Pay attention, my child, to what I say.
Don’t lose sight of my words.
Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.
Proverbs 4:20-23 NLT, First Edition
This passage from Proverbs begins with one of the strongest admonitions in the entire Bible to listen up and pay attention to what follows. The exhortation is clear. Listen carefully, don’t forget my words! Let them penetrate your heart because they have the power of bringing life and radiant health to anyone who understands them.
Wow, what a prize, what a hook! Is there anything that could be more desirable than the promise of life and radiant health? These verses promise a type of health that virtually shines out of a person. And what are the important words we must grasp if we are to receive this kind of health? The advice is simple: “Guard your heart above anything else you have, because it determines the kind of life you will live.”
According to Solomon, the writer of these sayings, the heart is the “master-control” center of life. In Proverbs, the heart is never actually an allusion to the muscle in our torso that pumps our blood through our body. Instead the term describes our whole inner being; the heart as the center of our mind, our emotions, and our will.
The key word in Proverbs 4:22 is guard and the Hebrew word translated to “guard” in English is the word nah-tzaar, meaning “to preserve, or to keep.” The word originally comes from a noun which means “a place of confinement or prison” and in a broader sense it means something that is closely observed, protected, preserved or guarded.
If we are to experience newness of life and radiant health to our whole being, we must appreciate the value and vulnerability of the “master control” center of our lives. It must be protected and surrounded like a treasure kept in maximum security.
The characteristic of the “labe” (the Hebrew word meaning the heart or your inner self),
that makes it so precious is that it is the source and basis of knowing God’s will. Because
your heart is the place God can speak to you, it is vital that it be kept willing, open, and responsive to receiving input from God.
Keeping the heart safe from the contamination of ungodly influences is vital because it is from within your heart that you receive the direction for your entire life. When our heart is infected by the evil influences of this world, or is hardened, bitter, cynical or even overly self-focused the ability to receive guidance from God for life is hampered.
Impurities that are allowed in and that penetrate our inner-being keep valuable information from God from being taken in and understood by us. If we compare the “master control” center of our life to a computer hard-drive, it is as if we have allowed someone to hack in and insert a virus that will not allow God’s instructions to be processed in the way that they should.
While our hearts are polluted the righteous commands for living will not compute, because they are being overridden by corrupt information that has infiltrated our soul and now has full access. This is why it is so important to keep your heart open, sensitive, and carefully watched. If your heart is not right before God and it is left unguarded from the toxins of the world, God is blocked out and communication of divine direction is hindered.
Divine guidance is vital because God has promised a unique design for abundant living for each of us. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The Father has good works for us to walk in, divine appointments for us to keep and purpose-filled lives for us to live and part of being a child of God is to be dependent on regular access to His plan for your life.
Staying in contact with the Almighty however can be complicated. In modern techno language “unless you have the ability to receive and walk in His will via a virus free master-control center, the aptitude to retrieve input about His divine intentions for you can be obstructed.”
In short, if our master-control center has not been adequately protected, misery and ultimate unhappiness have the power to become the “default program” for our lives. While, if our heart is well guarded, the wisdom we take in will have its affect and our lives will be encountered and shaped by the Holy Spirit. As we make our lives wholly available to Him, God has full freedom to “log onto the hard drive” of our inner being and communicate with us successfully and unimpeded whenever necessary.
This does not mean that guarding our hearts guarantees that we will never have misery or pain. What protecting our “master-control” center does assure however― is that when we do encounter the down side of life―God’s direction and interpretation of our life is readily accessible to us. His input is ready to be downloaded and used by us whenever needed.
The book of James communicates God’s willingness to give us input unconditionally, but it also describes the calamity of a mind divided and polluted by the things of this world.
James 1:5-8 declares, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
This passage, parallels the Proverb in some important ways. It clarifies that if we are double-minded with our “master-control” center confused by two sources of information—God’s input vs. worldly input—then we have a problem. We will doubt God’s wisdom and we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
As a result of this type of spiritual split personality, James describes the double-minded as exhibiting instability in all their ways. Simply stated, with the soul unguarded and divided we are destined to be unstable and unhealthy and in contrast when our hearts are guarded and open to God alone—the opposite is true―the opportunity for internal health and single focus awaits us.
In conclusion, this short but well-emphasized bit of God’s wisdom from Proverbs is crystal clear. It is important that we learn to live according to God’s Word with a well-guarded heart because having a heart that is ever sensitive to His still small voice will lead to life and radiant health. In short, guard your heart, and in return He can direct your path. And there is also a hidden bonus— if you live this way― others will see His life and health radiating from you and they will want it too.