Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: At one time or another we’ve all faced disappointment. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When I come back to God as an empty, needy, broken sinner, taking responsibility for my own life, for my own choices, I then become a candidate for God’s gracious provision, for the provision of the One who has the right to redeem everything.

Leslie: It’s Thursday, July 5, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Companies spend millions of dollars telling us that their products will provide you with convenience and comfort. The problem is convenience and comfort often will keep you from doing what you need to do. Today we’ll hear about a woman who chose commitment over comfort. Here’s Nancy in a series called Ruth: The Transforming Power of Redeeming Love. She’ll start with some review.

Nancy: We’re looking in Ruth chapter 1, beginning in verse 8: “Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home.’” The girls said to her in verse 10, “We will go back with you to your people.” In verse 11, Naomi said, “No, stay here. There’s no way that if you go back with me to Bethlehem [I’m abbreviating here], there’s no way that you will ever have a future or a hope” (paraphrased). Then verse 14 tells us that “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.”

Verse 15: “‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied with these immortal words, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (verses 16-17).

Now, I see in Ruth’s statement a beautiful picture of what it means to live a life under the lordship of Christ. As I look at the options that Ruth faced and the options that her sister-in-law faced, I see that there are really two pathways in life. Even once we come to faith in Christ, there are two different ways we can live.

The one is the pathway of convenience and comfort. That’s pictured by staying in Moab. The other is the pathway of commitment and compassion. These are two very different roads.

For Ruth, to have stayed in Moab would have been for her to take the pathway of convenience and comfort. That’s where she had security. Yes, she was widowed, but at least she knew people there. She had relatives. She had perhaps the hope of one day having another husband, of having children. That’s where she had a home. That’s where she had acceptance. That’s where she had familiarity. What was known to her, what was comfortable to her was in Moab.

How then did she turn her back on all that and say I’m not taking the pathway of convenience and comfort. I’m taking another pathway—the pathway of commitment and compassion?

What did Ruth face if she went to Bethlehem? Well, for one, she had no idea. She had never been to Bethlehem before. But she had the likelihood of being insecure, of being lonely as a foreigner and from a nation that was despised by many of the Jews.

She’s with this mother-in-law who is a bitter woman and difficult to live with. She’s saying I’m going to stay with this woman. That doesn’t sound like a great way to want to spend the rest of your life and for all she knew that was what her whole life would be. Just tied up to the commitment of being with this wounded, bereaved mother-in-law.

The pathway of commitment is seldom the way of convenience. It’s often uncomfortable. We see that our choices, whichever way we go, influence others for generations to come.

I am so thankful that Ruth chose the pathway of commitment and compassion rather than the pathway of convenience and comfort because she was one of the ancestors of Christ Himself. Through her faith, through her stepping out into the unknown, just because it was the right thing to do, we are blessed today.

Now, it makes me wonder, we may be blessed generations from now if I’m willing today to choose the pathway of commitment and compassion rather than the pathway of convenience and comfort.

For Ruth to take the pathway of commitment and compassion required a conscious, deliberate choice. “I’m going to go to Bethlehem.” You can’t just drift into the pathway of commitment and compassion. You have to make a choice.

This was a choice to leave her own people, to leave her own gods, to burn all bridges and cut all ties. It was a commitment to cleave to God and to His people and to His ways. It was a choice that was not based on emotions. Rather, it was based on faith. It was an act of her will.

To take the pathway of commitment and compassion is a steadfast, determined choice. It’s a permanent lifetime choice. I’m saying there’s no turning back. The lot has been cast. I’m going God’s way. I’m going the way that is selfless rather than selfish. It’s a hundred percent choice.

For Ruth, she couldn’t just send part of her to Bethlehem and keep part of her in Moab. It’s all of her. Everything in her life had to change—her whole environment, her friends, her relationships. Everything was influenced by that choice. Her life would never be the same again. It was a costly choice. It required that she bear the burden of her widowed mother-in-law, that she be willing to live a life of sacrifice.

So as I read this story, I ask myself and I ask you, are you and I choosing on a daily basis, the pathway of convenience and comfort—doing what comes naturally, doing what comes easily, doing what our emotions tell us to do—or are we choosing the pathway of commitment and compassion?

