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When was the last time you took a good, long look at a guardrail? It was probably the last time you needed one. Guardrails aren’t much to look at. They’re mostly dull gray metal with dents and dings that remind us of why they’re there—to protect us. That’s why you’d rather not notice them, because noticing a guardrail usually means you’ve just smashed your car into it.

And yet, when that happens, how grateful are you that the guardrail is there?

Sure, it did a number on your fender and grillwork, but things could’ve been much worse. Guardrails protect us from what lurks on the other side. The danger zone. You never see guardrails on long, flat stretches of road. They’re in the sharp curves and along the sheer cliffs. Yes, they can dent your bumper and bust your headlight. But all that lies on theother side of the guardrail could do far greater damage.

I have to confess that I’m not a highway safety expert. But I’ve spent years watching people make wrecks out of their lives. And the principle of the guardrail applies on the road and in your life. Your greatest regret in life probably could have been avoided if you had protected yourself from the danger zone—if you had established some guardrails.

Personal guardrails are boundaries you establish on the safe side of damaging decisions that protect you from the danger ahead. They’re meant to set off warning bells over seemingly little things . . . little things that can lead to big, messy consequences. If you’re going to have a crash, have a conscience crash, instead of destroying your career, your marriage, or your reputation.

Before you find yourself thousands of dollars in debt, cue your conscience to guard your budget. Before you find yourself confiding in that attractive co-worker two cubes away, let your conscience prevent any alone time with him or her.

But here’s the trick. Guardrails must be set intentionally—because culture’s gravitational pull is toward the very edge.Party all night long . . . oh, but drink responsibly. Everybody’s having sex, but wait until you’re ready. What do you mean you can’t afford it? It’s zero percent down!

The good news is that God has given us some great guardrails. In fact, one of the first verses Sandra and I had our kids memorize—one of our family mantras to this day—comes from Proverbs.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge.

But the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

Proverbs 27:12 NIV

The prudent see danger and build guardrails. The prudent see danger in having coffee alone with her and say no. The prudent see danger in working 60 hours every week and go home. The simple keep going and drive off the cliff.

So, where is the danger zone for you? Where do you need guardrails? Career? Marriage? Finances? Personal integrity? Remember, many of our greatest regrets in life could probably have been avoided if we had put guardrails in place.

If you think your congregation could benefit from this message, we have free resources to help you! Guardrails is a six-part series about setting boundaries in friendships, finances, and relationships. And with special thanks to Zondervan, we have some free resources to help you bring this sermon to your church. Visit the Church-wide Journeys website to access free downloadable files including sermon outlines & transcripts, promotional materials, and video packages. We hope it’s helpful!