Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Cord of Three Strands

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: People are starved for relationship. The reason for that is that God has created us for relationship.

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Relationships—it seems like everyone wants new ones, and it seems like everyone is hurting from the relationships they’re already in. Let’s listen as Nancy launches a series called, The Power of Relationships.

Nancy: I so appreciate getting letters and emails from our Revive Our Hearts listeners. I read as many of those as possible. It really helps me have a feel for where people’s hearts are, where their needs are, where their burdens are, and I want to thank those of you who have shared with us how we can pray for you and also how God is at work in your heart and in your home as we’re believing God to use this ministry to transform hearts and homes of women by the power and the truth of God’s Word.

As I read those emails and letters—and by the way, let me say we do have a team of people within our ministry who pray for those prayer requests that come in, so if you write to our ministry, you can know that burden will be lifted up, that you will be lifted up to God’s throne of grace. But as I read those, it strikes me that the most common issue that is addressed by far is this matter of relationships. People are crying out about hurt and pain and challenges and difficulties in human relationships.

Wouldn’t life be easy if it weren’t for people? Have you ever wished God would just call you to one of the uninhabited regions of the world? Of course, if you stopped to think about that, there would be a lot of problems as well. But we tend to think, If it just weren’t for so-and-so or this person or this relationship or this situation in my life that is so challenging, then my life could just be easy and trouble free.

So many relationships today are characterized by pain, by tension, anger, disappointment, fear, shame. Think about the relationships that are closest to you, the ones perhaps within the four walls of your own home. The people we’re supposed to love the most, we hurt the most, and we’re often most easily hurt by the people we’re the closest to.

As I think about this post-modern generation, not only do we have this characteristic of pain and hurt and shame, but then we also have a profound sense of loneliness, alienation, isolation, chronic loneliness. I hear it not just from elderly widows, who you could understand their feeling really lonely, but I hear it from women with multiple children. You can be in a house full of people and still feel very, very alone.

There’s a fear of intimacy. In many in this generation, there’s a sense of disconnectedness. “Where do I fit? Where do I belong?” People are starved for relationship. We’re all hungry for relationship, and we’re going to see throughout this series that the reason for that is that God has created us for relationship. But the relationships we have on a human level often are not what God intended that they should be, and all of us would agree with that. We all have tough relationships. We all have people who, if the truth were known, we just wished they weren’t in our life.

Those struggles in relationships are made more difficult, they’re exacerbated because of things like the fragmentation of our families, broken relationships, multiple generations of divorce and remarriage. It’s amazing to me as I read those letters and emails, how many of the really troubled relationships often have to do with ex-mates, step-children, step-parents. You read these, and you say, “This is just evidence that God’s plan was not for divorce and remarriage, that God intended one man for one woman for a lifetime.”

The consequences of stepping outside God’s ideal and God’s plan are serious. Now, you may not be the one who stepped outside of God’s plan. It may have been someone else who did, but your life has been affected.

Then we just have this, what I have come to think of as the curse of busyness. It’s amazing. We have more time-saving devices than any generation in the history of the world, and yet we’re more harried and hurried and flustered and our schedules are . . . The chronic state and condition of women today is just, “Oh (huge sigh), I’m so busy.”

I’ve sighed that way lots of times, and you have as well, but this busyness affects us in our relationships. We don’t have time to do the hard work of cultivating good and meaningful and healthy relationships.

Then just practical things like we move around a lot, so we’re not as connected over the long haul to people as past generations may have been.

When it comes to strained and stressed relationships, the truth is, we can have a lot going on in the relational area of our lives that is painful, but no one else knows. We’ve become experts at masking and pretending and hiding what’s really going on. So we walk in a room like this, and we look at each other, and we say, “How you doing?” And we’re all fine.

Well, if you’re fine, then it’s okay to be fine, but the fact is, for some of us in this very room, our hearts are breaking; and many, many times it has to do with relationships. There’s stress, there’s strain, there’s struggle. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear in some form someone talking or sharing with me about a relational issue that’s a source of pain or frustration.

I experience that in my own relationships at times as well, but we’re not very good at letting each other know. In fact, we become good at just pretending and coping.

I think of a young woman I talked with not too long ago who shared with me what was an extraordinarily chaotic and abusive home background as she was growing up. But she said, when she went to school, nobody knew. She said, “People called me Miss Smiley.” She developed this ability to just be effervescent and outgoing and have this bubbly personality. She said people did not know the violence, the chaos that was going on within the four walls of her home.

The Bible is a book about relationship. God is a God of relationship. I want us over the next several sessions to look at one particular passage of Scripture—there are many, and we’ll draw in other passages as we walk through this particular one—but as an anchor for our study over these next days, I want us to look at a passage in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.

