Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life.
Proverbs 4:23 (King James Version)
In the American Civil War, there was a great three day battle called Gettysburg. On the second day of battle, the Southern forces launched an attack on two hills called Big and Little Round Tops. If they succeeded in taking those hills, they could place heavy artillery on them and flank the Northern army, forcing them to retreat.
Protecting the Little Round Top was an undersized regiment called the 20th Maine under the command of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. When word came of the Confederate attack, his orders were to hold the flank no matter what; to retreat meant the Union would lose the battle and perhaps the war. Chamberlain knew what was at stake and he ordered his men to hold the line and be stubborn.
Wave after wave, the Confederate troops came up the hill. The 20th Maine repelled each attack with heavy losses, but they held the line. Soon the regiment was out of ammunition, but the enemy kept coming. Retreat was not an option, so Chamberlain ordered his troops to prepare for a bayonet charge down the hill! It was a desperate gamble and it worked! The weary Confederates were caught off guard by the Union charge and began to flee in terror; many were captured. Chamberlain later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his diligence.
In the dictionary, the word diligence means to persevere in a given activity regardless of the cost needed to complete it. Colonel Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Gettysburg displayed diligence of historical proportions. They knew the hardships that they would face if they stayed, but they also knew what would happen in the long run if they gave up.
In this verse from Proverbs, believers are called to protect their hearts with all diligence. What do we need to guard our hearts from? We live in a world that is full of sin and darkness and it wants to invade the heart of every person so that it would be just as dark as it is.
Why is the heart so important? Without the heart, we would not be alive physically, but aside from that, from a spiritual point of view, it is the place where God is suppose to dwell in us. Without God, we have no life for He is the source of all life; and if we allow sin in, God moves out because He can’t tolerate sin, and we become spiritually dead.
How do we guard our hearts? The answer is quite simple but the process is very difficult: Embrace God and His Ways and Flee from Sin. The solution is difficult because we live in a sinful world and it is constantly bombarding us with waves upon waves of temptations, trying to get into our hearts.
We must persevere against these attacks. The best defense is to stay close to the Lord, which consists of (but not limited to) Bible reading, prayer (both personal and corporate), and worshiping God in every aspect of our lives. This helps us in two ways: 1. It assures us that we are not alone in this fight, the Lord is with us and the battle is already won. 2. It reminds us of what will happen if we drop our defenses.
Let us guard our hearts from this evil world, even though it is hard to do so. Consider the consequences of not being diligent and remember the reward that will come when we stand fast. Unlike Chamberlain who just got a medal, we would get a crown of life if we guard our hearts from evil.