Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Building Your Life on God's Word

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says all of the Bible is profitable.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: A lot of Christians are going to get to heaven and find out there were whole parts of this Book they never ever read, and I just wonder what . . . When the Lord says to us, “I gave you this Book. I gave you My heart. I gave you My ways,” I want to know the whole thing.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, May 14.

Fifty years ago today a four-year-old Nancy Leigh DeMoss came to saving faith in Christ. She’s marked this day ever since as her spiritual birthday. On this significant milestone, Paula Hendricks, a blogger at TrueWoman.com, talked with Nancy about some of what she’s learned in half a century of walking with the Lord.

Nancy’s brought some show-and-tell journals and other mementos she’s collected over the years. Let’s listen.

Paula Hendricks: Happy birthday, Nancy!

Nancy: Thank you. It’s my spiritual birthday—fifty years, celebrating fifty years of walking with the Lord. It hardly seems possible, but it’s been such a joyful thing to be reflecting on that. Thank you for joining me today for this special celebration.

It’s not my story. It’s not about me. It’s His story. It’s not about you when you celebrate your spiritual birthday. It’s about an amazing God, a redeeming God who found us when we were not looking for Him and said, “I want you to belong to Me.” I’ve been thanking the Lord as I think about the billions of people on this planet who’ve never even heard the name of Jesus, who’ve never had an opportunity in their language to hear the gospel. What an amazing thing it is that we would have had that chance, that we would have the Word of God, the knowledge of God’s ways. I just can’t thank Him enough.

I’m taking some time during this season to reflect on what God has done, what the gospel means, what it means to me—what it meant to me back then and what it means to me today.

Paula: Nancy, in preparing for this interview, the main thing I was struck with was you didn’t just drift into your knowledge of the Word or your ability to counsel women. When you were my age, at thirty, I noticed one of the goals you wrote was, “Take my Christian life, growth, development as seriously as does an athlete in training for the Olympics.” That’s intense!

Nancy: Yes. I can remember writing some of those things. At different birthdays, or different spiritual birthdays, or sometimes on New Year’s Day, I would write down: What do I want to see God do this year? What focus do I want to have? Maybe the Olympics had just been around, I don’t know, but at that point I wanted to be intentional about my spiritual life and growth and not to do what so many people do—what we all do naturally—which is to drift.

If we do, an hour becomes a day, a day becomes a week, a week becomes a month, months become a year, and then year after year. Then you look back and you say, “I’ve been in this journey for thirty years, and what is there to show for it? Have I really grown intellectually? Am I loving God more with my mind? Am I loving God more with my soul, with my body? Am I loving Him with all of my being? Am I growing physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally?”

I find that if I’m not intentional about . . . Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, “Bringing my body into subjection, so that I want to fight as one who’s going for the prize. I want to run as one who wants to win” (see vv. 24–27). And not win something for ourselves, but to fulfill the purpose for which God put us here on this earth.

I come to a day like my thirtieth birthday and I look back and I say, “I need to be more intentional.” Now, do I always work like an athlete in training? No. But I think there’s value to say, “What am I heading toward? What kind of person do I want to become? What are the areas of my life . . .” We encourage all of our staff here at Revive Our Hearts to annually do a personal vitality plan and to say, “Look at all the different areas of your life and evaluate: Am I growing in that area? Are there gaps? Are there things where I’m not pleasing the Lord in this area?”

If we don’t stop and evaluate and say, “Where am I? Where have I been? What trajectory am I on? Where am I headed?” then we’re going to end up, as so many people do at the end of their life, with more regrets than they would have had to have if they’d been more intentional about their growth.

Paula: So something that’s been really helpful for your growth has been practicing spiritual disciplines. I’d like to talk about some of the disciplines that have been most helpful. But first, let’s just talk about the concept because a lot of us think that just sounds unappealing and hard and dry.

Nancy: Yes. Discipline, who wants it, right? It does sound painful. You look at these athletes and they’re going for the gold in that moment in the Olympics, but then you get the behind-the-scenes pictures they do on some of those athletes and you see the hours . . . When other kids were out playing, these kids were doing their gymnastic routines or shooting hoops, or whatever. They had to make this a priority. They had to work on it all the time.

So it took discipline. They’re disciplined about what they eat. They’re disciplined about their sleep habits. They’re disciplined about their practice routines, their exercise. In any area of our life, if we want to be all God made us to be, it involves discipline.

