From Him, Through Him, To Him

Oct. 9, 2008 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

Announcer: Thank you for listening to this message from True Woman '08, Revive Our Hearts’ first national women’s conference. It’s our prayer that God blesses you with His Word and His heart as you listen.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Thank God for the power of the Cross to change lives. I love the old, old story of Jesus and His love. Don’t you?

It’s the power of the Cross that transformed Stacey’s life. It’s the power of the Cross that is transforming my life. It’s the power of the Cross that is transforming your life and can transform the lives of those that you love that you carry on your heart.

Oh God, forgive us for ever losing the wonder of the Cross. You never get past the Cross. You never get enough of it, and you never get to the point in your life where you don’t need all that it means.

He’s our life. Death brings life. That’s the amazing mystery that those in the Old Testament didn’t understand, but now is revealed to us. Thank, thank, thank the Lord for the Cross.

Thank you, Stacey, and Kristyn, for that powerful testimony in music. By the way, the women in the McPherson Women’s Prison had hoped to be with us by live video feed throughout this conference. As it turned out technically, that wasn’t possible.

But in God’s providence, it now appears that the entire True Woman Conference will be available after the conference to them, and not just to the women in that Christian program there, but to the women throughout the entire prison.

The Lord has raised up those women “for such a time as this.” The first time I visited there, I came away, and I said, “Every Christian women needs to go to prison.” There’s such a freedom and a sweetness and a richness and a fullness of God’s presence in those women.

We want the end result, but we don’t necessarily want the process that it takes to get that—the process of brokenness, humility, emptiness, utter awareness of need. Most of those women have it, and there’s a radiant sweetness that I envy. I want to see God do that in my own life.

Those women have been praying for this conference, by the way, for months leading up to this weekend. I heard yesterday that a number of them in the program there that Stacey has been a part of ministering in, a number of those women decided that starting last night at six o’clock, and continuing through Saturday noon, they are in Newport, Arkansas, inside the walls of that prison, praying and fasting for us this weekend.

Thank the Lord for those women. This is the fruit of their prayers in many respects.

I had planned to speak tonight on what is a true woman. As I prepared, I sensed God over the last several weeks directing me to a passage in the New Testament that on the surface of things doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the subject.

But as I’ve been meditating on this passage, the Lord has brought it back to me again and again. I realized that this passage is foundational to what it means to be a true woman of God and to everything that we’re going to hear this weekend.

So let me ask you to turn in your Bible if you have it there. If you can see, if we have enough house lights that you can see, I want you to see the text in your own Bible—Romans chapter 11. The book of Romans, chapter 11, the last paragraph beginning in verse 33.

As you’re turning there, I want to do something that is rather brave, I think, and that is to give you a two-sentence synopsis of the whole book of Romans so you can get a sense of where this passage falls.

Now, at the risk of really oversimplifying, let me just say that the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans are those in which the apostle Paul lays out the basic doctrines of our faith—the sinfulness of man, the amazing grace of God, and the salvation that is possible for us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s the first 11 chapters. The last five chapters—chapter 12 through 16—Paul makes practical application of everything that has just preceded and asks, in effect, how are we to live in light of all that we’ve just seen?

So the first 11 chapters are “the what.” The last five chapters, beginning in 12:1, are the “so what?” We need to know the what, and then we need to ask the so what? What does this mean for us?

Chapter 11, verses 33 through 36, the paragraph we’re going to look at for these next moments, is a bridge between these two sections. Now, before I go to that paragraph, let me just pull in a little tighter into the book and give you a little bit more of the context, because it’s going to make this passage shine like the awesome jewel that it is.

In chapters 9 through 11, which are chapters you’re probably never memorized, they’re chapters you don’t hear preached on often enough, but in chapters 9 through 11 leading up to this paragraph, the apostle Paul explores the mysteries of God’s sovereign, electing grace—God’s plan for redeeming both Jews and Gentiles.

He talks about Israel’s past, present, and future role in God’s great redemptive story. He explains how in God’s sovereignty, the Jews’ rejection of Christ is actually the means of Gentiles—that’s most of us in this room—coming to accept Christ.