If you have your Bible, let me encourage you to turn there, Ecclesiastes. It’s one of the wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. It may be one of those books of your Bible that doesn’t get a lot of use, but it needs to get more use because there’s a lot of wisdom from God’s heart for us even as modern-day believers, post-modern generation. There’s so much in the book of Ecclesiastes that speaks to a generation like ours.

We’re going to be looking at the first portion of Ecclesiastes chapter 4. And to start off our series, I want to just read through this passage and give you the bird’s-eye view, the overview. Then in the days ahead we’ll break this down phrase by phrase and verse by verse and see how it applies to our relationships.

Ecclesiastes chapter 4, beginning in verse 1. Now I’m going to divide this passage into three paragraphs. We’re going to see the pain of injustice, and that’s where we’ll see the pain of sinful and damaged relationships—something that all of us can relate to in one way or another. Then we’ll see the problem of isolation. This isn’t the matter of painful relationships. This is the problem of no relationship, the problem of isolation. Then in the third paragraph, we’ll see the power of intimacy and what God’s Word has to say about having godly and healthy relationships.

So beginning in verse 1 of Ecclesiastes 4, we see the pain of injustice—sinful, damaged relationships. The writer says, "Again I looked [and by the way, the writer is Solomon, the second king of Israel, the son of David. He says, I looked] and I saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun" (v. 1).

Now let me just pause here for a moment to say that this phrase, “under the sun,” is a very important phrase to help us unlock and understand this passage. You’ll see the phrase again in verse 3 and then in verse 7. It’s a phrase that’s used, if I’m not mistaken, twenty-six times in the small book of Ecclesiastes.

The phrase “under the sun” as it’s used in this book helps us understand what life is like without God. If we’re just left to ourselves, if there is no God, what is life like? It has to do with a description of life in this sinful world. And the life “under the sun”—life without God, life on this fallen planet—throughout the book of Ecclesiastes is described as vanity.

In the translation I’m using here, the NIV, the word is meaningless. It’s emptiness. There’s despair in life under the sun. If there is no God, then life and our relationships have no hope. So he says,

I looked and I saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless [vanity, emptiness], a chasing after the wind (vv. 1–4).

So there we have the pain of injustice and oppression. There we have a description of painful, shameful, sinful, damaged relationships.

Then skip over, if you would to verse 7 where we pick up with the problem of isolation, where there is no relationship, and he says,

Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless—a miserable business!” (vv. 7–8).

This is describing life under the sun where we’re isolated from one another and we’re not engaged in meaningful, godly relationships. And, of course, as we move then into verse 9, we see in this very familiar portion of this chapter that godly, healthy relationships are God’s prescription for the problems we’ve just talked about—the pain of injustice and the problem of isolation. God’s prescription is the power of intimacy. Here we have described godly, healthy relationships. What does he say? Beginning in verse 9:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also if two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (vv. 9–12).

Today we want to look at the first verse of that passage that talks to us about the pain of injustice and oppression, the problem of sinful and damaged relationships. “I looked and I saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter” (v. 1).

Now, let’s just walk through that verse a phrase at a time. The writer says, “I looked and I saw something. I saw oppression. I saw tears.” As I read this verse I'm asking myself, Do I really look and see what's going on around me? Do you see what's going on in the lives around you? It's easy to miss.

We need to ask God to give us eyes to see what's really happening—not just on the outside, but in the hearts of the people we are with all the time. I'm talking about our neighbors and our coworkers and family members—people within our own homes. Do you see what's going on in their hearts?

People sitting near you in church, people in your small group, people that you are rubbing shoulders with all the time. Do you know what's happening in the heart of your child? Do you know what is happening in the heart of your mate? Do you know what their hurts are? Do you know what their pains are? We need to look, to see, to ask God to help us discern and see what is really going on.

I'm thinking about a wife who has just learned that her husband is having an affair. There is oppression; there is injustice. I'm thinking about letters I receive from wives and occasionally from husbands who live with mates who are verbally and physically abusive. I think of violence and abuse that goes on in many relationships. That's oppression; that's injustice.

I think about a father whose only son has just been killed in war. I think of a child in a supermarket, you've seen this happen, with an abusive, angry parent. Do you see that with the eyes of your heart? I think of a family whose home has just been robbed. It's injustice; it's oppression; it's painful.

I think of a young woman who has been sexually violated. There is injustice; there's oppression under the sun. Think about the whole issue that I've been reading up on recently and it's been grieving my heart. This whole thing of sex trafficking—women being bought and sold and forced into prostitution. There is oppression and injustice under the sun.

