Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with a question she gets asked a lot.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What’s a woman to do when men won’t lead? "My husband won’t work. My husband won’t provide. My husband won’t lead. My husband won’t turn off the television." The men won’t lead. What’s a woman to do?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 6. Are you drawing out the best in the men around you? Today we’ll learn about the incredible influence godly women can have in the lives of men. Here’s Nancy in a series called, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

Nancy: The other day someone forwarded to me an email from Phillip Johnson. Some of you will know that name. Phil Johnson is a Berkeley law professor. He’s widely recognized as an expert on Intelligent Design, and I thought it was fascinating that Dr. Johnson made this statement.

He spoke of his conviction that the time is ripe for a new women’s movement.

He said, “I have in mind a movement led by married women, probably mostly mothers with a sense of priorities very different of that of feminists.”

And I thought, whoa. This was just very exciting to me as we have talked on Revive Our Hearts about the counter-revolution that we believe that God is wanting to stir up. A movement of women who are committed to be womanly and godly, biblical, who will radiate the spirit and the heart and the life of Jesus in our world and will use weapons, if you will, of faith and purity and a gentle and a quiet spirit, a meekness, a humility. These are the kind of women that we’re believing God to raise as a movement that I have believed would have enormous influence in our nation.

And here this law professor is saying it’s time, the time is right for the new women’s movement. Now, he speaks of a movement led by married women, probably mostly mothers. As I read that, I thought as a single woman, myself, I certainly wouldn’t want to exclude single women.

But I think he’s touching on something that we picked up in our last session on Deborah, the prophetess and the judge we’ve been studying in Judges 4 and 5. Deborah said, “I arose a mother in Israel” (vv. 5-7).

We talked about how Deborah had a mother’s heart. What galvanized and propelled her into action was the fact that she cared. She was concerned about what was happening to the Children of Israel. That’s what moved her to seek the Lord, to get filled with God’s Word and God’s message, and then to speak God’s Word as God directed her to do.

I think of not only Deborah but of other women in the Scripture who had a mother’s heart that God ended up using in a significant way. I think of Jochabed, most people can’t even spell her name and she certainly isn’t a household word or something you want to name one of your children.

But Jochabed, the mother of Moses, was a woman of faith and courage and wisdom and discipline and discretion. She was an instrument because of her mother’s heart. She was an instrument through whom God sent the great deliverer, Moses. An incredible role she played. Had there not been a Jochabed who took the role she did, humanly speaking, there would not have been a Moses.

Now, Moses gets the credit, and you know what, I think the Jochabed’s of the world don’t mind. They just want to see God’s purposes fulfilled. They just want to see God’s people delivered.

I think of Mary of Nazareth. She isn’t the hero of the story. Jesus is the hero of that story, her son, the Son of God. But Mary, as a single woman, was willing for God to turn her world upside-down and inside-out and say, “Lord, I embrace Your purposes for my life, whatever they are. I’m willing to be Your instrument, and I’m willing to be used. I’m willing to embrace motherhood,” literally in her case.

But it’s a mother’s heart. As we have that heart, that’s the heart that motivates us to serve, that’s where we will find, I think, our greatest usefulness and fruitfulness.

Now, I’ve mentioned earlier in this series that one of the concerns I often sense from the hearts of women has to do with: What’s a woman to do when men won’t lead?

I get a lot of emails and letters from women who in different ways express their frustration over what they consider to be male passivity.

"My husband won’t work. My husband won’t provide. My husband won’t lead. My husband won’t turn off the television. The men won’t lead. What’s a woman to do?"

Some of these . . . I made it sound like it they were being a little snarley, but that’s not always the spirit. Sometimes it’s just generally a concern about what is our role to be.

We’re in a whole culture now which has for two generations done away with male/female distinctions. Men increasingly have very little sense of what it means to be a man, what is means to take initiative, to lead, to provide, to protect.