The Jews rejected Him. That has provoked us to accept Christ. Then he talks about how in His great mercy, God will yet fulfill His true plan for Israel in spite of their rejection.

Now, again, I just way oversimplified those chapters, and there are Pastor Piper and others who can do far more justice to them than I just did. But as you read these complex chapters, you realize this is not the way we would have written the story.

It’s not the way we would have scripted it. You see in those chapters how God is able to make even the unbelief and rebellion of men serve His final, eternal purposes. And you scratch your head and go, “How did God come up with this?”

We would have never scripted it this way. But God scripted it this way. It’s His way. It’s His story.

Last month I celebrated my 50th birthday, and I’ve been planning this for about 10 years, looking forward to it. Those of you who have heard Revive Our Hearts have probably heard me say that my goal since I was a little girl has always been to be a godly, old lady.

I have this picture in my mind of what a godly, old lady looks like. I don’t know if I’ve actually ever met this picture in my mind, but I have found that the getting old part comes easier than the getting godly part.

But I’ve been so looking forward to this marker in my life, and I took some time in Colorado. I was out there for about a week (applause!)—Colorado, where are you? (more applause!)—there they are! It’s a beautiful state.

One day I went Jeeping with some friends in the mountains of Colorado. I had not done that before, and it was an amazing experience.

We were on these mountain trails, winding higher and higher up these mountain passes, up at one point to 13,000 feet. You can hardly breathe up there—that’s where airplanes fly!

Here we were in this Jeep. Some of these trails were steep; they were treacherous; there were some hairpin turns. If you got too close to the edge and looked over, it could be really scary.

This was quite an experience for us. And then, you get to the top, and you look down, you look around, and you’re just awestruck by the beauty and the magnificence of the view below.

Well, I thought of that trip as I was meditating in recent days on this passage in the book of Romans. In Romans 1 through 11, it’s like hiking or Jeeping up this steep mountain trail. There are some difficult passages, and it’s tough climbing at points. But then you get to the end of chapter 11, and the apostle Paul is as if he has reached the summit.

He looks at where he’s come from, and he sees this awesome view, the view of God’s sovereignty, His electing mercy and grace, His eternal plan, and Paul pauses to contemplate it all.

And he’s speechless! It’s as if there are no words to explain what he sees—the magnificence of it all—there’s no way to fully grasp the depths below.

Words fail when he tries to explain it to others. It’s as if he’s grasping for words, and then it causes him to break out into this hymn of praise, to sing the doxology, and that’s when we come to Romans 11, verses 33 through 36.

I want to read that paragraph, and then break it apart for us in the moments we have remaining, and then end with saying, “What in the world does all of this have to do with being a true woman?”

But as I read this passage, I’d like us to honor the Word of God by just standing as I read these verses. Romans 11:33-36. Would you stand with me?

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how  inscrutable His ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?' 'Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?' For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever."

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

Thank you. You may be seated.

I believe this passage provides a framework—a context—for our lives as women. It gives us a fixed reference point for our hearts. It tethers our hearts to God’s ultimate eternal purposes. It gives us a perspective and a grid for responding to God’s sovereign choices in our lives and for responding to circumstances that we cannot understand or explain.

It all starts by saying, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.” Oh, the depth. Interestingly there, the Greek word that is translated “depth,” sounds a lot like our English word “bath.”

It’s like you’re going down into this, to be bathed in it. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.” They are immeasurable. They’re so deep that you can’t get to the bottom of it all.

On January 23rd of 1960, a U.S. Navy lieutenant and a Swiss scientist got into a submersible vessel that’s known as a bath escape. It goes down into the depths.

They went down to the bottom of the Marina’s Trench that is located in the Pacific Ocean near Guam. This is the deepest spot on Earth. It’s 35,800 feet deep. That’s about seven miles—down, down, down to the deepest spot of the oceans in the world.

Interestingly, no man has ever been back to that place since, and I read one study that said it would probably take one hundred million dollars to do that again. Nobody’s even tried. It’s so deep. Going seven miles to the bottom of the ocean is a massive human feat, but I have to tell you, it is nothing compared to the depths found in God.

You can never, ever plumb the depths of His riches, His wisdom, His knowledge. You can’t get your mind around it. Words fail. His wisdom and knowledge and riches are inexhaustible; they’re limitless; they’re immeasurable.

