Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Eyes of the Lord

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with the way we sometimes pray when in the middle of a conflict. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Lord, please change this person, please fix this person, please change this situation, please deal with this issue.” But if you stay on your knees long enough, and you get in the Lord’s presence long enough, you’ll find that your prayer sooner or later is going to become, “Lord, change me.” 

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 25. We’ve been in a series called, What to Do When Life Hurts. Nancy’s been teaching out of 1 Peter 3, about how we can respond to hurt and criticisms in a way that brings glory to God.

Nancy will continue today, and here she is, reading 1 Peter 3:12. 

Nancy: “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” What does that say to you in your difficult marriage or your impossible work situation with a boss who is just an ogre. God is saying to you, “See peace, pursue it, do good, return good for evil, bless don't curse . . .” I have all these instructions, “Have a humble heart, a tender spirit, brotherly love, sympathy” but, sometimes don’t you still feel really alone? (see vv. 8-11)

I think of a woman I’ve talked with recently who is, essentially, the only believer in her very lost, pagan, ungodly family. That family has just been through a crisis, a death in the family, and my friend has had to be a Christian in a very godless set of surroundings. There have been times when she has felt very alone. That’s part of what the body of Christ is for; that’s why God gives us each other.

But there will be times in your life, your marriage, in your workplace, in your environment, when there is no one who knows, or can really enter into what you’re experiencing. That’s when you need to remember that if you are a child of God, indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, you are never, ever, ever alone.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.” I think that word righteous has two meanings, both of which probably apply here. One is that you have been made positionally righteous, that you are in fact a child of God, that you are a Christian, that you have been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, and Christ alone.

But I think there’s another aspect of that word, righteous, and that is that you’re living righteously, that you’re living a godly life, that you are obeying what the Scripture says here, that you’re letting Jesus “be Jesus” in you.

Don't expect to walk through life doing it your way, returning evil for evil, cursing for cursing, being proud, arrogant, demanding, controlling, domineering, all the opposite things and then say, "Lord, where are You in this situation?"

Now, God is merciful, and God is gracious. He has met me many times when I was not responding righteously. But I have no basis for faith to expect that He will, if I am not obeying the Scripture.

It's living out the Scripture, which you have to step out by faith and do, when your feelings aren't there; and as you are obeying God, then you can know that God's eyes are on you, that He is watching. "The eyes of the LORD," Proverbs says, "are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (15:3).

The eyes of the Lord, in a different sort of way, are on your mate, or that child, or that person who’s doing evil. The eyes of the Lord are taking note of that, too. But God is watching your response. He's not only seeing the way that the people in your church think you respond. I’ve seen this: People in the church think, “She’s such a godly Christian woman; how can that husband be that way?”

Listen, the people in your church don’t live in your home.  You may be doing all these things and still your mate or your child or whatever can be ungodly. But God knows the truth of how you really are when no one else is looking, no one else is knowing.

He knows not only your outward behavior, He knows not only the words that come out of your mouth, but He knows the heart attitude that's behind all that. "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous." That's what it means to live in the fear of the Lord. It means to live in the constant, conscious awareness that God is here; that He is watching; that He knows what I am thinking; He knows how I am reacting; He knows that I'm, "Ugh," in my spirit toward that person. God knows.

God knows, and to live in the fear of the Lord is to talk to that person within the four walls of your home as if Jesus were standing there. The eyes of the Lord are in that place. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and continuing in verse 12, 1 Peter 3, "His ears are open to their prayer." So what do you do? Pray. Cry out to the Lord.

Now, you say, "Well, tell me something that is practical. I mean, what do I do?" Here's what you do. You pray. "But that's spiritual." No, that's real. This stuff in this Book is true. It's practical. It's real. What we want is a pill or a prescription or a solution or a way out or somebody to fix it or somebody to change it. And God's saying, "Do what I tell you to do—pray. Look to Me.”

