Words of Wisdom for a New Year #2
Heart work is the daily chore of a Christian. Wisdom says that we need to rule and subdue our own hearts lest they become overgrown with weeds from the world, the flesh and the devil.
In Proverbs 4:23 Solomon uses imagery from ancient Palestine and gives us a picture of a well. In those days a fully functioning well was essential to the prosperity and life of a man’s estate. If it dried up then drought and famine would not be far behind. So they would dig down deep until they hit underground water sources, which would supply their families and servants. The heart is compared to the well (wellspring) in a Christian’s life. Solomon says, “keep” or “watch” or “guard” your heart. An ancient well didn’t automatically produce fresh, clean water; neither will the heart automatically be healthy and produce clean words, pure eyes and righteous deeds (Proverbs 4: 24-27). Therefore, we need to maintain and protect the well…”with all diligence”. In other words, it must be a priority and will be hard work.
Referring to Isaac’s problem in keeping his wells from the attacks of the Philistines (Gen. 26:12-22), John Owen applies it to the human heart:
“If care be not taken, if diligence and watchfulness be not used, and all means that are appointed by God to keep a quick and lovely sense of spiritual thoughts upon the soul, they will dry up and decay; and, consequently that obedience that should spring from them will do so also.”
Your heart is a well that must be aggressively kept and subdued. Remember that it is the target for the devil’s temptations and the location of indwelling sin (Matt. 5:32, James 1:12-15). A regenerate heart will not automatically gush forth with purity unless it is well kept.
Listen to Charles Bridges here:
“Then when I know my heart, and feel it to be so dangerous, and in such dangers, the question forces itself upon me: ‘Can I keep my (own) heart?’ Certainly not. But, though it be God’s work, it is man’s agency. Our efforts are his instrumentality. He implants an active principle and sustains the unceasing exercise (Phil. 2:12-13; Jude 24 with 21).”
Or consider J C Ryle on the hidden work of heart keeping through regular Bible reading…
“The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet and hard to detect at the time they are being produced. Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptivity the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible reading.”
And again Ryle is insightful on private prayer…
“If I know anything of a Christian’s heart, you to whom I now speak are often sick of your own prayers…There are few children of God who do not often find the season of prayer a season of conflict. The devil has special wrath against us when he sees us on our knees. Yet I believe that prayers, which cost us no trouble, should be regarded with great suspicion. I believe we are vey poor judges of the goodness of our prayers, and that the prayer which pleases us least, often pleases God the most.”
So at the beginning of the New Year, make devotional heart work a priority and tap into the life giving Spirit of Christ (John 7:38-39). Busyness is not an excuse. You cannot let your circumstances push you around. This is a matter of life and death. Make sure you heed the wisdom of Proverbs. The battle is on. The location is the heart. The reward is great. Now take up arms. Wisdom tells you how.