Oh the depth. It’s immeasurable. Not only is the depth immeasurable, but the riches, the wisdom, and knowledge of God are foundational. I think that’s part of what it meant when Paul says, “Oh the depth of these things.”  They’re foundational.

When you get to the bottom of everything in your life, you find the bedrock. Dr. Piper called it granite—the bedrock of our lives and our faith are the riches, the wisdom, and the knowledge of God. That’s what’s underneath it all and holding it all together.

In 1944, Corrie ten Boom and her family were arrested by the Nazi’s for harboring Jews in the their home. They were sent to the Ravensbrook concentration camp in Germany where Betsy ultimately died.

Corrie’s sister, Betsy, before she died, said to Corrie, and you’ve probably heard this sentence before. She said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Betsy died in that concentration camp, but Corrie was released, and as many of you know her story, she lived into her 90’s. For decades she traveled all around the world.

For the rest of her life, that was the heart of her message—the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge and love of God. Her point was, however deep your problems, however deep your challenges, however deep your issues, there is something, should we say Someone, that is deeper. Under the everlasting arms, oh the depth—immeasurable, foundational for our lives. Now, what is it that’s so deep? Well, Paul tells us, “Oh the depth of the riches of God.”

I understand that there are vast riches to be found in the depths of the earth. It’s estimated, at least in one source that I read, that there are at least six billion dollars in sunken treasure that lie on the bottom of the earth’s ocean floors waiting to be discovered.

There’s lots of treasure down there. Then I read about the world’s deepest gold mine, which is found in South Africa, about 60 miles outside of Johannesburg. This gold mine goes more than two miles down into the earth.

It’s been described as the eighth wonder of the world. It’s the richest gold mine in the world. It’s produced more than a hundred million ounces of gold—that’s three thousand tons of gold—since it began operating in the early 1950’s.

This gold mine—one gold mine alone—employs almost 17,000 people working all the time to mine the gold out of the earth. And it’s not done. There’s still more gold in them hills! This one gold mine is expected to produce at least a million ounces of gold every year for the next twenty years.

But I’ve got to tell you, within the depths of God are found riches that infinitely surpass earth’s greatest riches. Earlier in the book of Romans, Paul talks about the riches of God’s kindness, His forbearance, His patience.

He talks in chapter 9 about the riches of God’s glory. In the book of Ephesians, he talks about the riches of God’s grace, and it says, “He is rich in mercy.” Unlike the riches in the ocean floors or beneath the surface of the earth, God’s riches are limitless. You see, the gold in that mine will run out some day. But the gold in God’s mine will never, ever, ever, ever run out.

It’s limitless. It’s inexhaustible. Aren’t you glad that God will never have an economic crisis? He will never have a sub-prime mortgage crisis. His riches are inexhaustible. He says, “My God shall supply all your needs.” From what source? Where’s he going to get what he needs? What’s he going to get? What’s needed? All of our needs in this room and every other believer everywhere else—where’s it all going to come from?

It’s according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. His riches. “Oh, the depth of the riches of God.” They’re infinitely beyond what we can fathom, what we could ever mine or match. That means that the riches of God are always more than what you need in your situation. “Oh, the depth of the riches of God.”

And then, “Oh, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” I’ll just keep those together for brevity here at this point. The depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God.

God has complete wisdom and knowledge. He knows everything about everything. Everything about the world, everything about history, everything about the future, everything about elections, everything about economies and where they’re headed, and not only does He know everything about them in the macro picture, but He knows everything about your life.

He knows where you’ve been, your history, the things that have been done to you, the things you’ve done.

  • He knows everything about your present.
  • He knows things about your past and your present that you have not told a single soul on earth.
  •  He knows all about your future, too. He knows it all! The depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
  • He knows about your family situation.
  • He knows about your financial needs.
  • He knows about your physical challenges.
  • He knows about your motives and your sins and your fears and your insecurities. He knows mine, too. He knows it all.

The wisdom and the knowledge of God are infinitely greater than ours. And as an example of that, in the context of this passage, chapters 9 through 11 of Romans, Paul leads us to respond that the human mind could never have come up with a way that sinners could be justified or declared righteous before a holy God.

