“Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, ESV)
What advice would a wise, time-tested father give to his precious sons? When we read the Book of Proverbs, we are eavesdropping on that very conversation. “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight.” (Prov. 4:1) He gives warnings and commands, goals and blessings. And here in verse 23, he literally gets to the “heart” of the matter.
He says, “Son, above all else, “Keep your heart. Guard it. Watch over it. Observe it. Protect it. Keep it.” This is emphasized by the way in which we are told to keep it: “with all vigilance”. Meaning, out of all the things we’re vigilant about, (our health, finances, studies, family, social status) our hearts must be the most closely watched things in our life.
This is because what flows from your heart controls your life. We often forget the power of our affections. We are controlled not primarily by what we think, but by what we love. We know we shouldn’t eat junk food and binge-watch TV, we’ve seen the science, yet once again we find ourselves in the drive-thru before coming home to watch an entire Netflix Original Series in one weekend. Likewise, we know holiness is what’s best for us, but we don’t love it.
When God saved us, he saved us from some idol that we loved. Our lives revolved around it. It occupied the most exalted seat in our hearts. And by God’s grace, that idol was dethroned as Christ claimed what was rightfully his.
Yet, often what happens is we don’t get to know the new man in the seat. We still crave the pleasure of the old idol because we haven’t learned to love the glory of Christ. And we’re back in the drive-thru of sin again. Every day we watch the ads, we talk about the ‘good ol’ days’ when we were regulars, and we wonder why we can’t give it up and our health continues to decline.
The Author of this Proverb would have us to guard our hearts. Steer clear of everything that diminishes your view of Christ. Maybe it’s time to cut the cord and kill that TV that arouses sinful desires in your heart. Maybe you need confront ‘Sally’ about coming to you for the latest gossip. Maybe you should install internet filters in your home. All of those are good and wise. But the best defense is a good offense. And the best way to guard your heart against sinful desires is to cultivate holy loves.
Feast upon the glory of God as revealed in the Scriptures. Gather with God’s people in the weekly rhythms of worship. Ponder the wondrous mystery of the Holy Trinity. Consider that the God who dwells in unapproachable light is near in your darkest moments.
A heart that feasts upon these things will overflow with springs of life; Springs that will not only actually satisfy your thirsts but also the thirsts of those around you.