Throughout the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, large numbers of people left farms and crowded into cities to find employment. This phenomenon was accompanied by an upsurge in criminal activity that intensified the need for personal protection. It was then that the idea of preventing crime rather than simply controlling it became a growing concept. This led to innovative security organizations, including one of the world’s most famous founded by Allan Pinkerton.
In the early 1840s Pinkerton became active in volunteer police work in northeastern Illinois. He was appointed a deputy sheriff in 1846, and three years later accepted a position as Chicago’s first police detective. After resigning from the police force in 1850, he established his private security and detective agency that later specialized in railroad theft incidents.
These four practical steps will assist you in protecting your heart from the evils and threats the that could defile and destroy you.
While investigating a case in 1861, Pinkerton became aware of a plot to kill Abraham Lincoln during a rail line stop on the journey to his first presidential inauguration. Pinkerton warned the incoming president about the threat and then modified the travel itinerary so Lincoln’s train proceeded to Washington, D.C., without incident.
During the U.S. Civil War, Pinkerton launched the Union Intelligence Service, which secretly gathered information on Confederate troop strength and movements. He also served periodically as Lincoln’s bodyguard. After hostilities ended in 1865, Pinkerton returned to Chicago to resume management of his growing security agency until his death in July 1884. Pinkerton’s, Inc., has since expanded into a $1.5 billion international organization providing a wide range of protective services.
Since Allan Pinkerton’s time, security concerns have not diminished. Today, many businesses and families are accelerating efforts to guard against potential threats by installing fairly inexpensive wireless electronic security systems. Equipment included consists of door, window and motion sensors as well as surveillance cameras accessible remotely via a client’s smartphone.
Available also are loud sirens and automated communications devices, which include the services of remote alarm monitoring personnel who notify police of suspected break-ins.
Four critical spiritual qualities
While employing these or other measures to enhance your own security can be valuable, much more crucial is to look to God, relying on His promises to watch over those who trust in Him. Many biblical passages, including Psalm 121:1-8, attest to this key fact.
And yet beyond this, there is another vital defensive effort you ought to take that involves your entire mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” The New Living Translation expresses it this way: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Before learning what should be in your heart that ought to be protected so greatly, let’s briefly examine four critical spiritual qualities presented in this verse with the words keep, heart, diligent and issues.
1. Keep. Translated from the Hebrew word natsar, the term means “to guard or protect.” For example, you typically safeguard possessions having significant value or meaning such as a diamond engagement ring, a family heirloom or your smartphone. However, as Proverbs 4:23 explains, you should especially protect what you hold in your heart.
2. Heart. The Hebrew word here, leb, typically refers to the “inner person, mind and will.” This denotes the central core of your emotional, intellectual and spiritual existence. Similar to how your fleshly human heart is indispensable in sustaining your physical life, the leb is used here as the source of everything that affects your well-being.
3. Diligence. The dictionary defines this as the “constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken.” What may seem surprising however, is that the word is used to translate the Hebrew word mishmar, denoting a “place of confinement, jail or prison.” So in Proverbs 4:23 diligence means you should guard your heart so conscientiously that it’s like keeping it under lock and key.
4. Issues. Derived from the Hebrew word totsaah, the word means “borders or boundaries.” It refers to the sum total of all that occurs in your life, including what you are, say and do.
What should be in your heart?
In view of these four words and their meanings, what should be in your heart that would hold such momentous value? What is it that God urges you to safeguard above everything else in your life?
To discover the answer, let’s examine Proverbs 4:23 in the context of the entire chapter. Beginning in Proverbs 4:1-4, King Solomon says: “Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live” (emphasis added throughout).
Here, Solomon offers to his children important guiding principles that his own father King David had given him. And more than that, as inspired Scripture these are actually profound divine instructions from God to you regarding His priceless words.
Continuing in Proverbs 4:5-13, we learn that wisdom is gained by cherishing and obeying God’s teachings. For instance, Proverbs 4:7 states: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” These values, if embraced and esteemed, will guard your life’s walk each day.
Next, in Proverbs 4:14-18, Solomon advises his children about hazards they should sidestep. For instance, in Proverbs 4:14 he says, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil.” Likewise, God counsels you to avoid traveling down the road of sin because it results in suffering, anxiety and death.