We could not have found a way to do that. But the wisdom of God found a way. You say, “So what does that mean for me?” It means the wisdom of God knows how to deal with your situation, as complex, convoluted, impossible as it may seem, oh the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Paul goes on to say, “How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways.” His judgments, His decisions, His decrees—they are unsearchable, beyond our capacity to fathom.

And His ways, the means that He chooses and uses to fulfill His purposes, the ESV that I’m reading says, “His ways are inscrutable.” The New American Standard says, “They are unfathomable.” If you’re using the King James, it says, “His ways are past finding out.”

Dictionary.com defines inscrutable this way (it’s not a word we use every day, so let me just give you this little definition): “incapable of being searched into or understood by inquiry or study; impossible or difficult to be explained or accounted for satisfactorily; incomprehensible; not easily understood; mysterious.”

No human being can fathom the judgments and the ways of God. No matter how brilliant that person may be, no matter how hard he or she tries, we can never get to the bottom, never explore the depth and the breadth and the width and the height and the length of the judgments and the ways of God.

If you do a Google search for “judgments of God,” you’ll come up with 313,000 hits. If you do a search for “the ways of God,” you get 1,006,000 hits. Now, I just want to say that if any one of us could ever read and master any one of those entries, we would barely have skimmed the surface of the depths of His ways. We cannot know all that He is doing. We cannot know why He is doing what He is doing. I once heard pastor Charles Swindoll say, “Don’t try to unscrew the inscrutable.” There are some things that are hidden and locked for this time in the mind of God, and you have to leave them there.

I heard Dr. John Piper say in a message years ago something that really stuck in my heart. I’ve shared it with many people over the years in conversations and counseling situations, and I want you to remember this. He said, "In every situation, in every circumstance in your life [think about what you’re facing right now, and just apply this], in every situation, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know."

It’s true. You may be able to see a few things that God is doing. “Oh, that makes sense.” But God’s doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.

I shared that quote with a mom the other day who is heartbroken over a prodigal daughter. We talked about how unsearchable are the judgments of God and how inscrutable are His ways. I shared that quote with her, and she said, “I need that hanging in my home where I can look at it all the time.”

We need that hanging in our hearts. God is at work. You cannot see what He’s doing; you do not know. He doesn’t owe us an explanation, but He is at work. You can never exhaust or fully explore the ways of God. We cannot see the end. We cannot see the outcome. We cannot fathom the means that God has devised to fulfill His holy purposes.

 

Now, in verses 34 and 35, Paul goes on to ask three questions. They’re rhetorical questions, and the answer to each question is the same.

First questioin, verse 34, “For who has known the mind of the Lord?” What’s the answer? Let me hear you. No one has known the mind of the Lord.

Or, second question, “Who has been His counselor?” What’s the answer? I can’t hear you really well. No one has been God’s counselor. Isaiah 40 tells us, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or what man chose Him his counsel?”

No one! Third question, “Who has given a gift to Him,” to God, “that he might be repaid?” What’s the answer? No one. Job 41, “Who has first given to Me,” God says, “that I shall repay him? Whatever is under the whole Heaven is mine” (verse 11).

So how can we give anything to God and expect that He owes us something? Now, the implications of those three questions are staggering.

If we could just lay hold of this in our hearts, God never needs to consult with anyone about anything. He never needs input. He never needs counsel. He never needs advice, not even mine, not yours. He has limitless wisdom. He is self-sufficient. He is independent. He never needs help. He never needs a hotline. He never has to call directory assistance.

And I’m not trying to be trite, I’m just saying, God needs nothing and no one. He’s complete. He doesn’t need anything outside of Himself.

Now, how opposite are we? We are utterly, totally, absolutely, dependent. You say, “Well, I’m sitting here.” How are you breathing? It’s God on whom we depend for every breath. We need Him. He doesn’t need us. We can’t tell Him what to do. He makes no mistakes. He’s not indebted to anyone. He does not owe us anything.

As I’ve been pondering that, the obvious question in my own heart is, “So why do I get so bent out of shape when things don’t go my way?” As if God owed me something. He owes us nothing. We owe Him everything.

