Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)
Like a magnet, this verse has kept drawing me back to its truth, demanding further meditation and obedience.
Guard your heart!
Not a major theme in most books on BAM or even leadership, yet guarding our hearts is vital to our role as God’s messengers. Three aspects of this verse invite our reflection. First, our hearts need protection. The poisonous arrows of pride, fear, unbelief, bitterness, sexual or romantic fantasy incessantly zoom toward the bull’s-eye of our hearts.
Second, we must guard our hearts vigilantly. The New International Version says we must guard our hearts “above all else” while the New American Standard Bible says “with all diligence.” The point is clear. Guarding our hearts must become a major priority. Protecting our hearts demands constant attention.
Third, the reason we are to diligently watch over our hearts is because our hearts are a “wellspring of life.” Water is a life-giving force, providing sustenance for all of creation. But it must be pure to sustain human life. The metaphor of water suggests at least two other things. Just as water cleans and refreshes, so also does fellowship with a person who has a pure heart. Moreover, just as water is susceptible to pollutants, so too are we easily, and at times subtly, defiled by worldly, fleshly and demonic contaminants.
Three New Testament leaders also hammer home the need to guard our hearts. Paul says, “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart…” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB). As ambassadors our lives must model love, and our teaching must lead to love. But as Paul reminds us, true love flows from a pure heart. Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34, ESV). That is, our words mirror our hearts. And as leaders, we lead through words. To speak with power and purity, we must have hearts made powerful by purity. Finally, according to James, “The wisdom from above is first pure” (James 3:17, ESV). Biblical wisdom is not a matter of intellectual brilliance but of heart purity. We serve and bless by making decisions. But truly wise decisions spring from a pure heart.
How do you guard your heart?
Have you ever heard of the GIGO principle, borrowed from computer programming? Garbage In/Garbage Out. Or—good in, good out. We will reap what we sow, thus we must be careful what we sow (Galatians 6:7-9). The first way we guard our hearts is through spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, study, memorization, meditation and prayer. Is the GIGO principle working for you?
Hebrews 3:12-13 gives us another way to guard our hearts: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart…but encourage one another day after day” (NASB). We overcome an evil, unbelieving heart through the encouragement of others. This is why we have teams or communities, coaches and mentors. We need other people speaking into our lives. Who is helping you guard your heart?
Peacemaking provides the third means for guarding our hearts. Broken relationships lead to unhealthy hearts. Bitterness defiles many (Hebrews 12:15), and anger does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Thus, reproving, reconciling and forgiving must become our daily bread. Do you need to do any peacemaking?
The heart of leadership is the heart of the B4Ter. Gifting, competence and capacity may affect the breadth of your influence. But your heart will determine the depth of influence and quality of your impact. Guard it!
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.