Summary: A patriotic message using Proverbs 4:23 as the the basis for reminding us to guard our national, ecclesiastical, and personal heart.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
As we approach our nation’s 231st birthday, we would do well to ask the question, “Is there a word from the Lord for our generation?” I believe there is and I believe it can be found in Proverbs 4:23.
These words epitomize God’s three-fold message to our country, to the church, and to the individual. This text is a challenge and a reminder that we have a responsibility to guard that from which springs all hope, all aspiration, and all action.
What exactly do we mean when we speak of the heart of a thing? I believe it’s that something in the nation, church, or individual which symbolizes life and inspires all that is good or bad.
I. THE NATION
Where can we find the heart of America? Is it in her scientific achievements? Her industrial might? Her art or finance or educational systems? Where is the heart of America?
I believe we see the heart of America in the purpose that brought the Pilgrim Fathers to these shores---to find a place where they could worship God freely.
We see the heart of America as we behold a white-haired old man, Benjamin Franklin, rising at the back of the room where the first Constitutional Convention was held, signaling the presiding officer--- George Washington--- for permission to speak. He said, “Mr. President, I am an old man. I have lived many years and learned many lessons. The chief lesson I have learned is that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ And I should like to suggest that before we begin our deliberations this morning, we invoke Divine guidance.”
Thus began the custom which has persisted, whereby each session of legislature is opened with prayer. This is currently under attack by those who would seek to eliminate all religious practices from the public arena. If they succeed, the wound to the heart could be fatal.
We also see the heart of America as we behold George Washington, with his tired, ragged and discouraged army encamped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1778, seeking direction and comfort from God.
Again, we see the heart of America as we look upon the scene in the White House where one of Abraham Lincoln’s closest friends came to him during a dark period of the Civil War and said, “Mr. President, I trust we are on the right side in this matter of slavery,” to which Lincoln replied, “It is my constant anxiety and prayer that this country and I shall be on the Lord’s side.”
History proves that the nation that forgets God is the nation that God forgets.
Therefore, we who profess to be God’s children have a tremendous responsibility to keep our nation from forgetting her spiritual heritage. I believe that God is saying to America today, “Keep your heart---the spiritual idealism that has made you great---keep it, guard it, with all diligence,” for it is still true that “righteousness exalteth a nation,” and “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
II. THE CHURCH
God is also saying to the Church, “Keep your heart with all diligence…”
Where exactly can we find the heart of the Church?
o Not in her political or social influence
o Not in her possessions, as great as they are
o Not even in her beautiful buildings
We see the heart of the Church in the character of those who founded her---our blessed Lord, the apostles and early believers.
We see it in the fervent spirit of the Reformers---Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, to name a few.
We see it in her spiritual results: evangelizing the lost, saving the worst of sinners, revolutionizing the lives of people of all classes everywhere, “turning the world upside down.”
The heart of the Church is still her spiritual power! All else is secondary. God wants us to guard this sacred power in all its component parts.
How can we best guard this power? Let me suggest four ways:
1. Retain some of her early simplicity—as to her faith. “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
2. Develop a more aggressive spirit to impact society with the gospel message of salvation, love, and hope.
3. Continue a burning testimony as to the power of the Risen Christ.
4. Speak with one clear authoritative voice against the evils of our day.
III. THE INDIVIDUAL
I suppose it goes without saying that it is the heart of individuals that make a nation or church what they are. That’s why the Bible is replete with solemn warnings concerning the guarding of the human heart. We must be careful what we allow in, realizing that it dictates what comes out.