I think about widows whose children are estranged and don't talk to their mom; they don't call or stay in touch. I heard a story recently. A woman shared with me a long, tragic story about her husband and a whole issue in his family. He and his brother were estranged from their dad. The dad got divorced and then remarried. He fired the sons from the family business. I had to take notes to keep it all straight. It was a story of oppression and injustice for years.

It was a situation where the patriarch, the dad of family, died without ever being reconciled to his sons. Now this wife was having to deal with the issues of oppression and hurt and pain that her husband had been through.

Life on this planet, life under the sun is characterized by oppression, injustice, turmoil, and toil.

There are oppressors, and there are oppressed people, and there always will be as long as we are living on this fallen, sinful planet. We’re all oppressed in various ways, and—this part’s a little harder for us to accept perhaps—the truth is that we’re all also oppressors, in various ways, in various ones of our relationships.

This is the fruit of sin. Oppression is the fruit of sin, and the result of that oppression we see in this verse, “I saw tears; the tears of the oppressed.” These are tears of pain, tears of grief, tears of frustration.

And worse yet, not only are people oppressed, but, it says twice in this verse, “They have no comforter.” It’s one thing to be oppressed, but then think of being a victim of injustice and oppression but having no one who cares. There was no comforter. They have no comforter. These people, Solomon says, are alone in their oppressed condition.

That word comforter comes from a Hebrew word that means "to draw breath forcibly, to pant, to breathe strongly, to groan, to be sorry, to pity, to grieve." It means "to have compassion, to console someone, to comfort someone." It’s the idea of deep breathing, entering into the pain of someone else.

The word as it’s used in the Old Testament involves a physical display of one’s feelings, usually feelings of sorrow or compassion or comfort. It brings to my mind the idea of a labor coach while a woman is in delivery—“breathe.” It's someone who’s entering into, breathing with you as you’re getting ready to have that baby.

This is the meaning of a comforter, one who comes alongside to breathe with you, to agonize with you, to labor with you, to weep with you.

The Scripture says "power was on the side of the oppressor." The oppressor had all the advantages, but the oppressed had no comforter. This is a picture of someone who’s defeated; she’s discouraged; she’s worn down; she’s overcome, weak, helpless, overwhelmed, and all alone—no one to help relieve, no one to come alongside and to help, no one to enter into the pain.

Can I say this is where most people live much of their lives? This is where some of you are living. The power is with the oppressor. You are the oppressed. There is no one to comfort.

In our relationships under the sun, this will always be our natural tendency toward oppression, and then, as we will see, toward isolation later in this passage. The tendency in our relationships under the sun, on this planet, is toward meaninglessness, hopelessness, despair, and desperation.

Now in this verse there are three categories of people that are referenced. First, and obviously, there are those who are oppressed. Then there are those who are the oppressors. And then, by implication, there are those—the third category—those who come alongside to comfort, the comforters.

Let’s take a look for just a moment at those who are oppressed, and then tomorrow we’ll pick up with the oppressors and the comforters.

Look at those who are oppressed. “I looked, and I saw all the oppression. I saw all the tears of the oppressed.” We need to be reminded that oppression and injustice are a fact of life, life under the sun, life on this planet, life in this sinful world. It cannot be avoided. There’s no point in trying to create for yourself this perfect bubble of life where there’s no pain, where there are no painful relationships.

I think of that passage in Psalm 55 where David said, “Oh, that I would have wings like a bird. I would fly away and be at rest from the windy tempest and turmoil” (see vv. 5–7). Don’t you sometimes have that feeling? “If I could just escape from these people. Escape from this pain.” Let me tell you, that is an exercise in futility. You cannot escape pain, and you cannot escape painful relationships. You cannot escape oppression. You cannot escape injustice. You cannot protect your children from ever experiencing oppression or injustice. Try as hard as you might. It’s a fact of life under the sun that there will be oppression and injustice.

But here’s the good news: God takes special interest in the oppressed. God hears their cries. The Scripture says that God comes to the rescue. He comes speedily to the rescue and the defense of the oppressed. God delivers the oppressed.

Sometimes what frustrates us is that God doesn’t deliver and rescue us in our oppression in the way that we would want Him to, or in the precise timing or as quickly as we wished that He would. But, in time, we have God’s promise that all the oppressed will be delivered, that God will right all wrongs.

We need to remember, too, that God commands us as His people to be an extension of His heart in ministering to the needs of the oppressed. As we move throughout this passage over the next days, we’ll see how we can have a ministry of encouragement in the hearts and lives of the oppressed.