So as women as we’re studying the Scripture, we see that God has made men and women different. How are we to fulfill our part of the equation if some of the men don’t know how to fulfill their part of the equation?

Let me say that it’s not just the women asking this kind of question. I also hear occasionally from men who want to be godly men but have the frustration of how can I do it if women won’t be womanly. So it does go both ways. I just want to remind us of that.

There’s a wonderful resource that I have found that I’ve gone back to numerous times to reference a chapter in a book, a larger book called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

The book is a compilation of chapters and this chapter is by John Piper. The chapter itself has been published as a separate little booklet that we’re going to make available to you. The booklet’s called What’s the Difference by John Piper.

If you’re really brave, you’ll get the big book. You can go to our website and find how to get that and you can wade through that larger book. But this simple little booklet has been so helpful to me. What’s the Difference by John Piper is where he talks about what is distinctively masculine and distinctively feminine.

I have read and reread this chapter. It’s a little heavy sledding. You have to kind of wade your way through it to grasp all that he’s saying, but I’ve pulled some portions of that chapter from that booklet in relation to what’s the difference between men and women.

What does it mean to be masculine, and what does it mean to be feminine? John Piper’s description of this has been very helpful to me as a woman.

Let me just give you what he gives as a definition first of masculinity, and I’m not going to expand on this one. I’ll let the men do that. But he says that,

The heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to men’s differing relationships.1

In other words, if you’re the husband, you do that for your wife in one sense, you lead and provide for and protect. You do it in a different sense than you do for a woman who is just a member of your church.

But in our differing relationships, in appropriate ways, at the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women.

Then he moves to the definition of mature femininity, and that’s what I want us to focus on. It’s a response to mature masculinity.

John Pipers says that,

The heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition [or in inclination. It’s a mindset. It’s a freeing mindset] to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.2

Let me read that again. “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing.” This is true liberation; it’s a freeing disposition and inclination, and John Piper goes on. I hope you’ll read this chapter in this booklet because he explains very well that it doesn’t always look the same.

You can’t say, “Okay, this is a woman’s job; this is a man’s job. It's right for a woman to give leadership in this way; it’s not right for her to do in this way.” He says it’s a mindset. It’s an inclination for women to “affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways that are appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

Now one of the consequences of the fall of man, going back to Genesis chapter 3, is that women are driven to take charge, to lead, to control. You may not have a real take charge personality, but it’s intuitive. It’s instinctive in our natural flesh as women to want to take over. Some people do it in quiet ways; some people do it in obnoxious ways.

But it’s still a part of our fallen drive as women to take over. The consequence of the fall for men is a constant temptation to abdicate leadership, to abidicate their   responsibility and their role.

So as women, we need the Holy Spirit of God to redeem us and to help us step back into our role which is to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from men.

Men need the help of the Holy Spirit of God to redeem them and to help them resist that temptation they’re continually faced with, and that is to abdicate leadership.

Now my job in Revive Our Hearts is not to coach the men. I know there are times . . . I get some of the emails from women who wish that I would address the men a little bit more clearly because I typically give only one side of the issue. That’s my calling.

My pastor last Sunday preached a great message to men from 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 7 about men living with their wives according to knowledge. He was great. He was telling those men, “You’re supposed to protect the women; that’s your role.” I was thrilled for the men to hear it from a man. But it’s not my role to tell the men that. That’s the role of men in leadership.

My role as a woman is to teach women: What is our responsibility? And that is what I try to do faithfully. I have to tell you it’s hard for me, and it takes a lot of courage to say some of the things that I have felt from God’s Word that needs to be said because it runs smack into not only the secular culture, but unfortunately, it runs counter to much of our evangelical culture today where we have so blurred the distinctions between male and female. And it’s been a costly thing.

It’s had an effect, a negative effect, on marriages, on the next generation—growing up not knowing whether they’re male or female and with huge sexual identity crisis.

