Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT).
One of the classic fairy tales is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The story is about a young girl called Dorothy who meets a number of strange characters on her journey down the yellow brick road. The first character she meets is a scarecrow. Later the two of them meet the Tin Woodman. At first, the Tin Woodman seems unable to speak, but after they oil the joints of his mouth he begins to tell them his remarkable story. He had once been a real man who was in love with a beautiful maiden. His dream was to earn enough money to marry her and build a cottage in the woods. But the Wicked Witch hated his love and cast spells on the Woodman that resulted in injuries. One by one his limbs had to be replaced with artificial ones made of tin. This didn’t deter the Woodman. In fact his metal frame enabled him to work as powerfully as a machine and with a heart of love he was sure he could win.
Here’s how the story goes:
“I thought I had beaten the Wicked Witch then, and I worked harder than ever; but I little knew how cruel my enemy could be. She thought of a new way to kill my love for the beautiful Munchkin maiden, and made my axe slip again, so that it cut right through my body, splitting it into two halves. Once more the tinner came to my help and made me a body of tin. Fastening my tin arms and legs and head to it, by means of joints, so that I could move around as well as ever. But alas! I now had no heart, so that I lost all my love for the Munchkin girl, and did not care whether I married her or not …
“My body shone so brightly in the sun that I felt very proud of it and did not matter now if my axe slipped, for it could not cut me. There was only one danger – that my joints would rust; but I kept an oil-can in the cottage and took care to oil myself whenever I needed it. However, there came a day when I forgot to do this, and, being caught in a rainstorm, before I thought of the danger my joints had rusted, and I was left to stand in the woods until you came to help me.
“It was a terrible thing to undergo, but during the year I stood there I had time to think that the greatest loss I had known was the loss of my heart. While I was in love I was the happiest man on earth; but no one can love who has not a heart, and so I am resolved to ask Oz to give me one. If he does, I will go back to the Munchkin maiden and marry her.”
Both Dorothy and the Scarecrow had been greatly interested in the story of the Tin Woodman, and now they knew why he was so anxious to get a new heart. “All the same,” said the Scarecrow, “I shall ask for brains instead of a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had one.” “I shall take the heart,” returned the Tin Woodman; “for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”
There’s something familiar about this story. First, there’s a Wicked Witch who brings disaster on the Woodman. Flashing lights please! Our enemy, the devil, brings disaster on people. “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy …” John 10:10 (NLT).
Then there’s a Woodman whose humanity is reduced to efficiency – he loses his heart – he becomes nothing more than a machine. More flashing lights please! We rub shoulders with hollow men and women every day. “Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God … they are senseless, faithless, heartless …” Romans 1:28&31 (NIV).
Here’s the point. In seeking to steal, kill and destroy your life, the devil’s target is your heart. Your heart is vital. At the heart of it all is your heart. It’s the wellspring of life. Simply stated – the heart is the centre. And if that Wicked Witch, the devil, can disable, deaden or break your heart, then he’s won.
Which raises a question; What exactly is the heart? According to God’s Word the heart is the source of:
Emotions. The psalmist says, “My heart is filled with joy” Psalm 16:9 (NLT). And then again, “My groans come from an anguished heart” Psalm 38:8 (NLT).
Motives. 1 Corinthians 4:5 tells us that when the Lord returns He “will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (NIV). Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course” (NIV).
Understanding. The psalmist says, “Even at night my heart instructs me” Psalm 16:7 (NLT). Paul says, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand” Ephesians 1:18 (NLT).
Conscience. Romans 2:15 says, “The requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (NIV).
Thought. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJV).
Belief. Romans 10:9-10 says, “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God” (NLT). Psalm 28:7 adds, “The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in him with all my heart” (NLT).
Discernment. In 1 Kings 3:9 Solomon asks God to give him “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (NIV).
Memory. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart” (NIV).
Courage. John 14:27 says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV).
Wisdom. Exodus 36:2 says, “And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom” (KJV). The psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90:12 (NIV).
Creativity. Ephesians 5:19 says, “Making music to the Lord in your hearts” (NLT).
Love. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Love each other intensely with all your hearts” (NLT).
So the heart is the source of emotions, motives, understanding, conscience, thought, belief, discernment, memory, courage, wisdom creativity and love. In a nutshell, the heart is you – the real you – who you are – the deepest truest you – and it’s your most precious possession. No wonder God says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT). “Above all else.” Make this your highest priority. “Guard your heart.”