More important than physical possessions
The king then makes a remarkable statement. He explains that his instructions are equivalent to life itself: “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh” (Proverbs 4:20-22). Solomon concludes his decisive remarks in Proverbs 4:24-27 by summarizing his earlier statements about doing what is good and upright.
So, what should all this mean to you? It signals that guarding and cherishing God’s words and instructions is incalculably more important than treasuring earthly possessions, desires and achievements (Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:15-21; Romans 8:5-6).
Regarding this pivotal divine reality, let’s consider 2 Peter 1:2-4. This passage not only mirrors what Proverbs 4 states about the blessings of living a virtuous physical life, but takes it to an even higher spiritual level.
As the apostle Peter states in verse 4, you have been given “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.”
This means that the knowledge you should cherish and guard goes well beyond how to live an upright earthly life. It’s also about the breathtaking eternal life you will experience with God in His coming Kingdom (Philippians 3:11).
Just imagine! The mighty, immortal Creator of the entire universe wants you to be one of His very own divine children in His glorious, spiritual family (2 Corinthians 6:18). How great is this knowledge! And how grateful you should be to know it (2 Corinthians 4:6-7; Psalm 139:17).
But this requires much more of you than simply having a good and warm feeling about it. You need to also take decisive actions to prove that your admiration and devotion to God is wholly genuine. It necessitates that you repent of sin and mount a fervent, persistent campaign to expunge it from your life while replacing it with God’s own righteousness (Ephesians 4:24).
This can be accomplished only by allowing Jesus Christ to live His life within you each day through the power of His Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20; 2 Timothy 1:6). Plus, you need to hold tightly to the vision of the coming marvelous time when you will be changed from a physical human being into a holy, divine spirit being at Christ’s second coming (1 John 3:2-3).
It will take great spiritual energy and resolve to prepare yourself for that magnificent future of loving service as a king and priest in God’s prophesied earthly, global government (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6).
How can you prepare successfully for this tremendous impending responsibility? It encompasses practical steps to treasure and protect the knowledge that God has so generously given you. It also involves guarding your heart against evils and threats that would try to destroy that unique understanding (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
Let’s cover briefly four practical methods that will help you to successfully prize and protect God’s flawless instruction and wisdom.
Four practical methods you can employ
1. Love God. To love God fully, take your cue from how you treasure the people you love. When you truly love others, you show your affection by spending time with them, helping them, doing thoughtful things for them and talking to them. In other words, you demonstrate your appreciation to those you care about by your actions. In reality, it’s much the same with your Creator. You can express your love for God by communicating with Him continually through zealous prayer and regular Bible study. To properly love God, you need to make Him and His words the focal point of your life (Deuteronomy 6:5-6).
2. Obey God. Loving and honoring your Creator and having a close relationship with Him requires your obedience to His commandments (Deuteronomy 11:1; 1 John 5:3). God’s laws, which are described fully in His Word, were designed specifically so you can live a joyful, productive life (Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Deuteronomy 32:45-47).
3. Abhor evil. The Scriptures are clear that we live in a corrupt, degenerate age (Galatians 1:4). Since sin in all its forms is completely repulsive to God, it’s essential that it be abhorrent to us also (Hebrews 1:9; Psalm 119:104). Therefore you must be vigilant in safeguarding your heart from adverse influences. For example, while the Internet, movies, television, music, books and magazines can be used for good purposes, you should be especially careful to avoid their powerful negative influences.
4. Love the truth. Proverbs 23:23 says to “buy the truth, and do not sell it”—that is, expend effort to learn it and never sell it away for anything. After having been granted the understanding of true biblical knowledge through God’s gracious and merciful calling, don’t let go of it no matter what happens (John 8:32; 2 Thessalonians 2:10).
These four practical steps are dynamic means of treasuring God and His perfect instruction and wisdom. They also assist you in protecting your heart from the evils and threats that could defile and destroy you. Plus they help you love and guard the great understanding God has given you regarding the astonishing future that awaits you.
Finally, as you recall some of the recent history of human security efforts, including the work of Allan Pinkerton, do everything you can to ensure your own personal physical safety with God’s powerful aid. But even more importantly, remember carefully and apply diligently the vital message of Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart.”