Let me ask you today: Are you in that category of the oppressed right now? Is there a relationship that you’re involved in that is painful, there’s injustice being done? It may be a mate or a child or a parent or a boss, but you feel that you are the victim of oppression and injustice. You say, “Well, it’s not that big compared to what other people go through.” If you’re experiencing it, then it’s big to you.

Could I encourage you by saying that God sees exactly what’s going on in your world? God knows. He knows all the details. He knows the parts of it that you can’t tell anyone else. Not only does He know, but He cares. He really does care.

Can I encourage you with the reminder that there is Someone to comfort you? There is a Comforter. We’re going to talk about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of the body of Christ in comforting and encouraging one another as we move further into this passage.

Let me also just encourage you to look to the end of the story and remember the day is coming when all wrongs will be righted. All oppression and all injustice will be vindicated.

Then let me remind you that God does have a remedy for your oppression. God’s remedy is godly, healthy relationships with God and within the body of Christ. As we move into this passage in the days ahead, we’ll see God’s solution for oppressed people.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called "The Power of Relationships."

At Revive Our Hearts, we believe in the power of relationships.  It’s one big way God chooses to build His kingdom.

Relationships are so important to us as a ministry, we recently hosted several women at our headquarters who are going to be “True Woman Ambassadors.” They’re spreading the message of biblical womanhood right in their own community, in churches, in small groups and one on one.

Julie White: My name is Julie White, and I’m from the Atlanta area.

Leslie: Julie first caught a passion for investing her life in other women in 1998 when she was on a retreat. She was outside on a college campus, praying and asking the Lord how He wanted to use her in ministry, when she saw a fountain there on campus.

The fountain was made of different bowls stacked up. One basin would fill up with water and the cascade down to the next. This fountain reminded her of the New Testament passage about women teaching other women.

Julie: It represents to me Titus 2 where I’m filled up with the Living Water. And it’s overflowing in my life into the women I’m pouring into, and I want them filled up with the Living Water, so much that it’s flowing into the women they’re pouring into.

Leslie: So Julie had a passion for multiplying her effort. Teaching women who would teach others.  So when she heard about a new effort from Revive Our Hearts, it quickly got her attention.

Julie: I heard about the Ambassador program at True Woman '14  My ears immediately perked up because it sounded like, “Hey this is what I do.  It sounded very interesting and I wanted to check it out.”

Leslie: Now, as an Ambassador, Julie is involved in spreading a True Woman Movement to women in her community.

Julie: Getting in touch with women who influence women, finding them, and making sure that they've heard of this, that they are aware of the materials that are being offered is so helpful. It enables me to think bigger. The generosity of Revive Our Hearts is so exciting to me. I'm so grateful to have materials that I can pass on to other women leaders. Then to know that even if there is no one else going through this in my town, there is certainly other Ambassadors around, and even around the world, who are excited about a grassroots movement.

Leslie: Nancy, it’s encouraging how God is raising up leaders who want to invest in other women.

Nancy: Leslie, I’m so excited Revive Our Hearts can work with these brand new True Woman Ambassadors. We’re seeing how God is working in various parts of the world. And then to come alongside leaders in those places to support them to do what God has called them to do. It’s a way we can use the power of relationships to accelerate a movement of biblical womanhood and revival.

We are hearing from women everywhere saying, “I want to be a True Woman Ambassador.” But the team processing those applications is small, and we are working hard to get to all the requests. This is an area of huge potential to multiply the message, but we need your help.

Revive Our Hearts can’t invest in these leaders without the support of listeners like you. In the last several months, the income has been less than we’ve projected for that time. And we're preparing for the summer when giving usually takes somewhat of a downturn.

To take advantage of huge growth opportunities like the Ambassador Program, we’re asking the Lord to provide in a big way here during the month of May.

We’re asking Him for $450,000 or more. That includes a matching challenge of $40,000 for every new giver to the ministry. So maybe you've been listening to the program for months or years, and it's been an encouragement and blessing to you. Maybe it has helped you in some practical way in your walk with the Lord, in your family, but you've never sent a gift to support the ministry financially.

If you give that first gift this, your gift will be doubled as part of this matching challenge. That means your gift of $25 becomes $50. Your gift of $100 becomes $200. Your gift of $500 will become $1000. Whatever God prompts you to give, that amount will be doubled if this is your first gift to Revive Our Hearts.

So whether it's your first time giving or perhaps you've supported the ministry before, you can make your donation towards this month's needs by calling us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

So I want to say a huge thank you for your prayers and your financial support this month. Part of which will make it possible for us to send these True Woman Ambassadors to share this message, to multiply it, and send it throughout the United States and to other parts of the world. Thank you so much.

Leslie: When you think of an oppressor, an evil dictator might come to mind, but each of us can be an oppressor. Nancy will show you why on the next Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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