Episode 1. An Amazing Machine
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The average human heart will beat between 2 and 3 billion times in a lifetime. Amazing little thing. But when it’s sick, when it’s diseased, that can be life threatening. And it’s the …
The average human heart will beat between 2 and 3 billion times in a lifetime. Amazing little thing. But when it’s sick, when it’s diseased, that can be life threatening. And it’s the same with our other heart too – that deep place where we live – you know, your heart.
Your heart and my heart, well I don’t know if you’ve ever thought much about this but our hearts are amazing little machines. Let me give you just a few vital statistics. This ball of muscle in your chest, it’s about the size of your clenched fist but it’s much, much stronger.
It’s built like a Sherman tank. In fact, when it comes to staying power, pulling power, reliability, durability, a Sherman tank has nothing on your heart. In a lifetime your heart will pack much more punch than any Sherman tank will in its lifetime.
In an average life time a human heart will beat somewhere between 2 and 3 billion times. About 70 to 80 beats each minute. Minute after minute. Hour after hour. Day after day. Year in, year out. Without skipping so much as a beat. Every day your heart will pump around 7,000 litres, that’s about 1,500 gallons. In a life time your heart will pump enough blood to fill between 80 and 100 Olympic swimming pools, or about 500 average backyard pools.
Here’s the amazing thing, we don’t even notice it. Yet let it stop beating and you and I would die within just a few minutes. Because it’s our lifeblood. It pumps the blood which delivers oxygen and removes waste. Just a few short minutes without that blood being pumped, every one of our hundred trillion or so cells in our body, and life ceases.
Pretty amazing little device the old heart.
And yet, in the developed world about half the people over the age of 55 have Coronary Heart Disease. In fact, Coronary Heart Disease is the number one killer in the western world. So whilst in the developing world HIV AIDS and lower respiratory infections are the big killers followed by heart disease and diarrhoea, in the developed world heart disease and stroke are by far the greatest killers.
But here’s the crazy thing, we know how to prevent heart disease. What are the top causes? Well, being over weight, high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, lack of exercise. I don’t think there’s one person listening today who couldn’t have listed those. And what’s more, most of them are relatively easy to deal with.
People can dramatically reduce their risk of heart disease by losing some weight, eating healthier foods, quitting smoking, exercising. By and large, we can save lives by taking some very simple steps. Yet we don’t.
Here are some stats. Back in 2002, just over 57 million people died in the world. 42% of those were through heart disease. Now if we take that to just the developed world, the percentage killed by heart disease is much, much higher.
This isn’t some statistical apparition. It’s not some odd blip. Millions and millions of people each year are dying before their time because of something that, for the vast majority, is entirely preventable. Those morbidity statistics don’t begin to count the cost to health care systems, to economies. They don’t begin to tell the story of misery and suffering and years of chronic disease and isolation and fear and…
Are you getting the picture here? This is nuts. The heart is such a powerful, precious, life-giving thing. And we abuse it to the point of death. The human race is so smart, so creative, so amazing. How can we be so stupid? It defies understanding. We’re like a bunch of lemmings all heading in the same direction, over the edge of a cliff to fall to our deaths.
Now why are we talking about this? Well interesting but the heart is something that God talks a lot about too. Although He’s not so much meaning our human heart. But the heart is a picture of, well, who we are. It’s a symbol both in the Old Testament and in the New, of the essence of the person.
We acknowledge that a lot in our every day language. We talk about losing heart. Throwing our heart into something. Doing something with all our heart. We use phrases like taking things to heart. The heart of the matter. Setting our hearts on something.
The heart is, it’s a symbol of the essence of life. And given what the heart actually is, that’s not surprising.
When God talks about the heart He’s talking about the inner being. The inner most part. The seat of our appetite, our emotion, our passion, our courage, our fear. The middle, the central, the inner most part of the person.
Over these next few weeks we’re going to spend some time looking at our hearts. I’ve called this series on the program, “Oh God, Come Heal My Heart”. Because in the same way that wrong eating and wrong living and lack of exercise is killing millions of people each year needlessly. So a different heart disease is robbing people of life, here and now. And not just here and now but of eternal life.
The worlds full of a disease of the heart that’s stunting people’s lives. Stopping them from living their lives to the full. Stopping them from living the life that God always planned for them to live ’cause that’s what heart disease does.
And just like the physical heart we behave as though nothing’s wrong. We behave as though there’s not a problem. We know the facts but we ignore them.
Solomon was talking to some young men. He was writing to them this amazing wisdom from God. And this is what he says in Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23. He says:
Above all else guard your heart …
What a great piece of advice. Guard your heart. Value it. Treasure it. Keep it safe.
… for it is the well spring of life.
Problem is, we just live life. We shove food into our mouths. We don’t exercise. And then we wonder why we’re having heart attacks in epidemic proportions. And why should the inner heart be any different?
If we have an angry heart or a fearful heart or a hard heart or a sorrowful heart. If we lose heart or set our heart on the wrong things. Why is it that we would imagine that those things would somehow help us to lead a full life? Why is it that we would imagine that we wouldn’t lead a diseased life? Let me read it to you again. Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23:
Above all else guard your heart for it is the well spring of life.
Literally what it says here in the original Hebrew language in which it was written in the Old Testament is:
Diligently guard, watch over and preserve the heart in the way that the watchmen of old would stand on the rampart of the fortified city to keep watch for the enemy that was coming to attack. Keep watch. Be watchful. Watch over, guard and protect your heart.
Cities, in those days, had walls and fortifications built around them to protect them from attack. That’s what this piece of God’s wisdom is all about. And look at the priority it gives. Is it the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th order of business in our lives?
Above all else guard your heart…
No, it’s not down there at the bottom of the list. It’s up there at the top and there’s a very good reason for that. Because:
… it is the well spring of life.
If we have a diseased heart you’ll have a diseased life. Let that disease rule your life and you lose your life. There are so many people in this world with a diseased heart and a diseased heart robs us of life. Fear, anger, pride, arrogance, deceit, envy. They all live in the heart. They’re diseases and diseases that we need to deal with decisively.
Question is, how? I mean chronic disease is the sort of disease that’s been there for ages. It’s the hardest sort of disease to deal with. Almost impossible in fact. How do we deal with it?