How is your heart?
Since undergoing open heart surgery seven weeks ago, I have been asked that question a lot.
Friends, doctors, nurses and family members have very kindly asked about the condition of my heart. I am so grateful to God, for the prayers of God’s people, the skill of the surgeon and the many expressions of care and concern.
Thanks be to God, my heart is ticking and pumping and going well. I want to ask you “how is your heart”?
I am not referring to the state of your physical heart, the blood pump inside your chest. Rather, I want to inquire about your spiritual heart, the core of your being. The Bible speaks of “the heart” metaphorically as the centre of who we are. It is not only the seat of our emotions; it is the core of our deepest trusts, commitments and loves. It’s like the grand central station of our lives. So many feelings, emotions, influences, directions and decisions travel in and out of the heart every day.
Our hearts hugely shape our lives.
New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller puts it this way; “What the heart loves and trusts, the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find desirable and the will finds doable”.
The Scriptures go further; they remind us that the spiritual condition of the heart must never be neglected. Hear the wisdom of God, in Proverbs chapter 4: 23, “Above all guard your heart”.
Worst case scenario, we become like Pharaoh. We suffer from a hardness of heart, a resistance to God and God’s will for our lives. Without due care, we can harden our receptivity to God and other people.
Best case scenario, our heart is soft and expands with the love of Christ and a love for people. For a healthy heart, we need to keep a regular eye on what goes in and out of our hearts.
Guard your heart. I am no computer geek, but I understand GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).
Jesus emphasises this in his teaching, that the flow of the heart is important. Too many times I have looked at a television program and thought, I shouldn’t be watching this, for through my eyes I may be seeing images of violence, sex and really bad behaviour and I am kidding myself if I think these negative images don’t have some harmful effect.
What goes into my heart can potentially impact on what comes out in my behaviour. Sometimes the problem is not so much what we see, but what we say.
If we talk bitterly or negatively about another, it can sour our hearts towards that person. Or if we allow our minds or imaginations to nurse grievances or hurts from the past, our hearts begin to shrivel with resentment rather than expand with love.
Someone put it this way “Sow a thought, reap an action, sow an action, reap a habit, sow a habit reap a character, sow a character, reap a destiny.”
There is a lovely verse in Scripture, Philippians 4:8 that says “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things”.
To have a healthy heart we need to a constant flow of beauty, love and truth, and the regular infilling of the love of Christ. And occasionally we need to do what David did and pray “Create in me a clean heart”, when we begin to discern the toxic effects of self-centeredness and self-indulgence.
I also find that corporate worship is good for the heart. To be regularly exposed to the love and the holiness of God in prayer and praise it’s like a tonic for the heart. Similarly, Christian fellowship is also great for the heart.
For in healthy, genuine Christian fellowship we can be ourselves without fear of rejection and we can learn how to forgive and be forgiven, love and be loved with the balm of God’s grace. Being exposed regularly to Scripture is also healthy for the heart, for sometimes the words of Scripture will convict and convince us and speak deeply to our hearts and our heads like no other word.
If I had neglected it for too much longer it could have been fatal. My heart and your heart matters.
Guard your heart and entrust it to the Lord so you may never lose heart.
Rev Steve Francis