Guarding the Spirit (Proverbs 4:23-26)

Proverbs 4:23-26
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. 25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
In our middle & high school Sunday school class, we have been going through the book of Malachi. At the end of chapter 2, the phrase “guard yourselves in the spirit” is repeated twice. As I was preparing for this study, I found myself drawn to those words and what they mean. Clearly the Lord intended for this phrase to jump out to us due to it being repeated. So, what does it mean to guard ourselves in the spirit? I think what it means is for us is that our hearts and actions need to be directed towards the things of God. If we no longer fight for spiritual purity (check out our devotional on fighting for spiritual purity for additional information) we will not be able to guard our hearts or our spirit. I came across Proverbs 4:23-26 and found 7 questions that we should ask ourselves in order for us to guard our spirits.
1. Can God be glorified in what I am doing?
One of the most important questions that we need to ask is if God will be glorified in what we are doing. If we struggle to answer yes, chances are our goal is not to bring God glory in what we are doing. Step back and ask yourself, “is this something that God wants me to be exposed to? Is this something that God could be glorified through? If Christ were in my shoes, would He do this? If we cannot say yes to those questions, chances are we probably should not do it. This leads us into our next question.
2. Is my heart set towards the things of God and not towards the things of man?
What are the things that catch our attention? What are the things that we gravitate towards? Like Paul, can we say that we would lose all things and consider them rubbish, in order that we may gain Christ? If you do not see God as the ultimate reward, the only thing of everlasting importance, you will struggle to guard your spirit. Sin has this way of making our temporary, earthly desires look greater than our eternal and almighty Heavenly Father.
3. Will what I say bring glory to God?
When we look at Proverbs 4:24, we see the importance of our words. Do the things that we say bring glory to God? Solomon says that we are to put away crooked speech and to put away devious talk. James is quite right when he says that the tongue is a deadly poison. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9). Be careful with what you say. More damage can be done to your spiritual life and the spiritual lives of others by one hateful word than you might realize. If it was something that you wouldn’t say in the presence of the King, should you actually say it? Speak kindly and point to God’s goodness in all that you say. 
4. Is God the center of my attention?
Solomon tells us to let our eyes look directly forward. We can read this as, “are my eyes looking for what is really important? Am I seeking the things that will build me in Christ, and not tear me down?” Is God the center of your attention? This is a pretty heavy question. In a world filled with distractions that are fighting for your attention, can we sing, “the cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back”? My prayer is that you would see God as the most important thing in all the universe. He is the fountain of all blessings, the greatest reward that we could ever possess. In all my years of following Christ, I know that there have been days where He has been at the center and there have been days where I have pushed Him off to the side so that I could focus on myself. I am forever grateful for every time that He has re-prioritized my life so that I would see Him as the only One that my eyes would be set towards.
5. Will God be glorified by what I am seeing?
We are exposed to so much these days. We see so much violence, sex, and disturbing images that we don’t even think twice about it. Go ahead and read verse 25 again. Doesn’t it seem like the things that we expose ourselves to is important? God cares deeply about the things that we are viewing. Does all the Netflix that we watch, all the articles that we read, all the videos that we share on Facebook bring glory to God? Are our spiritual palates so unrefined that we need to constantly look for something to entertain us? One question that I have asked my students is how long they can go without checking their phone before they start feeling anxious? You probably wouldn’t be surprised with how they answered. Are the things that you are viewing bringing glory to God? John Piper once said, “one of the great uses of twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the last day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” Do the things that we see get in the way of much needed time that we could be spending with the Lord? What do you think your quiet time with the Lord would look like if you put away the phone, turned off the TV, and spent the hour that you would be watching Netflix, in deep communion and prayer with the Lord? Try it out and let me know how it goes. I think you’ll be surprised at what the Lord reveals to you.
6. Did I think this through?
Sometimes the most simple question can be the one that we forget to ask. Before you do something, did you take the time to think it through? Did you think of how it will impact your life, the lives of the other people involved, and did you think if it was what the Lord wants you to do? Now obviously this does not apply to everything in life. I don’t think you need to go through these questions when you are in the drive thru and you aren’t sure if you want a chicken sandwich or chicken nuggets. (Chik-Fil-A is God’s chosen restaurant after all!) If you are making a major decision or if something comes into your life that you aren’t quite sure about, take the time to think and pray about it. Let other Godly men and women come alongside you and talk to them about it. Before you start building, be sure to count up the cost!
7. Am I actively pursuing the Lord so that I can keep my path straight?
Verses 25-26 are what connect our 6th and 7th questions together. We know that the Bible is God’s Word to us on how we can pursue the Lord. It is His way of revealing deep truths about Himself to us. Are we practicing what it teaches? Are we actively pursuing Him because we know that He is the only way to righteousness. As we continue to pursue after the Lord, we know that He will continue to shape and mold us into the image of His Son. If you have a dead faith, your path won’t be straight! Rend Collective has a song called True North that goes, “I will not let the darkness steal the joy within my soul. I will not let my circumstance become my compass, no I will not let the fears of life and sorrows of this world dictate to me how I should feel. For You are my true north.” Is the Lord our only guiding light?
If you are struggling with guarding your heart and setting your eyes towards Christ, let us know how we can pray for you and if there is anything that we can do to help. We want you to see Christ for all that He is, as the greatest reward that you could ever receive.