As the school year ends, so too, does an important phase of your life. For the past twelve years, your parents and teachers (obviously overlapping for the homeschool student) have poured themselves into you in many ways, including taking full responsibility for your academic education. They have worked to prepare you for the road ahead, to equip you for the fulfillment of God’s purposes in your life. You probably look at the next step with mixed emotions: excitement, trepidation, expectation, and moments of dread, eager to be on your own but nervous at the same time. If there were one thing we would want to say to you now, it would be the words from Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT)
Whether you are headed to community college, tech school, a new job, a state university, or a Christian college, you will leave the shelter of your home, family, and the structure you have known growing up. You will be challenged academically, spiritually, and emotionally. You will encounter opposing viewpoints in a greater way than you ever have and must stand on your own to defend your faith. “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He who guards his soul [heart] will be far from them.” Proverbs 22:5 (NKJV)
The word translated as heart or soul in these references is the Hebrew word nephesh. We find the source of man’s nephesh in the book of Genesis. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man, became a living being [nephesh].” (Genesis 2:7) The meanings of this word include soul, desire, emotion, passion, seat of the appetites, seat of emotions and passions, activity of mind, activity of the will, and activity of the character. These inner workings of man are what we must guard diligently. It is important to remember that the source of our nephesh is God.
I have always loved the words that Paul writes in his letters to his protégé, Timothy. His advice to young Timothy was meaningful to me as a young person heading out on my own years ago. “Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21)
What is it that has been entrusted to you? And how do you guard it? Paul later answers those questions in his other letter: “Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14)
Then Paul gives this power ball of a sentence that explodes with so much truth. I would imagine it expresses the heart of many a parent as we place that diploma in your hand, close the lid on the suitcases, and load the last box of dorm décor into your car: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy1:8-10)
If you break this down, you find a list of things to regard in your endeavor to guard your heart diligently:
- Testimony—You are called not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord.
- Salvation—The foundation upon which you stand is your salvation.
- Holy Calling—God has a calling for your life: whether it be plumber or a preacher.
- Purpose—God calls you to His purpose, not your own.
- Grace—You were bought at a price; grace is not cheap.
- Revelation of Christ—You are called not to live by head knowledge but by a revelation to your soul.
- Life and Immortality—God calls you to look at life through the eyes of eternity.
- Light—God calls you to be a witness and let your light shine wherever you go. As you learned in Sunday school: don’t hide it under a basket or let the devil blow it out. No! Let it shine!
These are the treasures that have been entrusted to you. Guard these diligently! Do not trade them for worldly treasure or for a momentary pleasure! Guard your heart, your nephesh, for it—not the degree you will get or the training you will receive—but your heart will determine the course of your life.