Bible Verses that have changed my life: Proverbs 4v23

Tosin's Bible Blog:  Proverbs 4v23:  Wooden Heart with tealight
Proverbs 4v23: Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life

Bible Verses that have changed my life:
Proverbs 4v23:
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

Well in this series of Bible verses that have changed my life, I’ve already shared on a few verses from the Old Testament. Because of that, today I had wanted to share a passage from the New Testament, ideally something from the teachings of Jesus. However, during the course of this week, this verse strongly arrested me, so because of that we are back to the Old Testament – and oh look – back to the Book of Proverbs!

My interaction with Proverbs 4v23 is quite interesting because from the time it was first introduced to me, at perhaps 14 years old (or perhaps 17), it definitely changed my life in a very profound way! However, on reflecting on various issues within the week, I realised that even with that, I had not until now fully grasped what it meant or what it could mean, and perhaps I still have not!

I remember that from the very first time I heard this verse, I metaphorically grabbed at it as strongly as I could. I think it may have been my Aunty A, our then youth leader, who first quoted this verse to me; she sadly passed away earlier this year. (As I was trying to remember this, this following occurred to me: when someone generally represents beauty and grace and joy in your life, it is so easy to attribute positive things you remember to them! And that might well be what is happening here. But I do think that she was the one who introduced me to this verse, and I was struck by the profoundness of the verse that I had to check it in the Bible to see it for myself!)

So when I heard it “Guard your heart with all diligence…for out of it spring the issues of life” the truth of that statement struck me. I think that something within me just shouted “Yes, of course!” I guess this is why I love the Book of Proverbs. So often the verses summarise issues in a way that would never have occurred to me before, but which then make such resounding sense. I love the way the Bible here puts responsibility on each one of us, and makes it clear that we can guard our hearts or we can fail to guard our hearts. And then the issues of life that we are faced with will then be dependent on how well we have guarded our hearts or otherwise. I love the way here that it is not a passive thing, something that happens to us, but rather something that is within our own control, regardless of the circumstances of life.

So when I first heard this verse I was quite excited. I think that prior to that it had not occurred to me that all the issues of life would spring out of my heart, and it would be within my responsibility and my control to guard my own heart. I thought on this verse so much, I resolved to guard my heart, I would often reflect on it over the coming months and years, but not so much, I have to admit, within recent years. This is actually one of the reasons I am so happy to be writing this series. It helps me to remember these almost forgotten verses, and the deep impact that they made on my life when I first “discovered” them!

How I used to guard my heart
On thinking about that verse all those years ago, I think that the idea that struck me most was this: the need to carefully evaluate thoughts that would go into my heart. It occurred to me even as a teenager that there would be many thoughts and mindsets that would try to pull me away from God. I realised that I had to carefully monitor suggestions, thoughts, etc, often conveyed so subtly, to make sure that I was not embracing things that could pull me away from God. Actually, by God’s grace, I still do that. I might not consciously meditate on the verse itself, but on the whole, when people come with “exciting” ideas, I will quietly assess them in my mind. I guess that in a way this verse could be the root of the spiritual discernment that has been built up in my life.

Furthermore, for much of my life since then, when a thought would occur to me, I would ask myself: “Where is this thought coming from? Is it from God, or is it from the Kingdom of Darkness?” (It’s usually quite easy to tell thoughts from the Kingdom of Darkness, if I were to be truly honest with myself.) For much of my life, when I’ve been tempted to think angrily, I would ask myself “Who wants me to be thinking this way? Is it God, or is it the Devil?” This verse has probably been one of the most influential verses in helping me to remain grounded in God and in God’s truth, remaining alert to the constant pervasive threat posed by alternative mindsets, often insinuated so subtly, sometimes even within the supposed “Church”.

And yet, I have to specify that this has happened for “much of my life”, because more recently, I have been through a period of huge anger where this kind of wisdom was completely absent from my thinking. My mind has been so completely consumed by this anger that in a way it would have been futile to try to take each thought one by one to deal with it. This is an analogy that occurs to me: trying to deal individually with each thought is like when you’ve had a light sprinkling of snow on your garden path, and it is quite a simple matter to just sweep it away. However the kind of anger that I’ve been dealing with is like when your entire house has been completely buried under several deep feet of snow, and you cannot even open your front door to get out. To deal with it, you need to bring out the super-powerful diggers and snow-trucks, and deal wholescale with the matter.

I was recently thinking about just why I got as angry as I did. Perhaps that would require its own specific post to explain. Anyway, as I was reflecting over the course of this last week over this verse and the Big Anger, this following occurred to me: Yes, on one hand, this verse has already been so powerful, and instrumental in my walk with God. And yet, on the other hand, there is so much more that this particular verse could offer me!

This is something that has already occurred to me before, and something that I’m sure I may already have shared before on this blog. To my shame, so many times, an idea will occur to me, and it will clearly be from God. And yet it will take me sometimes years to finally get around to implementing it into my everyday life. So this is the idea that re-occurred to me on thinking on this verse: for the sake of maintaining love to people, even after they tread very heavily on my toes, I have to be deeply proactive in filling my heart with love! That is:

1. Remembering that these people (who have annoyed me) are precious precious people, made in the image of God, that God loves them, and cares deeply for them, no matter what they may have done to me (remembering also that I have done my own things to other people)

2. Meditating on Bible Verses to encourage myself towards love

3. Deliberately and systematically uprooting all thoughts of anger and bitterness and hatred from my heart.

All of this equally falls under “Guarding my heart with all diligence”. A huge part of the anger has been this: allowing myself to accept the lie that I am justified in being as angry as I like, and by that releasing myself to all the vitriol that I can work up within myself. But of course I am not in the least bit “justified” in thinking like this; it is a lie, and it is a lie that I have allowed myself to embrace wholescale. Just today I was reflecting on these issues and thinking “I have been such an idiot!” I usually avoid using condemnatory language about myself, however, such was the sense of conviction that came over me. And all along I always knew that the time would come when I finally realised the magnitude of my folly and had to admit it. Perhaps that is the thing about self-deception; there always remains a part of you that deep down refuses to be deceived…. But then again, I also have to say that I just did not know how not to be angry! Anyway, I thank God that by His grace, revelation finally seems to have dawned!

So then I guess that this is the big revelation with this verse, that not just with love, but even with everything, I have to be proactive in maintaining a pure and a holy and a beautiful heart! There are actually some powerful and wonderful thoughts that have further occurred to me on the subject of love specifically, which by God’s grace I hope to be able to share soon! I am so excited at the prospect of being genuinely beautiful and loving and gracious from the heart outwards! Once again, I really want to thank “The Person Who Has Been Praying For Me”. I know that it has been a while since I referred to this person, because it has been a while since I actively felt the impact of that prayer in my life. However, I can’t help thinking that this understanding could be the result of what may have been prayed for me, either a few months ago, or more recently. By the grace of God, I have always been happy in my walk with God. However, I’m genuinely feeling as if with this one understanding it has entered a whole new order of magnitude!

So yes, I’m thankful to mysterious pray-er, but most of all I am thankful to God! God I am so grateful to You for the joy and wonder that is contained for us all within Your Gospel, and once again I thank You so much for the privilege of being called Your daughter!

If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, I would love you to consider the truth of the Gospel for yourself! Even with various challenges and confusing and frustrating situations it remains without a doubt the best thing I have ever done for myself, and I’m sure that it could be the same for you too! But you do have to be completely sincere with God and with yourself, and actually take the Bible at face value.

Photo of wooden heart and tealight by Suppenkasper on Pixabay
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