This article is courtesy of Deacon Magazine.

Have you ever seen a medieval castle, built not only as a home but also for battle? The moat around the border offered a preliminary line of protection, and the battlements at the top of the structure provided the ability to fight defensively. Do you have any defenses in place designed to keep the enemy at bay?

Let's look at areas that threaten the heart of a man, what it means to guard your heart in each area, and what that looks like for a Christian man and deacon today.

In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (NIV). If the heart is the wellspring — or source — of life, our life stories flow from there. As a deacon and man of leadership and service in the church, your life story is vital to your ministry, so you need to be guarded from sin at the source — your heart.

Satan is watching for any weak area to make his attack as he seeks to destroy your influence, your life, and/or your reputation. How can you be sure your castle walls stand strong and battle-ready?

You need to be aware of the factors that have the power to wreak havoc on your heart and relationships. There are eight areas that threaten the heart of a man: career pressures, distractions, relationship pressures, the search for significance, passivity, control, competition, and sexual temptation. Let's take a closer look at these areas.

1. Career pressures

Career pressures come from the often competitive and demanding nature of the workplace and get the best of us when we allow our drive to succeed at work to become out of balance with the time we spend in our roles at home or church.

Work is not the problem, but our hearts are, if we work excessively to the detriment of our family and ministry. What are you working toward — a promotion, a higher salary, more power? Is it costing you the impact you could be having elsewhere?

2. Distractions

Distractions are what keep us from accomplishing goals for our growth in Christ, at work, and in our families.

Pleasure, power, money, and position are all distractions that blind us to the importance of our presence and investment in the lives of those around us. We have to assess where most of our time and energy are going and ask ourselves if it's important or simply distracting us from what is.

3. Relationship Pressures

Relationship pressures come from the tension of things like trying to fulfill needs, meet expectations, deal with hurt, or be the leader in our family.

Often times, we're caught in the crossfire of several of those pressures at once, causing us to either blow up or shut down. Guarding against those reactions means prioritizing, maintaining peripheral vision, tending to the immediate needs first, and most of all, making Jesus Christ our model.

4. The Search for Significance

The search for significance is our drive to be successful, however that is defined in our lives. When we search for significance by the world's standards, we begin to measure our self-worth by power and performance instead of who we are to God.

Redefining success according to God means placing value in our character and in matters of the heart instead of in our performance.

5. Passivity

Passivity is not being active in our roles as husband, father, and leader. We may struggle in this area because of laziness or unresolved conflict, or maybe we never saw involvement and leadership modeled. Breaking the pattern takes recognizing God's design for you as a man, investing time, confessing, communicating, and seeking accountability.

6. Control

Control often involves manipulating in order to have the upper hand and satisfy our own needs. Control is often the result of one or more of four factors: fear, deep insecurity, active or passive aggression, and lack of self-esteem. The secret to keeping our need for control in check is to yield our control back to God, who placed us in any position of power or influence and knows the best possible way it should be used.

7. Competition

Competition is rivalry that drives us to succeed. It's not negative in and of itself, but if our desire is to win at all costs, we've crossed the line from good to bad competition. There are three lethal elements to competition that cause us to step over that line: pride, envy, and greed. Examining our motives, listening to the Holy Spirit, opening our lives to our friends, and striving for excellence instead of perfection are keys to healthy competition.

8. Sexual temptation

Sexual temptation is the final and perhaps most culturally pervasive threat to a man's heart. Why is this a major issue? In a survey of about 700 couples for our book The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women, we found that sex is the No. 2 love need for men. You can bet Satan is aware sex is high on the list for men, and this makes for an easy target. There are staggering numbers of men living in deception, leaving their marriage, or trying to rebuild trust in a broken relationship. But healthy marriages aren't destroyed all at once. They don't simply collapse, they erode, and the erosion often starts with a look or a thought and gains momentum from there.

As Christian servant leaders, husbands, and dads we must work at keeping our eyes on our mates only and resist any temptation to linger when looking at another. A lingering look gives into a thought, and before you know it, your mind has carried you farther than you want to go. How can you break past some of these issues and experience a great marriage?

The answer is to guard your marriage. The concept of guarding when it comes to sexual temptation is really like playing good defense. You can't often control the images and people that surround you, but you can control your response by staying on your guard. If a suggestive Internet ad pops up on your computer, close it. If a person walks by and catches your eye, look in the other direction and keep your eyes for your spouse only.

In Proverbs 5:1-6 Solomon says, "My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen closely to my understanding so that you may maintain discretion and your lips safeguard knowledge. Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, in the end she's as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps head straight for Sheol. She doesn't consider the path of life; she doesn't know that her ways are unstable."

Solomon is describing a prostitute in this passage, but his caution applies to any kind of sexual temptation. It might be the woman next door, a friend, a stranger, or pornography.

Whoever "she" is, Solomon warns to steer clear of her advances. She might seem beautiful and interesting at first, but the excitement is fleeting — in the end she is "bitter as wormwood."

Guarding the Boundaries of Life and Marriage

By not staying guarded, what begins with the eyes or a thought can lead a man to stray away from a Christcentered life to areas he never dreamed he would go to outside his marriage. When you guard your heart and eyes, you are ultimately guarding the boundaries of your life and marriage, and your wife will know it when you do. Nothing builds a woman's self-esteem more than when she knows she is married to a one-woman man!

She longs for your attention to focus on her, study her, compliment her, and as you do, she will increasingly give more and more of herself to you. And the effort to guard your heart and keep your eyes and thoughts solely for your spouse doesn't go unnoticed by others around you. Your children, fellow church members, coworkers, and friends look up to you as a man of God — your testimony matters!

Gary and Barb Rosberg are award-winning authors, popular radio hosts, and international speakers. Gary and Barb enjoy coaching couples to experience a great marriage for a lifetime. Gary, in particular, challenges men to guard their hearts and protect their families. Together, the Rosbergs are co-founders of America's Family Coaches and directly address the needs of marriages today with remarkable insight and foundational truth.