Healthy Hearts First


Effective leadership starts on the inside, beginning with a heart deeply connected to God.

A core belief at Lead Like Jesus is “Effective leadership begins on the inside, starting with the heart.” I have believed that for a long time, but Proverbs 4:23 continues to grab me as I read, “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Another translation says, “For this is where life begins,” and another reads, “For it affects everything you do.” Why? When I was a little girl, my mother said if she had a nickel for every time I asked why, she would be a wealthy woman. But really? Above all else guard your heart? Does that mean that I must guard my heart more than I guard how I behave? I understand that the biblical use of heart is the inner person and it includes the will, soul, determination, conscience, moral character, the place of appetites, seat of emotions and passions, courage, and—in some verses—even our mind. The heart is the essence of who we are.

As I began to remember passages of Scripture, I gained new insight about how critical it is to guard the heart:

  • It is in the heart we believe (see Romans 10:10). Not just any belief, but our belief in the One God sent: Jesus (see John 6:29).
    • What are the beliefs I hold in my heart about Jesus?
  • It is in the heart where we seek and find God (see Jeremiah 29:13). We will find him when we seek him with all of our heart.
    • Am I seeking God in this day? In this moment?
  • It is the heart where our love for God and others is stored. Scripture tells us that to love God with all our heart, with all our understanding, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifices. More important than anything else we can do (Mark 12:33).
    • Is my love tank filled up? Are my “I love yous” up-to-date?
  • It is in the heart where our words are stored. Our mouth speaks what is in our heart (Luke 6:45).
    • What are my words reflecting?
  • It is in the heart where forgiveness is begins. We are to forgive others from our heart (Matthew 18:35).
    • Is forgiveness my first response?
  • It is in the heart we store God’s word (see Psalm 119:11).
    • Am I storing God's word?

Bottom line—everything we say, think, and do comes from this place where our belief about Jesus is stored, words are banked, forgiveness wells up, and love overflows. The heart is the place where we find God. This is a whole new conversation about heart health. We want a healthy heart with no barriers that block beliefs growing, forgiveness offering, love flowing, and God finding.

What does a healthy heart look like? When my heart is healthy, I am fearless, loving, patient, forgiving, and resolute. I am living in the power and presence of God moment to moment. I love without condition. I am boldly God-confident. I extend grace. I am surrendered to the Father, turning over every area of my life, like Jesus. I am free! We were built for freedom; Jesus came to set the captives free.

As leaders, the health of our hearts determines what kind of influence we have and how much impact we have on others. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that “the heart is deceitful of above all things.” The impact of leaders with unhealthy hearts is devastating.

So, how do we keep our hearts healthy? We all need a t-shirt that says, “I just can’t do it.”  We can’t.  Psalm 51:10 reads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.” This isn’t about what we can do.

We know the rest of the sentence now:

Effective leadership begins on the inside starting with a heart deeply connected to God.

There is only one way. We connect to the Father and allow Him to change us. In Ezekiel 36:26 God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” We can’t keep our hearts free from unbelief, filled with love, and full of forgiveness so that our words and actions reflect Jesus. We can’t, but God can. Leading like Jesus only happens as the overflow of a healthy heart.

What does your heart look like when it is healthy? What are you doing today to connect to the Father?

By Phyllis H. Hendry

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