Anna: The Woman Who Welcomed ChristWomen Like Anna Today
Leslie Basham: Listen as one woman remembers a godly example that inspired her.
Guest: She just could not leave anyone without making sure that she had let them know who Jesus was, and now, that’s precious to me.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, December 21.
This week Nancy’s been introducing us to a biblical character named Anna. Today, we’ll get to know some other women who will remind you of Anna. Nancy’s continuing in a series called, Anna: The Woman Who Welcomed Christ
Nancy: We’ve been talking about this wonderful example of a godly, older woman—Anna—one of the first witnesses to the newborn Jesus Christ and how God used this woman as an example of faith in her day, and how she’s blessed us today.
I’ve been thinking during the course of this series about some older women I’ve known who are modern-day “Annas,” and how God has used these women in different ways—not all of them widows—older women who have been faithful to the Lord.
I want to share with you a tribute that I wrote shortly after the death of one of these "Annas," who was a very special woman in my life, and rather than just try and say it, I want to tell it to you the way that we wrote it. We actually published this in a Revive Our Hearts newsletter a couple of years ago, but let me tell you about this "Anna" in my life.
One of my dearest friends recently went to be with the Lord, at the age of ninety-two. I knew Joyce Johnson as “Mom J.” Though she was not a public figure, she was one of my heroes and left an indelible mark on my life.
Mom J was widowed in December 2004 after sixty-four years of marriage. I was able to visit her that February while I was in California for a meeting. We spent a couple of precious hours together, talking about what the Lord was doing in our lives.
By the way, I asked her at that time how she was doing. This woman was so positive and so joyful you couldn’t get her to complain! She had just been to the doctor, and she said, “Everything’s fine. I’m doing great!” Well, less than a week later, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and within a few weeks was in the presence of the Lord.
Mom J was an example of the counter-cultural woman we often talk about on Revive Our Hearts—a woman whose life was transformed and ruled by the Word of God rather than being conformed to this world.
I share these qualities from her life in the hope that you will be blessed and challenged by the legacy of this woman of God, as I have been, and that you will allow God to make you into a woman who brings Him great glory, as Mom J did.
Then, I just briefly share ten or eleven characteristics out of her life.
Number one, she loved her husband and children. For over sixty years, “the heart of her husband trusted in her. She did him good and not evil, all the days of her life” (Pro. 31:11-12).
Her greatest joy was serving her family, and her greatest longing was that each of her children and grandchildren would have a personal, vital relationship with Christ.
She had a servant’s heart. Only the Lord knows how many meals she served and how many loads of laundry she ran for her husband, children, and others. For many years she faithfully served as one of her church’s money counters. Every Monday morning for years, she joined a group of women to count Sunday’s offerings.
She was hospitable. When I was seventeen years old, she and her husband invited me to come and live in their home while I attended my last two years of college in California. They were in their early sixties at the time, and I wasn’t the last young person they took in. They housed assorted grandchildren and others at various times until they were well into their eighties.
She learned to trust the sovereignty of God and to surrender to His choices. When the oldest of her five children was seventeen years old, just a week before graduation from high school, she was killed in a car accident. Though they grieved the loss of Karen, Mom and Dad J always accepted it as God’s will for their lives and refused to become bitter over their loss.
She was an intercessor. She prayed for her husband, for her children and grandchildren, for her church, and for numerous ministries and missionaries. She was one of my most faithful, earnest prayer partners.
She labored with me in prayer through the writing of most of my books. At her funeral, I said only half jokingly, “I don’t know how I’ll be able to write any more books. [I already miss her prayers,” and I have greatly missed her prayers.]
She was an encourager. Her frequent notes reminded me of her love and prayers. She often affirmed the grace and work of God in and through my life. [I wasn’t the only one who was the beneficiary of her encouragement.]
