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Proverbs 4:23

 “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

               All people, no matter race, religion, sex, or age, want the same thing. They all want to enjoy their lives and see good days. This of course will mean different things to different people but in this discourse, we will discuss the life of the believer and how that believer might find themselves in the perpetual “good day.” I have in my life been associated with certain people from time to time with whom I ardently disagreed. This chasm of opinions between us led to many a brusque argument. Owing to the nature of these associations, for a time I was unable to escape these repeated tumultuous times. My mental health in these time periods was deteriorated to such an extent that I would mark down on a paper calendar each day that was free of volatility in order that I might entice myself to self-control with this small accomplishment as an incentive. In the end, the simple result was that every few days I found myself beginning my count again for there was not a consistent passage of time between outbursts. Eventually my associations with these certain people waned and I found that my daily experience gradually became more peaceful. Of course it can be argued that the reason for my new found serenity was the lack of involvement I had with the opposing party, and while that is true, the Lord began pointing out threats to my new found peace. The threats came in the form of accusations. These accusations were not against me however, but against those around me with whom I had formed new associations. They would manifest in my mind by illuminating any minute or grand error on the part of the other person. I would notice the fault and then become irritated and reactive. This, the Lord said, was the beginning of the same cycle- a cycle to destroy my joy, peace, and progress in daily life and ultimately my entire life. With ardent determination I set about eliminating these threats to my life by discovering their roots. Thus, I have discovered our study verse and many supporting texts that have painted for me a clear picture of the cause and effect of a lack of peace and entrance of destruction. 

    In order to gain proper comprehension of our study verse an entire solicitation of meanings and supporting text is required. 

To keep one’s heart with all diligence seems very straightforward an instruction, especially when the purpose for this exercise is delineated in the second half of the verse- out of the heart spring the issues of life. Thus, the verse could have been constructed this way:

   " Keep your heart with all diligence because life issues come out of it.”

Although a simpler translation, neither the modified nor the original translations of this verse reveal the true, deep, and effective meaning of this verse. 

    To begin, what does it mean to keep? To “keep” can be likened to the action of gardening. It refers to tending to in order to ensure a freedom from life killing weeds as a gardener daily removes any possible threat to the manifestation of the yield of his garden; he also maintains proper sunlight exposure and water levels in the garden. Thus, the scripture indicates that the believer is to “keep” his heart by daily watering, exposing to light, and removing weeds - or threats- to what he believes to be the truth presented by God. The believer “waters” his garden- heart- by confessing the word of God daily. He exposes it to light by reading the word of God daily. He protects it from infiltrating weeds by taking each thought that might enter his mind captive and then speaking out loud the specific word of God that contradicts that thought. The heart in our study verse, and everywhere in scripture, refers to the mind, the will, and the emotions of the human. Thus when we are told to “keep our heart” it literally means to garden our minds, wills, and emotions. 

    Notice the study verse makes a point to say “with all diligence”. God does not speak arbitrarily and therefore has an exact purpose in His inclusion of the word “all” in this verse. The reason that the Holy Spirit provoked the word “all” to be used here is to illustrate the fact that believers are able to apply diligence in certain areas of their lives and not in others. An example of this would be a believer who does not gossip, yet they watch television programs, read news articles, attend social media wherein gossip is a perfectly accepted form of communication and they themselves hear or read the gossip. They are applying diligence in one area and yet are not applying “all” diligence. This believer may be able to restrain their own tongue from gossiping for a time, but this restraint will first, not produce the desired result, and second, not stand over a lifetime. This believer will eventually come to a situation that they believe is so important that they must - are required to share it. When they do, they receive the accolades of those around them who are actively engaged in this type of behavior and thus the believer repeats the action as soon as they can. Usually the situations that lead to failures of tongue are those that cause anger, angst, fear, disgust or any number of negative emotions. This is precisely the ploy of the wicked one. He wants to and does challenge the diligence of the believer by manifesting vicissitudes that will cause ill speech in the natural. For this reason, the word says, “with all diligence.”  

    Further, the second half of the verse demonstrates a truth inculcated in believers by Jesus in both Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45 . That whatever is in the heart will eventually exit through the mouth. Thus guarding the heart is of extreme necessity to avoid pestilential infestation. The use of the word “spring” by the New King James Translators might have been the perfect word in their understanding to demonstrate the speed at which words and belief systems are expelled from the mouth. As true as this is, it is imperative to understand the entire concept of “spring” as it is utilized here. The word is Hebrew word # 8444- “towtsaah” which means “to escape from death” and “source of life”. Hence the word for “spring “literally means an impetus to avoid death or to produce life. It is with great speed and accuracy that the mouth speaks in times of suffocating pressure and these uttered words with the same speed and accuracy produce what is spoken for they are based on what is truly believe in the heart. For Mark 11:23 does not aver in vain that it is not merely what one says that manifests but what one believes and then says that manifests. Therefore the concept of keeping diligent and perfect watch over the heart is insuperable. The brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, James, instructs believers in no uncertain terms that they are to “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save their {your} souls.” {James 1:21} Filthiness here means obscenity, dirt and wickedness is defined as malice, desire to injure, depravity, the evil of trouble or affliction. It is somewhat salient that most believers avoid speaking obscenely or dirty as it were- or even with a desire to injure in most cases. What is not so obviously avoided, however is the requirement of the believer to turn away from speaking about the evil that accompanies trouble or affliction. All too often the believer who will not swear or maliciously attack others with their mouths will still engage in the retelling of trouble and affliction and how it impacted them personally. This insidious  evil and wicked speech veils itself in the heart of the believer, for they truly believe they are simply speaking realistically and honestly. Thus it is the absolute most dangerous and maleficent form of speech! James clearly instructs believers to lay all of this aside prior to receiving the word that is already implanted in their hearts:

        " 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

The word was implanted when the believer accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, however, it must be received- or accepted to be true- with a meek attitude. A meek attitude is one that knows that the choice it is making is one of submission for it has the ability and strong compulsion to rebel against the word implanted. It is the submission of the flesh to the word of God. James is directing his remarks to believers here and yet states that the implanted word “is able to save {your} souls.”  Therefore, it is recognized that the implanted word is that tool which can most effectively offer salvation to the mind, will, and emotions of the believer from the torment of perpetual bondage and venality. Further, James offers a concise directive in verses 22 and 26 of chapter 1 to believers by practical means:

22 " be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves"

26 "If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion [is] useless.”

  The methodology then employed must be to become a “doer” of the word by the bridling of the tongue. It is much simpler to bridle the tongue if the motor driving the tongue to speak {ie. the heart} is not infiltrated with contrary beliefs. Making the stratum of beliefs in the heart of the believer uniform and consistent with the word of God is therefore accomplished by engaging in all diligence when discerning what to allow in the mind, will, and emotional systems of the believer. 

    In conclusion, if the believer would appreciate loving his life and seeing good days, he must keep his mind, will and emotions under, subject to, and responding positively to the word of God by vehemently filtering what he hears, sees, and reads and thereby refraining his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. {1 Peter 3:10}

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