January 22, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”—Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
How important is the heart? The Book of Proverbs tells us it’s so important that it must be guarded “above all else.” That can only mean one thing: our heart is the most important thing in our lives! It must be guarded, but from what?
James 3:14–16 warns us against allowing selfish ambition to set up residency in our hearts. When this happens, we give that core part of our fallen nature known as the “self” the controls to our lives, and it will always steer us in destructive directions. When we’re led by “self” or full of “self,” we stray from the truth about God, life, others, and (ironically) ourselves! It’s a defiant way to live, and the only remedy is to surrender to the Lord who lovingly leads us away from our self-destructive tendencies.
Just about all of us would agree that bitterness is bad, especially if we’ve known someone who was defined by it. And yet, bitterness can slip into our hearts right under our noses. Perhaps it came by way of a seemingly harmless or subtle comment. But before you know it, you find yourself with an ax to grind. Proverbs 18:19 describes such a heart like a fortress under siege—no in or out, no flow of life! Regardless of the offense, we can only survive the choking effect of bitterness through forgiveness. It’s only when we forgive those who’ve wronged us that we’re set right.
At some point in our lives, we encounter rejection. Whether on the schoolyard or in the sanctuary of our own home, words get used that cut deeper into our hearts than any blade ever could. It scars us on the inside, and we begin to believe for a lifetime what was said in a moment of foolishness. Proverbs 18:21 recognizes the power such words of rejection can have. But the Bible also has a remedy: the Bible! Man’s rejection can be healed as the Word of God is applied to our wounds and transforms them into testimonies of His power and glory.
It’s been said that, “We’re not so much punished for our sins as we’re punished by them.” In other words, the sinful things we willingly invite into our lives actually punish and damage us over the course of time whether we realize it or not. Jesus, Himself, tells us in Mark 7:21–23 that anything “evil” we harbor in our hearts will also prove a hazard to our hearts. It’s a simple equation: If it’s evil, it’s toxic to the new heart that God has created in us. Can we reverse evil’s effects? We can and we do by trusting and asking the Lord to cleanse us by the power of His Spirit.
Through surrender, forgiveness, God’s Word, and the cleansing power of His Spirit, we can guard our hearts against these potential blockages. And we must do so above all else, because everything starts with the heart!
Pause: Think about the priority that should be given to guarding our hearts.
Practice: Take some time to think about the things that are specifically attacking your heart. Then, come up with some steps you can take to guard your heart against those things.
Pray: Lord, I recognize the great importance of the heart that You have created in me, both physically and spiritually. Help me to counter the things that would attack it according to the provisions You’ve given me. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.