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“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4: 23)

How time flies!   We thank God for seeing us safely through another year.  We are grateful for His tender mercies that have sustained us from day to day: “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam 3: 22-23).  

As we begin the New Year 2023, it is good to recall God’s blessings upon our church, one of which is our recently-concluded Annual Camp at Hotel Puri, Melaka.  A total of 36 brethren (from Berith and Calvary Jaya B-P Church) attended the Camp from 6th – 9th December.  Our speaker, Rev Lim Seh Beng, spoke on the theme, “Keep Thy Heart With All Diligence” based on Proverbs 4: 23.  

Having personally profited much from the messages, I take this opportunity to share some practical gleanings from the messages, and add some personal thoughts to what we have learnt at the Camp:

Proverbs 4: 23 is a simple and short verse, yet it is full of practical instruction.  The word, “keep”, means “to guard or watch over”, and  has to do with sentry duty.  The word is used of God in Deuteronomy 32: 10 – “he kept him as the apple of his eye”.

Why do we need to guard our heart so diligently?  Why do we need to protect it?  The heart is the control centre of our lives.  Herein lies the seat of our desires, will, affections, motives and choices in life.  It is a high risk, vulnerable place because of our depraved and deceitful nature.  How we can so easily fall into sin when we fail to guard our hearts!  

Another reason for keeping the heart is because it concerns the soul which is immortal.  In Matthew 10: 28, the Lord Jesus told His disciples:  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Here the Lord warned them that they might even be killed for the Gospel’s sake.  Rather than fear men who could only hurt them temporarily, they should fear God who could “destroy both soul and body in hell”.

In his second message, our speaker gave a good reason why we must keep the heart with all diligence – because “it is a matter of life and death”: “For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh” (Prov 4: 22).  

Commentator Matthew Henry made an insightful observation: “If the citadel be taken, the whole town must surrender. If the heart be seized, the whole man … will be yielded up. The heart is the vital part of the body. A wound here is instant death. Thus – spiritually as well as naturally – out of the heart are the issues of life.  It is the great vital spring of the soul, the fountain of actions, the centre and the seat of principle, both of sin and of holiness.” 

What comes into our heart influences our thinking, senses and our responses.  On the other hand, what comes out of our heart reveals our true character – “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt 12: 34b).

Truly, all our thoughts, motives and reactions stem from the heart.  The following are some Biblical examples:

oUnbelief: “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (Gen 17: 17).

oDesire for revenge: “And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob” (Gen 27: 41).

oHate:   “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart” (Lev 19:17). 

oStubbornness: “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day” (Deut 2: 30).

oUprightness: “But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days” (II Chron 15: 17).

oContempt: “And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart” (I Chron 15: 29).

As we enter the New Year 2023, let us resolve to keep our heart “with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4: 23).  When we guard our heart, we not only bring life to ourselves but also to others through our faithful testimony. Do also remember that the Lord tries the heart.  He reads our motives and weighs our spirits (Prov 16: 2).  We cannot hide from Him.  May the Lord grant us grace to maintain an upright and pure heart before Him at all times.