Proverbs 4:23-26 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”
Solomon here is referring to the biblical idea of the human heart, which the biblical writers use to highlight the core of a person, where their thoughts, feelings, desires, and choices begin. In Luke 6:45, Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” which means that the heart is the seat of biblical knowledge. Proverbs 23:7 and Proverbs 27:19 help us understand that our thoughts often dictate who we become, because the mind of a man or woman reflects who they genuinely are. This is precisely why the Lord God examines the heart of a man or woman because He knows the depths of them and sees into the inner motivations of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Guarding the Heart and a Right View of the Word of God
Egypt was stricken with one calamity after one another, and Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites from their bondage. Pharaoh’s hard heart resulted in him standing against God Almighty delivering the people of God from Egypt (Exodus 7:22; 8:32; 9:34).
In Psalm 95:7-8, King David pleaded with the people not to harden their hearts in rebellion against the Lord as they did in the wilderness. Having a right view of the word of God and submitting in obedience to the teaching of Scripture in all of life is the best way to guard against rebellion against God.
Guarding the Heart and Gratitude for the Grace of God
Christians are instructed to avoid grumbling, murmuring, and complaining (Exodus 16:3; John 6:43; Philippians 2:14). Christians who engage in such behavior turn their focus away from the plans, purposes, and past work of God in their lives to the things of the world. From God’s vantage point, such behavior lacks genuine faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Instead of grumbling, murmuring, and complaining, Christians are to strive for contentment in every phase of life, trusting in the Lord to provide all things in His time (Hebrews 13:5). To guard their hearts, as well as against a complaining spirit, Christians must cultivate gratitude that flows continually to them from the finished and sufficient work of the Lord Jesus.
Guarding the Heart Against Anger
Many Christians struggle with a variety of issues, but in particular, some struggle more with anger. Anger acts as a poison to the body, both physically and spiritually, causing Christians to be more vulnerable to the temptation to hurt others with their actions and words. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Guarding the Heart and Spiritual Warfare
Every Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare. We need to understand that we fight such warfare not in our strength but in the strength of God through the gospel (Ephesians 6:10-18). When we rely on ourselves, we are bound to fail and are prone to blame God for our failure. James 1:14-16 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”
Many Christians, including myself in my past, struggle with their thought lives. Instead of repeating biblical truth to themselves in such situations, they repeat sinful behaviors and thoughts over and over. The first line of defense is to keep your eyes on Jesus, and resist the temptation to repeat sinful thoughts which lead to sinful patterns. The Apostle Paul taught on this, telling the Corinthians to take every thought captive to the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Guarding Our Hearts and the Gospel
Christians guard their hearts because, as Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the spring of life.” Jesus said of those who believe in Him, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). When Jesus speaks of treasure throughout the Gospels, He has in mind what our hearts supremely value and are attracted to. What’s amazing about what Jesus says in John 7:38 and how it connects to Proverbs 4:23 is Jesus has sovereignly replaced our heart of stone with a new heart, with new desires and affections for Himself. Now Christians can find their meaning, value, and purpose in Christ alone, not in what their hearts may long for apart from Christ.
Christians know the peace of God, which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) so they can guard their hearts and minds now in Christ. The Lord will not relinquish His hold on the treasure of His precious people but will hold them fast in Christ (Romans 8:31-39). Christians guard their hearts knowing that the Lord, our Warrior, goes before us, in front of us, and is on every side at all times and in every place they go.
Christians stand in grace because of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) and continue growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18) all the day of their lives until they breathe their last and enter into their eternal rest, receiving their reward and worshipping the Lord Jesus face to face. In-between now and then, Christians guard their hearts with diligence because the Lord has redeemed them, is sanctifying them, and will one day glorify them. In the meantime, the people of God grow in grace so they can love and serve others with the grace of God.
Additionally, Christians are on mission in their local churches to care for one another from the heart so people may know them by their love for God (John 13:35). From there, Christians go out into their vocations from local churches to make disciples of the nations for the glory of the Risen Christ (Matthew 28:16-18). Christians guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7) because they know He alone offers true peace needed need to grow and walk through life.
Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, or read more of his writing at Servants of Grace. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.