How to Keep Your Life on Track

One week, an evil, hate-filled act claimed the lives of 17 people in a Florida school shooting. The next week, the great evangelist Rev. Billy Graham died at age 99.

One heart filled with deeds of evil.

One heart filled with goodness and love.

 Such contrast prompted me to consider the hearts of those of us living somewhere between the hardened heart of someone like the school shooter and the heart of a man like Rev. Graham.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Everything flows from the heart.

Words.

Attitude.

Action.

Reaction.

Ponder this. What emotion did you feel when you first learned of the Parkland, Florida shooting?  Shock? Anger? Sadness? Nothing? Maybe you just shook your head and thought, “Again?”

I am not asking this of those directly impacted, or in the peripheral of such tragedies, but those of us well removed watching or reading from the safety of our homes and businesses. What did you first feel? Was it different the first time you learned of a school shooting?

I am ashamed of my answer, and disturbed that I’m not alone.

I just shook my head, and thought, “Again?”

Have I allowed my heart to become somewhat calloused from the commonplace of these events?  I wasn’t glued to the television eager for the latest reports like the first time. Have I allowed myself to become desensitized and disconnected? What about you?

The thought alarms me.

Guard the heart, above all else.

“The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy, and that is why Jesus came into the world.” – Rev. Billy Graham, 1918-2018

Did you know the word “heart” appears 830 times in 762 verses in the KJV Bible? God repeatedly addresses the condition of the heart.

The hatred of all that is good destroys life – physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.

Love gives life, joy, peace, hope and so much more.

Evil takes. Goodness gives. This is not a new revelation.

The issues of life, everything regarding the issues of life, flow from the heart.

Simplified problem: Anything less than a pure heart needs healing.

Simplified answer: Jesus.

Yes, the problems and answers are more complex, but draw a straight line through it all and the attitude of the heart rests at the core. The heart drives our words, actions, and reactions. From sensitive and pliable, to hard and calloused, the heart influences our decisions. Since the only heart we can truly know is our own, it is our responsibility to guard it with all the power of Heaven.

We should not guard against feeling heartache. We must guard against losing the ability of the heart to ache. To do that, we must remember this:

“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)

When we love God in this way, the condition of our heart in all other areas of our lives falls into place.  When we focus on our relationship with Jesus, we protect our heart’s capacity to love others the way God loves us, even when others may not be so lovable. After all, aren’t we unlovable at times, and yet God still loves us?

I think back to the contrast between those two news stories—the Parkland shooting and Rev. Graham’s death, and I believe we all should want to finish the race of life as Rev. Graham did. I know I do. One of the striking aspects of his life is how he diligently guarded his heart. Christianity Today recently wrote about “The Billy Graham Rules.” There is no coincidence that a thoroughly protected soul produced a remarkable godly life.

Maybe you’re a preacher or teacher of the gospel, but the daily tasks of ministering to those lukewarm in their faith is eroding the joy in your heart. Maybe a painful situation has left you bitter and defensive. Maybe you’ve never noticed the numbness creeping in and stealing the compassion you once felt, until now.  Whatever your situation, surrender everything in your heart to the Lord. He alone heals the hurt, removes walls of bitterness, enables forgiveness, and instills the capacity to love the way He loves – even as we face the evils of this world.

They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up to your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:18-25, NIV)

Possessing knowledge, behaving honorably, living well, and being charitable is nothing if we do not love God first, and others second.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1Cor. 13:2-3, NIV)

Living in the world is painful, but without pain, we cannot know love. Without love, we are nothing and we have nothing.

Guard your heart above all else, to do so will keep your life on track, for a pure heart is everything to Christ Jesus.

Oh, to have a heart like His…
 
 
 
 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  
 

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