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The words “guard” or “guardian” appear 182 times in scripture. Whether used as a noun or a verb, these words connote a kind of protection or keeping. In particular, the Bible includes instructions about how we can and should guard our hearts and our mouths. Jesus linked the two and said that the words of our mouths come from the overflow of our hearts.

“A tree is identified by its fruit. Make a tree good, and its fruit will be good. Make a tree bad, and its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matt. 12:33-34, NLT).

The man of wisdom, King Solomon, gave these warnings and offered these prayers in the Psalms and Proverbs: “Set a guard over my mouth O Lord, keep watch over my lips … Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life … Put away perversity from your mouth … He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin … He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”

As I recently enjoyed one of my favorite autumn hobbies—watching college football—I was struck by how important it is for the quarterback to have a strong front line. If the line is weak, there is much less opportunity for scoring touchdowns. If the quarterback, receivers or running backs are going to move the ball and eventually score, it is largely due to the guardianship of the front line giving them the blocks, the protection, and the time to develop an effective offense.

Rather than taking a defensive posture in matters of guarding our hearts, our mouths and our souls, let’s develop an effective offense instead. There is much ground to be gained, and we won’t get there if the front line of protection is faulty. In fact, Solomon said that we are to guard our hearts “above all else,” as the very matters of life flow from within.

Recently, I read the book Derailed, in which the author outlined the derailing of six top CEOs of well-known companies. His emphasis was on the fact that derailment rarely happens because of a lack of competency and skills, but rather because of a character flaw that was left unchecked.

The four words that he focuses on to keep one from demise at any level of an organization are “authenticity, self-management, humility and courage.” If left unchecked, the direct opposite of these characteristics certainly will lead to the demise of good leadership and ultimately a person’s soul.

How strong are the guards of your heart?

By: Tammy Dunahoo, vice president of U.S. operations and general supervisor of The Foursquare Church

is the former general supervisor of The Foursquare Church. She now serves as the dean at Portland Seminary.