Article of the week: Guard your heart
26 June 2021
Nicola Walmsley reflects on Proverbs 4:23
‘Above everything else guard your heart, because from it flow the springs of life’ (Proverbs 4:23 International Standard Version).
‘WHAT is it with you and all the hearts?’ I was recently asked. This was after three family members and a friend had heart attacks or heart procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic. I can only say these were due to circumstances of life. But I also felt that God wanted to draw attention to our hearts, so I began reflecting.
The heart is necessary for living – vital for life. A healthy heart is central to good living. Do you have a healthy heart? I strongly advise a thorough heart check-up if you are unsure.
The Bible uses the heart as a symbol of our inward motives, thoughts and feelings. According to the New Bible Dictionary: ‘Character, personality, will, mind are modern terms which all reflect something of the meaning of “heart” in its biblical usage.’ And the Bible tells us in Proverbs 4:23 that we need to make the health of our heart a priority and guard it ‘above everything else’.
God says to Samuel: ‘The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). God is concerned with the inside, with the condition of our hearts – whether they are hard or soft, godly or ungodly. A soft heart is necessary if we want the Holy Spirit to lead us in godly ways. Psalm 139 says: ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (vv23 and 24).
God’s word warns us to guard against the hardening of our hearts: ‘Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble’ (Proverbs 28:14). And it advises us against allowing a root of bitterness to grow: ‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many’ (Hebrews 12:14 and 15).
If we keep our hearts soft and seek to be led by the Holy Spirit, the fruit of our lips is a good indicator of the state of our hearts. Jesus says: ‘Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him’ (Matthew 12:33–35).
How is your heart today? Is it soft and healthy or have you hardened your heart because of sin, hurt, choices, circumstances or disappointments? Have you allowed a bitter root to grow? Does your speech overflow with praise and thanksgiving from your heart or is it angry? Does it gossip, criticise, accuse, grumble and slander others?
I believe the Holy Spirit will reveal the state of your heart. If it is unhealthy, my prayer is that you will check your heart and seek God’s face in repentant prayer and be healed in the mighty name of Jesus.
God is concerned with hearts. He is an amazing heart surgeon. With him you don’t need a second opinion because he is the best! Nothing is too difficult for God – and what seems impossible to us is never impossible for him.
I pray that you would allow God to bring healing and life to your heart. May it be beautiful and bring praise to God. He can start that work in you today. ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near’ (Isaiah 55:6).
NICOLA IS COMMUNITY MISSION FACILITATOR, BARROW-IN-FURNESS