Originally published in Pulpit Helps, April 2008.
Text: "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23).
Thought: Right throughout the Bible the heart is viewed as the center of life and is always associated with our thinking. Thus Solomon declares, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). So as we consider our text we must give attention to three things.
I. The Centrality of the Thought Life
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (v. 23). The marginal rendering is even stronger: "Keep thy heart above all keeping; for out of it are the issues of life." What you are today and what you will continue to be is the consequence of your thought life. Thackeray put it this way: "Sow a thought, reap a word; sow a word, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap character; sow a character, reap a destiny." So you see all life starts with our thinking.
II. The Consequences of the Thought Life
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (v. 23). Following these words, Solomon points out that such thinking affects the lips, the eyes, and the feet. In other words, our conversational life issues from our thinking. "Put away from thee a forward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee" (v. 24). It won't take you long to find out the kind of reading a person engages in; the kind of hobbies he is interested in; the kind of life he is engaged in. It all proceeds from a man's conversation, and that, in turn, out of the heart. This is why Jesus said: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34).
Our thought life further affects the observational life. "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee" (v. 25). Your entire slant on life is affected by the way you think. When man has organized his thinking he is not bothered by side issues. Paul has the same idea when he says, "This one thing I do" (Phil. 3:13).
A still further area of life is influenced by our thinking is our operational life. "Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established" (v. 20). Once again, the marginal rendering is even stronger: "Let all thy ways be established, or ordered aright." Once the thought life is mastered there is no question as to the path that we should tread. That is why the Psalmist says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Ps. 37:23).
III. The Control of the Thought Life
"Keep thy heart with all diligence" (v. 23). The New Testament helps us to understand the secret of such control. Paul speaks of "bringing every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor.10:5). No one can be sure of his thought life until he has brought his mind under the discipline of the Son of God. So we see that the importance of the thought life cannot be overestimated.
Thrust: May our prayer be: "May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day, by His love and power controlling all I do and say."
David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.