Frank Retief was pastor at St James Church Cape Town for 31 years, having planted the church in 1968 with his wife Beulah. He became the Presiding Bishop of the Church of England in South Africa until he retired in 2010. Frank remains active in ministry through preaching, teaching, pastoral work & writing, and has authored a number of books.
The most precious thing:
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
In Mark’s Gospel we are introduced to the on-going conflict between Jesus and the devil. Jesus is always victorious over Satan because He has all authority in Heaven and Earth. We must remember that on the Cross the devil was defeated decisively and forever.
However, my concern today is to remind us that the devil is not our only enemy. Our own hearts can be our enemy as well. What do we mean by our “hearts”? It usually refers to that inner part of us where we think, feel, make decisions and live our life. The inmost part of us.
Now it is this part of us that was impacted by sin. There the old nature lurks and sometimes arises to lead us into sin. So we have to set a guard against ourselves. This is a way of saying that we must be alert and exercise self-control.
The heart is our citadel and must be safeguarded against all costs. Therefore we are told to “guard the heart above all things”. We sometimes take more trouble to guard our houses and our material possessions than we do the heart. How do we guard our hearts? Well all we need to do is use common sense. Do not deliberately expose it to things that pollute in the first place. Rather we should instead expose it to all those things that enable it and help it to grow in godliness.
Notice that our verse says “above all things”. This means that our inner spiritual life should always be our top priority. There are many things that distract us and many duties that call us, but we should pray for Grace to always keep our hearts before the Lord and His Word so that we may receive light and help at all times.
What does “the wellspring of life” mean? This is a reference to the truth that whatever possesses our hearts, whatever its chief love may be, will spill over into the rest of life. Like a spring of water underground rising to the top, so whatever is in our hearts will rise to the top and touch all of life. So let’s make sure that from our innermost being there springs only that which will glorify Christ, ennoble our lives, be a help to others and contribute positively to our community. And of course we should remember that of all things that stem from our hearts, at the centre is always the story of a crucified and risen Saviour.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I know my heart is deceitful above all things. Therefore I commend it to you again today to pray that you will possess it and fill it with your Grace and compassion. May I show these qualities to others in all my contacts with people and friends. Amen”