by Glen Doss, Major
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life, advises wise King Solomon (Prov. 4:23 NIV).
There is no place in the Christian life for the potentially cancerous attributes of selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear. Most of us agree with this in principle; yet many struggle with living out the ideal. Meanwhile, many well-intentioned Christian teachers and preachers err when they advise their troubled brothers and sisters in the faith to “just pray.” For, while prayer is certainly important—even central—to the Christian life, it is in itself incomplete.
A solution is implied in these wise words of Solomon. God has provided the means to help guard against—and ultimately eradicate—these potentially deadly emotions. The apostle had much more than prayer in mind when he wrote: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him…Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV).
Paul advises: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). Our great God has provided us with the means to objectively examine ourselves and thereby guard our hearts.
Guarding the heart—a lifetime pursuit
Building on biblical principles, the classic text Alcoholics Anonymous directs: “We continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code….Every day is a day we must carry the vision of God’s will into all our activities. ‘How can I best serve Thee—Thy will (not mine) be done.’ These are thoughts which must go with us constantly” (pages 84-85, emphasis mine).
“Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear,” directs Alcoholics Anonymous—in other words: Guard your heart! Let’s take a brief look at these four traits which have destroyed thousands of Christian lives.
An attitude of selfishness is anathema to the Christian walk. Pride—which is selfishness full-grown—excludes one from a personal relationship with God. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The importance of being other-centered, rather than self-centered, is a running theme throughout Scripture. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others, cautions Paul (1 Cor. 10:24). God’s Word repeatedly portrays service toward others as evidence of our love for him. [Peter] said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, prays King David (Psalm 51:6 NIV). God both expects and demands honesty. Scriptures admonishing us not to steal and lie are innumerable. A major issue here, however, is that sometimes the so-called truths to which we subscribe in life are actually lies. We are often victims of deception, even self-deception. The prophet Jeremiah beat Sigmund Freud by several centuries when he observed: The heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). Hence, the walk of faith is essentially one of prayerfully discerning truth from lies as we mature spiritually.
“Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender….From it stem all forms of spiritual disease” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 64). And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful, admonishes Paul (2 Tim. 2:24). Human anger is strongly condemned in Scripture. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20).
While reverential fear of the Lord is the core of the Christian faith, the mature Christian need no longer feel apprehension and dismay. With Christ in our hearts, we should genuinely fear nothing. God is love….There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, observed the apostle (1John 4:16, 18). Jesus challenged his disciples again and again: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
We must remain on guard against these potentially destructive traits within us. At the first sign, they must be dealt with and rooted out—before they turn cancerous. Thank God he has given us his Word, applied through the Twelve Step Program of recovery, as a practical plan of action whereby we can succeed!