Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Every wife wants her husband to be respected, but women don’t always realize how much they contribute to the respect he receives. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: A man’s reputation in the workplace begins at home. He may be a great leader; he may be a very capable man, but if he doesn’t have a wife and children who respect him and respect and honor the Lord (even more importantly), that is going to pull down his reputation rather than contribute to it.

Leslie: It’s Monday, March 5th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Do you think people ever admire your husband because of you and your actions? Have you ever even thought about it? You have a lot of influence on his reputation and his ability to get things done. Nancy will explain how you can be a help and a complement to your husband as she continues in a series on Proverbs 31 called The Counter-Cultural Woman.

Nancy: Last week I was in a small group of women, and we were discussing a number of things. One woman piped up and told us that years ago, when she was 33 years old, she went for the first time to a Bible study in a church that someone had invited her to. She was not a Christian, and she had never studied the Bible. Would you believe, of all things, they were studying Proverbs 31?

She said (this is a newcomer to the Scripture), “I opened my Bible, read Proverbs 31, and I could not believe what I read in this passage.” She said, “Especially, when I got to verse 23 where it says, ‘her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.’”

She said, “I went crazy when I read that verse because we had just been reading about all these things this woman does. She’s working her head off; she’s killing herself, and what’s her husband doing? He’s hanging around the gates.” She said, “That was enough to make me say, ‘I do not want to read this book.’”

She said, “I closed my Bible, and I didn’t read it again for years.” It turned her off so much to the Scripture, reading Proverbs 31 and in particular, the verse that we’re coming to today, verse 23.

I smiled, and we all did as this woman told her initial reaction to Proverbs 31. I think the reason we smiled is because at one time or another, we’ve probably all had some uncomfortable feelings about what we read in Proverbs chapter 31. Part of the reason for that is that it goes so against the grain of what is politically correct; what is comfortable for us, and what is natural for us as women.

We do come to that verse today, but I think we’re going to see it in a different light than what that woman did. By the way, she did—thankfully, the Lord brought her back to the Word, back to church—come to know Christ, and now she has a whole different perspective than the first time she read Proverbs 31. Now she’s in the process of becoming like this woman that we read about in Proverbs chapter 31.

After we’ve seen all these wonderful qualities about this woman—her industry, her diligence, her competence in so many different areas—that she is proud to be the wife of her husband. Now, today in our climate, for some women a verse like verse 23 that talks about the husband’s role of leadership—this kind of verse might be considered an insult to a lot of women.

Today, women are so programmed to want their own position and to want recognition for what they do. They do not want to be known as Mrs. So-and-so, but to be known in their own right, for their own gifts and their own contribution.

But the excellent woman, the virtuous woman, the woman of noble character that we’re reading about in Proverbs 31, recognizes that it is really a compliment to be known as the wife of a man who has risen to a position of spiritual leadership. He’s a godly man, and that’s how he has this position. Her husband is honored. He’s esteemed, and this verse tells us he sits with the elders at the gates.

Now, that doesn’t mean a lot to us in our culture, but in the Jewish culture in those days, the city gate (placed at the entrance to the city) was a place where the legal and the judicial matters were handled.

That’s where business matters were transacted, and the civic leaders, the political leaders, the business leaders, the judges, would all sit at the gates, and people who had a need or needed their case tried or needed help with their business transaction, would come to the elders. They would get counsel, advice, they would get wisdom, and they would get matters settled.

So this woman’s husband is apparently one of the elders of the town. He’s influential; he’s a leader; he has a position of influence; he’s a judge. This woman’s noble character adds to the respect and the esteem that other people have for her husband.

Because he has a successful home life; because he has a wife who is worthy of praise, and because he has children who follow in her influence and are following God as she does, this man is esteemed. He’s respected, and she has helped contribute to that.

You see, a man’s reputation in the workplace begins at home. You see, your character adds to or detracts from your husband’s reputation and what other people think of him. This woman is a support to her husband. She enhances his reputation and his standing.