Now, a lot of us end up praying, but we end up praying after we have done a host of other things, after we have talked to a host of other people. We've called three girlfriends, and we've poured our hearts out. We've bad-mouthed the person that has hurt us, and we make sure that other people know what they have done to us. Or we go to six counselors, or we go and pour out our hearts to the pastor.

There may not be anything wrong, depending on how you do it, with drawing in another person, discreetly sharing the situation with the goal of getting that person to point you to the Scriptures and help you know how to respond. But before you do any of that, why not ask the Lord?

“Lord, I’m in this situation. I don’t feel like I can bear up under this. I’m being cursed,; I’m being reviled; I’m being misunderstood; I’m being falsely accused. This is hard!” Tell the Lord, be honest with Him. Confess to Him how you are feeling about it, how you are thinking, how you are responding.

"Lord, if You leave me to myself on this one, I'm not going to handle this right. I can't do this without You. Lord, I confess I have been angry. I've been a shrewish woman. I've been contentious. I've been a nagging wife.” And you know, women, that just reminds me, I hear so many women share issues about how their husband, or other people in their lives, are making their lives miserable.

But I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve heard a woman say to me, “You know, I’m really a contentious woman. I’m hard to live with.” I’ve heard more women than I can count say, “I can’t live with my husband,” or variations on that theme.
I’m not disputing that those husbands are hard to live with. But as you’re crying out to the Lord and asking God to deal with this situation you’re in, you have to make sure that you’re being honest and humble about your own issues, that you’re giving the Lord opportunity, you’re asking Him, “Lord, shine the light on my life, show me.”

“Are there ways that I’m wounding the spirit of my mate? Or this teenage child, or this adult child, or this mother-in-law? Are there ways that I have been, maybe unintentionally, living or responding in such a way that is causing them to react? Lord, purify me. Send a revival in our home, but start it in me."

Proverbs tells us over and over again about the kind of woman that men don't want to live with. Now, I'm not saying men can't be contentious, but Proverbs doesn't talk about contentious men. It talks about contentious women. I think many, many women are contentious and constantly picking at and driving their husbands crazy.

And Proverbs says that kind of man, what he wants to do is go up and live on the roof, or go out and live in the desert. (see Pr. 21:9) He’d rather be a hermit. And some husbands turn into hermits, even still living in the home. They just withdraw. In some cases it’s because—at least in part—a wife was not pursuing peace. She was not peaceable; she was reactionary.

You have two people reacting out of hurt, seeing things from their own point of view. Proverbs says, "Every man's way is right in his own eyes" (21:2). And isn't that true? Talk to any couple in a conflict, or any two parties in a church conflict, or in a conflict at work, or in a conflict between any two family members. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes.”

I was on the phone this past week dealing with a conflict in a family. I heard both sides of the story, and you would think you were talking about two different stories, because every man’s way was right in his own eyes.

Well, back to Peter. Peter says, "The Lord's ears are open to your prayer" (v. 12). Now, Psalm 66 tells us, if you hold on to your own sin, don't expect the Lord to respond to your prayers if you are not willing to be honest and broken before the Lord (see v. 18).

When you go to pray and you start to pray about these situations, your first thought is, “Lord, please change this person. Please fix this person. Please change this situation. Please deal with this issue.” But if you say any of these long enough and you get in the Lord's presence long enough, you'll find that your prayer sooner or later is going to become, "Lord, change me. Lord, use this situation in my life," as God always will if you will let Him, "to make me more like Jesus. How can You be glorified in my life, in this situation?"

You'll find probably that you will end up repenting. Now that doesn't mean you take blame or responsibility for someone else's sins. I know some women put themselves in that trap. “It’s my fault that my husband is such an angry man.” Take responsibility for what God shows you is your responsibility, then leave your husband to God.

Your willingness to do that is really evidence of how big you think God is. If you are going to take matters into your own hands and say, "I have to fix this; I have to change him; I have to leave; I have to handle this," what you are really doing is saying, "I can handle this better than God."

