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Rules. Statutes. Laws. Decrees. Commandments. It doesn’t matter what you call them, most people don’t like them. Many simply view them as constraints in life that keep them from experiencing what they call “true freedom.”


But goldfish disagree. Just ask Albert.


Several years ago, I was speaking at a youth ministry, and needed a powerful way to communicate the importance of staying inside the confines of God’s will…so I went to the local pet store in town. There, I bought a simple fishbowl and one small goldfish.


I named him Albert.


That night, I took Albert to the church, and placed him in front of the crowd so that everyone could see him in his cool little glass abode…but I said nothing about him. Instead, I began talking about how everybody in the world hates rules. To prove my point, I brought up everything from parents’ rules (like “brush your teeth” and “go to bed”) to God’s commands (such as “love your neighbor” and “honor your father and mother”).


The rules that were the most-hated received the loudest groans.


Then I asked them if rules ever made them feel “boxed in” or “trapped.” Almost every teenager nodded their head in agreement. Finally, I blatantly asked them, “Do you think that rules keep us from experiencing true freedom?” There were actually some audible yeses from the crowd!


“Let me introduce you to Albert,” I said, pointing to the fishbowl beside me. “I bet Albert feels much the same way you do. He probably feels ‘boxed in’ by these glass walls surrounding him. Maybe he even feels ‘trapped’ within these borders. Just look at him! It’s not fair that he’s so confined in life.”


Then, much to the crowd’s horror, I reached into the fishbowl, scooped up Albert, and laid him on the tabletop next to the bowl.


“There!” I exclaimed, “Albert’s now free! He’s no longer held hostage by those walls! He doesn’t have to live in the bowl anymore!” Albert – like any other fish out of water – just flopped around a bit.


“Aren’t you happy for Albert?” I went on excitedly. “He’s no longer held hostage! He can go wherever he wants, with whomever he wants, whenever he wants!” Meanwhile, Albert just kept gasping for air, occasionally twitching on the tabletop.


As the students leaned forward, holding their breath along with Albert, I continued. “I bet you Albert is so happy now! He’s finally truly free!” By this time, the tiny fish’s activity had stilled quite a bit as he was running out of air.


At last, a young girl named Theresa sitting in the front row could take it no longer. She jumped from her seat and shouted, “He’s gonna die out there!” Then she quickly ran to the small table and gently hoisted Albert back into the bowl so he would live.


The point was made, so I quietly said, “And you will die, too, if you choose to live outside of God’s will.”


That truth is made abundantly clear throughout God’s Word.


See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)




Topics Illustrated Include:
Breaking Rules
God’s Will
God’s Word



(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)