Either you’re enhancing your husband’s reputation at church and in the workplace and in the society, or you’re pulling it down. She’s competent, as we have already seen in this passage, in her own right. She’s a very capable woman. She’s a hard-working woman, and there is a lot that we see to praise this woman for, but one of the things that we appreciate about her is her humble spirit.

She’s willing to stand in the background at times and to let her husband be the one who is esteemed out in the marketplace. Here is a woman who does not aspire for recognition herself. She is content to serve in the home and to have her husband be the one who is known in the marketplace.

Now, let me say that not only can you enhance your husband’s reputation, but according to the New Testament, you can actually disqualify your husband from ever having a position of spiritual leadership in the church. Did you know that? First Timothy 3 tells us about the qualifications that men have to have if they are to serve as elders or as deacons in leadership and in authority in the life of the local church (see verses 8-10).

But it also goes on to tell us what kind of qualifications their wives must have. Their wives must be reverent. Their wives must fear the Lord. They must not be slanderers or malicious gossips. They have to have their tongues under control (Verses 11-12). Do you realize that if you don’t have those qualities of a woman of virtue, that you can actually disqualify your husband from having a position of spiritual authority and leadership in the church?

This concept: a woman supporting her husband as the one who’s out there in the marketplace and the one who has the positions of leadership and influence in the society—that is a very foreign concept in our culture today. Here’s the woman who models what it’s like to be a support to her husband. He’s working to provide the resources, and she is managing those resources for the care of her husband and her children.

Proverbs chapter 12 tells us that a gracious woman is a crown to her husband, and that’s what this woman is (verse 4). She’s a crown to her husband so that when he’s out at the city gates, when he’s working, when he’s influencing, people say of him, “He’s a good man. He’s got a great wife.” She’s a crown to her husband. She respects him. She builds him up. She’s not promoting herself, but she’s functioning in a way that honors his leadership.

I remember hearing one woman say, “When we get to Heaven, if I can hear God say to my husband, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ then I will know that I have been a success, because I will have fulfilled my role of being a helper to my husband.” I love that way of thinking!

If God can say to my husband, “You’ve done well.” We want God to say that to us, as well, as women, and we can earn that from the Lord if we’re walking with Him. But she said, “My goal in life is to hear God say that to my husband because then I will know I have been the helper that God wanted me to be.”

Here’s a woman who’s creating a climate at home that encourages her husband to thrive and that makes it possible for him to be successful in his work because he has no worries at home. Remember what we read earlier in Proverbs 31? “The heart of her husband safely trusts in her” (verse 11). He knows that things are okay at home, and as a result, he can be successful in his workplace.

Here’s a woman who, I believe, is taking the role of praising and encouraging her husband in the fulfillment of his dreams and his calling. My mom was such an incredible example of this: what it meant to be a virtuous or a noble woman. She worked with my dad in believing in his dreams. He had a dream of starting a new kind of insurance business back in the late ‘50s.

No one had ever done it this way before, and he was a dreamer. Some people considered these wide-eyed dreams and would have laughed at them because it wasn’t considered possible. But she believed in those dreams, and she worked with him and rolled up her sleeves and helped him.

They started this little business at their kitchen table in an apartment in New Jersey, and she prayed for him and helped him and encouraged him, and rather than belittling him or ignoring him or saying, “Look, I’ve got my dreams. I’ve got my life I want to live. I want to fulfill my plans.” I want to tell you what else she did. She gave him room to fail and gave him room to make some mistakes along the way.

But she let God work in his life and let God be the one who grew him up and matured him in those areas where he needed to grow, and she prayed for him and supported him in the home in the meantime. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, that’s easy for this woman to be virtuous, because her husband is a leader, and he’s a godly man. But my husband isn’t in the gates. He’s not a man of influence.”

Don’t make your husband a prisoner to that expectation, just set about to be the kind of woman that can encourage your husband to grow into all that God has for him.