That’s a decision I face and you face many times every day. Invariably, every decision I make throughout the day in little matters and in big matters comes down to which of these pathways am I going.

For example, my values. If I’m taking the pathway of convenience and comfort, I’m going to seek personal gain and personal happiness. But if I’m choosing the pathway of commitment and compassion, I’m going to live a life of giving, a life of sacrifice, a life that’s devoted to meeting the needs of other people. It’s not going to be what’s in it for me. It’s going to be how can I be a giver.

It affects how I use my time, my money, my possessions. If I’m walking in the pathway of convenience and comfort, I’m going to horde things for myself. I’m going to protect my free time. If I’m living the pathway of commitment and compassion, I’m going to be investing in others sacrificially. I’m going to use my time to minister to others, to serve, to be a blessing to widows and others in need.

If I’m walking on the pathway of convenience and comfort, my home will be my home, and it will be reserved for me, and I’ll do in there what makes me happy. But if I’m living on the pathway of commitment and compassion, my home will be your home. My home will be open for others to share and others to be blessed. I will be a hospitable woman and allow my home to be a refuge and a blessing for others.

If I’m going the pathway of convenience and comfort, I’m going to be lazy. I’m going to waste time and indulge my flesh; whereas, the pathway of commitment and compassion will lead me to be diligent, to be self-restrained and self-controlled.

There are mothers who are letting their children grow up with the TV as their primary babysitter. That can be the pathway of convenience and comfort.

The pathway of convenience and comfort leads women to say, “This is how many children I want.” But the pathway of commitment and compassion says I’m willing to bear children according to God’s direction and according to His will in order to contribute to this world the lives that God wants me to bear.

Family relationships—if we go the pathway of convenience and comfort, we will avoid difficult family members. On the pathway of commitment and compassion, we will reach out to them and seek to meet their needs.

On and on you can go in every area of life. Are we living the pathway of convenience and comfort as it relates to elderly parents, as it relates to how we get self-protective when people hurt us?

We want to be with people who are like us. That’s the pathway of convenience and comfort. But as we choose the pathway of commitment and compassion, we’re willing to be faithful even when others are not faithful. We’re willing to love and forgive without limit even when we’ve been wounded and wronged.

We’re willing to be vulnerable. We’re willing to love sacrificially. We’re willing to reach out of our comfort zones to people who aren’t like us, to people who come from a different background than we do, people who are hurting and needy, people who can’t reciprocate to us.

Every area of my life is affected and determined by which of these pathways I’m choosing. So the question that comes to my heart is which of these pathways am I living on more often? Having made a decision to follow Christ, am I continuing to follow Him?

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24, NKJV). What is He saying? If you want to be my disciple, you cannot live your life in the realm of what is convenient and what is comfortable. This is a life of laying down your life.

In fact, Jesus said if you try to hold onto your life, you’re going to lose it. But if you lay it down, choose the pathway of commitment and compassion as Jesus did for us. You think you’re giving up your rights and your comfort and your convenience, but you don’t start to live, you don’t start to really experience life until you say no to your own life.

When you choose that pathway, you think you’re going to be miserable, you think you’re going to be unhappy, you think you’re going to be burdened. There is a certain burden attached to taking the pathway of commitment and compassion, but there’s no joy like it. There’s no blessing like it. There’s no freedom like what we will find when we choose that pathway of commitment and compassion.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss isn’t finished. She’ll be right back with the second half of today’s teaching on Ruth. How often do you find yourself choosing comfort and convenience over commitment? For me, well, just about every day in one way or another. God has the power to lead us in the adventure of commitment. We’ve been seeing that in the study of Ruth.

Comfort and convenience might keep you from diving into the book of Ruth in a deeper way. If this teaching has spoken to your heart, would you consider learning more? Nancy’s taught through the book of Ruth on DVD and written a companion study guide. You could use this as a personal Bible study or even better invite a group of women to study with you.

When you order five copies of the study guide, we’ll send you the DVDs at no charge. Ask for that offer when you call toll-free 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to order or learn more.

Now let’s get back to Nancy and the study of Ruth.

