Friday, May 5, 2023

Guarding Your Heart

Biblically, the heart isn’t just an organ that pumps blood through our bodies; the heart is the center of our being. The heart is the seat of emotions and thoughts. It is determines our motivations and desires. To be spiritually healthy requires taking care of our heart, just like being physically healthy requires taking care of our physical heart.

From our western perspective we often equate the heart with our emotions, but to the original readers of the Bible, the heart represented a person's true self. This is why it is important to keep our hearts healthy. As Erwin McManus wrote, "When your heart is sick, it can spread everywhere. Like cancer, despair in the human soul can cause all kinds of malfunctions" (Uprising; p. 133).

A sick heart makes life more difficult and it can overwhelm the joy and hope we have for life. A sick heart allows depression, anger, confusion, and fear to flourish, which prevents us from experiencing the life God wants us to enjoy. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Solomon taught that the condition of our hearts is essential, that an healthy heart is so important that we must do what we can to guard them.

However, in our busy lives we take our heart health for granted, neglecting the importance of guarding our hearts. If we are not intentional about what comes into our minds and heart then we will let the wrong things slip in. As cliché as it sounds, social media, movies, binge watching TV, and podcast put thoughts, ideas, and images into our heart that affect our motivations and imaginations. When we do not guard our hearts, by maintaining standards on what comes in, our hearts get damaged or become sick.

So, how do we guard our hearts? 

We guard our hearts by faith. The most basic way we demonstrate our faith in God is through prayer. Through prayer we trust God with our worries and to work out our problems for good. Sometimes, all we need is to verbally confess our problems, struggles, sin to gain a proper perspective on things. Other times, we need God's supernatural intervention. Praying helps guard our hearts.

We guard our hearts by thinking good thoughts. When we put garbage into our hearts, our hearts will be consumed by that garbage. Our media consumption matters! We need to be vigilant with what we are fueling our thoughts with. It is not possible to concentrate on the things of God if our minds and hearts are filled with junk. It is essential to take note of what we are putting in our hearts and then make the appropriate changes.

We guard our hearts by surrounding ourselves with positive influences. Spending time with people who uplift and encourage us is important to maintaining joy and hope in our lives. Mature faithful Christians also help us grow spiritually, which it turns helps guard our hearts. Like everything else we need to be intentional in choosing our friends, not just settling for anyone who comes into our lives.

We guard our hearts by obeying God's commands. The Bible is full of instructions on how to live a healthy and righteous life. The foundation of these commands is loving God and loving our neighbor. When we follow these commands, we protect our hearts from the dangers of sin and temptation, because we set the desire of our heart to love our Heavenly Father and honor Him.

In Philippians 4:6-9, the apostle Paul gives us a practical guide to guarding our hearts. He said that we are not be anxious about nothing but instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell our requests to God. When we do this, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul also taught about the importance of focusing our thoughts on what is true, worthy of respect, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy. He wrote that we are to imitate him and put into practice the lessons that he taught. When we do this, we can be confident that the God of peace will be with us.

But what does it mean to focus our thoughts on these things? To focus our thoughts means that we intentionally choose to dwell on positive and uplifting thoughts, rather than negative and discouraging ones. It means being mindful of the media we consume, the conversations we engage in, and the company we keep.

In a world that is filled with negativity and sin, it can be easy to become consumed by those things. Our society is constantly bombarded with bad news, social media drama, and toxic relationships. If we want to guard our hearts, maintain our emotional and mental health, and continue in our discipleship, we must learn to filter out the bad and focus on the good.

We can focus on the good by practicing gratitude. When we intentionally focus on the good things in our lives and thank God for them, it shifts our perspective and helps us to see the world in a more positive light. It also helps to cultivate a sense of contentment and joy, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Another way to guard our hearts is by cultivating healthy relationships. We should surround ourselves with other Christians who encourage us, challenge us to grow, and bring out the best in us. This requires us to be intentional about the company we keep and to set boundaries with people who are toxic and draining.

It is also crucial to be mindful of the media we consume. This includes everything from the books we read to the TV shows we watch to the music we listen to. If we are filling our minds with messages of hate, violence, sex, or despair, it will inevitably affect our hearts and our emotional well-being. Instead, we should seek out media that uplifts us, inspires us, and leads us to worship to worship God.

Finally, we need to be intentional about our spiritual lives. This means prioritizing prayer, worship, and Bible study. When we are connected to God and grounded in our faith, it helps us to maintain perspective and stay focused on what truly matters. It also gives us the strength and resilience to face whatever challenges come our way.

If we want to guard our hearts and maintain our emotional and mental health, we must be intentional about what we think, what we say, and what we do. We must focus on what is true, worthy of respect, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy, and we must actively seek out these things in our lives. By doing so, we can cultivate a sense of peace, joy, and contentment that will sustain us through even the toughest of times.

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