How do you maintain a healthy heart (15:14)? To have a healthy heart you must avoid spiritual “junk food”. You must not “feed on foolishness” [NKJV]. Foolishness is to live without regard for God and his ways; it delights in the wisdom of the world and pride in one’s own insights. Mental relaxation is necessary to maintain proper mental health. We should not keep the mental gears turning endlessly, or we will wear ourselves out. But we can relax our hearts in godly and wise ways, such as enjoying restful evenings at home with our family or friends, talking walks in the park, reading good books, attending concerts, sunning oneself on the beach, and so on.
However, there are mental activities that are detrimental to a healthy spiritual heart. Here are three to avoid:
- Listening to the empty speculations of people (Acts 17:21); never go to sleep with error on your mind. Replace it with the truth (Philippians 4:8).
- Filling one’s heart with visual and verbal images that are unholy (Ephesians 5:3-7)
- Chasing fantasies (Prov 28:19)
In order to have a healthy heart you must feed on what will build it up in the Lord. Above all this means the knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 2:3). This needs clarification. Seeking knowledge of the Lord ought not to develop out of a desire to exalt oneself intellectually. Study of the Scriptures can easily deteriorate into a vain, intellectual activity.
Some do this to increase one’s reputation or to refute an argument by someone or to feel more spiritual. Such a person might think he or she is building up the heart, while actually weakening it. Our aims should be love for the Lord and a desire to mature—to become like him.
We need to know where to find proper food for the heart. We must begin with the Bible, and then use other means like proven books that exalt the Lord and value godliness, and sound preaching and teaching to aid our knowledge of the Lord’s message.
When you start to eat properly in a spiritual sense, you might find your heart offering objections. All of us struggle with various types of spiritual weakness. For example, “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have sufficient ability.” Seek God’s help in managing your time according to God’s purposes. Everyone has the same amount of time everyday—twenty-four hours. It all depends on how you “slice your pie”. I know that some of you have a very tight schedule. Every moment of your day already seems to be scheduled and you do need time to relax. But it may simply be a matter of better time management to place spiritual matters higher in your value system. Write out your daily activities on a piece of paper. Keep track of how much time you invest in each one. Evaluate which ones you can eliminate or devote less time to. Ask yourself, “How do my activities support the fulfillment God’s purposes for my life?” Then make a new daily schedule and give priority to your relationship with God and his other purposes for you.
In faith use the abilities that God has given you. God has made us all different—praise the Lord! He does not give each of us the same intellectual abilities, and he only expects you to use what he has given you. We used to tell our children, “If God has only given you a ‘C brain’ when it comes to math, then use your ‘C math brain’ and earn a C grade. But if he has given you an ‘A brain’ in English, then you should seek to bring home an ‘A grade’ on your report card.” God never expects you to act beyond your abilities. It is far, far better to read one chapter or a part of a chapter in the Bible and to profit from it than to exert effort simply to do a task. Listening to God’s voice written in his word is a privilege and should be a pleasure (Psalm 19:10). But it is also an activity that you must value. You make time to eat physical food, and hopefully you enjoy what you eat. It takes time to exercise, but it can provide a sense of well-being. It is also true that you must schedule time for the word, prayer, and meeting with other followers of Christ. May the Spirit of God lead you into some new spiritual pleasures that will strengthen your heart!
Grace and peace, David