Nothing ever occurs to God. Nothing ever surprised Him. He never has to scramble to come up with a solution. He never has an emergency come up. He knows everything. He foresees everything.

I was thinking about the news this morning, and it struck me that God doesn’t follow current events. God determines all events, past, present, and future. He never has to figure out what His next move will be. So what does that mean? It means there’s no place for criticism, or doubt, or fear, or anger, or second-guessing, or arguing, or disputing God’s choices.

Ladies, we’ve got to get it into our heads and hearts, He is God, and we are not. He’s sovereign,; He is all-wise. His ways are unfathomable, incomprehensible. We can’t understand Him with our finite minds and perspective.

Now, God’s ways do not always seem right to human reason and sense. Sometimes God’s ways are hard, painful, confusing, confusing to us, not to Him. Well, we stand in a long line of sisters who have been faced with the inscrutable ways of God.

You see them all through Scripture:

  • Sarah, whose husband’s wavering faith on two occasions that we know of put her life in jeopardy.
  • Ruth, being widowed, living in a strange land, becoming the object of racism and hardship.
  • Hannah, years of infertility, unfulfilled longings, month after month after long month, longing for a child. Then to top it off, ridicule from a rival wife who delighted in tormenting her and a husband who didn’t understand her longings for a son. Then, getting the son, and giving that son back to God.

The inscrutable ways of God!

  • Mary of Nazareth. She would have not scripted that teenage pregnancy, a sword piercing her soul, offering up the one who would be offered up for the sins of the world.

God’s ways for you will not always make sense to your human reason. They may mean physical challenges, weakness, weariness, the challenges of aging and cancer. I have a friend right now who is suffering in the late stages of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a horribly debilitating, painful way to die.

Inscrutable ways of God. It may mean for you financial hardship, family difficulties, infertility, a special needs child. There’s a woman who I believe is here whose daughter has been in a coma for over a year, if I’m not mistaken, as a result of a tragic accident. Inscrutable ways of God—you’d never have scripted it this way.

Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, unfulfilled longing for a mate, loss of a mate, loss of a child, prodigal sons and daughters. And on and on the list goes. We stand in that line with Jesus, for whom the ways of God meant divesting Himself of His rights, experiencing rejection, ridicule, and ultimately death on a Cross—the inscrutable ways of God. We would have never come up with that script.

Your circumstances may seem difficult. They may be hard to understand. They may be incomprehensible to your feeble sense, but be assured God has an eternal purpose and plan for the display of His glory throughout all of this universe and every other universe, and He is working out that plan.

And though at times it seems as though the plan is not working, or the outcome seems in doubt, some parts seem strange to us, it may not be the way we think the script should be written. We can’t know; we can’t comprehend the details.

We know that His ways flow out of the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. He doesn’t make mistakes. That mother with a prodigal daughter that I talked to in recent weeks said to me with tears in her eyes, “If I hadn’t been through this, I wouldn’t know God the way I do. I wouldn’t desire Him the way that I do.”

And then verse 36—here’s the heart of the matter. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Here we have a call for a God-centered life and perspective, a God-centered worldview, tethered to who God is and His eternal purposes.

If you don’t have that, you will be set adrift on a sea of shifting emotions and wild ways of thinking. You will be depressed; you will be angry; you will be bitter; you will be perplexed; you will be confused; you will have no reference point for your life if you don’t get this: “From Him are all things.”

He is the source of our existence, the origin. All things were created by Him. We have no life apart from Him. He is the ultimate cause of every circumstance that touches your life and mine.

Ladies, the ultimate issue is not your husband, your kids, your singleness, or your health. In fact, to resist or to resent the circumstances, the situation in which you find yourself, is ultimately to resent and resist God Himself.

And by the way, that’s a battle you can’t win. “From Him are all things.” He is the source. If you stop and realize, “This situation isn’t from that person ultimately.” Ultimately, all things are from Him.

“And through Him are all things.” Not only is He the source, but He is the sustainer. Scripture tells us that He upholds the universe by the word of His power. What a word!

“And in Him all things hold together.” Do you realize that apart from His power and His word sustaining the planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, sustaining us, that it would all fall apart? It would be unmitigated disaster.

