Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Discipline Is Not a Bad Word

Leslie Basham: God doesn’t ask us to get our act together before we come to Him. In fact, He requires just the opposite. Here’s Anne Ortlund.

Anne Ortlund: It is when I confess my weakness that He can begin to pour in His strength. When I think I can do it, I fall on my face. God can start with you when you’re willing to say, “Here is my need. I need help.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 23. A glove can’t do anything without a hand inside of it. Today our guest, Anne Ortlund, will describe to us how we’re kind of like a glove—powerless without God’s presence inside us. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m so grateful to have a very special guest with us today on Revive Our Hearts. Her name is Anne Ortlund. Anne needs no introduction to many of our listeners. But in case you’re not familiar with Anne, she’s a best-selling author of over a dozen books for women, including: Children are Wet Cement, Fix Your Eyes on Jesus and My Sacrifice, His Fire. The one that I read as a college student that particularly impacted my life 25 years ago was one of her earlier books called The Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman.

Anne, welcome to Revive Our Hearts. We’re so thankful that you could be with us today.

Anne: Oh, Nancy, I’ve loved you for a long time.

Nancy: You have. I was in the church that your husband pastored when I was a college student. You and Ray have had such a sweet impact in my life, even though we’ve had very little connection over those 25 years, but for me much of it has been through your writings. Now I’m delighted to see that three of your books, including the one that I read all those years ago, The Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman, and two others have been combined into a big, thick, beautiful hardback book called The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman.

Anne: I like that title better anyway, but the three are the trilogy that came out separately originally—The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, The Disciplines of the Heart, and The Disciplines of the Home. Those three touch the hearts of just about every listener I think that is listening to your program at this moment.

Nancy: Absolutely. I’m just hoping that every one of our women listeners will order this book. It’s a book that you need to have and you need to read carefully because it covers so many practical areas. Each of the three books that are combined in this bigger book start with the word disciplines.

Anne: Yes.

Nancy: I have to say that I wonder why you titled books disciplines—three books you did, not just one—when disciplines for a lot of people is a word that we’re not sure we want to go into a bookstore and ask for a book on discipline.

Anne: We were wrestling with the publishers on a name. They wanted to make it Personal Secrets for Inner Beauty, and it just made me want to throw up. I do believe that we women have a feeling that our lives are out of control, don’t you, Nancy? Many times we need discipline. We know we need it.

Nancy: I do, and we hear that from so many of our listeners. In fact, I’m holding here an email that one of our listeners—and this is representative of many—but a young wife and mother saying,

My problem is that I am very undisciplined in just about every area of my life.

She talks about some of her past growing up where her parents didn’t really teach her some practical life skills. Now she’s married and she says she has a great husband. He’s self-disciplined. But she says,

I, on the other hand, can hardly be consistent about brushing my teeth. I’m lazy. I’m disorganized. If you’d walk into my house you’d think we were total slobs.

I want to be the best wife and mom that I can be, but I keep failing because of my selfish, undisciplined ways.

She talks about her weight, how she dresses herself, how she looks physically. She talks about how she can’t get up in the morning to make her husband breakfast, which would mean a great deal to him if she would. She says,

I have no routine for my day. I can’t stay within the budget that we’ve set up. [Then she says—and my heart just so went out to her.] I want to change, and I pray about these things. I love my family. I want to be the best I can for them. But I’m still struggling. Can I still gain the skills to become a disciplined and productive part of society? Is there hope for me, a 31-year-old, to change?

Anne Ortlund, what do you say to this listener and lots of us who could say that part of that email would be true of us?

Anne: God is the God of new beginnings.

Nancy: Amen.

Anne: Isn’t that wonderful? He has with me over and over. It is when I confess my weakness that He can begin to pour in His strength. When I think I can do it, I fall on my face. So the very fact that she has expressed her struggles, that she’s not satisfied with the way she is at this moment, congratulations! I hope you’re listening, dear lady, because this is wonderful. This is the way God can start with you, when you’re willing to say, “Here’s my need. I need help.”

Nancy, at this moment I’m thinking of a glove. This glove, if I hold it up by the wrist, is just limp. It can’t wave bye-bye at you. It can’t pick up anything. It’s just totally without strength. But if I slide my hand into the glove, then you say, “Oh, my goodness, this glove can play the piano and become everything.”

