Protect Your Heart
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:22
As is the tradition for many families with seniors in high school, my mom and I made a list of colleges to visit. I didn’t have a lot of schools on my list in large part because I had my heart set on one particular college. But my mom, who is a pretty smart lady, insisted I visit at least a couple of other colleges. So when I had a day off from school and she had a day off of work, we made the trek to Vermillion, South Dakota to visit USD. As college visits go, it was fine. Nice tour guide and admissions representative. Nice campus. Nice weather. Nothing remarkable or particularly memorable until we started our walk back to the car.
Similar to lots of college campuses, the parking lot required a bit of a walk to get to. Again, not a super big deal. After all, the weather was nice that day. It was even early enough in the fall that no snow had fallen and we were not wearing jackets. As we walked, my mom and I talked about my initial impressions and where we wanted to get something to eat before heading out of town. We didn’t notice the uneven sidewalk in our path until it was too late. My mom tripped, fell forward, and landed largely on one shoulder and her purse which then smashed into her rib cage.
In addition to a sprained wrist and some bruising, which didn’t take long to develop, she knocked the wind out of her lungs. I’ll admit, it was a bit scary to watch my mom desperately try to breath for what felt like forever (but in reality was a minute or two). It was a reminder of just how important the organs found in trunk of our body (from the shoulders down to the hips) really are for survival, especially our heart and lungs. Thankfully, her rib cage did what God designed it to do and protected her vital organs from any serious damage. Once she was able to catch her breath again, my sister stayed with her while I went ahead to get the car and figure out the nearest place we could get a bag of ice.
Our bodies are designed to protect our most vital organs in everyday life but when we are battle, there is a need for additional protection. This is why soldiers wore a breastplate then and why they wear bulletproof vests today. In the heat of battle, it was hard for a soldier to keep track of every attack because they were coming from multiple different directions. So they covered their chest and torso with a breastplate made of metal making what would be a fatal blow with a sword or arrow something which did little or no harm to their vital organs. So while they had their sword and shield to fend off attacks, the breastplate was the last line of defense.
As Paul continues to describe our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:14), the second piece we are called to put on is the Breastplate of Righteousness. Paul is inviting the Christian to protect their heart with the righteousness of God because it is this which will protect you from all of Satan’s accusations and charges. So what is righteousness?
Righteousness isn’t about being right or doing good deeds by the world’s definition of such things. Rather, it is about being MADE right by God’s standard and definition of right. True righteousness is demonstrated in the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ and comes as a gift from God alone (2 Corinthians 5:21).
To daily put on righteousness calls us to focus on the process of sanctification, the process of being made holy. Wouldn’t it be great if that just happened instantly the moment we committed our lives to Christ? I know I’d vote for that plan. (Or, for those of you who know him, Mitsu would say, “I’ll buy that for a buck!”) But as anyone who has lived a life of faith for any length of time tell you, that isn’t how it works. Committing our lives to following Jesus doesn’t mean we instantly get everything right all the time. We still stumble. We will have moments were we listen to the lies Satan whispers in our ears instead of the truth God speaks to our hearts. And so, each day, we are called to put on righteousness.
There are three key ways which we can practically put on this breastplate of righteousness and protect our heart from the attacks of evil.
We can turn to God when we face temptation. No matter the temptations we face, God doesn’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist (I Corinthians 10:13). He always provides a way to escape temptation, we just have to get good at asking Him to show it to us instead of trying to always rely on our own willpower.
We can guard our hearts against Satan’s schemes. By trusting in the Lord completely, He will lead us down the right path (Proverbs 3:5-6)
We can avoid what trips us up (Matthew 26:41). Why tempt yourself unnecessarily? Life will hand you plenty of chances to resist the temptation to do what is wrong, why go out in search of more opportunities?
In a physical battle, a soldier who purposefully didn’t put on their breastplate was asking for death. In not putting on this key piece of armor, any attack they experienced could easily be fatal. In our faith, choosing to walk away from righteousness is opening ourselves up to be attacked by Satan. It is choosing to walk a path which leads us away from God and such paths lead to death. So stand having put on your breastplate.
- Everyone struggles to do what is right at some point in their faith. Most people struggle to do what is right at some point each day. Ask a trusted friend to pray for you and walk alongside you, especially in those areas where you struggle most.
- Identify which activities you are strengthened in righteousness and choose make them priorities in your life. Similarly, identify those activities which weaken your faith and seek ways to avoid them.
- Review the three key ways we can practically put on the breastplate of righteousness above. How well do you do these three things on a daily basis?