What if I told you that I have a heart condition? What would your reaction be? Most likely, you would respond with gasps of "oh no!" You would probably feel sorry for me.
But the truth is, I do have a heart condition…and so do you.
Matters of the Heart
Your heart's condition depends on the things you allow into your heart. These things form your thoughts and attitudes, and ultimately, shape the deepest part of your being. No matter what your circumstances (the outside) are, if your heart (the inside) is right, you're going to be okay.
But if wrong things in our hearts go unattended, they will become deeply rooted and harder to deal with. The quicker you can detect a wrong heart condition and get it straightened out, the better off you are.
So how do we do that?
How to Guard Your Heart
As Christians, we need to check our hearts a lot more often. Because many times, Christians can go through the motions and keep doing the "Christian thing," but something has crept in their hearts and is hurting them and others.
Proverbs 4:23 says, Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (NLT). Notice that it doesn't say somebody else will guard your heart. It doesn't say God will guard your heart, your neighbor will guard your heart or your pastor will guard your heart. It says you need to guard your heart.
You're in charge of guarding your own heart. Realize that it's pretty much a full-time job because we don't know on any given day what's going to come up. You don't know what somebody may say to you that may hurt you, disappoint you or let you down. Then suddenly, there's a wound in there that needs to be dealt with.
Since you just don't know, you have to constantly be working with the Holy Spirit to keep your heart right.
The Most Important Thing
“One of the biggest revelations I've received from God is that my real life is the life that's in me.” There's nothing more important than your inner life—what's in your heart. (See 1 Peter 3:3-4) One of the biggest revelations I've received from God is that my real life is the life that's in me. The same goes for you! Life is not your circumstances, the kind of house you live in, the kind of job you have or how much money you have. You can have the best of these things and still be miserable.
On the other hand, it's amazing how happy and peaceful you can be in the middle of the lousiest circumstances, including the turmoil that's going on in the world today, if you keep your heart in the right condition.
Matthew 5:8 says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (NIV). I love that! Do you want to hear from God? Keep your heart pure. Do you want to know God's secrets? Keep your heart pure.
Taking time to keep your heart pure is similar to cleaning out your basement or attic. Once you turn on the lights and start looking around in there, don't be surprised to find some things you didn't expect.
Darts of the Heart
Jesus said some pretty strong things about the heart. He said if you see a woman and lust after her, then you have already committed adultery as far as your heart is concerned. (See Matthew 5:28) Lust has a tremendous effect on the heart, which is why we all must guard against it. Just look at how it's destroying the lives of people who look at the pornography that's so easily available today!
Another fiery dart the devil tries to shoot into our hearts is hatred. The Bible says if you hate your brother, it's no different than if you murdered him. (See James 4:2) We must "raise our shield" to keep our hearts pure.
Preventing Further Heart Damage
I have found that if I can capture my thoughts for God early in the morning, through prayer and meditating on Scripture, then it's easier to protect my heart. Or, I can risk waiting until the afternoon, when I've already let the enemy use it as a garbage dump for awhile and then try to get a handle on it. Obviously, it would be better to start my morning doing the right thing!
I want you to understand this: Every time you feel like doing the wrong thing and you choose to do the right thing, you are growing—and God is smiling.
So, develop self-control. Keep your commitments, keep your word and do what you know God wants you to do. And every time you feel like doing the wrong thing, choose to do the right thing.
I'm not saying that you ignore your feelings. We need to take care of our emotions. I tell God how I feel. But then I also tell Him what I will do through His strength and power. The bottom line is, if you want to be a victorious Christian, guard your heart—even when you don't feel like it.