He sustains it. Through Him are all things. You say, “That’s lofty. What does that mean?” Well, one thing it means is that when you think you can’t hold things together any longer, and we all get to those places, the fact is, you can’t hold anything together!

We can’t even hold ourselves together! But He can hold us together. “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling,” means we are upheld by Him. He will enable you to do His will in whatever circumstance you find yourself in.

From Him are all things, through Him are all things, and to Him are all things. He is the source; He is the sustainer, and He is the supreme purpose and sense and goal of all things, for all things were created for Him and for His pleasure. That is so contrary to our natural perspective, isn’t it? Our natural way of thinking is, “It’s all about me.” We live as if all things were from us, through us, and for us.

That leaves us fearful, angry, proud, bitter, confused, and depressed. God is the source of all things. He is the sovereign Lord and director of all things. He is the sustainer of all things, and in the end, all things—even the sinful choices of fallen human beings, some of whom you may live with, and all of us fall into that category—even the sinful choices of human beings in the end will glorify God and demonstrate the greatness of His wisdom, His power, and His grace.

So what’s the response? Paul tells us, “To Him be glory forever. Amen.” Paul says, “The response is, we put God in the spotlight where He belongs.” We praise Him; we worship Him; we give Him glory, and we say, “Amen, let it be so.” We make our affirmation that we agree. We believe this. We submit our lives to God’s holy, eternal purposes.

Now, before we wrap up tonight, what does all of this have to do with being a true woman? How does this apply to where we live?

It has everything to do with being a true woman of God. This passage, these truths, and I have not begun to do justice to them, and I pray God will work them into your hearts by the power of His Spirit, but these truths bring comfort; they bring courage; they bring conviction to our calling as women.

There are many implications, many applications we could touch on, but I want to leave you with three tonight. I pray that you will remember them and that you will begin to orient your life around these realities.

1) A true woman lives a God-centered life.

We live in a self-centered world, but a true woman of God lives a God-centered life. She lives for His glory and His pleasure and not her own.

Ladies, a little bulletin here. It’s not about us. It’s all, all, all about Him. A true woman who is living this God-centered life can embrace the purpose for which she was created, to reflect the beauty and the wonder of His ways, and to join every created thing in heaven and earth and under the earth in glorifying and worshiping Him eternally.

As God-centered women, we will embrace that as our supreme calling and purpose in life, and it’s not just something way out there. It’s something that ought to get us up in the morning and keep us going through the day and be with us as we go to sleep at night.

Every day, every moment of the day, living with that supreme purpose at heart. It means having a God-centered perspective, turning our eyes upon Jesus, in whose light the things of this earth grow strangely dim. Am I right?

When you see the magnitude of His greatness, that gives us a context for our puny, little problems and challenges. You say, “You don’t know how big my challenge is.” You’re right, and I don’t mean to minimize it, because compared to everyone else in this room, it might be huge. But when we get the perspective of the greatness of God, every challenge we have is swept up in the torrent, the river of His love, His mercy, and His grace.

This gives us hope in the midst of a pain-filled world with loss and uncertainty. We can talk about, and we will, about being a godly wife and mother and friend and daughter. We can talk, and we will, about the need for repentance and holiness and service, but the primary core issue of this weekend and our lives is a call to be enthralled with the Lord Jesus Christ who is the pearl of great price, the supreme treasure.

A true woman is a God-centered woman.

2) A true woman trusts God.

These are not going to be complex, okay? They won’t be hard to get into your head. It’s another thing entirely to get them into our walk. A true woman trusts God. We live in a really, really fearful world right now. Yesterday’s headline, let me read it to you. It came up on my email news update I get each day. This is the first thing I saw on the news yesterday.

“World markets dive as fear spreads. Stock markets across the world plunged as concerns about the worst financial crisis in nearly eighty years and fears of a global recession gripped investors despite government efforts to intervene.”

Sounds pretty serious. But the true woman doesn’t give into fears. She smiles at the future because she knows that He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s in charge. God can be trusted. A true woman knows that God knows and understands everything about her and her situation. He knows what to do. He has a plan, and His plan will not be thwarted.

