The Joy of Heart Work

by Abraham Cremeens

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 

Proverbs 4:23

I would call myself a control freak. I don’t like when things don’t go my way. That can be as simple as hitting six red lights in a row while driving to my destination. It can also be as heavy as significant financial stress. I don’t like when things don’t go my way, big and small. On my better days, though, I remember how healthy it is when things don’t go my way.

Lord willing, this Sunday we will walk through a passage regarding our path in life. There is a portion of the passage that will not get as much attention as it deserves and so I offer some thoughts below. As a fellow pilgrim with you, I desire to grow in how to walk with God in both the good times and the bad times, to refuse to be a control freak and rather pursue life as a humble servant to my King. The lesson God impressed on me this week is that, while I cannot control the big stuff around me, I can focus on the big stuff in me. Through reflection, I can become aware of ways to better steward my life on a path that honors God. With that, I offer three diagnostic questions for reflection and encourage you to pause at each point to consider them for yourself.

1. Are you teachable?

The man who discipled me for almost a decade as a new Christian always told me, “When someone challenges or rebukes you, make sure you respond in a way that makes them know they can do it again.” His point was that so few feel comfortable reproving someone and when you find someone who does, make sure you keep them in your life. They are important but rare.

Do you invite correction? When it comes your way, do you receive it well? Ecclesiastes 7:5 says: It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. It can be tempting to surround ourselves with a crowd of fun people who never tell us we are wrong but that doesn’t shape the heart in God-honoring ways. Remember, Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence (Proverbs 15:32). 

2. Are you growing in self-control?

Ecclesiastes 7:9 says: Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. Anger can spring up at any time but seems especially poised in the hard times of life. Enough sleepless nights, anxiety, and frustration can bring the most patient person to the brink. But that doesn’t honor God. Hard times can be a gift in that respect. If difficulty in life shapes sinful anger then see it as a “check engine” light, pay attention, and aim for change.

I have struggled with anger most of my life and it requires constant attention. The good news is that God is eager to provide all we need to face this sin. Self-control is, in fact, fruit of the Spirit. It is something he must grow in you as you walk in the Spirit. Don’t seek to “man up” on this one. Get on your knees with humble pleas. Seek accountability. Ask for forgiveness where needed. It leads to a life that honors God.

3. Are you walking in wisdom?

This draws us back to where we started in Ecclesiastes. Wisdom is married to fearing God. As we revere him for his worth, wonder at his nature, and stand amazed at his love we are fit to live wisely in the world he has made. Proverbs 9:10 says: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. 

What Ecclesiastes reminds us of is the value of wisdom. Chapter 7, verse 12 says: For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. As you walk wisely with God and fear him, you will experience the best life God intends for you. 

All of this reminds us that life is an opportunity. In the day of adversity, God gives you an assignment meant to grow you and help you see him more clearly for who he is. On the day of prosperity, walk with him in joy and gratitude. Regardless, do life wisely at every opportunity.

This diagnostic is not exhaustive but offers a few questions to prayerfully consider. We will invest more time on Sunday but hopefully this serves you in preparing your heart. God is good and delights to grow you in character toward a better life. Let’s be a people who always seek him for such things.

I hope to see you on Sunday!