A heart attack rarely happens just out of the blue. Oh, we may have been surprised by the event but if we think back over the years, more than likely most of us failed to address the things in our lives that got us to that scary point. I am not a medical professional or even pretend to know a lot about heart attacks, their signs and symptoms, so for those interested in the details, I will refer you over to the American Heart Association at www.heart.org . The purpose of this post is to point out one of the lessons I am learning the hard way from my attack.
I have learned the hard way that there are warning signs and red flags that we need to be not only aware of to avoid heart problems but it really does require action, for awareness does not always equal action. Over the past 2 years I have been working on a design / implementation team of 10 people that has developed one complete benefits package for 35 companies, over 100 domestic locations and 16,000 employees. One of the foundational philosophies or goals was to build the entire benefit package on wellness and wellness education. And while being involved in such a project encouraged me to make some changes in my life, I still had more of a head-knowledge and not much of a heart-knowledge. For the most part I knew the things I needed to do, but I figured that I wasn’t too bad off. I knew I should work harder to eat better, but the ice cream and cheese sauce for the nachos kept calling my name. And although earlier this year I had started to exercise regularly, I should have started years ago. I knew the extra pounds around the waist were trouble, but hey, I wasn’t obese. I had shortness of breath when I did yard work but a little exercise will fix that right? I won’t say I was out of shape, because round is a shape, but I figured as I continued to exercise, various signs and symptoms would go away. My “numbers” seemed fine, and although my Mom had quadruple bi-pass surgery at age 70 and my grandfather died from a heart attack in his late 60’s, I wasn’t near that age yet, I’m fine. Heart attack? Not me. Warning signs and increased risk factors? Not for me, I had rational reasons for all of those things.
So as I have thought over the past few weeks after my heart attack on December 11th, I wondered what God wanted me to learn through all this? I’m a slow learner and I have always told my wife, don’t give me hints, I don’t get hints, just tell me. Well I think God decided to take me up on my “advice” also. So one of the things I am learning (and I hope I really get it) is this:
Lesson One: Don’t waste the Warning Signs and Risk Factors.
1. If you ignore or take less than serious your health, over look the warning signs and don’t do what you should, you’re flirting with a shortened life. Since December 11th, I’ve taken the time to imagine what my personal legacy that I am building to leave for my children and grandchildren may have been. No doubt shortened and possibly incomplete because of my carelessness or half-hearted attitude of my health. My doctor told us the day after my heart attack, only 50% of those who have my kind of attack make it to the hospital…alive. It is only by the unmerited grace of God that I am one of those 50% to make it. He gave me and my family a special gift for Christmas, pray with me that I don’t waste it. Heart health must be a part of your being, who you are all the time. Eating healthy for a day and then eating junk food for the remainder of the week does very little good. I am still working on all of this to move it from a head to a heart knowledge and I suppose it will take me awhile.
2. Like heart disease, there are warnings and risk factors with Sin and if we take these signs and warnings serious we can avoid the sin that creeps in quietly yet can do major damage. I am reminded of a saying that was written in the front of one of my Bibles, it goes like this: “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” It is a reminder that just like our physical heart, what we feed our spiritual hearts and what we mediate on determines our future. If our spiritual food is from feel good preaching, slick TV evangelists and their religious books and radio shows then we can expect a spiritual diet of marshmallows and whipped cream, just a lot of fluff with no substance. What we need for our spiritual heart is healthy food, a daily diet of God’s Word, and biblical instruction. And just like the need to eat some of the foods that we may not enjoy, biblical correction and conviction from God’s Word is necessary for our spiritual heart health. Even if we eat right spiritually but we fail to exercise our faith regularly then we become “fat Christians”, always taking it in but never giving it out.
God has created our bodies to tell us when something is wrong but if we fail to listen to it a major crisis may be coming. It’s the same with our spiritual life. If we fail to heed God’s Word and listen to the Holy Spirit convicting us when we are headed for sin, we are headed down a path of great regret and sorrow.
Harkening to the warning signs of heart disease is easier said than done. I guess right now I have a recent experience that helps to motivates me. I pray that as the further I get I will be as motivated. But ultimately doing what is right for my heart is an inward attitude. It’s the same with sin. We have a free will to decide to sin or not. The question is what will we choose to do?
The following is a simple outline to help both our physical and spiritual heart.
- Recognize that we are all tempted. James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Temptation is not sin, yielding is.
- Flee temptation. 1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; I Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. When tempted, remember God has given us a way to escape, look for it and take it.
- Used God’s Word as a defense. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; My question for us is, how can you use the Word of God if you don’t know and memorize it?
- Focus on God and his Word. Psalm 147 is a great passage about the glories of God. Another way to focus on God is to sing hymns. It is hard to sin when we are focused on God in some way.
- When we fail, and we will fail, repent right away. Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Proverbs 24:6 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
So the next time we are tempted, are we going to heed the warning signs? Are we going to go watch for the risk factors? Are we going to have just a head knowledge of what we should do or will we take action? Your action or inaction will determine your future.
(Thoughts and comments welcomed.)