Sermon Illustrations

Over the Edge

The Adirondack Mountains make a breathtaking backdrop for wilderness canoeing. Two friends and I had taken vacation time to get away from it all and live out of our canoes for a week. Each day we would take a new direction to explore the area. One day we took one of the finger lakes to the end and followed a stream that led us to another lake that was considerably higher than the water we were on. We had to carry our canoes and gear up the trail that led to the dam. I noticed on the way up that there was a large drainage pipe embedded in the dam which allowed water from the lake above to overflow to the stream below. I was not looking forward to taking my canoe and gear back down the trail when we finished, and I made up my mind to have a little fun on the way back. We paddled on the lake for a couple of hours and took time to lay on the bedrock around the lake and bake in the sun.

On the way back, I wondered what it would be like to avoid the hike down by canoeing down through the drainage tube. Water was flowing through the tube pretty swiftly, and it was just large enough to accommodate me and my canoe. The drop was steep, and if I turned over it could have been disastrous.

There were several stages in making the dangerous decision to go down the drainage pipe like I did. First, I entertained the thought of attempting it. It appealed to me because it was easier than packing all my stuff downhill, plus it would be a thrill. As I was coming back from canoeing the upper lake and approaching the dam, I could feel my heart begin to pump. The water was flowing toward the open pipe, but I still had the chance to pull off to the shore and take the safe route. As I got closer, the water was moving faster. I wanted to get close enough to look down the tube before I made the final decision. I began lining up the canoe, and the force of the water was pushing me in the direction of my decision. Finally, I crossed the point of no return, and the water took me where it wanted me to go. I had to bend down to keep from hitting my upper body on the top of the pipe, and at the same time keep a paddle out to brace and keep me upright. It felt like being shot from a canon, and within seconds I was at the bottom of the dam trying to keep the canoe from tipping over in the rushing stream beneath.

It has since occurred to me that temptation is like that. First, you entertain a thought and then you make a decision to pursue it. There is still time to turn back, but the closer you get to the edge, the more momentum is built up. You anticipate what is about to happen, and other forces join to push you in that direction. The danger and the rush you get just being near the edge pushes you on as well. But the time comes when you reach the point of no return. There was a time when you could safely pull over to shore, but that time is not now.

When does a person come to the place where they cross the line where they are not able to turn back? It is hard to know, but what we do know is that it started back at the point when you started to entertain an idea. Then there were a series of steps you took before the final plunge. You made a decision. You started lining up and preparing to do what you decided to do. Forces were pushing you in a certain direction. You looked over the edge. But the time came when you were no longer in control and over you went. You wanted to claim that you just could not help yourself, and you couldn’t at the last moment, but there were a whole series of steps you took before that time where you could help yourself. You could have stopped entertaining the thought. You could have decided not to do what had occurred to you. You could have resisted the force of the current that was pushing you. You could have pulled over to the safety of shore before you got to the place of no return. It’s important, because you may not be as lucky as I was and still be upright after taking the plunge. The likelihood is that you will drown.

The Bible promises: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).