I had a conversation, recently, with a woman who’s got several young children. Her husband is a very busy man. He is involved in leadership in his church; he’s involved in leadership in the community; he’s involved in leadership in his business, and their lives right now are just very, very busy. This is a woman who loves being a wife; she loves being a mother; she loves her family, but she said, “I’ve been struggling a little bit with my role in all of this.”

This woman has a professional graduate degree and has in the past been able to use some of those business skills of her own. But she’s in a season of life where she’s very tied to her children, to her home, and to her husband and his career and his involvements. She’s not begrudging that, but she has struggled with it a little bit.

She knows that she is a competent woman in her own right, but so much of what she’s doing now is supporting him—being in a helper role. It’s not that she doesn’t love her husband. It’s not that she doesn’t love her children, but this wrestling match has been going on a little bit in her mind, and the Lord has really been encouraging her as she’s been exposed to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, that this is a high and holy calling.

This is not just something she has to do. It’s not something she’s stuck doing, but that it’s really a privilege for her to be channeling her gifts and abilities into being a helper and a support for her husband and for her children.

One of the women in history . . . I love reading biographies, particularly of women of God, because it gives me a portrait of what this kind of woman is like. One of the great women in Christian history is Sarah Edwards, who was the wife, as many of you know, of Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest theological minds this nation has ever had. He was a pastor that God used in a significant way as an instrument in the First Great Awakening in the 1700s.

But here was a man who was able to be successful at his calling as a man of God in large measure because of the kind of wife he had in Sarah Edwards. Sarah and Jonathan Edwards had 11 children. She was married at 18, and for 31 years she and Jonathan had a complex and challenging but very successful marriage.

One of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ contemporaries wrote a preface to the collected works of Jonathan Edwards. In the preface he gives a lengthy description of what Jonathan Edwards’ wife, Sarah, was like. I think it’s a perfect picture of this kind of woman who is supporting her husband from her role at home. He says:

In the midst of these complicated labors [and he’s talking about the time when the revival was going on, and life was very, very busy for Jonathan Edwards], as well as at all times, he found at home one who was in every sense a helpmeet for him. One who made their dwelling an abode of order and neatness, of peace and comfort, of harmony and love to all who lived there, and of kindness and hospitality to the friend, the visitor, and the stranger.

While she paid a becoming deference [or respect] to her husband and treated him with entire respect, she spared no pains in conforming to his inclinations.

That’s kind of old-fashioned language, but when I read that, I think of my mother, who in so many ways conformed to the inclinations of my dad. Sarah Edwards did that.

She rendered everything in the family agreeable and pleasant, considering it her greatest glory, and that wherein she could best serve God and her generation, to be the means in this way of promoting her husband’s usefulness and happiness.

Did you catch that? She considered it her best means of bringing glory to God and fulfilling God’s purpose for her life in her generation by promoting her husband’s spiritual usefulness and happiness! She knew if she could create a climate in the home where her husband was encouraged to become spiritually mature and fruitful and to be used by God, then she would have been the helper suitable to him.

Now, your husband may not be a Jonathan Edwards, and let me just say, few men are. You don’t have to live with Jonathan Edwards. We respect him from this vantage point of history. That’s easy—to look at another man, your pastor, a counselor, a great Christian leader, and say, “Yeah, I could be a godly woman if I was married to that man.”

You’re not married to that man, and only that man’s wife knows what it’s like to be married to that man. You see him when he’s on the platform, when he’s in front of everyone else, and he’s at his spiritual peak. She lives with him and knows that he, like every other man, has his faults, his failures, his weaknesses, and she has to accommodate with those. She has to live with those just like you have to accommodate and live with your husband’s weaknesses.

So don’t be going and thinking the grass is greener on the other side. God has given you exactly the husband that He knows He wants you to help, and God fashioned you to be the helper suitable to that man, not to someone else’s man—but to your husband. Maybe you’re not even married, and you’re thinking, “What in the world does all of this have to do with me?”

