Above All Else

QIC: Ginger

Pax Present: Swan, Squatter, Dipstick, Kimche, Pinto, Monkey, Pom Pom, Sinnamon, Spam, Nurse Jackie.

So I’ll start with a really personal question: How do you feel about your life right now? On a day in, day out basis, do you like what you’re experiencing or not? Are you happy? Fulfilled? Depressed? Anxious? Some mixture of those?

No matter what you are feeling right now….you don’t have to stay there. You can live in peace,  fulfillment, and joy; despite your circumstances. But while that promise is yours for the taking….it doesn’t mean that its going to be easy or happen overnight.

Let’s come back to this thought a little bit later.

Check out this verse:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

I got the chance to go to Israel back in January of this year. Seeing the land with my own eyes really helped the Bible come to life for me.

One of the things I had never really understood until I got to experience Israel was the value of water in the desert. Throughout history, one of the most valuable things you could control was a stable water source. Entire cities sprung up around wells that had been dug a thousand years prior by an ancestor. Waterfalls and natural springs were coveted and often saw wars fought over them. In fact, the capital city of Israel came to prominance because of the Gihon Springs which produces thousands of gallons of fresh water an hour, even today.

Water is so valuable because in a desert setting, water is life. Since we live in a modern culture where water access is as easy as turning on a faucet we really don’t understand that reality. But for a desert dwelling people like the people of the Old Testament, water was nearly sacred.

So try to set aside your modern American understanding of water and try to hear this verse through the ears of an ancient Israeli.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

To compare one’s heart to a wellspring of water would be to convey its importance to ancient ears. Water was life. Which means the writer is saying the same thing about our hearts. What comes from your heart determines the quality of your life just as the quality of available water determined survival for desert dwellers.

Also, the command to guard your heart above all else would have resonated with these folks because anyone who controlled a good water source new that protecting it was crucial to long term security. If your walls weren’t secure your enemy could come in and take control of your water source. But sometimes, if they weren’t strong enough to take control of the water source they would try to find a way to poison it to weaken or destroy their enemy without firing a shot. Thus, protecting your water source was critical.

So is guarding your heart.

In fact, Solomon says that there is nothing more important.

A little bit more background to make sure we really understand what Solomon is saying here.

When we moderns think of the heart we think of emotions. But the people of the Old Testament saw the heart differently. For them, the heart was the combination of the things you think; the things you feel; and the things you choose. The interaction of those things defined a person in their eyes. They also believed that the poisoning of any one of those things could destroy a person. So in warning his people to guard their heart above all things what Solomon was admonishing was to guard the things you think; the things you feel; and the things you choose. Why? Because they determine the quality of your life just as the quality of your water source determined your survival.

Back to my first question. Do you like what’s coming out of your heart? How does the water taste that’s bubbling up from your wellspring? If you don’t like what’s coming out you’re gonna have to change what you’re putting in. You’re gonna have to guard your heart.

So let’s get down to brass tacks: How do you guard your heart?

Start with an honest evaluation of what you are allowing into your heart.

Think in terms of three categories to figure this out:

1. People that influence you.

2. Environments that influence you.

3. Media that influences you.

I would try to identify the top three influences in each category. (The top three people….etc.)

Once you’ve done that….be completely honest with yourself about each of those influences. Are they improving the quality of what’s in your heart or poisoning your well?

If it’s poisoning your well, you’ve either got to cut it off or seek to lessen it.

If you consistently put yourself in environments that poison your well you’re gonna have to find new environments. If you struggle with drinking too much, don’t hang out at bars. If you find yourself being antagonistic and argumentative you may be spending too much time on Facebook.

Media includes anything you read, listen to or watch. I don’t care how popular that podcast is, if its spewing deception and toxicity into your heart is it worth listening to? I don’t think I even need to spend much time talking about pornography and sex-centered content. We all know the results of letting those things past our sentries.

The influence of people gets a little more complicated. Scripture is clear: 1 Corinthians 15:33
“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”  Ultimately, you become like those you spend the most time with. It may be time to upgrade your peer group. I hope F3 is one of those healthy peer groups for you.

But sometimes you can’t just cut people off. This especially goes for your family. I know that it can be tempting to stop talking to your kids because of the differences between you. Or stop getting together with relatives because of something they did to hurt you in the past. Or maybe you’re even contemplating divorce because its so bad between you and your wife now. But I want to encourage you: seek to redeem and repair relationships rather than cut them off. Its hard work, its painful, and it requires forgiving those who hurt you..  but its worth it.

In reality, cutting off your family rarely works. You’ll have to share custody with your ex-wife. You’ll see your family at weddings and funerals. And sooner or later you’ll regret the absence of those relationships.

Here’s an easy way to think about this: You’ll be the same person in 5 years that you are today except for the places you go, the people you meet, and the media you consume.

Wouldn’t it be worth it to be 5 years down the road and be drinking peace and joy from your well instead of bitterness, anger, and sadness? If you want to see that come to pass, you’ve got to start guarding your heart today.

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