The work of God is hampered whenever we step outside the direction and the will of the Word of God. This is one area where the world’s way of thinking has come to permeate our churches and our Christian culture, and it’s not an easy thing to take back that ground.

I try to smile when I’m saying hard things because a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down sometimes. I have to tell you some of things we’re talking about are things I have wrestled with myself as a woman in ministry and a woman in a teaching ministry.

What does it mean for me to serve the Lord in a way that is distinctively feminine? Well, I have found a new model in Deborah in the Old Testament. I want us to see that Deborah in the book of Judges acted in such a way as to express mature femininity.

She acted in a womanly way as a prophetess, as a judge, as a great influence in the nation. But she acted in such a way as to do what John Piper says is distinctively feminine. That is to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men.

I’ve been very helped by this passage because I am a strong woman. I get thrown into a lot of settings where I’m a woman with pretty much a male group of staff. I’ve asked myself, “How do I function in a way that is distinctively feminine in this setting?”

The example of Deborah, the story of Deborah has helped me in some very practical ways to know how to do that. Now as we turn back to Judges 4 and 5 and we look at Deborah, I want us to see how she acted in such a way as to affirm and lift up male leadership.

She’s a great example of this. For example, we see that Deborah in this passage does not command Barak. She has a message for him that he is to recruit an army and lead the Israelites against Canaanite armies.

But she doesn’t tell Barak what to do. Now on first reading, you might think that she does. But as you read the actual text, she doesn’t speak any of her own words to Barak. Everything she says to him is communicating a message from the Lord.

So she says, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you,” do this and do this (v. 6).

She’s just communicating God is the one saying this to you. I’m not telling you to do this. She’s not giving a directive. She’s merely communicating a message then Barak is free to take the message or disregard it. That’s not Deborah’s responsibility. She’s merely delivering the message.

In this little booklet called What’s The Difference, Piper talks about how women can exercise in certain relationships what he calls nondirective influence. That means we’re influencing without being directive, without telling men what to do.

He says we do that with petition and persuasion instead of directives. I found it so helpful as a woman, even as a single woman just dealing with Christian men, men in the workplace, with men in the church, to say, “How can I phrase this in a way that doesn’t put them in a position of taking direct direction from me.”

Now some women as soon as I say this, you’re going to see red. I realize that, and I have to just say, “You’re a product of our culture.” If this is really disturbing to you, and I know it will be to some, I just want to appeal to you. Would you hear me out?

And more important than hearing me, because I can be wrong, would you go to the Scripture and begin to study the Scriptures that talk about a woman’s role, a woman’s function, a woman’s demeanor. You go to the Word and wrestle it out with the Lord. Just go with a teachable, open heart and say, “Lord, I want to be and to do what you want me to be and to do as a woman in my home, in my workplace, in the church."

I don’t want to be contentious about this. I’m not going to get drawn into a fight on it. I just want to present as graciously as I know how to what I see to be the pattern of Scripture here.

One of the things I so appreciate about Deborah, and I admire it and I want to emulate is: She doesn’t give direct commands to the man. She just speaks what God has put on her heart, what God has told her to do, to tell him she communicates that message.

Then as she proceeds, we see her nurturing leadership in Barak. She provided an opportunity for Barak to fulfill his God-created calling as a leader, a protector, and a defender.

She’s not saying, “I’m going to battle, hope you can come with me.” She’s not telling him, “You go to battle, and this is what I’m telling you to do.” She’s nurturing leadership in the men.

In the booklet by John Piper called What’s The Difference, he says, “There are a hundred nuances of masculine pursuit that distinguish it from feminine pursuit.”3

In other words, there are appropriate ways for a woman to take initiative but it has to be distinctively feminine as opposed to masculine.

Then he says, and I love this description, he says, “A feminine initiative [an initiation] is in effect an invitation for the man to do his kind of initiating.”4

In one sense, you can say in those times, the man is responding. But in fact, the wife, in that case . . . He’s talking about marriage, but you could broaden it to the woman. In fact, the woman is inviting him to lead in a way as only a man can, so that she can respond to him.

