In modern society, when we refer to our hearts, we’re usually speaking about our emotional center—the place where love and feelings dwell.
But the heart in the Bible represents a bit more than just emotion.
The word translated as heart in our English Bibles is the Hebrew word lêb.
This word does mean heart in the literal sense but could also be used figuratively to mean feelings. Interestingly, lêb also extends to the will, the mind, and even the intellect.
In the Bible, the heart is the center of everything, including understanding and wisdom.
To put it in Western terms, the lêb or heart is synonymous with the mind or intellect. It is not only the center of feeling but also the center of reasoning and thought.
Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our heart above all else.
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 NKJV
In this verse, the word keep is nâtsar in Hebrew, and is translated to mean keep, guard, protect, observe, preserve, or maintain. It could also mean to conceal.
Diligence in this verse is from the Hebrew word mishmâr, meaning diligence, guard, office, prison, ward, or watch. It is used to refer to a guard—in the sense of the man, the post, or the prison.
So when the Bible tells us to guard our hearts it’s really telling us to protect our consciousness like we were a prison guard.
What It Means to Guard Your Heart
Out of your heart come all the issues of life.
I have known this verse in Proverbs 4:23 for most of my life, but never really knew what it means to guard your heart or how to practically do it.
To guard your heart means to guard what’s allowed to get in, and keep the good that’s in from getting out.
Why is it so important to guard your heart?
The Scripture says above all else to guard your heart. That’s pretty serious. Why should we guard our heart above all else?
I know that when the Bible says to do something above all else, it’s serious.
So over the years, I’ve looked through the Bible to find out what else it says about guarding your heart.
When God created everything that you see on the earth today, He brought it out of the earth. Everything you can see in this physical realm was at one time within the earth.
God spoke to the earth to bring forth the animals, the trees, the plants, etc.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:11-12
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. Genesis 1:24
Notice that the earth is what brought forth the grass, trees, creatures, etc.
In the same way that everything on the earth came out of the earth, everything in your life comes out of your heart.
Within the earth was everything that was needed. In the same way, within your heart, or spirit, is everything you could ever need for this life.
as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 2 Peter 1:3 NKJV
All the good that God has planted within your heart must be guarded, protected, and taken care of so that it can bring forth what it is supposed to.
What You Plant Is What Will Grow
In the book of Genesis, Adam’s first instruction was to guard the garden God had created (Genesis 1:28). This was his job.
He was instructed to not allow anything into that garden that didn’t belong there, and to nurture and cultivate all the good that God had planted.
Whatever you plant in your heart or allow to be planted is what will grow, just like whatever kind of seed you plant in the earth will grow.
This is why the Bible warns us to guard our heart above all else!
Your heart is designed to bring forth whatever you plant in it. Whatever you allow to be planted is what will grow.
If you allow the cares of this life to grow in your heart, it will choke the Word of God, just like thorns and weeds choke plants (Mark 4:18-19)
Jesus said it’s not what you put in your body that defiles you. It’s the evil thoughts and actions that come out of your heart that have the power to defile you.
What is in your heart is what will shape your life.
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matthew 15: 18-19 NKJV
We can choose to guide our heart in the way we want it to go. In fact, we are told to do so in the book of Proverbs.
Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way. Proverbs 23:19 NKJV
We are also told to not allow our hearts to be troubled (John 14:1).
This means it is possible to live life without a troubled heart!
But it takes intentionality to guard your heart. It doesn’t happen automatically. We must learn how to guard our heart and begin to put these things into practice.
First and foremost, we guard our heart by putting on the breastplate of righteousness. This breastplate is part of God’s armor that He has given us (Ephesians 6:14).
Here are 5 practical ways to guard your heart:
1. Protect God’s Word in Your Heart
Just like in a garden, we have to nourish and take care of the Word that is planted in our heart.
When we plant God’s Word in our heart, we have to give it time and allow it to produce what it says it will.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55: 10-11 NKJV
So many people dig the Word up before it’s had a chance to bring forth what it says. Keep and protect the Word in your heart by thinking about it all the time.
The Bible says that afflictions and persecutions come for the Word’s sake (Mark 4:17).
When you have afflictions arising in your life, they are coming to steal the Word out of your heart.
