Status. Money. Success.

Those were my teenage dreams as I set out to be an adult.

Doggedly, I pursued a career and a lifestyle that would direct me towards that dream… but after a few years of God patiently calling me, I eventually relented and embarked on becoming a pastor.

Money, to my initial disappointment, went straight out of the door but – if I am being brutally honest – status and success still took priority in my life. I had just ‘spiritualized’ them, instead.

At the heart of the matter, my own heart was still misaligned.

My preoccupation with status and success was born, primarily, from my Asian upbringing, but I have noticed that they are not uncommon desires.

In some way, my heart had always hungered for these qualities. As if I believed that the only way for me to feel good, be whole, and have worth was wrapped up in my status and success. And, so, as a young pastor I set out to be the most successful pastor I could be. I filled my head with knowledge, I upskilled as often as I could, and I put on a show so that people would admire my new status and observe my success.

By God’s grace, he still used my shortcomings.

Funnily enough, Jesus, went about things in a different way, altogether. When He was about to start His public ministry, He knew to address the most important matter. The matter of the heart.

Our hearts hold such capacity and potential. They can be wellsprings of life and faith… or toxic black holes of deception and greed. Jesus knew this. So, mirroring the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus spent 40 days alone in the silence of the wilderness, too.

Full of (and led by) the Spirit, He intentionally carved out space and time away from the world to be challenged, be vulnerable, and have the matters of His heart dissected. In fact, this experience was so important that he would later recount it so that Matthew, Mark, and Luke would be able to record it for all disciples of Jesus to come.

There are more than 700 mentions of the word “heart” in the Bible, but allow me to highlight a few:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” – Proverbs 27:19

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” – Mark 11:23

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21

Foundational to Jesus’s call was His heart.

Before He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom and demonstrated His rule and authority, He set about helping us to understand what should be our first priority. The matter of the heart.

So, let us take intentional time to guard our hearts – for out of it, our lives flow.