Peter takes us back to God who is sovereign, who is over all, who sees all, who hears our cries. "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, his ears are open to their prayer" (1 Pet. 3:12). There's a last phrase in that verse, "But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

Now, you could read that two ways, and I suppose either could be true. You could say, "Yeah! The face of the Lord, the judgment of God, is on that husband, that boss, that deacon in our church, that whatever, who's doing evil." It's true that person will have to face the Lord and give account. But in the context here, where Peter is talking to the believers, the ones who want to live right and the ones who are suffering, he just said, "Don't do evil, but instead do good" (3:11).

And I think at least in part what he is now saying is, "If you don't obey this, if you choose to do evil in responding to evil, count on God setting Himself against you." Now, let me ask you, in your marriage do you want God working against you? In your workplace do you want God stiff-arming you? Do you want God setting Himself against you?

Peter goes on to say in chapter 5, verse 5 that God opposes the proud. "God sets Himself," one paraphrase says, "in battle array against the proud, those who do evil." I don't know about you, but I don't want God against me. I want God's face shining on me and blessing me and giving me His favor and giving me light to walk in and showing me how to walk. I want to talk and live with Him face to face, as a person talks with his friend. I want His friendship. I need His friendship in those desperate circumstances.

I don't need Him turning His face against me. But when I set myself against God, then I, in a sense, force Him to "stiff-arm me." Because He hates me? No, because He loves me, because God is intent on purifying my life and yours. He's intent on making us like Jesus.

God knows that if I am doing evil in my response to evil, then I need the pressure. I need the screws on of having to go against the barrier that God's discipline and chastening brings about in my life. In God’s economy, when we do it God’s way, God often will overrule and change the situation, will bring about transformation in the life of the other person.

I think we need to start there, to exercise faith that God really can change the other person’s heart. And don’t assume that because the heart hasn’t been changed, for years even, that God may not still change that person’s heart. God can do it quickly. He may or may not, but He can.

I think we need to encourage one another and keep laying hold of God and believing that God really can change the situation. That husband or that adult child who's been reviling, blaspheming, cursing is not yet out of the reach of God's grace. As long as there is breath, there is hope.

Now you can't base your happiness and wellbeing on the hope that that person may change, because they may never. But don't at the same time give up asking the Lord and believing that He really can.

If you treat your mate as if he will never change, you may increase the chances that he won't. But if you live in faith that God really can redeem and sanctify and change the heart of that person, you're going to treat that person differently.

I think you leave more room for God to move. So I would say that sometimes God really does use your obedience to change the situation. Isn't that how come we're sitting here today, because Christ suffered, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God?

That's what Peter says in 1 Peter 3, "You wives be subject unto your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may won without a word by the behavior of their wives." . . . by the conduct of their wives (v. 1-2 ESV). Peter is saying that sometimes they're going to be won to faith, don't give up believing that God can do that, and that God wants to use you as an instrument of sanctification and blessing in the heart of that family member.

But I think there are times when for reasons known only to God and that we have to leave with God. He doesn't change the heart of that individual. He allows that person to continue with a hardened heart and to continue reviling and cursing. So then the question is: Do you stay with it? And I can only say to you what the Word of God says, "Keep on blessing, don't revile."

Now, you may need to get two or three godly, mature women around you who will support you in this situation, who will help you stay in there for the long haul in terms of just your spiritual stamina and perseverance.

But listen to what Peter goes on to say in 1 Peter 3. Again, talking particularly to women but also to men who are living in situations where they're being reviled and cursed. Verse 13, "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake"—and that means that you're not suffering because you egged it on, you're not suffering because you are a contentious and impossible-to-live-with woman. You are suffering for doing right, and even if you should, he said, "You will be blessed" (v. 13-14 ESV).

You say, "I don't feel very blessed." Well, we need to define "blessing." The blessing of the Lord is what makes us rich and the blessing of the Lord is a long-haul thing. It's an eternal blessing. There are blessings that God has in store for you.  He is just like parents holding out some gifts for kids at Christmas.