She never stopped growing spiritually. Her relationship with the Lord was always fresh and growing. Her love for the Word increased over the years, until she came to the point where she just couldn’t get enough of the Scripture. When I visited her that last time, she excitedly showed me a new Bible she was reading and began reading aloud portions that had spoken to her heart.
As she prayed for me while I wrote a book on holiness, she developed a new passion for holiness. She began marking in this new Bible every reference she could find to holiness, holy, clean, etc. For the better part of a year, she often wrote and shared her excitement and joy over what God was teaching her about holiness. (This is in her early nineties.)
She had a grateful, contented spirit. You could not get Mom J to complain about anything. Even when her husband’s health failed during the last several years of his life and they had to move out of their home of fifty years. Occasionally, when someone from our staff would call to see how we could pray for her, she would respond, “I have more blessings than prayer requests.”
She was truly happy in God. She never retired from ministering to others. The last time we met, she told me excitedly, “I’m still mentoring a young woman,”—at ninety-two! Several years ago, her church asked for older women who were willing to invest in the lives of younger women.
Mom J volunteered and was paired with a single girl in her twenties. The opportunity to invest her life in someone else brought her great joy and fulfillment and kept her from feeling useless.
She was a giver. She and her husband had always enjoyed investing in the Lord’s work together. Late in life, she received a small inheritance when a relative died. She found great joy in giving generously out of those resources. She began supporting Revive Our Hearts right from its inception. She never missed a month.
In fact, [and this was very touching to me] her last check arrived the day after her home going. She had signed it just days earlier.
She aged with grace. So many people become increasingly bitter, negative, and self-absorbed as they get older. Not Mom J. I watched her become a sweeter, more tender-hearted, more loving, thoughtful, grateful, joyful woman. The older she got, the more sensitive she became to little things in her life that were not pleasing to the Lord, and she often shared those with me in her letters, and it was very convicting.
Here was this godly older woman, who I thought of as so close to God, and she would write about the things God was convicting her of. She had such a repentant and contrite heart as she would talk about those things.
Mom J’s life is a beautiful example of Proverbs 4:18. It says, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” Mom J didn’t fizzle out. Even as her body grew weaker, her spirit grew stronger and stronger. Hours before she died, I told her son-in-law, “I don’t know anyone who is more ready for Heaven than Mom J.”
Now she is experiencing the fullness of day. Her life will always challenge me to live a life that does not flicker out, but shines brighter and brighter until full day, when we will live forever in the light of His presence.
That’s my "Anna." I’ve known others, but that was one special one in my life. I’d like to hear from some of you. If you didn’t have a chance to write yours out, that is just fine. It doesn’t need to be long, but as you think about someone that exemplifies one or more of the characteristics of the life of Anna—who comes to mind?
Let me ask Holly, if I can start with you.
Holly Elliff: Nancy referred earlier to Psalm 84, and as I was reading back through that Psalm, I couldn’t help but think it was a perfect description of my mother-in-law, Jewel Elliff.
Verse 4 says, “How happy are those who can live in your house [in Your presence], always singing Your praises! Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem” (vv. 5–7, Every Man’s Bible: NLT).
I had the privilege for about twenty-five years, of knowing my mother-in-law, Jewel, and she went to be with the Lord about twenty-two years ago now, but she still has left a lasting mark on my life.
She was a pastor’s wife for many, many, many years, and so her life was not always easy. She raised four children, and she—literally—was a woman who took the things that God allowed in her life and collected them.
If you read those verses in the NASB, it says, “They will make them a place of blessing.” That is what she chose to do. She took all those streams that God allowed into her life—even in “Valleys of Weeping,”—her life was not always rosy.
As she got older, things were hard. My father-in-law at one point walked into sin, left Mom, and married another woman. He eventually repented, and God restored him to our family.
But there were years that were “Valleys of Weeping” in her life, and it was so precious to watch what she did with those years of weeping. She literally did take those years of walking through those valleys and collect those tears and make them pools of blessing for other people.