A true woman accepts God’s plan, His design, His will, and His ways as good, though it may not be the way we define good. It’s God who defines good, so she leans on Him. She depends on Him in times of prosperity and joy, with gratitude, but also with gratitude and trust in times of pain and hardship and loneliness and uncertainty and confusion.

Married to Christ, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, and a lot of people are going to be finding out in the days ahead, “Did we really love Christ for who He is, or were we paid lovers, loving Him for what He can give us?”

What happens when it’s taken away? Do you still love Him for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health? A true woman trusts God with circumstances she cannot understand or that she would never in a million years have chosen from her limited frame of reference.

It may sometimes appear to us that God doesn’t know what He’s doing. Now, if you’ve been raised in the environment I have, you’d never say that out loud. You might not ever even consciously think it.

But how many of us are practicing atheists? We live as if there is no God, or if there is, He’s surely messed up.  We live as if His plans and His purposes will never be fulfilled.

A true woman exercises faith. She trusts God; she is patient; she believes that in His way, and in His time, His promises will be fulfilled.

You say, well, it’s not God who’s messed up. It’s me who messed up. What about my failures? A true woman trusts that her past failures are not beyond the reach of God’s redeeming grace.

I love that quote of Martin Luther, who said, “God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.” And by the way, not only can he redeem your past failures, but He can also redeem those of your parents, your husband, your children, your employer.

He can make a straight line with a crooked stick. It’s not past Him. The way God goes about redemption and creation is entirely different than the way we would do it. So when we cannot understand what He is doing or why He is doing it, it’s not our place to resist, to resent, to challenge, to dispute, but to humbly bow before His sovereignty, and His goodness, and His mercy, and His greatness, and the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, and to align ourselves with His purposes and embrace His will.

The true woman who trusts God doesn’t have to strive. She doesn’t have to be afraid. She can relinquish control. She doesn’t have to manipulate and control the whole wide world, as if we could.

She doesn’t resent, or resist, or run from the Cross. She embraces the Cross with faith. You’ve undoubtedly heard that hymn written by the 19th Century English poet, William Cowper.

I found these words so rich in conjunction with this paragraph in Romans 11.

God moves in a mysterious way,
   His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
   And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
   Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
   And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
   The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
   In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense,
   But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
   He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
[You may say, “Not fast enough for me!” It’s fast in God’s timetable.]
   Unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
   But sweet will be the flow'r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
   And scan his work in vain;
GOD is his own interpreter,
   And he will make it plain.
1

A true woman lives a God-centered life, a true woman trusts God.

3) A true woman says, “Yes, Lord.” (And by the way, you can’t call Him Lord and say anything other than, “Yes.”)

A true woman says, “Yes, Lord.” In fact, that’s what Paul goes on to say in the very next verse, Romans chapter 12, verse 1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, living and holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual, or reasonable, form of worship.”

See, a true woman recognizes that her life is not her own. She lives for the glory of God. Her compass is the Word of God, not the world. She affirms that His purposes for creating male and female are good and wise, that His design is good and wise.

Therefore, she accepts the way God made her, and who she is in His economy. She embraces Her God-created design and roles for her life. And she does it with a grateful heart. She says, “Thank You, Lord, for making me a woman. Thank You, Lord, for the privilege of serving and giving and fulfilling Your holy purposes in my calling as a woman.”

She lives intentionally. She’s not just drifting, letting the circumstances of life pull her along. She’s willing to be a salmon, swimming upstream, to live a counter-cultural, godly life, in an unholy world.

She’s willing to make personal sacrifices—time, resources, for the sake of the glory of God and the Kingdom and the Gospel of Christ, instead of saying, as we Americans in particular are wont to say incessantly, “What will make me happy?”

She’s always be asking, “What will please You, Lord? What will further Your Kingdom? What will display Your glory? If it pleases Thee, it pleases me.” The true woman echoes with Mary of Nazareth, Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

“Yes, Lord.” To say, “Yes, Lord,” means for us, many of us tonight in this place, just making it really, really practical, it means to say, “No,” to a lot of other things:

  • no to bitterness
  • no to self-centeredness
  • no to whining
  • no to complaining
  • no to pining
  • no to resisting, resenting, running from the will of God.

