How do you guard your heart? And, why is it so important to do so?
Today, we begin our four-part study on growing in grace. It is only natural for us to start with the most important part – our hearts.
How do I know our hearts are the key? God’s word says so.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Everything we do, everything we say, and everything we are flows from the center.
It all starts with the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Have you ever really liked or respected someone before you got to know them but not so much afterwards? Perhaps you found that the way they acted in a crowd didn’t really represent who they were inside. They were fooling people.
Often, we try to do the same thing. We go to church, serve in various ministries, and appear to have it all together. We say and do the “right” things, but our hearts aren’t always in them.
Here’s the deal: God sees your heart. He knows how far you really take this faith thing, how deep your commitment to Him really is.
I once read a quote that said: “Private purity precedes public performance.” Ouch.
We have to stop putting the cart before the horse and get our hearts right with God. Our words and actions will follow.
If everything in our lives flows from our hearts, it is vital that we protect them. But how?
To be honest, there are times I’m tempted to equate guarding my heart with keeping it hidden to keep it from hurt. Please hear me say that’s not what this is about. Guarding our hearts doesn’t keep others at arm’s length. It allows us to embrace them more fully. The secret is in hiding our hearts in Him.
That’s where we start: in Christ.
The first step to guarding our hearts probably seems pretty simple. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “set apart Christ as Lord” in our hearts. The idea here is more than just an acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord. It’s a commitment to let Him be Lord in us, to let Him be above everything else.
Each day, we make decisions about how to live and what to do based on what is most important to us. Setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts is about making Him the most important thing and letting our decisions and actions reflect the fact that He is.
Daily, we must search our hearts to see who or what might be sitting in His seat. Another person or relationship? Our goals or dreams? The desire to please people or be popular?
When it comes to our hearts, we must put Christ in His proper place. I think that’s what he said when he told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
We guard our hearts by letting Christ govern them.
Proverbs 4:23 (which is above) reminds us that everything in our lives springs from what’s inside our hearts so it must be really important what we fill them with. The Psalmist certainly thought so. He wrote:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9-11
- realized that keeping himself pure was the result of living according to the word of God. He had a standard. What’s yours?
sought God with his whole heart. What relationships do you seek wholeheartedly? You probably want to please those people, don’t you? The Psalmist was the same way. His desire to obey God’s commands came from a heart that loved the Lord.
hid God’s word in his heart. He meditated on it, memorized it and applied it to his life. To guard our hearts, we must do the same.
I actually wrote much of this post years ago as short devotionals for girls in our church’s youth group, publishing them on a private blog each day then meeting with the girls weekly to discuss the things we were learning. I’ll never forget the week we discussed guarding our hearts.
I had asked a friend who is an expert scrapbooker to create a “pretty heart” for me to use as an illustration.
I didn’t explain to her what I planned to do so when I saw the beautiful piece of paper art she provided that night I almost started crying.
You see, I planned to tear her heart up and hand it out in pieces to the girls.
I remember hearing one of the girls gasp when I made the first tear. I was destroying what my friend had generously given.
And her beautiful heart made the point better than I ever dreamed it could.
When we give our hearts to people, we have no idea what they will do with them.
And, when they’re broken and the pieces are scattered? We can’t make them whole again.
That’s why we offer them to the only one who can.
In him, our hearts are whole; they’re healthy. That’s the only thing that makes us able to open them to others.
He enables us to:
- “comfort others in all their suffering, as we ourselves are being comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
- “encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
- “serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
Prayer for today:
“Lord, let me trust my heart to you. Heal the broken places, and make me whole. Help me to love like you do, with grace and mercy and humility, serving others instead of longing to be served. Protect my heart with your truth. Cover me with the breastplate of righteousness and guide me as I follow you.”
I hope you’ll join us next week as we study the importance of renewing our minds! Join us today for Encouraging Word Wednesday by adding a link to one or two of your favorite faith-filled posts. I look forward to reading them!