She had an unusual ability to take Jesus at His word and just do what He said. When she sat down before the Lord and opened her Bible, if God said, “I will be sufficient,” she believed that, and she lived her life out of that. She taught us how to do that.
She really gave us the freedom, as we were walking through so many of those hard days, to forgive and to continue to love and continue to pray and intercede for Billy’s dad. It was about a seven-year process of God bringing him to repentance, and those were long, hard years. But Mom’s example of walking that path in the presence of God gave us the freedom and the encouragement to follow her and to live out of her example.
She believed strongly that worry was a sin. There were so many times as Billy was pastoring and we were in hard places, Mom would call and say, “Are you guys worrying about any of this?” If you said, “Yes,” she would say, “Well, you know worry is a sin." Then she would go on to just encourage us to stand in faith before the Lord and to leave those things at the foot of the cross.
She had a very sweet, winsome way about her and a tremendous sense of humor. Toward the end of her life, she had Alzheimer’s, and we took care of her. I can remember so many times at really tough moments—that could have been so tragic—we would just start laughing.
Things became funny to us because they were so bizarre and so out of our control that we couldn’t do anything about it. We could just laugh, and that was very characteristic of her, even to the end of her life. She really was an “Anna” to me. She was a woman who exemplified that forward-looking faith in the Lord Jesus.
Guest 1: I guess I would have to say my mom. She was a very strong personality, but absolutely loved the Lord with her whole heart. I can remember, all the time that she was alive—she died last year, a year ago last Tuesday—she would always come up to you and say, “What is the Lord doing in your life? What is the Lord saying to you?” Or she would tell you what the Lord was doing in hers.
She was very hospitable. I can remember in college, we even had one international student live with us for several years, and people were always in and out of our house. She loved the students that came from other countries and would tell them about Jesus.
But her absolute love was prophecy. Revelation was her absolute favorite book in the Bible. She was a Bible study teacher and a Sunday school teacher and counselor. I know she was so looking forward to heaven. I knew when that day came, I just wish I could have been a little bird and could have seen how excited she was to actually go into the presence of the Lord. She had been looking forward to that for so long!
Everywhere we went, she was always telling everyone about the Lord. I can remember as a teenager being embarrassed by that. She was always talking to someone. She just could not leave anyone without making sure she had let them know who Jesus was. Now that’s precious to me. I wish I had been for grateful for that at the time.
Guest 2: The “Anna” in my life was a lady that was our neighbor when I was a little girl growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Her name was Violet Tatem. She had been the pastor’s wife at our church, and her husband died quite tragically and unexpectedly from a complication from what should have been a minor surgery.
She found herself living in a parsonage—she didn’t own any place to live, and she had a fifteen-year-old and a daughter in college. I’ve heard my mother tell me many times (I was probably two or three when Dr. Tatem died) about seeing her after the funeral and a really hard week. The next Sunday she was right up in her place in the choir singing in the alto section on the top row on the right, where she continued to sing every single Sunday for the next several decades.
The thing I remember the most about her was going over to her house as a little girl. In the first place, I would go over there on Sunday afternoons. A lot of the time, I remember, she would be lying on the couch. I’m sure she was not really thrilled to see me, but she acted like she was.
She had been to the Holy Land several times, and she had things in her home that were from the Holy Land. She told me about every one of them, and I just thought they were fascinating. She told me fascinating stories about what the Mount of Olives looked like and what Bethlehem looked like, and all those kinds of things. She influenced me in lots of ways, but that was one that I’ll never forget.
Kathy Helvey: I was teaching school overseas in Australia, and my life wasn’t really lined up with the Lord. I just went over there on a whim to teach school, but while I was over there, God really got a hold of my heart and my life.
Someone in their wisdom hooked me up with their Aunt Hilda. I remember when I first went to meet her that she had an office in the city. I was shocked because she was really old—she was in her mid-sixties. Of course, I was in my early twenties. The older Christian women that I’d known didn’t resemble her at all. She had such joy in the Lord. It was just thrilling for me to sit there with Hilda.
