Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Have you encouraged your husband lately? It may be more important than you think. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I think we as women forget or maybe don’t realize how much men need encouragement and affirmation. They’re going to battle and when they do, they need to know that there’s someone to come home to who cares and who’s been encouraging them in the battle.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 7.

Do you want the men around you to be courageous; to take leadership; to protect and provide? Then maybe you need to be an encourager. Today Nancy will help us see how the encouragement of a godly woman can affect potentially great leaders. Here’s Nancy in a series called, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

Nancy: We’ve been talking about what it means to be distinctively feminine and to exert our influence as women in ways that are womanly; to exert ourselves in ways that enhance male strength and leadership.

I have to tell you that this is not a way of thinking that has always come easily or naturally for me. Those of you who know me know that I am a strong woman. I have a lot of opinions; I have some natural strengths and gifts; I’m outgoing.

I have found myself at times over the years, really wrestling with the Lord and with the Word of God over my understanding of what the Scripture teaches about—what it means to be feminine. There have been times, honestly, in the past when I resented what I felt was the biblical teaching on womanhood.

Now my theology was conservative. My understanding of Scripture was conservative, so I couldn’t just walk away from that. I had this view that it was men that God used to really do ministry, and that if I’d been a man I could have been more effective, more useful, and more fruitful in ministry.

As a single woman, my role has not been as a wife or as a mother, so what am I supposed to do with this stuff that’s in my heart? There were times . . . I remember when I first was working for another ministry and the leader of the ministry came to me and asked if I would start doing women’s conferences. I was twenty-one years old, and he wanted me to travel and do these conferences for women on the woman’s role in the home.

Honestly, when I was first asked that, I was really turned off by the idea. I thought, “I do not want to spend my life talking to women at women’s conferences.” I didn’t say that, but that was kind of my visceral reaction. The truth is, honestly at that point, I really wasn’t comfortable with the fact that God had made me a woman.

Through my 20s I wrestled with a lot of these things and still into my 30s. Some days I still struggle with what it means to be a woman; to be a receiver; to be a responder; to affirm, strengthen, and lift up male leadership. I want to share with you ladies that for men to be godly, they have to deal with their own issues. Because for them it means the willingness to step up to the plate; to take leadership; to provide and to protect in ways that their flesh doesn’t want to do all the time.

So we all have our own wrestling with our flesh. But as I’ve come to understand more of God’s heart and God’s plan and God’s design and God’s ways and the beauty of God’s creation—male and female; He created them to reflect His image—I have come to love what it means to be a woman.

Now you say, “What does that all have to do with the series we’re in?” Well, we’re talking about Deborah in the book of Judges. She has been used as an icon of the evangelical feminist movement for years and years.

I’ve kind of been afraid in a way to teach this passage because on the face of it, it seems like Deborah promotes the viewpoint that we ought to be putting women in positions of primary spiritual leadership. But the more I studied this passage, the more I realized that’s not what her life says at all.

Her life illustrates to us how to be a woman of influence in a way that is godly and feminine. We’ve been talking about some of the evidences of femininity—distinct femininity in the life of Deborah—in Judges chapters 4 and 5.

We see that she acts in such a way as to affirm and lift up male leadership. As the men rose to leadership in her day, it delighted her to see that God was raising up men to take leadership. You see that particularly in the fifth chapter.

Then we see her nurturing leadership in Barak, who is the man that God is raising up to fight this battle. Her role is to provide an opportunity for men to fulfill their God-created calling as leaders, defenders, and protectors.

We see that Deborah is not a woman who’s looking to get the credit. She’s not trying to be the hero of the story. In fact, this story really isn’t about Deborah. This story is about God. This story is about how God used a woman to change a whole culture; to bring men out of hiding; to bring men to the places of leaderships that women wished they really would take.

We see Deborah in a helper role in this passage. It’s helped me a lot to understand that this is why God made women—to be helpers. God didn’t make men to help women. Men are given the responsibility to provide and protect, but a woman was created with a distinctive purpose to be a helper suitable to men, to adapt, to fit in, to help, to encourage and strengthen.