I like the term spiritual disciplines as it applies to many areas of our lives; it helps me to think of those as means of grace. It’s not that I become more spiritual by doing these things  if I check all these things off my list. It's not God’s going to like me more or love me more, or I’m going to be a more godly person. It’s as I do these things, I have more opportunity for God to work in my life.

It’s true in the physical realm. If I’m not getting enough sleep, if I’m living on sugar, if I’m not taking care of my body, then I’m setting myself up for exhaustion, for being irritable, for not being able to function well. If we take care of some of those personal disciplines, they become a means that God can use to help us grow and experience all that He has for us.

I don’t focus on all these disciplines equally all the time. You can just spend your whole life saying, “Oh, am I doing my disciplines?” I mentioned earlier today with Paula when we were getting ready for this interview. To test her mic Paula was quoting some Scripture she’s been memorizing, and I think Scripture memorization is a very important and valuable spiritual discipline. I’ve done a lot of it over the years myself. But I said to her this morning, “Don’t ask me to quote what I’m memorizing right now,” because right now I’m not memorizing anything. But I have, and I will again.

So asking the Lord, “What’s the focus? What areas do You want to target in my life right now?” Now, some disciplines we need consistently. Other ones come and go more in my life, but they’ve produced a lot of help in my spiritual growth and journey.

Paula: You shared a list with me of some of those most helpful disciplines or means of grace, and I’d like to start with the one that you wrote your first book about, A Place of Quiet Rest: Finding Intimacy with God through a Daily Devotional Life.

Nancy: Yes. I don’t know that there’s any more basic, helpful spiritual discipline or means of grace than getting into this Book and getting this Book into me every day of my life.

Now, I came to believe this was important because my dad practiced this spiritual discipline; my parents emphasized it. They didn’t make us have a daily quiet time or devotional life, but we saw this was such an important part of their walk, of their life, and I just saw the fruit of that. I’ve said often, “If I could only share one message with women, if I only could have written one book, it would be that first book, A Place of Quiet Rest, the importance of having a daily devotional life.

I don’t care what you call it, but I think it’s important that on a consistent basis we’re getting God’s Word into our hearts.

Paula: You’ve been at this for fifty years, reading the same Book over and over and over. So I’m sure some women are wondering, “Does it ever get boring?”

Nancy: Well, it would be reasonable to wonder that, but I’ve got to tell you: No way does it ever get boring! I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover, not always straight through, but, I don’t know, maybe fifty times over the years, maybe more than that. Some years I’ll do it multiple times; some years not a whole time.

By the way, the point isn’t how many times you read the Bible. But I will say this: A lot of Christians are going to get to heaven and find out there were whole parts of this Book they never ever read. I just wonder what . . . When the Lord says to us, “I gave you this Book. I gave you My heart. I gave you My ways,” I want to know the whole thing. I want to be immersed in it. I want my life saturated in it.

But some of these parts, some of these passages I’ve read probably hundreds of times, and yet, because this Book is alive and because the Holy Spirit inspired it and personalizes it to us, it’s fresh.

Now, I don’t want to say that my devotions every day is fresh. Some days, and in some parts of the Bible, I feel like I’m trudging through some difficult territory—you get to the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, and that’s not always the most exciting part of God’s Word. But I believe it’s all profitable. I do often pray and ask the Lord, “Would You make this fresh in me?” When I hear it read, when I read it myself, it never, ever, ever gets old.

I hardly ever read another Book more than once. I love reading, but there are not many books I read more than once. This Book, I don’t get tired of it. I love the whole scope of it. I love the span from the Garden in Genesis to God’s redeemed heaven and earth at the end of Revelation. I love how the arc of the story, how it goes from creation to the fall of man to God’s redeeming plan being worked out. I love coming back to the book of Revelation again and again and again. That’s another Book I memorized a few years ago.

When I get discouraged or it seems like the evil is overtaking the world, I love going back to Revelation and reminding myself how it ends . . . when the Man on the white horse comes in Revelation chapter 19 and He wields the sword, which is the Word of God, and He overcomes all the forces of evil and all of Satan’s armies and power, and then the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah! Amen!

I love knowing where this story is going because if you didn’t, when you read the news, you'd be depressed. I don’t get depressed. I mean, I get heavy hearted. I get burdened. But I know God is a redeeming God who is making all things new—and that includes me. When I get depressed or discouraged, it’s my own sin, my own failures. Sometimes I think I’ve been back at this same issue again and again, and then God encourages me with His grace, with His Word, with hope, with faith. This Word, this Book, it’s God’s Word.

When the Bible speaks, God speaks. So I can’t say enough about the value of having (probably have said too much already) this in your live.