Just to give you an idea, she never married. She was always single. She never had any Bible training, never went to Bible college or anything, but she rented, at a very young age, an office in the city—downtown Brisbane—where she knew that she could start having Bible studies during lunchtimes and after work hours for young women to come and meet her. She had her office open all day so people could just stop in and out all day long for spiritual encouragement and counseling, as we would call it today.
What I really remember most about my years there in Australia with Hilda was first of all, she just loved God and she loved His Word, and no matter when we would be together, over coffee or tea or lunch, she’d be rattling it off.
She’d just weave God’s Word into whatever she was talking about, and I’d say, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute, Hilda! Where’s that verse?” She would say, “O Kathy, I don’t know. It’s in the Bible, and more importantly, it’s in my life, and it should be in yours, too. You go find it. You’ll find your own verses and you live it out, and you obey God’s Word.”
Even today, I love memorizing Scripture, but I cannot tell you where it’s found, and I attribute that to my mentor Hilda because she didn’t care where it was, and I don’t either, as long as I know it and believe it.
The other thing, real quickly, about Hilda is that she was forever rejoicing in the Lord. She really taught me what that meant. She was always full of the joy of the Lord and encouraging me and everyone else to rejoice in the Lord.
This is Hilda—she had moved, against her will, into a retirement home. She couldn’t live alone anymore, and her sisters put here there, but she said, “I’m going to rejoice in the Lord. This is a new mission field. I’m here because these people need to hear about the Lord.”
Shortly after that, I found out that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I never heard from her again. But her last words to me were, “Kathy, remember to rejoice in the Lord. Promise me you’ll keep rejoicing in Him.”
Leslie: That’s the late Kathy Helvey. Those who knew Kathy watched as she rejoice in the Lord, even after being diagnosed with cancer. The was marked by joy and pointing others to the Lord to the end of her days, just like Anna.
We’re been hearing a discussion between some of our listeners and Nancy Leigh DeMoss—part of a teaching series from Nancy called, Anna: The Woman Who Welcomed Christ.
The story of Anna encourages each of us to be faithful to what God has called us to. When you follow the Lord’s lead and ask Him for help, it can have a big influence on other people.
At Revive Our Hearts, we’re asking the Lord to help us be faithful to what He’s called us to do. We’re trusting Him with the results.
Not long ago a man wrote to tell us how God has used Revive Our Hearts in his life. Chris emailed to say he knows Revive Our Hearts is a program for women, but went on, “I just wanted to let Nancy know I am encouraged and learn a lot from the program.”
Chris told us Revive Our Hearts is helping him learn how to relate to women. He isn’t very close to his mom, but listening has encouraged him to pray for her salvation and seek a relationship with her.
He also said, “I have never had any influential Christian women in my life, so I have adopted Nancy as my ‘radio mom’ that I can learn from.”
Nancy’s back to explain—it takes many people all working together to connect listeners like Chris with the teaching on Revive Our Hearts.
Nancy: That kind of letter always touches me deeply. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to help point Chris and our other listeners to God’s Word. And it’s definitely not something I can do on my own. There’s a whole team of people that work together to bring you Revive Our Hearts each weekday. And there’s a whole group of listeners whose prayers and financial support make it possible for us to air those programs.
So let me say a huge thank you to each of you who have supported Revive Our Hearts here in the month of December when we need to hear from you. Our goal is to meet and then to far exceed a matching challenge of $450,000. If you would like up-to-date information on where we are on that challenge and our overall need, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
And if you haven’t given toward these year-end needs, would you pray about making a generous gift between now and December 31? There are countless listeners like Chris who have never seen examples of men being the men God designed them to be and women being the women God designed them to be. You can be part of their story as these younger listeners get a new perspective and are able to influence their generation.
Leslie: The Bible tells older women to connect with younger women. How does that work in real life? We will hear some examples from more modern day “Annas” tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
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