You can't have it now. You can't see it now, but it is there. It's wrapped. It's under the tree or you've sneaked into the closet and seen it there. You can't open it now. You don't know what's in it. You can't use it now. You can't play with it now. But it's there. It's been bought. It's under the tree. It's in the closet.

Anticipate it. There are blessings. Whether you experience them now in some measure or have to wait till later to experience them in full measure, God's Word says, "You will be blessed."

Now here's an illustration where we have to say to each other as we deal with life's hardness, "What does the Word of God say?" Counsel your heart according to the Word of God; you will be blessed.

Then he goes on to say, "So have no fear of them"—who's the them? It's the people who are cursing and reviling you, "have no fear of them and don't be troubled.” I'm just reading what it says.

If I were a therapist or a counselor and you came and asked me for counseling and I just told you that, without the authority of the Word of God, you might feel that I was unsympathetic or uncaring or just foolish.

But when it is God who is saying it, it is true. He says, "Don't have fear of them; don't be controlled by their emotional outbursts. Don't react in panic or fear. The eyes of the Lord are upon you; His ears are open to your cry!" God is sovereign. He's on His throne, and He's still in control. When you know He is, you don't have to be afraid. So let Him be, and don't be troubled.

Don't go around as a downtrodden, down-in-the-mouth, discouraged, disheartened woman! Don't be troubled.” Again, let me say, "That's easier said than done."
But it's what the Word of God says, and so you have to say, "Heart, don't be troubled." It's not that the circumstance is not troubling, but it's saying, "Don't be overwhelmed by something that seems overwhelming, but God is bigger yet! He's got the whole world in His hands!”

And all through the book of 1 Peter . . . By the way, I just challenge you to make a study of this book—memorizing it (which I have done a number of times over the years), meditate on it. I challenge you to do that with the book of 1 Peter, and you’ll see when you come to chapter 4, verse 12, “Beloved, don’t be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as if something strange were happening to you” (ESV).

Don’t get caught off-guard. Don’t say, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” Peter says it’s going to happen, don’t be surprised. But instead, in verse 13—now if he didn’t have the authority of the Spirit behind him, this would be nuts. But he says, “Rejoice.”

He’s not just saying, “Hold on by your toenails, put a smile on your face when you go to church, buck up, bear it, survive . . . “ He’s saying do more than that. “Rejoice, insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”

When you suffer, by living with that person who’s chronically evil, you are sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and in a sense you can say, “What an honor. What an honor!”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been offering hope for hurting families. That message is part of a series called, What to Do When Life Hurts. We don’t have time to air all of Nancy’s messages in this series, so when you order on CD, you’ll get more teaching than what you’ve heard on Revive Our Hearts this week.

For a lot of listeners, this series is marking a turning point. A lot of women are choosing to give God their pain and walk in fullness. To help you go deep in this process, we’d like to send you a book by Kay Arthur. It’s called When the Hurt Runs Deep.

She’ll take you through the Bible and show how God met with people in the middle of their hurt and walked with them through their pain. She’ll also give you practical advice you can use when you’re wronged, or tempted to dwell on past hurt.

We want to send you Kay Arthur’s book When the Hurt Runs Deep. We’ll send a copy when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for When the Hurt Runs Deep after calling 1-800-569-5959.

When a couple is getting to know one another, how can they know when it’s God’s will for them to marry? Bill and Holly Elliff answer that question as they show you how to lay a solid foundation for marriage. 

Bill Elliff: When you go back to the original purpose of marriage, it was that this person was to be a completer to you so that you could better display the glory of God. If you’re in a spot in your relationship where that man is pulling you away from Christ, she’s pulling you away from Christ . . . and you can’t begin to see, at least in embryonic ways, "They are helping me to God; they are helping me to manifest, to reflect the image of God," then it’s not time.
 

Leslie: That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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

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