When Barak says in Judges chapter 4, “I’m not going to this battle unless you go with me,” (v. 8 paraphrase) whether it was because of unbelief or just because he respected her walk with God, and he wanted to make sure that God was with them in the battle. Whatever the reason he says, “You need to go with me into battle.”

She is willing to accompany Barak into the battle. She says in verse 9 of Judges 4, “I will surely go with you.” Whose idea was it? Not hers, but his. She’s responding. She’s created a situation and a circumstance where he is freed up and empowered to lead.

So he says, “Go with me.” Now he may be scared to death. That may be why he’s saying it. But she responds to that, and she says, “I will surely go with you.”

I’ve been quoting some during this series from a booklet by John Piper called, What’s the Difference? It’s a chapter out of a larger book actually. This chapter has been so helpful to me in my role as a woman. Let me read to you a paragraph—a fairly lengthy paragraph—out of that book that I think addresses this subject.

John Piper says, "there are ways for a woman to interact even with a male subordinate" . . . There may be a situation where a woman is actually an employer and has men working for her in different ways.

There are ways for a woman to interact even with a male subordinate that signal to him and others her endorsement of his mature manhood in relation to her as a woman. I don’t have anything in mind like sexual suggestiveness or innuendo. Rather, I have in mind, culturally appropriate expressions of respect for his kind of strength and glad acceptance of his gentlemanly courtesies. Her demeanor—the tone and style and disposition and discourse of her ranking position—can signal clearly, her affirmation of the unique role that men should play in relationship to women, owing to their sense of responsibility to protect and lead.1

Now, I don’t know if you got all that. If you didn’t, I encourage you to order a copy of that booklet by John Piper, What’s the Difference? We’ll tell you how you can get it. He’s really just saying that the way we as women speak and function when we’re with men—and obviously it’s different if it’s your husband, a boss, or a man in the church.

How you live this out may look different, but there are ways as women that we can signal to men our affirmation of them as men. John Piper even talks about . . . Sometimes when a woman feels she needs to help a man move into a new direction, he [Piper] says, “A woman who believes she should guide a man into new behavior should do that in a way that signals her support of his leadership.”2

I had dinner this week with a woman who’s in another ministry. She has a very responsible position there, and one that I think is not unbiblical. She’s not having a pastoral role in a local church. I think the Scripture is clear that those positions should be held by men. As I say that I know, I know that some will disagree with me.

But this woman is in a parachurch ministry and has a lot of responsibility, but she’s under male leadership. This is a woman who came out of a feminist background. She didn’t come to know the Lord until she was in her 30s. She’s very capable, very articulate, very bright, but she has a real heart for the Lord, and wants to use those God-given gifts in ways that are appropriate for her as a woman.

We sat at the dinner table across from each other, and I just talked to her about some of the ways that the Lord has helped me—practically, as a woman in ministry—serve (often with a lot of men on staff) in ways that are distinctively feminine. I said, “I’ll be sometimes in a meeting with a whole group of men, and I’m the one woman in the room. I’m at a peer level in terms of responsibility with the men.”

I said, “I look for a chance to notice water glasses being empty and say, ‘Can I get you some more water?’” You say, “Is that unmasculine for men to say that?” I don’t think so. But I think it’s distinctively putting myself in a serving role in ways that affirm men as men.

Affirm them; receive their leadership; receive their input. Does that mean they’re always right? Of course not. Men wouldn’t claim that for themselves. Does it mean we’re always right? No, and that’s what we’ve got to remember. We’ve got to hold, humbly, our own sense of how this ought to be done.

Then get involved in the home, in the workplace, the church, and the community with men. Do it in ways that help them; that lift them up and encourage them in that role.

Before I move into a final point on how Deborah evidenced femininity, in the way that she ministered and served, let me just respond to a question that someone asked me before the session just a bit ago. “What if in your home"—which is where most women are having to live all this out—"what if your husband just says, ‘You take care of that.’? Is he abdicating responsibility to say that?”

