“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
GOD HAS GIVEN US MANY GOOD GIFTS THAT NEED TO BE HANDLED CAREFULLY, AND THE ONE THAT PERHAPS NEEDS THE GREATEST CARE IS THE MIND. We know that the mind, or heart, is made up of three basic faculties: the intellect, the emotions, and the will. Ideally, all three of these should work together to promote the good things for which we were created. The roles of the intellect and the will are commonly acknowledged, and they are a bit more easily understood. But the role of the emotions is another matter. Exactly how our feelings are to work is a subject of great debate. And in this confusion, it’s unfortunate that we lose the help our emotions should give us in life’s most important undertaking.
It is always a risky thing to try to serve God with only part of our minds. We are warned, for example, about the danger of zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:2), obedience without love (1 Corinthians 13:1–3), and love without obedience (John 14:15). We are encouraged to carry out with our will the things our intellect tells us we ought to do (James 4:17). On virtually every page of the Scriptures, we are encouraged to give God our “whole heart,” and to do less than this is not only unwise; it is deadly.
But even in the short run, we are the losers when we leave out of our godliness something as important as our feelings. The practical truth of the matter is simply this: we are fighting a losing battle when we try to do what is right without the help of our emotions. Our affections are meant to aid us in our relationship to God, and without their help, it is unlikely that we shall get very far. But to help us as they should, our emotions need to be managed wisely. If the “issues of life” spring from the heart, then the heart, including the emotions, must be “kept” with all diligence. Faithful discipleship often comes down to good stewardship of such things as our feelings. Discipline does not mean denying our emotions. It means training them — to help us live for God’s glory!
“For God has given affections to man for the same purpose that He has given all the faculties of the human soul, namely that they might serve ‘man’s chief end,’ which is the great business for which God created him . . . If the Creator has wisely made human nature in this manner, why then misuse our affections?” (Jonathan Edwards).