Paula: And it’s not just you with the Word. You also receive the Lord’s grace through hearing the Word preached.

Nancy: Yes. I’m a big believer in that and so many aspects of our corporate worship and faith. I was talking with someone the other day about someone, a mutual friend who, for years and years does not go to church, but she's physically able. The person said to me, “Well, she watches programs on television.”

I didn’t say anything in that conversation, but I’m just thinking, “We need the Body of Christ. We need the Church assembled. It’s particularly important to me to hear the Word preached because I’m giving out the Word to others so often. So it’s really important to me to get to my church or, if I’m out of town, to a church where I can get under the preaching of the Word of God and hear it preached and let God speak to me.

Now, I will say this: Over the years, I’ve been under a lot of pastors, heard a lot of preaching, and some are better preachers than others. But I find if I go to the service with an open heart and a prepared heart . . . Now, if I’m up watching TV late on Saturday night and socializing and not getting a good enough sleep and just popping into church with my eyes half open, I’m not going to get so much out of it.

But if I’ve been preparing my heart, and I’m submitting my heart to the Word of God and to the God of the Word, then there is hardly a sermon—assuming it’s biblical—that could be preached that doesn’t in some way minister to my heart. So I just go saying, “Lord, speak to me. Speak to me, and whatever You say, I want to say, ‘Yes, Lord.’”

So, yes, we need to sit under the preaching of the Word. I think it’s important to have it—to be there for it, to be present with the people of God as collectively. In my church last Sunday, our pastor was preaching in the gospel of Luke. He came to the Last Supper scene, and then we observed the Last Supper together. I was so grateful for the chance with the people of God to be partaking together of these emblems of the blood and the body of Christ. I felt very privileged just to be there by the reminders of God’s grace, the reminder of who Jesus is and what He has done.

So those are things we experience as we come together in the context of our local church to worship the Lord.

Paula: You’ve been in the church for fifty-four years now?

Nancy: Well, actually since nine months before I was born.

Paula: Yes, fifty-five. So what are some of the changes (I know you can’t go into all of them), but just a couple of the changes you’ve seen in the church over the course of your lifetime?

Nancy: Of course, probably more has changed in me and so maybe I see things through different eyes. I think in some ways that many of our churches are taking very seriously the preaching of the gospel. And I think, when I was a young girl, there was a more common concept that the gospel was what gets you saved, but then there’s not much talk about it after that.

I think there’s a better understanding in many of our evangelical circles today that the gospel is for all of life. It’s not just what gets you saved; it’s what keeps you saved. It’s what keeps you growing. So I think there’s been a broader understanding of the gospel. My own understanding has grown, and I think that’s been true in many of our churches.

Again, anything I say is going to be an over-generalization; it’s not true everywhere. But I think in a lot of places I see Christianity at work today—in this country, in the West, we don’t take holiness as seriously as was true when I was a child. Now, unfortunately, when I was a child, I think we sometimes had a truncated view of what is holiness—that holiness is this list of things you do or you don’t do. By reducing it to that, I think we turned a lot of people off to the concept of holiness.

But as a result of not really emphasizing the holiness of God, I don’t think we take as seriously our own sinfulness.

I can remember many times sitting in church, more as a younger person than recent . . . maybe it says more about me than it does about the churches. But I remember being very stirred and moved and convicted by a sense of how far from God’s holiness I was and how desperate was my need for His grace and His forgiveness and His mercy.

I think we’re much more accepting of worldliness, of being like the world. There’s much more of an emphasis today on being relevant. It’s the old, old story of Jesus and His love that is what God uses to capture our hearts. I think sometimes we’re so interested in being relevant that we’ve lost the cutting edge of the truth.

I think it’s not always so clear today in our country who really belongs to Jesus, who follows Jesus and who doesn’t because so many people prayed a prayer, they ascribe to being a Christian, and yet they in no way live like Jesus. They don’t believe the things He said. They don’t practice those; they don’t have a heart to. I think we need more of a message today saying, “Are you even in the faith?” I think our churches today (and it was probably true back then as well) are loaded with a lot of people who have religion, but they don’t have Jesus.

So these are things I carry on my heart, and that’s why I’m in revival ministry. I want to see God move and change those things.

Paula: So, the Church is the Body of Christ, not a building, so who are some of the people in the Body of Christ who have really impacted you over the years?

Nancy: Wow. There have been so many godly influences, mentors, people who have spoken into my life. I would say that one of the disciplines, spiritual disciplines and means of grace in my life is getting input from others, particularly older believers, people who have walked with the Lord longer than I have.

