"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways." —Proverbs 4:23-26
The human heart is the spiritual part of every human being where all the emotions and desires we may experience live and die. Our hearts are influenced by our own thoughts (Proverbs 23:7; 27:19), our sin nature (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12), the outside world (1 John 2:15-18), and by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). You can imagine that having all these conflicting influences might cause some serious challenges as we try to sort things out.
We are each responsible for our own actions and will be held accountable to God (2 Corinthians 5:10), so it's important that we make beneficial and healthy decisions—no matter what's trying to get the attention of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). And that's why the Bible advises to "guard your heart," for it can be easily swayed if we aren't vigilant about what we allow to affect us.
Since the human heart is an emotional and spiritual thing, the "attacks" on our hearts are intangible. As long as we live on this earth, we'll be fighting in a battle of conflicted wills—our ingrained desire to sin and our will to follow God. The apostle Paul knew this struggle all too well. He said, "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out" (Romans 7:18).
Our innate tendency to reject God's will gets in our way over and over again. Paul attributes the remarkable ability choose anything good to the power of Jesus Christ within him (Romans 7:14-25). And it takes work to choose rightly—work powered by the strength of God Himself (Philippians 4:13). Following Christ is not always easy or pleasant. Sometimes we have to make really tough choices in order to do what's best for us. This is a spiritual battle we're fighting!
When we repeatedly give in to our own desires, rejecting God's will, the Bible calls this a "hardened" heart. The Egyptian pharaoh hardened his heart against the truth that God intended to deliver His people from Egypt (Exodus 7:22; 8:32; 9:34). King David pleaded with his people to not harden their hearts again in rebellion against God just as they did in the wilderness (Psalm 95:7-8). Once the heart is hardened, we block ourselves off from the peace and blessings that God offers through our obedience to Him (1 John 5:1-5).
Sometimes we allow negative social activity to get into our routines, such as whining, gossip, fighting for no reason, and creating meaningless drama. The Bible tells us to avoid grumbling, murmuring, and complaining (Exodus 16:3; John 6:43; Philippians 2:14). When we allow negativity to creep into our thoughts and actions on a daily basis, even in silly social media posts or passing comments, we disrupt the joy and contentment God offers (1 Timothy 6:6-9).
When we allow discontentment to poison our hearts, we begin to lose focus on the plans, purposes, and past blessings God has so graciously given us (Philippians 2:3-4; James 1:14-16). We begin to allow anger and the temptation to hurt others to dwell in our minds. Our focus becomes very narrow, looking only at ourselves and our own little worlds, rather than looking outward in faith at God's greater plan for our lives and the lives of others in the world around us (Hebrews 11:6).
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
The first step in guarding our hearts is practicing submission to God's will. Paul says to "take every thought captive," so we can align it to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Sin begins in the mind when we first think about the terrible thing (James 1:14-16). Then we dwell on what it would be like to act upon it before we decide to carry it out. The key is stopping it right there. Don't dwell on sinful acts or thoughts. Refuse to give them brain-space, and it'll be harder for them to make a home.
Second, cultivate a spirit of gratitude and humility, trusting God to provide what you need at just the right time (Hebrews 13:5). Even though we feel like brilliant planners of our own lives sometimes, we just don't have the perspective and wisdom that God has (Proverbs 16:2-3). Proverbs 16:18 says that "pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Unchecked pride has no place in a believer's life because it can lead to great harm to ourselves or others.
If we are to experience the very best God offers us, we must accept His guidance, protection, and blessings with gratitude and humility, handling our hearts with as much care and good sense as we can. We can post guards in our minds so that sin cannot activate and trickle down into our hearts. Philippians 4:8 helps define where we should allow our thoughts to dwell: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Doing so will help guard your heart against sinful influences that so desperately want to get in the way of your faith.
The Bible advises to "guard your heart," for it can be easily swayed if you aren't vigilant about what you allow to affect you (Proverbs 4:23-26). Guard your heart by practicing submission to God; take every thought captive, so you can align it to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Refuse to give unhealthy or sinful thoughts brain-space, and it'll be harder for them to make a home. Cultivate a spirit of gratitude and humility, trusting God's timing and provision (Hebrews 13:5). Post guards in your mind to keep from activating sin in your heart (Philippians 4:8). To experience the very best God offers, accept His guidance, protection, and blessings with gratitude and humility, handling your heart with care and wisdom.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, four socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.