She needs first of all to ask Christ to come in to be her discipline, her strength, her motivation, her everything that she doesn’t have in herself. It won’t be the glove doing it. Somebody would say, “Oh, my goodness, look at all that glove can do.” No, it’s the hand in the glove.

Nancy: That hand is . . .

Anne: The Lord Jesus Christ. He is our only hope of glory, our only hope of putting together a decent house and dressing right and losing weight and fixing a husband’s breakfast, all the rest. It all begins with Christ in us and letting Him do the work instead of trying to do it on our own.

Nancy: That’s so important because otherwise we’re going to strive and struggle and try to perform. We’re really going to Mount Sinai where the law was given and trying to do on our own what we don’t have the power to do apart from Christ.

Now in your books brought together in this one book, The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman, you talk about some exterior disciplines that are very practical in nature. Then you talk about some disciplines of the heart. Let’s start with some of those exterior disciplines, although I know that the renovation starts in the heart. But sometimes you just need some help getting started, bringing some order to the clutter of your world and your life and your schedule. For a person who feels like their life is just out of control, not ordered, help us know how to start.

Anne: Well, I think about the closet. There’s not even a chapter on the closet, but it’s a place to begin because it’s kind of a visual picture of a woman’s whole life. If it is stuffed and cluttered with too much stuff in there and there are things that she has not worn for two years and things that need mending (she can’t wear them until they’re mended), and all that baloney in there, that maybe is because her life is like that or her heart is like that.

I love 2 Corinthians 5:17. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone” (NIV). I understand that the verb there is passing away. It’s not totally gone yet, but it’s in the process of leaving. The new is in the process of coming on and all this is from God.

So you go through your closet and you pick out all the stuff that you’re not wearing. I call it eliminating and concentrating. If she narrows it all down to what she’s wearing at the moment or this season and gives away a lot of that baloney, her closet will start to look better. She’ll open the door and she’ll know that whatever is in that closet is mended; it’s cleaned; it’s ready to go.

That’s kind of the way our whole lives are. If we keep saying to the Lord, “Lord, get rid of the things in my life that have been there too long. Help me to eliminate the clutter so that I can concentrate on what You have for me right now.”

Then, Nancy, suppose somebody says, “Will you teach the Sunday school class?” Before you might have said, “Oh, I can’t. I’d love to but I’m just too busy.” The woman who thinks about eliminating and concentrating, she’ll say, “Wonderful! This must be of the Lord.” What must go in order that I can take on this new thing?

Nancy: So it’s not just our closets that this relates to, but our schedule and our priorities on a daily basis.

Anne: Yes. When you think about the closet, if I buy a new blouse, which blouse is going to go so that I have the same number of blouses hanging in my closet? Or if God is asking a certain new challenge from me—something to do for Him—what must go in order to take it on?

Nancy: If there was one word I was going to use to describe many of the women I meet today, it’s the word, stressed. I think there’s a feeling that I have to be doing all these things. That these are all things that I have to do at this season in my life.

Yet you have four children. They’re grown now, but they weren’t always grown. There was a season of your life when you had to learn, with all those demands (a wife and a mother and a pastor’s wife, an author), how to eliminate and concentrate in relation to your schedule.

Anne: Nancy, I disciple five women every year. These are gals in their late twenties and early thirties most of them, occasionally mid-thirties. They are trying to do it all. The Christian pressures are to have them in a Christian school (that takes a lot of money), to have them taking piano lessons, to have them playing soccer, to have them taking ballet, to do everything that everybody else is doing.

We’re not looking at the Word of God. We’re not on our knees seeking God’s direction. We are doing what our Christian sisters are doing and we’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. No wonder we’re pressured and stressed out.

Nancy: That reminds me of a passage in John chapter 17, verse 4, where at the end of his life, Jesus prayed to His Father. He said, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.”

You think about the requirements in Jesus’ life. Talk about a long to-do list. He was sent to earth to accomplish the plan of redemption and given three years to do it. Talk about a life that could have been stressed out with the people and demands.

Yet He started each day by seeking the face of His Father, getting God’s agenda, God’s to-do list for His life—eliminating and concentrating. Jesus didn’t do everything that could have been done on this earth while He was here. What He did do was everything that His Father gave Him to do.

I have as a life goal, Anne, to be able to look at the Lord at the end of my life, but also at the end of each day, and to say, "Father, I haven’t done everything that could have been done today, but I have glorified you on the earth because I have done the work that You gave me to do."

