Day 7: Heart Desires
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Dads, have you ever noticed what upsets you? Your wife asks you to take out the trash and you get angry. You gripe and complain, then afterwards think: “Where did that come from?” Or you’re driving in the fast lane, content to go the speed limit and some car tries to pass you on the right. So what do you do? You hit the gas (because now it’s a race that you must win). Yet your accelerating opponent has the element of surprise and cuts you off. As you slam on the brakes, you curse him out (under your breath, of course, because you’re a Christian). Dads, why do you yell at your kids for being late? Or why does your toddler smack his brother in the head with a fire truck? Why does your teenager stomp off to her room and slam the door? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?"
"Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (Jas. 4:1-2). What are you getting that you’re not wanting? What are you wanting that you’re not getting?
One night, I was exhausted from fighting an illness and fretting about everything I had to get done in the coming week, when my wife asked me for a simple favor that would have required five minutes of minimal effort. She asked very sweetly without a guilt trip, accusation, or ultimatum. Yet sadly, my first response was to grumble with anger. As I thought back on that failure with conviction, I realized the desire of my heart was comfort. I wanted rest — a good desire, which I had foolishly made into an idolatrous, inordinate demand. I was not getting the relaxation I wanted. Even though I love my wife and desire to serve her, my passions and desires were at war within me. In that moment, I was not serving my wife or honoring the Lord but was choosing to please myself. Now my response took place in a split second, yet I had spent the entire day dwelling on my idol of comfort. The boiling point of my anger revealed my heart’s desire like warning sirens at a nuclear power plant. So dads, when you get angry, pay attention! God is about to expose the idols which you value more than him.
Likewise, you must address your child’s sinful heart. Look at your child and just add ten years. If she continues down the path she’s on, where will she be ten years from now? Is she headed toward eternal life or eternal death? Does she need your help to adjust his course? One day, you will no longer be able to instruct her. He will be out of your house, semi-independent, making decisions all on his own (most of which you’ll know nothing about). So are you preparing him for that day? Like Solomon, you must call him to pay attention: “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart” (Prov. 4:20-21). Solomon even writes out his instruction: “Let my sayings and proverbs not escape from your sight. I have written them down for you. Read them often. Keep them always before your eyes. Most importantly, keep them within your heart. Guard them. Protect them. Memorize them. Meditate on them. Let my words remain fixed in your heart and settled in your soul.”
Using the anatomy of discipleship, Solomon speaks of eyes and ears (vv. 20-21, 25), of life and flesh (v. 22). He shapes the mouth with speech and talk (v. 24). He connects this bodily imagery to the path by focusing on feet that walk (vv. 26-27). Yet the center of this passage describes the heart as the control center of the body and the mind: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (v. 23). The heart is the inner man — the soul — the personality — the seat of thoughts, emotions, and desires. The heart tells us what we want, then directs the body (which includes the brain) to carry out its wishes. Therefore, the desire to gain wisdom and the decision to choose the righteous path both begin in the heart.
Guard your heart to control your body and its fleshly desires and to turn away from the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Solomon pictures a prison guard standing at attention or a sentry keeping watch over city walls. Guard your heart, for every word you speak, every act of behavior, and every sinful response to suffering comes straight out of the heart (Luke 6:43-45). Even if sinful words and actions seem involuntary, it is because you have been pouring junk into your heart for years. Guard your heart, “for from it flow the springs of life.” If water from your well poisons a friend, don’t blame your friend for drinking the water. Check the source. So also, if you explode in anger at a loved one or find yourself paralyzed by unexplainable fears, then perhaps your heart has been polluted (Mark 7:15, 21-23). You do what you do because you want what you want. So guard your heart and you will not only resist temptation, but will bear good fruit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Help me to guard my heart from sin and temptation. Teach me to walk your path of wisdom and bear good fruit. I cannot do this on my own, but only by your grace and power. Help me to guard my heart and to teach my children how to guard theirs. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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