Nancy: So we come to verse 19-20 of chapter 1. “So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, ‘Can this be Naomi?’ ‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.’”

This is a play on words here. The word Naomi, as some of you know, means pleasant. She’s saying don’t call me pleasant anymore. Call me Mara, which means bitter, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. “I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (verse 21).

Now, do you find it interesting that she says I went away full? Do you remember why Naomi and her husband and sons left Bethlehem in the first place? Why? There was a famine. They apparently were in pretty desperate straits to make them think they needed to leave their homeland and go to Moab.

Now in light of what she’s experienced since leaving, she’s saying, relatively speaking, things were pretty good back then. We thought they were pretty terrible but since we’ve experienced some of the consequences of those choices, it looks in retrospect that we were full, though at the time she certainly didn’t think so.

Now she’s come back to nothing as far as she knows. She left Bethlehem because of a food famine and now she comes back to Bethlehem with a famine in her soul. Really that latter famine is the far more serious.

She returns to Bethlehem and her family lands have been neglected. Apparently, they’re overgrown. Now as a poverty-stricken widow she is going to have to sell the family inheritance. There’s nothing she can do as far as she knows to regain her lost inheritance.

As we see the story of Naomi’s poverty and what she goes through now as a widow coming back to Bethlehem, I’m reminded that the effects of sin in our lives are irrecoverable apart from the grace of God. If it weren’t for God’s grace, this story would have only a very sad ending. But it’s the grace of God that is going to recover the consequences and the effects that have been caused by the choices that she and her husband made.

Oftentimes, I find that you and I are not really drawn to the Redeemer until we’re desperate. That’s why it’s a loving God who strips us of the things we thought were so important, the things we thought we couldn’t live without so that in our poverty, in our destitution, in our need we might cry out to Him who is really the only One who can provide fullness for our souls.

Now she says in verse 20 that she feels like both she and God have been misnamed. Don’t call me pleasant. Call me bitter. My name doesn’t fit me anymore. I can imagine that at one time maybe she really was a pleasant woman, but she certainly isn’t now.

She feels that not only has she been misnamed, but God has been misnamed. She uses two different names for God in this paragraph. She talks about the Lord—Jehovah. That’s the personal name of God, the covenant God, the God who comes to meet His people in their point of need. She’s saying He doesn’t seem like He’s done it for me.

Then she says the Almighty has made my life very bitter. The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me. That’s a name that you may remember as the name El Shaddai. The name that speaks of God as the all-sufficient One who pours Himself into the lives of His believing children and meets all of their needs. She’s drawing upon these names of God and she’s saying it sounds like God hasn’t lived up to His name.

Have you ever found yourself feeling like maybe God had not lived up to His name in your life? I mean He has for everyone else. He does in the theology books and the Sunday morning sermons. But as you live in the nitty-gritty of everyday life, do you look at some of your life circumstances and think it really doesn’t seem like He’s been all sufficient? It doesn’t seem like He’s been the One who acts on behalf of His children.

Well, ultimately, we see in this passage all bitterness is directed toward God. Naomi says my life has become bitter and it’s the Almighty who has made my life bitter. The Lord has afflicted me. The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.

There’s an interesting verse in Proverbs chapter 19, verse 3 that says “a man’s own folly ruins his life.” Another translation says, “The foolishness of man perverts his way” or subverts his way. A man acts foolishly and then he experiences these catastrophic consequences. Then what happens? His heart rages against the Lord.

I’m meeting so many women today who are angry at God because of their life circumstances—a painful marriage they’re in. But then the truth comes out and we find out in some cases they married outside of the will of God; they didn’t have their parents’ blessing, or they didn’t marry a believer, or there was not a morally pure relationship before they got married.

I’m not saying that in every bad marriage there’s something that this woman did wrong, but I’m saying in a lot of cases, we sow seeds of foolishness, we reap the harvest, and then we get mad at God. Our hearts rage against God and that’s really what’s happening with Naomi here.

You see Naomi has a faulty view of God. When you have a wrong view of God, it will affect every other area of your life. She doesn’t see her circumstances as an expression of God’s love. She sees God as her enemy. She says the hand of the Lord has gone out against me. The Almighty has brought this misfortune against me. He has made my life very bitter.