Anne: I think about Luke 5:16 when Jesus was at the height of His popularity and the crowds were pressing in, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (NIV). That’s where we’ll get our order.

When our lives are ordered, when our hearts are ordered with the things that God gives us to do, it’s going to be reflected pretty soon in how our desk looks. It won’t have a thousand thousand papers and we can’t remember what each one is for. It will give a sense of peace in our hearts if God is helping us to eliminate the visible clutter around us.

Nancy: You talk about having a serene heart, and you challenge us about the danger of becoming what you call “gray Christians.” Tell us what you mean by that.

Anne: Blah, dull, mediocre. When we say those words, the listener is saying, “Oh, I don’t want to be that. Surely God made me for more than that.” That’s dead right. I think many times women are so frustrated and upset and stressed because they feel they’re not in control. Well, whoever said they should be in control? They need to surrender to the Lord and let Him be in control.

Nancy: You know we really are born fixers, aren’t we?

Anne: Oh, we are fixers.

Nancy: We fix everyone else around us and everything around us.

Anne: I think the sovereignty of God is the most comforting doctrine that I know. If we will deliberately relax and yield and say, “Lord, not my will but thine be done,” for the first time the burden will be off of us. We’re not trying to play God after all. We can let Him be God and to take over what we cannot do. Then His strong hand of power will be on us to work in us and through us and be with us. Oh, it makes all the difference.

Nancy: I remember a good friend—it takes a good friend to say something like this—saying to me at one point when I was stressed out over some series of circumstances in my life. I can’t even remember what now, but at the moment it seemed so overwhelming. I was just ticking off all these things that were stressing me out. She just said very calmly on the phone, “Remember, Nancy, you’re not God.”

It took me back for a moment, but I needed to hear that. Of course, I know I’m not God, but I was acting for the moment as if I kind of were God. I was trying to control this and fix that and change that. As a result, I lost my peace. There was no calm or order in my heart, but when I stop and say, “God, You are God, and You don’t make mistakes.”

Anne: The reason why it is hard for us to surrender to Him I think is this matter of ego. We’ve got to wrestle that to the ground. There is a chapter in here that says we are both weak and wicked. The publisher said, “You don’t really want to say that.”

Nancy: That’s a chapter title.

Anne: That’s a chapter title. It is. In fact, you and I are both weak and wicked. There it is in black and white. Let me give you an illustration. This little book tells about a woodpecker who was just pecking away and was almost getting a headache. (Why don’t woodpecker’s get headaches?) He was pecking away on this tree and nothing was happening.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightening struck that tree and split it straight down the middle to the ground. He discovered that he had been blown off that tree 20 feet away, and he was lying there with his feathers scorched and his headache and he’s a mess. He picks himself up and he said, “I didn’t know I could do it.”

Our ego keeps wanting to take the credit. If we will just take the blame instead and give God the credit, we will be on the way to the sweetest, most powerful life that we could possibly live.

Nancy: That’s really how you define meekness, which was so helpful to me. It’s becoming released from the burden of ego.

Anne: Yes.

Nancy: Humbling ourselves.

Anne: Yes. Meekness is not being a wimp. It’s strength under control—under God’s control.

Nancy: So you’re saying that if we’re going to have this internally ordered heart, this serene heart, that we need to first get clean. Get rid of the ego. Commit ourselves to purity, where necessary repent, confess, grieve over our sin. Just get rid of those hindrances to God’s presence and power in our lives. Then you challenge us to get rested.

Anne: Well, that’s what Hebrews chapter 4, verse 11, says. It says, “Strive to enter that rest” (ESV), which means we don’t naturally do it.

When the Israelites were told to keep the Sabbath day different from the other days of the week, they would pile up there against the gate that led into the city with their wares, ready to sell, and they could just hardly wait for that Sabbath to be over with so that they could get going again.

Now since we don’t have to keep the Sabbath, we say, “Boy, this is great. 24/7. I’m just piling it on, doing the work.” Satan is so subtle. He even makes us proud of ourselves that we’re achievers, that we are . . .

Nancy: We’re committed.

Anne: We’re committed. Oh, right. This too is ego. When we take on only what God wants us to take on, we do get rested because He says to us in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, for My yoke is easy. My burden is light” (paraphrased). He does lay a burden on us, but it’s nothing like the burden the world lays on us.

Nancy: When it’s His burden, He carries it with us and it’s not going to stress us out or overwhelm us because it’s His Spirit energizing, enabling within us.

