I’m studying the book of Proverbs currently and love the deposits of wisdom for my thirsty soul. In my 2013 quest to know Jesus more, I have found this book to be a beautiful complement to my New Testament study of His ministry, parables and miracles.
A key scripture from the book of Proverbs is, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23). If you have spent any time in church services or Bible study, you have heard this truth quoted. I think we understand the concept of guarding or protecting our hearts, but we may not easily transfer that concept into some practical guidelines for day-to-day living.
Guarding our hearts affects every aspect of our lives. Primarily, our ability to do so determines our measure of faith. This is the beginning point for our discovering the secret to life. How much do we actually trust God?
Next, our physical and emotional wellbeing will benefit from guarding our hearts. Eating habits, weight loss, energy, peace of mind, sleep, health, uncompromising joy, confidence… all these factors that we deal with daily are rooted in our ability to guard our hearts.
Relationships are connected to our hearts as well as the atmosphere we experience at home and at work. Our entire outlook on the future is based on how well we succeed in guarding our hearts.
So, everything we experience in life is tied to the heart, but what are the action steps that we take to actually accomplish such a wide- encompassing task? Well, let’s keep it simple! It’s in the palm of your hand. Not really, but your five fingers will lead you into understanding the five essential actions to successfully guarding your heart.
1. The Pointer Finger. Hold it up. You are signaling the word, “One.” Your first action to take is to have one God of your life. In this world we are afforded the opportunity to worship many gods at once or even devote ourselves to one false god. But to guard our hearts and experience all the benefits named above, we must ensure that Jesus Christ is the One God of our lives. He is the Savior of the world, and He is the only way to the Father in heaven (John 14:6). When Jesus is centered in our lives, everything else flows beautifully out of that relationship.
2. The Ring Finger. Hold it up. It’s weak, isn’t it? If you play an instrument, you understand the need to strengthen this finger for better playing power. I always struggle when my ring finger is part of a chord I play on piano. I feel like its note is slightly off from the other notes played by other fingers. The Bible offers understanding about the strengthening value of our relationships: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Let’s view the ring finger as the finger denoting relationship. Next to our relationship with Christ, our marital relationship is the one that most drastically will affect our lives. The reality is all relationships influence who we become. So, to guard our hearts we need to be extremely selective with whom we invest our lives in marriage and friendships. We are wise to look for a mate and companions who will encourage us in our growth as Christians. When searching for relationships, it is not difficult to know whether or not the other person’s first priority is the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Ask the Father to bring such individuals into your life, because they are indeed out there and waiting for you and the strength that you both can offer one another.
3. The middle finger. Don’t hold it up! We already know that this finger has a message that is not at all one that promotes the protection of our hearts or anyone else’s, for that matter. For that reason, we can associate it with the message of our mouths. Yes, what we say influences what we keep in our hearts. Have you ever noticed that when we complain, gossip, criticize and argue there’s more negativity in our lives? It seems like one vicious cycle. Our hearts take in what we speak from our mouths, and our mouths speak forth what is stored up in our hearts! It is a cycle, but it doesn’t have to be bent on the negative. We can choose instead to speak life-giving words over our situations and over the people in our lives. This is why the relationship with Christ, who has overcome the world, by the way (John 16:33), is essential. When we do not understand another’s motives or we are simply angry about the outcome of something, we don’t have to throw up a middle finger to come to a resolution! Instead, we say a prayer and confess to God that we do not understand, but because His peace abides within us, we are able to release the situation to Him. This is how we avoid all the negativity found in complaining, gossip, criticizing and arguments. Trust me. Your heart wants you to input more healthy information.
4. The Thumb. Hold it up. You’re giving a thumbs up, a message attached to the famous movie review team, Siskel and Ebert. Entertainment plays a big part of what influences our hearts. To be protective we have to do some investigative work before going out to see that movie or play. My daughter researches song lyrics before she downloads new music to her iPod. She wants to ensure that the message coming across the sound waves is not one that will lead her heart astray from the truth of God and His Word. That’s the example of a young teenager, but do older and wiser adults take the same level of care in guarding their hearts? I’m afraid we do not. We justify our choices and deceive ourselves by thinking that our maturity will allow us to see past what is evil in entertainment and only hold on to the good. We compromise, period. Most entertainment that we seek to enjoy requires us to compromise our values and our desire to take in that which is pure and lovely. There are exceptions, but we have to research and find them. We need to take caution, though, when aiming to just go along with the crowd. This is where I have been most disappointed in myself for not taking the necessary steps to guard my heart from messages of evil.
5. The Pinky Finger. It’s the smallest. Let’s allow it to symbolize the constant quest for growth in our lives. It is natural for humans to want to improve themselves and the world around them. In what ways do you satisfy your need for personal development? Most people aim to answer such a question through their physical fitness goals, self-help books and/or participating in professional development. However, if we choose to follow the Proverbs 4:23 advice to guard our hearts above all else, we will give first priority to our spiritual growth in the focus on personal development. 1 Timothy 4:8 states, For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. Training in godliness leads to the development of the whole person as well as the eternal outcome of his or her life. It’s a win/win situation. There’s no better way to invest in your own personal development than to take into your heart the eternal truths of God’s Word. Is it any wonder that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time?
In conclusion, all avenues of sensory input are the paths of influence leading to our hearts. Let’s be doers of the Word and guard all the gates leading to that from which life springs forth. As an act of commitment, place your hand over your heart and make this confession: Father God, thank you for this life that can be lived for You and your glory. I pledge to guard my heart so that it will be pure and able to see You in all things. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will keep out all things that deliver negativity, sinful desires and evil messages. I will prioritize my relationship with You, Jesus, and I will prioritize my growth as a disciple of Your written Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.