“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
I grew up a military kid, and I remember well the guards posted at the base entrance. Their sole job was to keep the base secure from people and things entering that posed a threat. We had a sticker on our car that allowed us to pass right on through – we though it was so cool that the guard would salute my mom and a car full of kids when he saw that sticker. But if a car approached without that authorization the guard stopped them to determine who they were and why they wanted to enter the base. If the guard had any inclination that the person was up to no good, access was denied, and on occasion an arrest was made. That is the same idea we see in this verse. We have to post a guard and deny access to anything that poses a threat to our heart – to our spiritual and emotional wellspring. But here’s what sticks out in my mind: the bases we lived on had multiple entrances, and every entrance had a guard. Every possible route onto the base was secured. Now let’s go back to our Proverbs passage. Read a little further (vs. 24-27) and you will see that Solomon gives us four posts we need to secure: Guard your mouth, guard your eyes, guard your steps, and guard your direction.
Guard your mouth: “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips” – Jesus warned, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ (Matthew 15:11). Our words – and our actions – spring from our heart. When our words are perverse and corrupt, it means our hearts are perverse and corrupt. But our words also feed our heart. It’s a cyclical effect – what comes out of my mouth comes from my heart and goes back into my heart again. David said it this way, “He wore cursing as his garment; it entered his body like water, into his bones like oil” (Psalm 109:18).
Guard your eyes: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you” – watch what you’re looking at, listening to and absorbing into your heart. And I don’t just mean avoid looking at inappropriate stuff like pornography – which should go without saying. I’m also talking about looking at things that just dull our spirits. Here’s my confession: some days I come home physically and mentally wiped out. All I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or scroll the internet on my phone for funny memes. Now I’m not looking at anything bad, but I’m also not looking at anything godly. I’m not feeding my heart – I’m dulling it. Computer programmers call it GIGO: Garbage In – Garbage Out. I call it The Sponge Principle.
Guard your steps: “Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm” – watch your step. One of the worst ankle injuries I ever incurred happened when I wasn’t watching where I was planting my foot and I stepped awkwardly off a curb and nearly broke my ankle. The world is full of curbs and potholes and ditches that can easily trip us up and Satan is always planting landmines in our path. We need to pay careful attention to where we set our feet – make sure the way is firm and free of danger.
Guard your direction: “Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” – keep going in the right direction. How do we know for sure what is the right way? God has given us a road map – the Bible and a personal Guide – the Holy Spirit. By storing up God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), meditating on the Scriptures (Psalm 19:14), continually, intentionally seeking God with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13), keeping in step with the Spirit (Romans 8:5), and staying in community with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:25), we can stay on the good way.
Base security is a vital part of our military operations and the well-being of our nation. Heart security is no less important to our lives; our faith, witness and ministry are at stake. You and I need to post our guards and secure every access to our hearts and protect the “wellspring of our lives.” Guard your heart well Beloved.