My answer is: He may be, but he may not be. Your husband may be being a wise manager of the home, and he may be providing godly leadership by saying, “This is something that you would be more effective at doing. I’m delegating this to you.”

Whether it’s keeping the ledger, decorating the house, picking the curriculum for the children’s schooling, or in other particular areas where he knows that you have God-given gifts and strengths. He’s saying to you, “I want you to use those.” By doing so, he’s not necessarily abdicating his responsibility.

If a man says about every area of life, “You just take care of it,” and he doesn’t show any interest or involvement or participation, that’s a different issue. But a man can be giving a basic oversight and boundaries and direction and still be delegating to you, the carrying out of many of those particulars.

A wise husband, like a wise president of a corporation, will do that. He’s going to play to your strengths and encourage you to use those. We need to be careful not to be too hard on men and to not assume that they are abdicating just because they’re encouraging you to take a particular responsibility.

In some situations where, for example you have a single mom, a wife with a husband who’s not a believer, a husband who is not walking with God, or he is abdicating responsibility. It’s still appropriate for you to do what needs to be done as necessary, but in a spirit that says, “I’m not taking this out of the control of my husband.”

Your spirit can communicate, “I would welcome a man’s leadership in this area of my life.” Your demeanor can still communicate you are being womanly; you are being feminine. Though in the particulars of how you live that out, you may be put in a position where you have to take some responsibilities that would not be ideal.

That’s where I’d encourage you, again, to go back to that wonderful little booklet by John Piper called What’s the Difference? As I’ve said before, you have to read that chapter carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully perhaps, to grasp the whole intent of what he’s saying. But he gives a lot of illustrations of how this masculine and feminine thing works out in the course of real life situations.

As we come back to Deborah in Judges 4 and 5, one of the things that really stands out to me in this passage is that Deborah was an encourager—an encourager of the men in her world. She used the gift of encouragement, the ministry of encouragement to stimulate faith in Barak.

Barak, as you remember, was the military man that Deborah summoned and said, “God has a message for you. He wants you to amass the troops and to go to battle against the Canaanites” (Judg. 4:6-7, paraphrase). Deborah encouraged Barak and strengthened his faith by telling him about God’s promises. She encouraged him with the promises of God.

In chapter 4 of Judges, verse 7 she quotes what God has said to her. This is a promise, and she is communicating this promise to Barak—“I [that is God] will draw out Sisera.” That is the opposing general. “I will draw out Sisera, to meet you . . . and I will give him into your hand.”

She’s saying, “God has given you a promise. Let that promise be what creates faith in you.” Then we come to verse 14 of chapter 4. Now, they’ve got the army; they’re getting ready to go into battle. Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?”

As you put this in the whole context of the passage, I don’t think Deborah is giving Barak marching orders saying, “Now’s the time to do it,” and he’s just her puppet and he’s just carrying out her orders. I think she’s standing behind him and underneath him to support and to encourage him in saying, “Be of good courage. Have faith. Be strong, 'For this is day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?'” (Judg. 4:14).

She’s reminding him that God is there. I think as I read those words of how a woman’s words can inspire courage in the hearts of men; how a woman can inspire courage in her husband, in her sons; how we can inspire courage in our pastors and in others as we lift up their hands and we affirm them with the promises of God. We’re saying in a sense, “You can do this. You can fulfill what God has given you to do. I believe in you because God in you is great.”

I think we as women forget or maybe don’t realize how much men need that encouragement, that affirmation. They’re going to battle—when they do—for their wives and their daughters. They need to know that there’s someone to come home to who cares and who’s been encouraging them in the battle.

I see in Deborah, a woman of faith and courage. To me, the legacy of this woman’s life . . . In the next session we’re going to get into the actual battle. But as we wrap up this section of masculinity and femininity issues, to me the legacy of this woman’s life is that through her faith and through her courage, the men of her day became men.

They were challenged to become more manly. They came forward; they stepped to the plate to accept their responsibility to fight against evil, to defend their wives and their children, to be the protectors that God intended them to be.

