John Flavel, an English Puritan and minister of the Gospel, preached a sermon on Proverbs 14:23. It is a treatise on “keeping the heart” and it is as relevant today as it was in 1813.
In the course of a day, aren’t there a thousand ways to be distracted? According to John Flavel, “The greatest difficulty in conversion is, to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is, to keep the heart with God.” I agree.
So, how exactly do we go about this business of keeping our hearts? John Flavel tells us how he did it. “Not by any extraordinary revelation, but by subjecting my understanding to the Scriptures and comparing my heart with them.”
“Heart-work is hard work indeed. Are you inclined to undertake the business of keeping your heart? Are you resolved upon it? I charge you then, to engage in it earnestly. Away with every cowardly feeling, and make up your mind to encounter difficulties. Draw your armor from the Word of God. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in its commands, its promises, its threatenings; let it be fixed in your understanding, your memory, your conscience, your affections. You must learn to wield the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God) familiarly, if you would defend your heart and conquer your enemies. You must call yourself’ frequently to an account; examine yourself as in the presence of the all-seeing God, bring your conscience, as it were, to the bar of judgment. Beware how you plunge yourself into a multiplicity of worldly business; how you practice upon the maxims of the world; and how you venture at all to indulge your depraved propensities. You must exercise the utmost vigilance to discover and check the first symptoms of departure from God, the least decline of spirituality, or the least indisposition to heavenly meditation by yourself and holy conversation and fellowship with others. These things you must undertake in the strength of Christ with invincible resolution in the outset. And if you thus engage in this great work, be assured you shall not spend your strength for naught; comforts which you never felt or thought of will flow in upon you from every side. The diligent prosecution of this work will constantly afford you the most powerful excitements to vigilance and ardor in the life of faith, while it increases your strength and wears out your enemies. And when you have kept your heart with all diligence, a little while; when you have fought the battles of this spiritual warfare, gained the ascendancy over the corruptions within, and vanquished the enemies without, then God will open the gate of heaven to you and give you the portion which is promised to them that overcome. Awake then, this moment; get the world under your feet; pant not for the things which a man may have and eternally lose his soul; but bless God that you may have his service here and the glory hereafter which he appoints to his chosen. “
John Flavel, Keeping the Heart with All Diligence