This blog is based on the notes from my sermon on Sunday morning. The sermon was based on Proverbs 4:20-27, ‘My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to My words. 21Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, 22for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body. 23Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. 24Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. 25Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. 26Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. 27Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.’
It was one of the big challenges going through the Covid-19 Lockdown – keeping ourselves healthy, eating properly, exercising, and keeping up a good routine. It wasn’t easy doing so, and it will probably take a while to re-establish good routines and practices.
Work hard to show the results of your salvation
The Bible is also clear that we need to work hard at guarding our soul from that which is destructive to it. As part of this we are to work hard at our salvation in partnership with God’s Word, His Spirit and His Church – by doing so we keep our souls connected to Christ’s light.
As part of this focus, it isn’t enough to just know what we should do – we need also to obey God and act with godly fear knowing that His Spirit is at work within us. We are the temple of the Spirit and are not to grieve Him. If we walk with the Spirit in Christ’s light, then He will give us the desire and power to do that which pleases Father.
‘Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him’ (Philippians 2:12-13). The Spirit is planting good desires in our hearts and watering those seeds so they will grow in time as we obey His word – and live in awe of the Trinity.
These fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, are the results of our salvation – good fruits as it were: ‘But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!’
In this passage the writer counsels his readers to guard the following four points at which evil can access their lives:
- The heart – v 21-23, equivalent to the soul – more about that to follow
- The mouth/tongue – no deceit nor dishonest words, and no double talk saying one thing but meaning another more malignant thing v 24. Our words have the power to bring a blessing to others and to our own souls, or the power to hurt our soul, and destroy others. Proverbs 18:20-21, The Message, ‘Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. 21Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.’
- The eyes fixed straight ahead – singleness of purpose v 25. Psalm 119:37, Amplified, ‘Turn my eyes away from vanity [all those worldly, meaningless things that distract—let Your priorities be mine], and restore me [with renewed energy] in Your ways.’
- The pathway we take, our feet – staying on the straight and narrow pathway following Christ v 26-27. Psalm 119:133, Amplified, ‘Establish my footsteps in [the way of] Your word; do not let any human weakness have power over me [causing me to be separated from You] (‘don’t let me stumble or let sin control my life’ CEV).
1. Keep our inner lives spiritually healthy
‘Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life’ NKJV of Proverbs 4:23. ‘Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life’ NLT. Out of our inner life bubbles up, springs forth the very course our lives take. Whatever is on the inside will come out eventually and determine the direction of our lives. Jesus said that out of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
Luke 6:45, TPT, ‘People are known in this same way (as the fruit trees Jesus has just mentioned, 43-44). Out of the virtue stored in their hearts, good and upright people will produce good fruit. But out of the evil hidden in their hearts, evil ones will produce what is evil. For the overflow of what has been stored in your heart will be seen by your fruit and will be heard in your words.’
What are we storing in our souls today? And what is being heard by others though our words?
The heart in Proverbs 4 stands for the soul. It is the seat for our mind/principles for life, emotions/passions/energy/actions, relationships, choices/ethics. We will either store good things or destructive things in our souls.
i. Destructive things:
Paul says in Galatians 5 that when we follow the desires of the sinful nature, the flesh, the fruits we produce include: ‘19sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.’
In order for these to be produced – then we must feed our sinful nature. The sort of things we feed it with include: the lust of the eyes and heart, greed, human philosophies for life, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, envy, jealousy, vanity, worldly mindedness, and spiritual lethargy.
ii. Good things:
God’s word is first thing that the writer says is good food – Proverbs 4:20–23, ‘My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. 21Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, 22for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.’ God’s word brings health to our whole person: body, soul and spirit.
How do we let God’s words penetrate deep into our souls? By reading the Bible, by meditating on it, by listening to it allowing the words to wash over our lives and to enter into our spirit and soul, by listening to sermons, by chatting about His words with others, by writing about what we read in the Bible, by reading Bible commentaries, studying and reflections on His word. These are just some of the ways.
We can also feed our souls good food by how we obey God and follow Christ’s commands. This means working hard at doing those things that lead to a righteous, godly and holy life. When we live life God’s way – then we sow good things into our lives; good fruit is produced.
2. Whatever we sow – we will reap
‘Make no mistake about it, God will never be mocked! For what you plant will always be the very thing you harvest. 8The harvest you reap reveals the seed that was planted. If you plant the corrupt seeds of self-life into this natural realm, you can expect to experience a harvest of corruption. If you plant the good seeds of Spirit-life you will reap the beautiful fruits that grow from the everlasting life of the Spirit’ (Galatians 6:7-8)
Galatians 6 is about helping others in their spiritual journey, and in life in general, v. 2, ‘Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ;’ it is also about recognising the importance of guarding and maintaining our own spiritual health. We can either impoverish our souls by how we live – or enrich them.
3. The place of faith in our spiritual health
Hebrews 11:1-7, NLT, ‘Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. 2This testimony of faith is what previous generations were commended for….6And it is impossible to please God without living faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists, He is real, and that He rewards the faith of those who sincerely or passionately seek Him.’
Faith is critical to our spiritual health. Without it we cannot please God. Faith is the bridge that unites us to God’s provision, principles and purposes. It releases the following blessings:
- His powerful, victorious love to begin to accomplish what only it can, including driving out unsanctified fear
- Enables us to gain biblical understanding for a full spiritual life
- Enables us to connect with His joy which is our spiritual strength
- Teaches us to respect God and His ways, and each other releasing the power of the unity of the Spirit, and the drive to obey God each day
- Is a spiritual commitment to Christ which releases the power to defeat the power of Satan, self, sin and the world
- Is the means whereby Christ’s redemptive power is released in our lives
- Enables us to stand shoulder to shoulder with God through Christ in His worship, service, devotion and mission to the world
- Is at the heart of successful ministry
- Is key in living the spiritual, godly, holy and Christ-honouring lifestyle to which we are called.
The state of our spiritual health is our responsibility in partnership with all that the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit will provide to us:
1. Proverbs 4 is about guarding our spiritual lives: Our souls – tongues – eyes – and feet
Our inner lives – the soul, for what flows out of it determines the course our lives will take
The words we speak – our tongue impacts our spiritual strength and health
We need singleness of purpose in following Christ – eyes
To stay focussed on staying on the narrow pathway following Christ in this world.
2. What we sow into our souls – we will reap
There are destructive things we can feed which will destroy our spiritual vitality and health – take a moment to confess anything the Spirit brings to your mind at this point. Things like unforgiveness, greed, lust or anger…
There are also good things which enable us to live good fruit-filled, productive lives. Things like filling our lives with God’s word, being obedient to Him, concerned for others bearing their burdens when appropriate, keeping spiritually active praying, worshipping and moving in the gifts of the Spirit, practising biblical stewardship, and making disciples equipping them in turn to make disciples.
3. Living by faith is fundamental to our spiritual health
We are human and not yet what we shall be – but it is our faith that pleases God and connects us to His wisdom, power and grace.
Father, grant us the grace, biblical wisdom and spiritual power to feed our souls good, Christ-honouring things which will then help us to grow further in faith and in worship, spiritual strength and usefulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen