Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. -Proverbs 4:23
I live in the state of Colorado, where real grass does not grow easily! It takes a tremendous amount of attention and care. Within the first year of moving to our new home, the grass in our front yard was practically non-existent because we didn’t realize we had a sprinkler system that just needed turned on and we also didn’t realize how not having it constantly on would ruin all hope for the next year. Therefore, we had to have it dug out completely, put new grass in and start all over.
Even though grass does not grow easily, weeds have absolutely no problem! Our backyard, though seeming completely dead, now basically consists of only weeds and at some point we will have to start all over there too and be diligent and vigilant to tend to it with great care.
I share this as an illustration of our hearts. You could substitute my lawn woes with perhaps a garden. When we lived in New Jersey, we had a garden in our backyard, but we just didn’t take the time to tend to that either and enjoy the benefits of what could have been harvested. But anyone with a garden understands the need for working the soil, planting the right seeds in the proper season, watering the seeds, dealing with weeds and tending in many ways to whatever it is you are seeking to grow.
In other words, it’s a lot of work, time and care to see anything of value grow and be sustained over time in a healthy, fruitful way! The same is so true most of all with our hearts and relationship with God. Sin, like weeds, springs up so quickly and easily, choking life and fruit. Our hearts are in constant need of the nutrients of God’s Word and the water of the Spirit. Our relationship with God also needs guarded, protected and tended to with time, care and effort.
Often, however, it isn’t the big storms that do the most lasting damage, but the little things we allow to fester and grow. There is an interesting verse in Song of Solomon 2:15 that the lover speaks to his beloved where he says, Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. Notice the cause for concern is the “little foxes” that while “small” have the potential to destroy the entire vineyard if allowed in and not chased out.
I wonder, what are the “little foxes” in our hearts that spoil the fruit God wants to bring forth in our lives out of relationship with him? Maybe it is a root of bitterness that has not been fully dealt with. Maybe it is pride, lust, anger, unbelief, unforgiveness or jealousy. These attitudes do begin to affect our actions and spring forth out of our lives into behavior that ruins fellowship with God and relationship with others, just like weeds or foxes begin to destroy grass/fruit. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 15:18, But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
What is in our hearts becomes manifest in our words and actions if not tended too first at the heart level. This is why Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that more important than anything else is guarding our hearts and tending to our relationship with God. It takes time, effort, care and focus.
One of the first steps to maintaining true fellowship with God is dealing with sin in our hearts and lives. Think of confession of sin as like the “weed killer” of our hearts. King David’s prayer in Psalm 51:1-2, 7-10 is a great model of asking God to truly cleanse him at the heart level:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
What sin do you need to confess? In what areas of your heart does Jesus need cleanse? Where does the soil need tilled where hardness of heart has set in? Perhaps, you simply need to start all over and let Jesus give you a new heart! But then, what seeds need planted? Is God’s Word getting down deep inside you? Is the Spirit of God through prayer and waiting on the Lord preparing the way for new life to sprout and spring forth?
Yes, it is hard-work to tend to a garden or lawn. Everybody enjoys the fruit of these labors and wants to reap the rewards, but it requires personal responsibility, initiative and effort. Bearing fruit spiritually requires seeking and trusting the Lord daily and staying in close communion with Him. Above and before anything else, the most necessary thing in all of life, is not our activities, job, career, service or even actions. It is our heart and relationship with God. Everything else springs forth from that place, whether weeds that choke all that is good; or new life and fruit that can be enjoyed by all. Don’t hide from God in shame, run to God and receive his grace. Let him do a new work in your heart.