By Mack Fowler, III
“Blog-iversary:” One Year of this Blog site “The Samuel Generation.”
I’ve had this verse stirring on my heart lately, so I would like to share a few of my insights on it. In Proverbs 4:23, the Bible commissions us to “Guard our hearts above all else for it determines the course of our life.” I’ve read that verse hundreds of times, but I feel like God has given me some clarity on this verse. So, I want to go in-depth on this verse for this blog.
For starters, it’s not talking about our beating heart in our chest. God gave us ribs to guard that heart naturally. So what does the Bible mean when it is talking about our heart?
The heart, the Bible is talking about, is a combination of our personality, inner desires, and spirit. So, in this article, that will be what I am referring to. Now, why is our heart so important to guard?
Our hearts are like sponges. The contents of a sponge Are entirely based on what it has absorbed and the environment it’s in. A sponge can soak up clean water or filthy water, soap or grease; it depends on what it is used for. It’s the same with our heart. Are our hearts exposed to evil things by putting ourselves in perilous situations? Years ago, I knew some people who had trouble with a few different addictions, and they got saved. After not walking with The Lord very long, they felt like they could go back to the same places they hung out before Christ and share Him with their old friends. They stayed strong for a while and didn’t allow that addiction to take back control of their life, but the constant exposure to that scene eventually wore them down. They found themselves spending more time in that environment than with the Lord, with Christians, or with other good influences. And all it took was slipping up just once and after that, they fell right back into that (those) addictions. What happened? They were constantly exposing their hearts to this negative environment, and over time it wore down their defenses. The sin started to take seed in their hearts. Does it have to be some addiction? No, it can be any sin or thing that tangles us up.
Now, it also works with good things! If I continue to expose my heart to things of the Kingdom, they will be absorbed into my heart. The Bible says in
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one last thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Paul realized that what we set our thoughts on Godly things that it will translate to what is in our hearts. Then, the Bible goes even further to say, that what is in our hearts will come out in our speech: “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45.
What do we allow our heart to soak up and absorb: dirty water or clean water, sins and things of this world or the Holy Spirit and things of God? We ultimately control what we allow into our hearts. Even offenses from another person, we control whether or not to continue to hold on to that hurt. We control whether or not to forgive or hold bitterness. We choose whether to love, hate, or hold back our love. The Holy Spirit gives us this self-control (Galatians 5:23.)
We control what is allowed through the gates of our hearts, and what takes residence in our hearts. In biblical times and even to some extent now, a city or country normally didn’t know when an enemy army was going to attack. So instead, they would prepare. They would build walls and keep them maintained. They would place guards and watchers on the walls. They would only allow the citizens in and out of the gates. And they would have a military force always ready for battle. If your city was not ready for potential conquest, when an attacking army did come, you would be quickly overwhelmed and defeated. You would not be able to prepare all these things in time. It would be too late. It’s the same with our hearts. If we proactively take steps to protect our heart and guard it from things we know could trap us, we prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed. When the enemy attacks, we are ready.
Now, let’s not take this to the extreme of avoiding all sin, people in sin, and situations that can potentially lead to sin. Jesus hung out with sinners, but we do however, use wisdom. I believe the main reason Christians fall back into their previous sins and sin-habits is failing to use Godly wisdom and sense.
Taking the illustration of a sponge even further, if a sponge isn’t soaked in anything, it dries out and becomes hard. We have to soak our heart with something. We can’t isolate ourselves from all things—it just doesn’t work. If we don’t have direction, our hearts will eventually find something to dwell on, something to ponder, and something to resonate on. We have to be ahead of the game and decide where we will lead our heart.
Recently, I have learned that this is possibly the most important thing I can do for me in my relationship with the Lord—to guard my heart. It’s not easy. I have to consciously choose what I allow in my life and think ahead of time, “What could this lead to?” “Do I want to go there?” “Will this benefit me and make me a stronger Christian and person of Godly character?” I ask those questions when I can. And when things just come up and try to stir bitterness, hatred, anger, un-forgiveness, and hurt in my heart, I am better prepared because I guarded my heart in the small things, so the big things don’t seem so big.