excerpted from Guardrails Participant's Guide by Andy Stanley. Copyright © 2011 by North Point Ministries, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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