Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Prov. 4:23

When I was much younger, I lived through eight weeks of what can only be described as a season of significant growth and change. During this period, I was subjected to the rigors of basic training in the United States Army. One of the many things our drill sergeants would have us do (that seemed pointless at the time) was to assign us the occasional two-hour shift called “fire guard duty.” It seemed pointless to stay awake, walk around modern barracks, and watch for fire. Yet, watch we did. We were on guard against that which may harm our fellow soldiers. So, diligently I obeyed the command of my superiors. 

In today’s proverb, we come across a similar theme that has greater implications than those days when I watched for fire. Indeed, Solomon warns us to “keep our hearts with all vigilance.” The term used by Solomon (translated as “keep”) is better translated as “guard.” The NAS translates it as “watch.” Solomon instructs us to guard our hearts because it is from there that all life issues will spring. The first thing to note is that the appeal requires active effort. No one can rightly guard their heart –or guard anything- if they do so passively. Imagine a security officer guarding the entrance to an important building who slept through his entire shift. He might as well be elsewhere. He is passive. He is not actively guarding the property with watchfulness and care. Unfortunately, many Christians live this way. They do not guard their heart against those things that will impact them. Instead, they allow trespassers to enter, often without any protest, and then they wonder why they struggle with many issues of this life. The gateway to the heart is numerous. Let me offer a two. 

First, there is the gateway of our ears. I know anatomically, the ear and the heart are not connected. Spiritually, however, they are. The things we allow our ears to hear will enter the brain and influence the heart. What we listen to, either over television, YouTube, Netflix, conversations, etc., will impact our hearts. We must guard our ears and, thus, our hearts in this area. 

Second, there is the gateway of our eyes. Again, anatomically unrelated but spiritually significant. The eye gate has many enemies that seek entrance and, if not carefully guarded, will lead to ruin. For example, when David sinned egregiously and committed adultery with Bathsheba, it all began with a lingering look. He was not guarding his eyes. He was not following the words of Job in Job 31:1. Jesus warns that if your eye offends you, tear it out (Matt. 5:29). Indeed, a failure to guard the eye gate has led many into utter ruin. We should not be deceived and think it will never happen to us. It can and will if you do not erect a sentry over these things. Again, we must guard our eyes and, thus, our hearts in this area. 

At this point, it would be easy to give you a list of things to avoid as you seek to practice this exhortation. Many Christians have them. Parents wisely monitor the things their children hear and watch. Somehow, as we get older, we think we are immune to the effects of such things that will, in time, bring harm and ruin. Our souls are not made of titanium. They will be impacted if we do not govern what we hear and see. The reason is as Solomon states and Jesus later amplifies: 

Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matt. 15:17-20, emphasis added).

Therefore, we must guard our hearts. We must be diligent in this area. We must be actively watching for things that will try to slip past the sentry and those we allow to go unchecked. In our culture, the number of those items and things is legion. Therefore, remember the words of the apostle Paul the next time you listen to something, watch something, read something, etc.

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. (Phil. 4:8, emphasis added).

Paul gives the means by which you can guard your heart. He provides the standard. The question is, “Will we do so with diligence? Will we guard our hearts in this way”? It won’t be easy. We may need to make significant life changes in many areas. However, it will not be fruitless. It will keep you from utter ruin. 

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