Don’t allow situations in life to steal the Word out of your heart. Make a commitment to keep reading the Bible and meditating on it no matter what is going on.
Make a quality decision to never back off the Word of God!
Keep the Word in your heart by holding fast to your confession of faith! Don’t stop speaking it. Don’t throw it out because it seems as though it’s not working.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) Hebrews 10:23 KJV
2. Log Off From the World
No matter where you choose to consume information in this world, it’s likely FULL of unbelief. It’s likely not feeding your faith.
Unfortunately, most of the world’s systems are not submitted to God’s Word.
Pretty much everything you consume in this world is going to feed you unbelief. Unbelief is just information that basically tells you “God’s Word is not choose”.
Just by living in a natural world, you are bombarded with unbelief unless you choose to purposefully shut it out.
This doesn’t mean you should go live in a cave, but it does mean seriously restricting how much of the world’s message you let get into your eyes and ears.
You can’t grow things you don’t plant. If you want to walk by faith, you’ve got to plant the Word in your heart, and a lot of it.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 NKJV
If you don’t want fear and anxiety in your heart, don’t watch and listen to things that cause fear and anxiety. Instead, transform your mind into a place of peace and faith.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 NKJV
When you hear words or see images in the world that are in disagreement with God, you should reject them.
Sometimes this means rebuking it out loud in that very moment. Sometimes this means shutting off the source of that information.
3. Watch Your Words
Your heart believes your own voice more than anyone else’s.
The things you say repeatedly get planted deep within your heart.
Don’t speak things over your life or situations that are contrary to what God says. This will poison your heart and fill it with unbelief!
Remember that your heart is listening to every word you say, and that you are guiding your heart (Proverbs 23:19) with your words.
Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Fill your heart with life by speaking in agreement with God.
4. Choose the Right Friends
Show me who your friends are and I’ll show you your future. I don’t know where this quote came from, but it is in line with what the Bible teaches.
The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26 NKJV
This verse warns us that the righteous can be led astray by choosing the wrong friends!
The people we surround ourselves with will determine what our heart is meditating upon.
5. Take Every Thought Captive
A thought meditated upon is what will get into your heart. We can’t allow ourselves to think on every thought that comes into our minds.
Our emotions are a great indicator to what we are thoughts are. If you have emotions that aren’t in line with hope, joy, love, and peace, it’s a red flag that your thoughts are not where they should be.
Did you know that the Bible tells you what to think on?
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 NKJV
Filter your thought life through this verse. If you have a thought that’s not worthy of praise, pure, and lovely, take it captive and cast it down!
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV
You can cast down a thought by speaking a different thought that you want to think on. The more you practice, the better you will get!
6. Cast Down Imaginations
Your imagination is so powerful. It is where you conceive things. Never let your imagination run wild with things that are not in agreement with God’s plan for your life.
When you have an image in your imagination that is in disagreement with the Word of God, cast it down!
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 2 Corinthians 10:5
Don’t allow your imagination to meditate on negative things. Don’t imagine yourself being sick or dying young. These are lies. You don’t want to conceive them in your imagination.
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
This scripture clearly links our peace to keeping our minds stayed on and trusting in God. This reveals that our emotions follow our thoughts. Where we keep our focus is so important.
The Hebrew word “YETSER,” which was translated “mind” here, means “conception (i.e. purpose)” (Strong’s Concordance).
It was translated “imagination” four times (Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21; Deuteronomy 31:21; and 1 Chronicles 29:18) and “imaginations” once (1 Chronicles 28:9).
The Lord keeps in perfect peace those who have their imaginations stayed on Him.
7. Don’t Compare Yourself with Others
The Bible warns us that comparing ourselves with others is not wise.
But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12b
When we compare ourselves with others, we get off track. We uproot the Word that is in our own heart.
Stay focused on your own race and how you are growing as a person, not where somebody else is at in their race.
When you stand before the Lord one day, He’s not going to compare you with anyone else. He’s going to look at how you ran your race that He designed for you.
When you look around at others, it can discourage you. The enemy uses this to bring a halt to the things God has destined for you. Don’t fall for it. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is your Leader.
Stay focused on the path He has for you. Stay focused on being obedient to Him. This is what will brings success into your life.