Is Everything OK in Your Heart? - Encouragement for Today - January 30, 2023

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Andy StanleyJanuary 30, 2023

Is Everything OK in Your Heart?
ANDY STANLEY 

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

We spend a good deal of time teaching our children to monitor their behavior. But what about guarding their hearts?

The Old Testament book of Proverbs is filled with extraordinary wisdom. That so much good advice is packed into this ancient document is all the more reason the following statement should cause us to sit up straight and pay attention:

“Above all else, guard your heart …” (Proverbs 4:23).

Not our wallets? Our purses? Our daughters? Why our hearts? And why “above all else”?

“… for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Think about that. Everything we do on the outside originates on the inside. If that’s true, then, by all means, we should pay attention to what’s going on inside. Jesus agreed. He said this:

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19, NIV).

According to Jesus, these sins originate in our hearts. They come from within. That being the case, we would do well to guard our hearts. The problem is: No one taught us how to do that.

One evening as I was putting Andrew, my son, to bed, I decided to take the direct route. Andrew was probably 6 years old at the time. We had already prayed and were chatting about the events of the day. Right before I got up to leave, I put my hand on his chest and said, “Andrew, is everything OK in your heart?”

Andrew smiled and said, “Yes, sir, Daddy.” That became a bedtime routine I eventually did with all three of our children. I decided the first step to guarding their hearts was to help them get in the habit of paying attention to what was going on in there. Over time I added several other questions. Eventually, the list looked like this:

  • Is everything OK in your heart?
  • Did anybody hurt your feelings today?
  • Are you mad at anybody?
  • Are you worried about anything?
  • Did anybody break a promise to you today?
  • Is there anything you want to tell me, but you’re not sure how?

One night I was working through my list with my daughter Allie, and for some reason, I added, “Is there anybody whose failure you would secretly celebrate?” She was so young at the time that I wasn’t sure she would understand the question. Her response shocked me.

She immediately blurted out a name. Fortunately, it wasn’t one of her brothers. But it was one of her brother’s friends.

I said, “Allie, do you know what that question means?”

She said, “Yes, sir, Daddy. It means if they didn’t do good at something, I would be happy about it.” Turns out she had something lodged in her heart that needed unlodging. So every once in a while, I would toss that question into the mix.

This was our routine for years. These questions became so ingrained that one night, as I was putting Allie to bed, she lay down, closed her eyes and said, “Daddy, everything is OK in my heart. Nobody hurt my feelings. I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not worried. And nobody broke a promise. Good night.”

The questions we most often ask our children communicate what’s most important to us and what we’re convinced should be most important to them.

For our entire lives, we’ve been encouraged to monitor our behavior. But if Jesus is correct, guarding our hearts may be more important than monitoring our behavior. His Word is filled with guidance related to behavior, but at the same time, He instructs us to get in the habit of paying attention to what’s swirling around on the inside — because what’s on the inside doesn’t stay there. Our hearts direct our behavior.

And the author of that statement from Proverbs isn’t wrong. The condition of our children’s hearts is “above all things” (Proverbs 4:23) because their emotional health determines their relational health and, ultimately, their behavior and their lives.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege of influencing another human being as parents. Help us to guard our hearts as we care for our children. We pray this in the matchless name of Jesus, our Savior, thanking You that He has invited us to address You as our heavenly Father. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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FOR DEEPER STUDY

Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (NIV)

If you’re a parent, what questions do you often find yourself asking your children? What do those questions reveal about what’s most important to you?

How can you guard your own heart today? Before you go to bed tonight, have a heart-to-heart with God, answering the six questions listed in the devotion — starting with “Is everything OK in your heart?”

© 2023 by Andy Stanley. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
P.O. Box 3189
Matthews, NC 28106
www.Proverbs31.org

 

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