When I went through church planting boot camp* with Stadia, I was given a plaque with my name on one side and these words inscribed on the back: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
It was a reminder to those of us who were about to start a new church that perhaps the most difficult thing we would do would not be finding launch team members or a facility. It would be to guard our heart. To not become overly inflated or unduly depressed. To not become prideful or pitiful.
That verse came back to me this morning in my devotional time. It wasn’t written just for church planters or even pastors. It was written to everybody who wants to live a life that honors God and pleases him. Simply put, it’s good medicine. For when a person doesn’t guard their heart, they leave it exposed to all sorts of attacks, from within and without.
Guarding your heart is not the same as walling it off and hiding it away. A hidden heart is not a guarded heart.
Guarding your heart is about checking your motives, ensuring that you are not reacting defensively when the proper response would be humility. It’s also about not tolerating behaviors or influences that diminish you — both your own behavior and that of others. Only so much water can roll off a duck’s back before the duck drowns.
Here are a few things I do to ensure I’m guarding my heart as best as I can:
- I routinely pray and ask God to reveal “any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24). I need to know if I am out-of-bounds.
- I ask those I trust if I came across in a tense conversation or discussion as defensive or accusatory. Many times they provide me with beneficial counsel.
- I try to surround myself with more positive influences than negative ones. Surrounding yourself with people of questionable character or integrity will challenge your heart.
- I read as much as I can. The Bible is the best source for learning how to react, protect, and deflect. After the Bible, I try to fill my mind with good information and ideas from all kinds of sources.
- I try not to lower myself to the level of those who do not hold themselves to higher standards. If a person lies to you, it does not justify lying to them in return.
Why does it matter how well you guard your heart? The Bible answers that question: the heart is the “wellspring of life.” Lose your heart, lose your life. It’s that important.