Always guard your heart

Published 8:27am Monday, July 18, 2011

Earlier this year, I noticed something wrong with my truck. I was losing coolant over short periods of time. The engine pressure would build when I drove the truck and then the coolant would spew out. Something was wrong. It seemed like something bad because the power was sluggish too. I took my truck to Kevin, my mechanic, and sure enough, something was bad wrong with it. It was a head gasket problem. (There was a problem at the heart of the engine.) To fix this, you have to take the engine all apart and replace the head gasket and in my case, the head had to be replaced as well. Not a cheap repair, but the fix made all the difference with the power and in retaining the coolant. I felt better about my truck too.

This is similar to how you’ve seen others respond to certain situations. Remember when you have been around someone that couldn’t take the pressure of a situation and suddenly they “spewed out” a reaction that didn’t seem normal, at least not as you knew that person? They suddenly seemed to act and speak in a way that caused you to say “Who is this person?” or “They’re not who I thought they were.” Their reaction may have been angry, bitter, hateful, violent, vulgar, etc. (Unfortunately, sometimes that’s me and you too, right?) Similarly, other people that you know seem to have deep controlling issues that result in these reactions or still others just seem to be horrible people. The question is, where did these things come from? (Head gasket problems?) No, heart problems!

I remember learning a verse when I was just a kid in Sunday School. It was communicated that these were important words that we should memorize, but I don’t remember it being said that these words were at the top of the list. These words about guarding your heart were penned by Solomon who was gifted with wisdom by God and he said that the principle contained here is “at the top of the list important.” Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) Above everything else! Other translations communicate the same importance with phrases like, “Keep your heart with all diligence…” (KJV) others say “Watch over your heart with all diligence…” (NASB) The word “vigilance” is used in others (ESV). You get the idea that the principle of “heart care” is paramount in life and extremely important. The second half of the verse tells us why, “…for it is the wellspring of life.” or “for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT) or one of the latest translations state “…everything you do flows from it.” (NIV – 2011) “Your heart,” is not referring to the blood pumping muscle keeping rhythm so you can live, but rather our internal lives. This means the core of our beings that dictates how we see life and how we respond to circumstances that life throws at us. Guard your heart.

Let’s dig deeper on this internal life – our heart that we are supposed to guard and keep with all diligence and vigilance. Your heart is your mind, emotions and your will. It is where you think, feel, and make decisions. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self—the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. The heart is the center of your personality; your core of thinking, feeling, willing, hoping, and yearning. The heart is the core of your soul and the source of your inner being. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people. Your heart overflows into your specific thoughts, words, and actions. So your heart dictates your response to all things you experience.

Our words and behaviors come from our hearts. So when we have a moment where we have an “outburst” or “that’s not really me” or see that in other people, it comes from our hearts. We try to make excuses for ourselves to try to explain the situation by saying, “I was mad” or “they made me.” But really there is more going on and these outbursts are indicators of deeper issues. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

Our tendency is to focus on modifying our words or changing our behavior, but simply changing our words or behaviors does not get to the core of the issue – it doesn’t get to the HEART of the matter! Remember words and behavior reflects your heart. That’s what Jesus said.

So how do we know what’s in our hearts? How do we monitor or evaluate the condition or our hearts? One step that can help is paying attention to our self-talk. When you mess up or make a mistake, what to do you say to yourself? Do you say, “I am so stupid!” or “I’m such a loser!” or something similar? Some resort to destructive behavior – numbing the pain and self- rejection through cutting or alcohol. Sometimes it’s the personal reactions that we need to pay attention to – the words and the behaviors we inflict on ourselves. So ask yourself where this is coming from? Why do I respond or react this way? You see, monitoring our hearts includes awareness of our emotions. Learning to recognize what you are feeling and why you respond in certain ways and then pursuing healing for those things. Our past can hijack us (what has happened to us) and this can determine how we respond because we’ve come to believe certain things about ourselves. This shapes our identity. This is why the Bible places such a high value of standing guard over what goes in and what comes out. Keep your heart healthy because what is in there is what comes out.

We need to build an awareness of what’s happening in our hearts. What are my affections? What are the things that capture my time, attention, imagination and emotions? If we are believers in Jesus, we need to be asking, “What stirs my affection for Jesus Christ?” as well as “What robs my heart of affection for Jesus?” Then take the necessary actions to limit or stop those things that rob us and do more of what stirs our affection for Christ. This can help to assess and guard our hearts.

If we can learn to apply the words in Philippians 4:6-7 and let God take our anxiety and let Him shape our identity, we will go far in successfully guarding our hearts. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

May His peace guard our hearts and minds, and may we all be able to pray these words to God from Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Gene King is the pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Atmore.

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