Now, she’s right in a sense that God was connected to her circumstances, but God was not her enemy, and God is not your enemy. If you are His child, He has redeemed you. He loves you. He cherishes you. When He brings circumstances into your life that are painful, He is seeking to restore and discipline and train and refine you so that your life can be even more fruitful.

Naomi didn’t see the purposes of God in her suffering so she blamed God, which led to resentment and bitterness. She mistook God’s purpose and His motivation.

Centuries ago John Wesley said that our job is to give the world a right opinion of God. As I read this passage, I wonder how my reactions and my responses to everyday life and to the crises of life are telling the world about what God is like?

If the only thing the people around me knew about God was how I respond when I’m under pressure, what would they think God is like? What do people think that God is like based on your responses to the circumstances and challenges of life?

Now at this point, Naomi has repented. She has returned home, but she has yet to go through the process of restoration. There’s still a pathway ahead of her, as there is for all of us. From here ‘til heaven is exactly how long it lasts. A process of being conformed to the image of Christ.

So we read in the last verse of this chapter, “Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning” (verse 22). So this chapter that’s had so much sorrow, so much grief, actually ends in hope. It’s harvest time. It’s a time for fruitfulness. It’s a time for in-gathering. It’s a time for blessing and thankfulness.

Really, the story that we’re reading is about how the empty becomes full. Naomi and Elimelech were empty when they left Bethlehem because of the famine ten years earlier. They thought they were going to find fullness in Moab but instead they found more heartache, more sorrow, more loss.

Now having repented, the woman’s heart is truly empty and grieved. She has a lot of cause to be sorrowful and to be heavy hearted, but now she’s coming back to the place where God can bless her. That doesn’t mean God’s going to cause all her problems to go away. It doesn’t mean she’s going to immediately have an easy life.

It doesn’t mean you’re going to immediately have an easy life once you put your life under the lordship of Christ and begin to live as a repenter. But there’s this glimmer of hope at the end of this passage.

We’re seeing that though she doesn’t know it, God has made provision to restore her fortunes, to restore what has been lost. She doesn’t see that. She doesn’t know that, but back home is the one who is her redeemer.

As I read this passage, it says to my heart that I don’t have to stay empty. When I come back to God as an empty, needy, broken sinner, taking responsibility for my own life, for my own choices, then I become a candidate for God’s gracious provision, for the provision of the One who has the right to redeem everything.

Close at hand—closer than we realize—there stands One who paid the price to win back all the losses that have been occasioned by our wandering and our sinfulness. He is our Redeemer.

Leslie: When I read a biblical story like the book of Ruth, I don’t always realize how much meaning there is in something like the name Naomi. I’m so thankful for Nancy’s teaching which makes the Word of God come alive and teaches me how to get more out of it myself.

If you feel the same way, would you consider partnering with us to speak to more people who need to interact with the Word of God? We wouldn’t be on the air without the generous support of our listeners. Your gifts are helping us reach those who are hungry for God’s Word and your gifts are helping us speak to skeptics. One person wrote to say this:

I listen to your show all the time in the morning on my way to work just because I can’t believe how brainwashed you guys are. I honestly think your show is for the mindless that don’t bother to question anything they’re being told. [They go on to talk about their view of the Bible.] It’s just a story—make believe. It’s not real. Your stories are silly.

You know, I’m glad this person listens all the time and I hope God’s Word will penetrate their heart. If you believe in the ministry of Revive Our Hearts to speak to people in all kinds of life circumstances, will you consider joining our ministry partner team? It’s a commitment to give monthly, pray consistently, and spread the word about the program.

When you join this team, you’ll also be able to attend one Revive Our Hearts conference per year at no charge. You’ll also get a copy of Nancy’s book, Choosing Forgiveness and you’ll receive an exclusive resource, usually an audio CD, with an update from Nancy and some sort of interview or teaching that hasn’t aired yet. Get more details on the ministry partner team at ReviveOurHearts.com or call 1-800-569-5959.

Bitterness will destroy your joy. Has bitterness crept into your life? Nancy will lead us through that question tomorrow on the next Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

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

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.

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