This past Sunday I began a series of sermons entitled "Above All Else" that will focus on sayings from the Bible that begin with that phrase or something similar. It seems a little strange to preach a multi-part sermon series with the title "Above All Else." Since "above all else" prefaces what is considered most important, you would think that there would be only one sermon in the series, in which case it would not be a series at all. But the various biblical "above all else" sayings were delivered largely to different audiences at different times and the most important concern for one group at one time was not necessarily the most important concern for another group at another time.
On Sunday we considered Proverbs 4:23: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (NIV). If I could add a subtitle to this verse I would borrow a refrain from a Counting Crows song: "You don't wanna waste your life."
Your life springs from your heart--your inner being. So guard your heart because you don't want to waste your life. But how do you guard your heart?
The answer reveals that, somewhat ironically to the thinking of our culture, there is an inextricable link between your inner life and your outward actions. In Proverbs 4:24-27 you are told to watch your mouth and to walk a path of proper behavior and moral integrity. So you guard your inner being, from which your life springs, by guarding your outward behavior. There is not such a hard and fast division between our inner lives and our outward actions. Each one shapes the other.
We considered this passage as we approached the Lord's Table, an act of worship through which we remember the cross where Jesus showed us his heart through his outward actions. I can't think of a better lens for bringing the teaching of Proverbs 4:23 into sharper focus. How do you guard your heart? Live according to Jesus' example of expressing sacrificial love on behalf of those in need. May our hearts be shaped more like our Lord's as we steadfastly follow him.
Because we don't wanna waste our lives.