You may think, “I’m off the hook! Proverbs 31—that’s a passage for married women!” Well, I’m not a married woman, and let me tell you that Proverbs 31 has really dug its hook deep into my own heart. As I’ve been studying this passage, and I see in even a passage like this, talking about this woman’s husband—something that helps me in my walk with God.

Remember, women, our role as women in the body of Christ is to reflect to the world the relationship that the Church—Christ’s Bride—has to Christ. We, as women, are created to reflect the way the Church ought to relate to the Lord Jesus, who is our Heavenly Husband, our Heavenly Bridegroom. That’s true of all believers—we are to reflect to the world the way that the Church should relate to Christ.

Our goal, even as this virtuous woman’s goal is to lift up and enhance her husband’s reputation—his standing in the community—our goal as women, our goal as believers, is to enhance the reputation of Christ. We are to live in such a way that people say, “She’s the kind of woman that makes me want to know her Heavenly Husband—she makes me want to know Christ.”

Our goal is not to draw attention to ourselves, to build up our own reputation, to have our own career, to lift up our own abilities and talents. Our goal in life is to be a support to Christ—to lift Him up for others to think that He is known and that He is wonderful. “Her husband is known in the gates” (Proverbs 31:23a).

I love it, after I do a conference, when I get a note or someone comes up to me and in one way or another expresses, “What I saw today was Jesus. Your speaking, your teaching, your book—it made me love Jesus more.” In fact, on at least one or more occasions over the years, I have received a note from a woman who would say, “I couldn’t even remember your name afterwards, or I couldn’t even remember what you looked like, but I remember I saw the glory of Christ.” I love that!

When I’m gone—which isn’t going to be for any of us all that very long—I don’t want people to remember what I told them or what I did or what I contributed to their life. I want them to remember Jesus. I want my life to enhance His reputation, His standing, here on earth.

To those of you who are married, I want to say that when your character causes your husband’s reputation to be enhanced and built up, you are really giving to the world, as a married couple, a picture of the Church’s relationship to Christ. Marriage isn’t just about you and your husband. It is about that, but it’s much bigger than that.

It’s about God’s great redemptive plan and about revealing to the world what it’s like to be married to Jesus, what it’s like to be a bride who reverences and submits to and honors and builds up and helps and encourages her husband. That’s our calling. So when you relate to that husband who is in the gates or maybe not yet in the gates, remember that you’re painting a picture for those who are watching, and the picture you paint you want to be one that will point them to Christ.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and if you don’t remember her name, it’s okay. Like we just heard, she just wants you to think about Jesus and remember Him. When a woman lives for something greater than making a name for herself, she can have a huge influence. Barbara Hughes learned this truth in a powerful way by watching her own mom and dad.

Barbara’s dad was known as a hard worker, and his wife was his support while he put in long, dangerous hours at a lumberyard. After an accident at work left him unable to provide like he once had, Barbara’s dad left the family, drank heavily, and lived on Skid Row in L.A. During this time, Barbara’s mom continued to respect her husband, refusing to talk badly about him. That choice brought glory to God and deeply affected everyone involved with the family.

You can read the rest of Barbara Hughes' story in a book called Becoming God's True Woman. Besides Barbara Hughes, contributors to the book include Dorothy Patterson, Bunny Wilson, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It would be a perfect follow-up to the material you heard today.

The woman described in Proverbs 31—the one who works to make her husband look good—she isn’t weak. We’ll take a look at her incredible strength tomorrow, but first, we need God’s help to act on the things we heard about today. So let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Father, thank You, for calling us as women. What a privilege and what an incredible responsibility it is—that our lives and our spirits would point people to Christ. Make us helpers, make us encouragers, and may our lives enhance not only the reputations of the men of God around us, but may our lives, even more importantly, enhance the reputation of the Lord Jesus—whose we are, and who we love, and for whose glory we live. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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

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