So from the time I was a little girl, I was always going up to older people and asking questions and asking for input.

Paula: I bet they loved that.

Nancy: I don’t know. Yes, I think some of them probably did. I maybe was a little bit of a nuisance to some of them. But my dad would really emphasize to us from the book of Proverbs that a wise person asks for counsel and listens to it, and that is so drilled into me, to be a learner, to have a teachable spirit, not to feel that I’ve ever arrived.

But particularly as a younger woman, I would often ask for input. So I remember asking the venerable, old Dr. W.A. Criswell  who was, for a gazillion years, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. I had the privilege of meeting him a number of times over the years. He was this white-haired man and a great preacher of the Word.

I remember asking him when I was probably about eighteen years old, “Dr. Criswell, I’m going to be graduating from college soon, heading into some kind of ministry, and what kind of counsel would you give me as a young woman wanting to serve the Lord?”

I just remember him saying, “Give your mornings to God.” And then we talked about that a little bit. Here’s a man from the time he was a young preacher had taken that counsel and had set aside in a much greater way than I have every morning, all morning basically . . .

Paula: Like until noon?

Nancy: Until noon-ish. I’m sure there were exceptions to this, but from early morning until [noon] he would spend the morning in the Word with the Lord. And the riches of that came out of his preaching ministry over the years, it was so powerful.

So I don’t often schedule morning meetings; I try to avoid them. I’ll go later in the day. Maybe twice a year will I have a breakfast meeting. I’m up in the morning. I work out of my home, so I have the privilege of doing this in a way that a lot of people can’t. I don’t have little ones knocking at my door at six in the morning. So I’m not saying everybody can do this in the same way. I’ve not done it in the way that he did it, but this thought of starting your day with the Lord, giving your morning to God, has been very influential in my life.

Teachers, coaches, music directors, mentors. I have learned so much from the adults in my life, and still do from older people or just people whose journey has been different than mine.

I learn now a lot from younger women. I’m loving having women who are in their twenties in my life and learning from them and them challenging my thinking. There’s some things I’ve just always thought. I’ll have some who are just courageous enough to say, “Why? Where is that in God’s Word? Are you sure?” Those kinds of conversations have been challenging to me.

We need each other. We need accountability. I have, over the years, a group of women who have spoken into my life. At times I’ve sent them a list of questions—a long list—and have said, “Don’t ever hesitate to ask me any question on this list about my own personal life, my walk, accountability, or anything else you want to ask.” So I want to not just be the one asking the questions but to create an atmosphere where people can come to me and say, “We see this blind spot in your life. How are you doing in this area?”

Don’t assume that public Christian figures are doing well in their walk with the Lord. That’s a bad assumption to make. Now, maybe you don’t have the avenue to go and ask them how they’re doing, but if you do, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve said to our team and to my friends many times over the years, “Please ask. Don’t assume that I’m having a consistent quiet time, that I’m maintaining these spiritual disciplines.”

I live alone, and I need people coming into my life saying, “How are you doing with the Internet? How are you doing with Internet games? Are you spending too much time on that? How’s your eating habits?” Whatever the issue is that could be a part of my loving the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, I want to have the input of other people into my life.

I want to be accessible; I want to be a learner. I always want to be a learner, and that’s why I’m so thankful for the Body of Christ around me.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss is celebrating her fiftieth spiritual birthday today. Blogger Paula Hendricks has been talking with Nancy about the way she’s seen God work in her life in half a century of walking with Him.

While that conversation is fresh on your mind, I hope you’ll take some time to thank the Lord for the ways He’s lead you to grow, whether you’ve been walking with Him over fifty years or just a few days.

Well, do you grow more during memorable high points, like an emotional special service at church, or do you grow more by connecting with God day by day through His Word? Nancy will tackle that question tomorrow.

Now, to wrap things up on her fiftieth spiritual birthday, she’s back to pray.

Nancy: Lord, it’s just an incredibly special thing for me to think back over fifty years of Your amazing grace in my life. I want to just thank You for hearing and answering the prayer of that four-year-old little girl, kneeling by her bed that day, and for granting faith and repentance and grace. It’s all a gift from You.

And thank You for how those seeds have taken root in my heart and are producing fruit, and for just the joy of walking with You, of knowing You, of serving You. Lord, it’s all about You. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the gospel. Thank You for such a great, great, great salvation. There’s nothing and no one else in the world that means anything to me compared to what You mean. So I just want to say with all my heart, “Thank You. I love You. I praise You. I worship You.”

And I pray, Lord, for others to know that great salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray, amen.

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

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