But it means to say, “Yes,”

  • yes to forgiveness, yes to forgive those who have sinned against us
  • yes to receive God’s forgiveness
  • yes to repentance
  • yes to serving
  • yes to embracing God’s choices for our lives
  • yes to trusting Him with our circumstances—even the ones we cannot understand
  • yes to finding and fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives.

A true woman lives a God-centered life, she trusts in God, she says, “Yes, Lord.” It really comes down to trust and obey, doesn’t it? Trust and obey. He is God, and we are not.

Now, walking in that pathway sometimes is scary. The path may be steep, because we walk not by sight, but by faith. But I want to assure you that the day will come when you get to the top, as Paul does in Romans chapter 11, verse 33, and you look around, you look down, you look back at where God has brought you from, and the sight will be glorious.

And we will say, “I see it! It all makes sense! Why was I anxious? Why did I fret? Why was I bitter? Why was I angry? Why did I despise my husband who made my life difficult? I see now that he was an instrument in the hand of God to fulfill God’s holy, eternal purposes; even the wrath of men will praise Him.”

We’ll see it with clarity that we cannot possibly have now. “Oh Lord,” we’ll say, “My God, how very great Thou art. You have done all things well.” With Paul we will say, “To Him be glory forever. Amen and amen.”

As we approach this conference, I want us to have some symbol of what it means to be a true woman. The thing we felt the Lord put on our hearts was the picture of a white flag, which as you know is the universal sign of surrender.

Now, I want you to pull out of your tote, just before we wrap up tonight, in the side pocket you should have one of these. It’s a white hankie, and it says on it, “Yes, Lord.”

It’s a white hankie. I want you to take them out, and wave it in the air. Okay, you’ve got them. Thank you. Now, wouldn’t it be a beautiful sight to our Heavenly Father, to our Lord Jesus Christ, who’s sitting tonight at the right hand of the throne of God, for them to be able to look down from Heaven on this vast auditorium and to see that each woman throughout this place, throughout this weekend and for the rest of her life, is in her heart waving a white flag of surrender?

You see, it’s one thing to do it outwardly. It’s another thing to say, “Yes, Lord,” in your heart. And so, I want you to keep these white flags handy throughout the whole weekend. As we sing, as we pray, as we listen to the Word, and as we respond, and some of you, if you come from certain church backgrounds, this is a little challenging for you. You say, “I don’t want to be one of those “charismatic’s.” Listen, you can keep your hankie in your tote bag if you want.

But I think a lot of us want to keep them out. We want to wave those in the air any time God puts it on your heart to say, “Yes, Lord, I agree. I’m affirming. I wave this white flag of surrender.” When you do that, you are going to be saying, “Yes, Lord, that’s the expression of my heart, a visible sign of inward work of God in my heart.”

So keep them handy, and as God prompts your heart to say, “Yes,” to Him, you wave that.

Would you bow with me in prayer?

What we’ve heard tonight in the songs that have been sung, in Dr. Piper’s message, and from the book of Romans, is anything but wimpy theology.

It calls for a hearty response. Where does God find you tonight? Have you been living in fear? Have you been resisting, resenting someone, something?

Maybe in your heart, and maybe even with that hankie, you need to wave a white flag to surrender. Say, “Yes, Lord, I relinquish control. I trust You. I will embrace ____” and then fill in the blank.

Oh, Lord, I can’t fathom your ways, but I know they’re good, and I trust You. And oh, Lord, how I pray that you would do that work of grace in every heart. We’ve gone long tonight, and tomorrow’s another long day, but there’s a sweet Spirit here, and You’re stirring in our hearts.

We just want to say, we want to live God-centered lives. We trust You. Lord, afresh tonight, I just want to say, “Yes, Lord,” for whatever Your will is for my life this day and by Your grace, every day for the rest of my life.

Would you stand with me? I want us to affirm our trust and our surrender by just singing with Kristyn, just one stanza and a chorus. You might want to have that flag handy.

“’Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word.” Let’s sing it together.

Announcer: This message was presented at True Woman '08 in Chicago. Check out all of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.TrueWoman.com.

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1“Light Shining Out of Darkness.” William Cowper.