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The heart is an amazing organ. Your heart is responsible for pumping life-giving blood to 75 trillion cells in your body and can do so in under one minute! Today, your heart will beat approximately 100,000 times, shuttling 2,000 gallons of oxygen-filled blood through about 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Over your lifetime, your heart will pump around one million barrels of blood. The fact of the matter is that without your heart functioning properly, you cannot live to the fullest. A healthy heart is vital to your well-being and overall health.
A healthy heart is vital to your well-being and overall health.
Unfortunately, heart disease has become the number one cause of death for Americans today. Nearly 1 million people die of some type of heart disease every year. The reality is that when our hearts become diseased, they are weakened and often lead to the loss of life.
It’s interesting that in creating our physical heart to function in such a life-giving and necessary way, God also uses the terminology of our heart throughout Scripture to speak of our spiritual vibrancy. Just as our physical heart can diagnose our physical condition, our spiritual heart is a diagnosis of our spiritual health.
Why Does Guarding Your Heart Matter?
The word “heart” is found between 500-800+ times in the Bible, depending on the version of the Bible you are reading. This points to the fact that a healthy spiritual heart is a really big deal. The insight given in Proverbs 4:23 demonstrates the critical nature and implications of maintaining such a heart:
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Have you ever thought about the implications of this verse? The idea surrounding the fact that our heart determines the course of our lives is staggering. Most people would say their future is determined by their choices, education, financial ability, luck of the draw, coincidence or maybe circumstance. The Bible teaches something much greater. Although these things may play a role in what we experience in life, the steering wheel of our life is our heart.
What does Scripture mean when it beckons us to guard our hearts? If the consequences include the direction of our lives, much attention ought to be given to this discipline.
How Do We Guard Our Heart?
Using the word HEART as an acronym, I want to suggest 5 areas we must guard our hearts if we are going to experience the life God intended for us. God cares about the course of your life, and so guarding your heart must be a top priority.
Guarding your heart begins with a commitment to strive for a healthy heart.
First, guarding your heart begins with the realization that your spiritual heart helps diagnose your spiritual health. God created us with a physical heart that allows us to live temporally; he gave us a spiritual heart that means we will live eternally. Guarding your heart begins with a commitment to strive for a healthy heart. As much as diet and exercise affect our physical heart, what we feed our spiritual heart and how we protect it will result in its overall health.
Your spiritual heart speaks to how you manage and control your emotions. When life gets tough, do you allow your emotions to control you? When you’re tossed into a difficult situation, how do your emotions react? Allowing our emotions to manage our lives will result in poor decisions and reactions to what happens in life.
Some people fly into a rage when they get angry. They say things that are hurtful and even detrimental to a healthy relationship. Others withdraw and refuse to have necessary conversations and therefore allow their emotions or feelings to control them. This points to an unhealthy heart. As Christians, we understand that our emotions don’t control us, but rather we bring our emotions into alignment with the Word of God. We guard our hearts when we control our emotions.
Our attitude is an essential part of guarding our heart. Next time you’re in a conversation, watch for the power of attitude and you will see how negativity breeds negativity. A complaining spirit is contagious, but so, too, is a positive attitude. When we choose to celebrate what’s right instead of simply dwelling on what’s wrong, the course of our lives begin to change. This is not denying the reality of hard situations, but it’s choosing to focus on the good and learning from every experience.
A healthy heart is demonstrated through a person who has an all-in attitude and believes God’s goodness despite what they are facing. A great attitude is not based on circumstance, but is formulated by choice. You either choose to have a great attitude or a bad attitude. If you want a healthy heart, commit to a positive attitude.
Every day, we have the opportunity to respond. Whether you’re responding to your boss, spouse, kids or co-workers, your response is an indicator of your heart. When your waiter or waitress doesn’t deliver as quickly as you’d desire, how do you respond? When something happens in your family or workplace that is less than you expected, what’s your response? Your answer points to areas of your heart that may be out of tune. Some unhelpful responses include: ungodly anger, sarcasm, gossip, negativity, leaving a small tip for your waiter, etc.
On the other hand, Scripture shows how a healthy heart is one led by God’s Spirit, and Galatians 5:22-23 provides some specific examples: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. A healthy heart is ruled by God’s Spirit, not our flesh.
Your thoughts are a window into your spiritual heart. Thoughts can be helpful and they can be hurtful. The Apostle Paul recognizes the vital implications that follow our decision to guard our heart through our thoughts. He writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5,
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
Notice Paul writes every thought and our desire is obedience to Christ. So what should our thoughts be like? Paul answers that question in Philippians 4:7-8,
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Guarding your heart requires guarding your mind.
Guarding your heart requires guarding your mind. What your eyes see, your ears hear and your mind dwells on all have enormous implications to your heart. Are the things you’re letting control your thinking true, honorable, pure and lovely? Things that aren’t characterized in these ways will serve to deteriorate your spiritual life and lead to a spiritual heart disease.
So, how’s your spiritual heart? In a real sense, this is a life-altering question. As you prayerfully consider the state of your heart, know that God’s desire is for your heart to be strong and healthy. He has big plans for your life, but a bad heart will hijack and derail those plans. God wants all of your heart so he can guide the course of your life to places you can’t even imagine.
The words found in Proverbs 4:23 will change your life and your future, so prayerfully ask God this week, “how’s my heart?”