Anne: We need to come to Jesus not only to have our sins forgiven, but just to lay our burden down on Him. He’s so ready to take it. He’s the only one that can manage it anyway.

Nancy: Talk to us about abiding in Christ.

Anne: Well, it’s a command for one thing. So it’s not something that every Christian automatically does. John 15 tells us to abide. He wouldn’t command it of us if we just automatically did it. So what it means is, against our own natural impulses, we are to seek to live and move and have our being in Him. To say, “You are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20, NIV). “I will do what You want me to do. You do Your works through me.”

If I just nestle under His wings, as the Psalms say, in Him abiding in the place of safety away from the storm, in the place of calm, there is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God. Not only near, in the heart of God. I am in Him. He is in me.

Nancy: Anne, are you just naturally a calm, resting, abiding woman?

Anne: Are you kidding? I’m not naturally anything good. In myself, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing.

Nancy: So could you be an uptight woman?

Anne: Oh, not only could be, I frequently am. Then I repent of that because I know that’s sin. It’s a continuous process, isn’t it? It’s not a once-for-all thing. You have to continually, continually run back to Him again. But oh, I know the more I do it, Nancy, the more calm and peaceful and joyous my life is.

Nancy: So here’s the invitation. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, burdened down, and I will give you rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in spirit, and you will find rest for your souls” (paraphrased).

Do you need that rest today? Are you that uptight woman, maybe a shrew in your own home. Nobody at church knows it because you can control there, but in the four walls of your own home, maybe you’re living that frazzled, frustrated, frenzied life. Anne has said we need to repent, and she’s right.

I just want to invite you to stop right now, take a deep breath, lift your heart to the Lord and say, “Lord, forgive me for trying so to be in control, for trying to manipulate and to control my environment, for not casting my cares upon You. Right now I do that.” Just lift up your hands to the Lord and lift up those burdens to the Lord, those concerns, and say, “Lord, You are God. You are sovereign. I lift these concerns up to You. I rest in You.”

Father, how I pray that You would cause our lives as women to reflect to our world the gentleness, the meekness, the graciousness, the mercy of Christ, His beauty. That our ordered lives may reveal to the world the greatness and the goodness of who you are. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leslie: If you just prayed that prayer with Nancy Leigh DeMoss asking God to take hold of your life, would you write and let us know? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com and click on “Contact.”

Then would you spend some time learning from our guest, Anne Ortlund? When you donate to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you a copy of her book, The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman. [NOTE - book is out of stock. We have a limited supply of Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman that we will be sending in its place.]

Learn how to incorporate true beauty into every part of your life, from your schedule to your wardrobe, all for God’s glory. Cultivate beauty on the outside and on the inside. Ask for The Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman when you call toll-free with your donation. The number is 1-800-569-5959. The book is also available when you make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you contact us, would you tell us the call letters of your radio station? Nancy’s here to tell us why it’s so important.

Nancy: Our team here at Revive Our Hearts tries to be wise stewards of the funds that God has entrusted to us. So when we don’t hear from listeners, we have to evaluate if a program is making an impact in that community.

Sometimes you have to make tough decisions when you’re living on a budget about how to prioritize the resources you have, and our team has to make the same kinds of tough decisions on what radio stations we partner with. Occasionally—it’s always hard, I can tell you this—we have to say we’re not hearing from listeners in that area, so maybe it’s not making an impact there.

Occasionally we have to stop airing a program in a particular area, which can lead to emails like this one that we received from a listener who was concerned when she learned that we were going off the air in her community. She said, “I listen to the program with one of my nonbelieving co-workers when we’re driving around and it gives us a way to discuss spiritual things.”

I’m so thankful for those kinds of opportunities and the way God is using this ministry in the lives of those who listen to Revive Our Hearts on more than 500 radio stations and outlets all across this country. But that’s only possible because of listeners who hear the program and then say I want to give to support this ministry in our community and in other communities around the country.

So when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts do be sure to let us know the call letters of your radio station because knowing who you are and where you listen helps us be more effective in ministry.

To make a donation online visit ReviveOurHearts.com and when you get home page, click on “Donate.” Or call us at 1-800-569-5959. Thank you so much for partnering with us in this ministry.

Leslie: Our guest today has some wise advice on how to face a growing problem for each of us: aging. Learn to face the future without fear tomorrow with Anne Ortlund on Revive Our Hearts.

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

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

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