You see the kind of divine dance there. The man is leading, but the woman is inviting the man to lead in such a way that she’s drawing out the best in that man. That’s where we as women, if we would walk with God and be wise and womanly, I’d think we’d see things come out of men that they didn’t know they had and that we’ve assumed that they didn’t have.

As a woman initiates, she’s doing it in a distinctively feminine way which is providing an opportunity for men to really be men.

It’s providing an invitation for them to initiate as Piper says, “in a way as only a man can, so that she can respond to him.”5

As I look at Deborah, I see that she’s delighted to see that men are rising up and taking leadership. That pleases her.

When you come to chapter 5 where they sing the victory hymn and she’s retelling the story, she says in verse 2,

That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!

My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the Lord (vv. 2, 9).

She’s happy that the commanders, the men, the leaders, and in those days the commanders and the leaders would have been all men; she’s happy that they took the lead.

She’s happy that she’s fulfilled her role by doing just what God told her to do, saying what God told her to say, being where God told her to be in a way that enhances, affirms, strengthens, encourages male leadership.

I find that most women that I talk to, Christian women, really would be thrilled if our lives could be such that they would motivate and encourage men to really be men, to express mature masculinity. Because when they do, that further enhances our femininity when we find both us fulfilling what God has made us for and in the end God is glorified.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We all need to ask ourselves, “Have I been encouraging the men around me to be the leaders God wants them to be?” 

Nancy's current series, When Men Don't Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah is showing us how to influence those around us in uniquely feminine ways. It's the kind of teaching that is affecting one of our listeners in Florida. She had been seeing a counselor who recommended that she separate from her husband. She said,

I thought I had reached the end of my rope.

But God used this ministry to speak to her heart. She wrote us not long ago and said,

I have been listening to Revive Our Hearts podcasts regularly since July and have obtained past programs because they have touched me so deeply. Since listening to Revive Our Hearts, I've realized that I have been non-submissive, proud of my actions, and bitter toward my husband. My attitude is slowly changing, and the atmosphere of my marriage is improving. My husband still has major struggles that often lead me to despair, but I'm learning to turn things over to God and allow Him time to work on my husband. Thank you for being being such an encouragement. I am definitely praying about becoming a Ministry Partner. I want other women to return to God and find peace.

What does she mean by becoming a Ministry Partner? As Nancy often says, "Ministry Partners are the life blood of our ministry. They provide consistant support that we can depend on month by month as other gifts go up and down. Ministry Partners help us by commiting to give a certain amount each month. Ministry Partners also commit to pray regularly for Revive Our Hearts, and they share the message with others.

There are many benefits to becoming a Ministry Partner. When you sign us, we'll send you one of Nancy's books; you'll receive one conference registration each year at no charge; you'll also get the devotional, Daily Reflections. For all the details of becoming a Ministry Partner, just visit

Living out the principles of biblical womanhood has not always been easy for Nancy. We’ll hear about her personal journey in this area tomorrow.

I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts. Now let’s pray.

Nancy: Father, in order to do what we’ve talked about today, we have to walk in the Spirit because otherwise our efforts will be manipulative or controlling in all sorts of ways. We want to trust you to work in the lives of the men around us as we trust You to work in our own lives. So help us, Lord, in the ways that we impact and affect those around us to do it in womanly ways, distinctively feminine ways.

I pray that our lives would enhance and affirm and receive male leadership and strength around us. Not so that they can be free to dominate or to exercise ungodly leadership, but so that they will be motivated to provide the spiritual Christ-like serving sort of leadership that You’ve called them to give. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wayne Grudem & John Piper, p. 36. 

2 Ibid, p. 46.

3 Ibid, p. 40.

4 Ibid, p. 40.                           

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