Proverbs 4:23 says: "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." Our hearts serve as the gatekeepers to our lives. When we guard our hearts, we are guarding our lives—our beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, and actions included. If we make a point to guard our hearts, we will naturally live more wisely. Our goal should be to guard our hearts so that they may be fully submitted to the Lord. True life is found only in Jesus (John 10:10). Guarding our hearts helps us abide in Jesus, and abiding in Him helps us guard our hearts (John 15:1–11).
A primary way in which we guard our hearts is studying God's Word and maintaining fellowship with Him through prayer and worship. Grounding ourselves in God's truth and close relationship with Him is how our hearts remain steadfast. Guarding our hearts also includes taking ungodly thoughts captive before they have a chance to lodge themselves into our hearts and ultimately our actions (2 Corinthians 10:3–5). We also guard our hearts by being selective about who we spend our time with (1 Corinthians 15:33). We seek out relationships that are mutually edifying and that encourage us to press on in faith (Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:24–25).
If we do not guard our hearts, they are exposed to any bad outside influence, thought, or force that comes their way. This can lead to a multitude of issues, perhaps the biggest root problem being that our hearts can become hardened to the Lord and His leading. Having a hard heart makes it incredibly difficult to obey Christ; it means we are susceptible to deception (James 1:14–17). In order to not be deceived, we must submit to God so that we may become wise: "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18).
Having a hard heart is rooted in pride. Look at the Pharaoh and his refusal to free the Israelites from slavery. While the truth was that God's plan was to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, the Pharaoh refused to listen to this when Moses relayed the message. He hardened his heart to God, which brought on the onslaught of plagues onto Egypt until he finally relented (Exodus 7:22; 8:32; 9:34).
After being freed from Egypt, the Israelites hardened their hearts toward the Lord by grumbling and complaining while they were in the desert. They ended up wandering in the wilderness for forty years as a consequence (Numbers 32:13). Later, in the book of Psalms, David reminds the readers of this story and exhorts them not to harden their hearts as the Israelites did in the wilderness (Psalm 95:7–11).
Ultimately, having a hard heart is a result of pride, which the Bible tells us is the precursor to destruction: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). Both the stories of the Pharaoh and the Israelites seem to show that having a hard heart toward God leads to disobeying Him, which brings destruction to our lives and delays God's best plans from happening.
We have to seek the Lord in order to keep our hearts and our minds stayed on Him. The Bible says we should seek God with all our heart: "But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29; see also Jeremiah 29:13).
When we seek the Lord with all our heart and soul, we will see the signs of a heart that is soft to the Lord in our own life. Signs of a soft heart:
Obedience: keeping God's commandments vs. denying and disobeying Him (1 John 2:3–6)
Peace: trusting in God (Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 3:5–6) vs. grumbling and complaining (Exodus 16:3; John 6:43; Philippians 2:14)
Release: forgiving others as you have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13) vs. allowing bitterness to take root (Ephesians 4:31–32)
When we guard our hearts, we are empowered to be doers of the word and not hearers only; we are protected from being spiritually deceived (James 1:22–26). The state of our hearts determines the actions we will take in our lives. This is why it's so important to guard our hearts.
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