The legacy isn’t that Deborah won this great battle. The legacy is that she lifted up Barak and the 10,000 willing men and soldiers who came to this battle after 20 years of being intimidated and oppressed—one woman’s faith and courage and verbalizing that inspired these men to become really manly.

I read in Acts chapter 6 about how the early church chose a number of men to serve as deacons. We’re told that they were men of good repute and full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom and faith (vv. 2-4). As I read passages like that, I pray, “Oh God, give us godly men to lead Your people today.”

That’s something that’s been on my heart for years. I know it’s on some of your hearts. One of the roles we can have is to pray and then to encourage those men to be men of faith; to be men of good repute; to be full of the spirit. I think God has a way of using us to encourage them to step into those roles.

One of the things that struck me as I was studying this passage is when I referenced Hebrews chapter 11—which refers to this story we’re studying in Judges chapter 4. Hebrews 11, you’ll remember, is the list of all the great men and women of faith—not all of them, but many of them. That passage lists fourteen Old Testament men and two women, Sarah and Rahab, who are named in this hall of faith. Deborah’s name is not in that passage.

Do you know whose name is? Barak—the man that she inspired to take courage and to lead. Hebrews 11:32, after all of these different heroes of the faith have been listed, verse 32 says,

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith [Barak through faith] conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight (vv. 33-34).

Did you catch that? Barak is listed as a man of great faith. His exploits, his feats are the ones that are celebrated in this passage. But he didn’t start out as a man of great faith. He apparently was back there hiding with all the other intimidated men in Israel. For years, nobody had stepped to the front. They were scared, and they became passive and inactive. He lived in an era when men were fearful.

Deborah was the one who had faith. But in the end, when the New Testament story was told, it’s Barak’s faith that was recognized.

Now some women would look at that and say, “That’s cheap. Deborah should get the credit. She’s the one who had the faith in this story. That’s not fair!” Do you know what? I think Deborah would have been thrilled to see Barak’s name in that list because she wasn’t living for her own credit, for her own glory. She was living for the glory of God.

I think she was thrilled that these men who—yes, were weak. Out of weakness they were made strong. Samson surely had his shortcomings and others listed in that passage. They weren’t flawless men, and neither is your husband, and neither is your pastor. But they can be made strong out of weakness when there’s a Deborah behind them; when there’s a woman lifting up their hands and encouraging them and praying for them.

I’ll tell you what ladies, when you get to heaven, if you can hear the Lord say to your husband, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were a man of faith; you were a godly man.” Won’t you be thrilled? Because you will know that you fulfilled God’s calling in your life, which was to be a helper, suitable to your husband. If your husband is one day recognized as a godly man of faith, won’t you feel that you succeeded?

So as we exhibit godly womanliness, God uses our lives to motivate godly manliness. We can’t wait and sit around and say, “If the men would just be more godly; if they would just be more proactive; if they would just be less passive then we could be more godly as women.”

Listen! We’re only responsible for ourselves, and we need to say, “Lord, what is it You want me to do? Who is it You want me to be in this hour? How can I exercise faith, and how can I encourage the men, the husband, the pastor, the sons, the other men in my life? How can I encourage them to be all You made them to be?”

Leslie: I hope today’s message from Nancy Leigh DeMoss has given you some ideas on how you can be an encourager. Maybe Nancy’s words have challenged some of your ideas of men’s and women’s roles.

A few minutes ago Nancy referenced a short book by John Piper called, What's the Difference? If you’ve never thought much about the difference between men and women, or if you just don’t know what to think, this book will take you through the pertinent Scriptures and will help you understand the topic more deeply. It’s a thin book, yet packed with meaning. You can order What’s the Difference? by visiting

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“I’d rather not get involved.” How many times has that phrase kept you from experiencing God’s great blessing in your life? We’ll discuss that tomorrow. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

  1Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wayne Grudem and John Piper, p. 50.                                         2 Ibid, p. 52.


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