(Read Proverbs chapter 4)
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV
How To Fail To Guard Your Heart
The writer of Proverbs chapter four is sharing wisdom with his sons. He spends much of the chapter admonishing them to listen to his words and to value wisdom highly. Then, toward the end, he says what he says in verse 23, “Above all else, guard your heart . . .”
“Above all else,” he says.
This instruction, which is at the very least the most important part of Proverbs four, is something I overlooked until recently. And it’s something you can learn now, today. You don’t have to wait until you’re in your fifties like I did.
I used to spend a lot of time focused on being productive, at work, at home, in most every area of my life. There’s nothing wrong with being productive. However way too often, at the end of the day, I had an impressive number of items completed from my to-do list, but my heart was somehow depleted. It was so depleted I was unable to even begin to reflect Jesus in my relationships. In some cases, I caused serious damage to relationships, usually without realizing it until much later. The reason I failed God, family, and friends in this way, was because I didn’t guard my heart as the writer in Proverbs instructs us to.
Here’s what I failed to do.
I didn’t spend enough time in community with people who loved Jesus with all their hearts, and all their minds, and all their souls.
I didn’t spend enough time alone with Jesus in prayer.
I didn’t give thanks enough. (see Philippians 4:6-7)
I didn’t spend enough time in God’s word.
I didn’t spend enough time sleeping. (Even Jesus took naps. See Mark 4:38)
I didn’t spend enough time exercising.
And I’m sorry to say I’m not alone. The Christian community is full of people who live the same way, and what flows from our hearts is affected.
Everything Flows From Your Heart
“Everything you do flows from it,” the writer of Proverbs says. When you don’t guard your heart the people around you drink in whatever flows out of it. If your heart is toxic the flow is toxic, if your heart is angry or bitter the flow is bitter.
The sad part is that I used to think I could fake it. If I say the right things, I thought, if I smile, I thought, if I pretend to be attentive, I thought, then I can get by, then I’ll be okay. But I was wrong. I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t that long ago I realized most people can tell when you’re not authentic.
Most people can tell when it’s not from your heart.
When you don’t guard your heart, Jesus, who lives in the heart of the Christian, becomes unrecognizable to others.
It’s Not Easy Being Me
It’s not easy being me. My heart is particularly difficult to guard. I know people with hearts that seem to pour out Christ’s love even when they’re absent from Christian community, or without time to pray or read God’s word, or when they’re sedentary, or when they’re exhausted, or even in a very difficult circumstance that would cause most people to fall into depression.
I’m not one of those people. (And I’m guessing you’re not either. That type of person is a rare bird.)
If I don’t spend time with people who love Jesus with everything they have, if I don’t spend at least one half hour a day alone in prayer, if I don’t give thanks often, if I don’t study God’s word, if I don’t sleep enough, if I don’t exercise every day I’m not fit to be around people, let alone reflect the nature of Jesus.
Above All Else
“Above all else,” the writer of Proverbs says. Prioritize it, he says.
Prioritize the guarding of your heart.
Guard your heart.
Guard it diligently.
Do whatever you have to, to make sure what flows from your heart is the love of Jesus.
It’s one of God’s most important instructions.
[Image via pixabay – public domain]