“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life….Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23 KJV; NIV).
As we get older, we all get more concerned about keeping our physical heart in good repair. With the increase in medical knowledge, more people than ever before are giving more thought to their health. We keep track of the foods we eat, we watch our weight and our cholesterol level, and make sure that we get proper exercise. Why? Because we want to live!
Perhaps more than any other single factor, our life depends on the condition of our heart. The “life is in the blood,” says the Word, but living blood requires a beating heart. Without a living heart to move the blood, there could be no physical life.
We have all known someone whose life has been cut short because of heart failure. We might have many physical ailments but those affecting the heart are the really serious ones. We could fracture a limb or suffer many different diseases, and life would go on, but if our heart stops beating, that is the end of our life. Truly, out of the heart are the issues of life and death.
As God has designed our heart it is a marvelous mechanism, a virtual workhorse, starting its work but a few weeks after conception, and continuing all through one’s life of 70, 80, 90 or even 100 years and more. By the time you reach 70 years of age, your heart, averaging about 72 beats per minute, has made about three billion beats. Your lungs work with your heart in purifying your blood, completing the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen in the blood sent there by the heart in less than a second. The process goes on while you work and while you sleep pumping your blood to the lungs, back to the heart, then through your 50,000-plus miles of arteries, veins and capillaries at the rate of about 80 gallons per hour. It moves your blood many times over until it approximates having pushed 60 million gallons of blood through the system during your lifetime, a feat no man-made pump
could accomplish. It takes a strong, healthy heart to do all this pumping.
“Heart” in the Scriptures is more than the power that moves our blood and animates us. What the healthy heart is to a healthy body a clean or pure heart is to the spiritual life. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all they strength” (Mark 12:30). The heart is synonymous with the mind, the seat of the emotions, the center of intellectual activity, the control center of the body.
What is in the heart is what is in the mind, for out of the “abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34).
The heart accepts the good seed [the Word of God] in an “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15).
The heart must be made pure if we would enter the Kingdom: Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
The apostle John said of Jesus, “every man that hath this hope in him [the hope of seeing Jesus and being made like Him,] purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3).
A pure heart means a pure life. Paul thanked God that his brethren in Rome, once having been slaves to sin had “obeyed from the heart” the“doctrine which was delivered” them. (6:17).
Our hearts are not naturally pure, for the prophet Jeremiah tells us that the heart of man is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (17:9). Jesus tells us that it is from the heart that proceed all the evils of our nature—beginning with evil thoughts. A “heart that deviseth wicked imaginations” is one of the seven abominations of Proverbs 6. “The heart of the wicked is of little value,” says the Word, and the Lord “detests men of perverse heart” as well as “all the proud of heart”. Such a heart can “harbor deceit,” and it “devises wicked schemes,” but “a cheerful heart is good medicine” and a “heart at peace gives life to the body,” and the Lord “delights in those whose ways are blameless,” or in other words, those with a pure heart.”
Our naturally evil hearts have to be cleansed, “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26-27), that is, by obeying faithfully the commandments of God. Sister Hembree gave us a good rule to rid the heart of evil thoughts: Fill the mind with good thoughts and thus crowd out the evil. It is something for each of us to do.
The heart once purified will not stay pure without some effort on our part. To keep it spiritually fit, let us be sure we are giving proper care to our spiritual heart. Is your heart overburdened with “the cares of this life”? If it is, share your burdens with the Lord and allow Him to help bear the weight. Are you feeding on the nutrients of God’s Word? Write the Word indelibly upon your hearts, that you may call to memory appropriate Scripture when needed. Adopt the gratitude attitude; thank God first for all that you have and are, for “in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10).
The Scriptural counsel that says that “A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine”is corroborated by doctors of today. Research has proved that optimistic and cheerful people have fewer heart problems and recover faster and better should they suffer a heart attack or find it necessary to have heart surgery. Heart specialists have also studied the effect of anger, anxiety, and depression on individuals with heart problems and have noted that they do not improve nearly as well as those that are cheerful. But doctors cannot change the emotions nor a person’s outlook on life. That is something each individual must do for themselves.
Remember, worry is interest paid in advance on many things that may never happen. Faith in God can help overcome worry. If you have spiritual heart problems, start to work on them today. Look beyond the present and “set your affections on things above” (Col. 3:2). And don’t forget what Jesus said, to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). –RTH