Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)
If you know me, you know I love to collect rocks. I like to take them from places and times I want to remember, and I usually paint them. This is a rock from one of my favorite hiding places. I found this rock years ago during a difficult yet wonderful time in my life. It’s a time I don’t talk about very much, a time when God was teaching me how to guard my heart.
Why is guarding your heart so important? Have you ever had a broken heart? Think of all the wasted time spent grieving you could have avoided if you had just guarded your heart to begin with. That was precious time wasted that could have been spent diving deeper into your purpose. There’s so many good things in my life that simply would not be there if I carelessly made my way through life, making decision after decision, jumping from relationship to relationship (this includes all types of relationships) without talking to God first. In order to truly guard your heart, you cannot merely talk to God though; you must listen carefully. If the response is not clear, then consider whether or not He has already responded in Scripture. Scripture is designed to protect us; it’s a how-to manual on heart-guarding.
When we make decisions and enter into relationships before we have talked to God about it, we leave our hearts vulnerable. Not only do we experience set back from the emotional damage of putting our hopes in something God had never intended for our lives, only to be let down when it doesn’t work out, but we will also become distracted from our true purpose if we are wasting our time with people and things that God didn’t intend for us. Sometimes our hearts break so many times they actually become hardened—we give up on love, give up on people.
So how does one guard their heart?
1. Pray about everything. (Philippians 4:6) Talk to God about everything! Wait on Him to respond before making decisions. Know that this is not always immediate. If you study Scripture, you’ll hear His voice immediately for a lot of things because he answers us in the Word. Some things aren’t as clear cut, however. Some things take consistent prayer. If you’re praying for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, God will give you revelation.
2. All Scripture is inspired by God. (2 Timothy 3:16) Study the Word. Like I previously mentioned, Scripture is God’s voice. When someone or something isn’t lining up with what God tells us is good and right, if we are well versed in Scripture, that person or thing won’t be able to deceive us.
3. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 11:14) Seek wise counsel and fellowship with other believers. Go to church, pay attention, get to know your pastor and other like-minded believers. Humble yourself, and don’t be afraid of asking others’ opinions on things. Often times, the weapon formed against you is you. We may find that our judgment is biased and based on what we want to be true vs what actually is.
4. Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God. (1 John 4:1) Don’t believe everything you hear! Test the spirit of a person. How do we do that? Well first, we have to see if people pass the test of time. We don’t ever want to enter into relationships with people too quickly. We also need to examine a person’s fruit! We need to make sure we aren’t captivated by words. See that people’s actions align with what they say, being sure not to “fill in the blanks” with wishful thinking and the assumption someone is sent to us by God. We also should ask questions. Look for patterns. Learn how to use discernment. Pay attention. If I’m getting to know someone, I try my best to discern where that person is spiritually so I can determine what role they will play in my life. If someone partakes in gossip and slander, I know to keep that person at a distance. It doesn’t mean we cannot be friends, but we cannot walk closely together. Two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. (Amos 3:3) If I’m getting to know a man, and he claims to be a Christian, great, but that’s just a simple statement. I’m going to want to read in between the lines and dig deeper. I pay attention to how he talks about God. If he refers to God as “the man upstairs” and his profession of faith is “I was raised such and such, and I go to church as much as I can.” I know he’s not for me, because I’m looking for a spiritual leader, someone who has a very close relationship with God that extends way beyond going to church. Now, if someone really wanted to win me over, they could find my blog and just read until they had a good enough idea of what I’m looking for. However, because my heart is truly guarded, words will never be enough for me. Even if someone claims to be what I’m looking for, I look beyond that; I look for fruit in a person’s life. Fruit>words.
5. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) When we meet someone new, we have to make sure we don’t enter into sin. The best example I can give is in a romantic relationship—it can be tempting to fall into sin, and you may even do so as you convince yourself that you will lose the person if you don’t compromise your standards. You would be right, but that’s a good thing. Same goes for friendships—if they keep steering the conversation toward slander and gossip, and you simply don’t give in to it, that person won’t want to keep engaging in conversation with you because they can’t relate to you. If someone’s values don’t align with yours, with God’s, you want to lose them as quickly as possible so you they don’t waste your time or energy, both of which are crucial to your purpose.
6. Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, seeks to devour you. (1 Peter 5:8) Have you ever heard the phrase “drunk on love”? We can quite literally become intoxicated by what we believe to be love—all the gushy feelings. The truth is, it’s not love; it’s dopamine and oxytocin—chemicals! Chemical love is counterfeit love. Remember that. Alcohol and drugs have the potential to give people similar experiences. People are happy and carefree—“high on life” when they are intoxicated. But we all know it isn’t real happiness though; it’s fleeting and conditional like counterfeit love which fades away with time. When we are intoxicated, not only do we have a false sense of happiness; we become vulnerable to a multitude of things; we let our guards down.
The beautiful thing about someone who guards his or her heart is what it says about how they see themself—by guarding your heart you are making a statement that you know your worth, that you are valuable. We don’t guard things that don’t have value. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19) When we guard our hearts, we aren’t just showing respect to ourselves but to Christ as Jesus Himself paid a very high price for us. Our hearts, as followers of Christ, are bigger than just us. A guarded heart is not only a means of protection over yourself but over your purpose. When you guard your heart, you are guarding everything that flows from your heart—your missions, your plans, your family, all the people you have the potential to help. If our hearts are heavy, we simply cannot have the impact God intends for us to have. Imagine what kind of world this would be if everyone had the energy to fulfill their purpose, if everyone knew their value and lived accordingly, if everyone guarded their heart.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)