Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A God-Centered Life

Leslie Basham: In the pages of the New Testament, Nancy Leigh DeMoss finds the kind of woman she wants to become as she gets older.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Here’s a woman who’s not a busybody. She’s not a gossip. She’s not an idler. She uses her tongue to give thanks to God and to tell others about the Lord Jesus. You see the contrast here between the godly widow or the godly married woman and the woman who is self-indulgent, living her life for herself.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 19.

Today we’ll learn about a woman who was waiting during the time of the first Christmas, but she was waiting for something far more significant than a toy. Nancy’s in a series called Anna: The Woman Who Welcomed Christ.

Nancy: If you haven’t turned to Luke chapter 2, let me invite you to do that. We’re continuing in our study of Anna, who was the older woman—elderly woman—who came to the temple to see the infant Jesus who was brought there by Mary and Joseph forty days after his birth. We have just three verses about her in the whole Bible. The Lord is using those verses in such a great way in my own life.

Beginning in verse 36 of Luke 2,

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.

I think probably the better translation is she was a widow for eighty-four  years, which would make her somewhere in the vicinity of 104 at this time.

She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (vv. 36–38)

Who was she speaking of, by the way? Speaking of Jesus, to those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

As I’ve been studying this passage, the Lord brought to mind another passage in the New Testament. I want to ask you to turn there. In light of what we’ve just read, there’s a great parallel to 1 Timothy chapter 5.

I want you to follow along in that passage and you’ll see that in 1 Timothy we have a description of the kind of woman we’ve just seen that Anna was. Now the context in 1 Timothy 5 (we won’t read the whole context), but the apostle Paul is talking to Timothy about how the church, the local church, is to care for widows who have no other means of support. Widows' needs within the church are to be met practically and materially and spiritually by the local church.

The apostle Paul gives a description of the characteristics that must be true of a widow in order for her to qualify to be on the role of church widows, the widows that are cared for by the church. As we read these qualifications, you’ll say we’re reading a description of Anna. There are so many similarities here.

So picking up at verse 5 of 1 Timothy 5,

She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.

Now let’s stop there at the moment. It says that in order to qualify to be cared for by the church, this widow must be truly a widow and one of the qualifications is that she is left all alone.

In the context of 1 Timothy, Paul is saying that she has no family to care for her. She doesn’t have grown children. Elsewhere in this passage Paul says that if she has children, they are responsible to care for her. This is a widow who is truly alone in the world. She has no one to care for her. She has no resources of her own. She is left all alone.

We see that Anna—we don’t know that she didn’t have children, but there’s no indication that she did—had been widowed for at least sixty years, if not eighty-four years—a long time either way—and that she was a woman who was truly left alone.

Then Paul says here in 1 Timothy 5, this woman, this widow, who’s left all alone has set her hope on God. When you’re left all alone, first of all you find out where your hope really is. You find out what you really are hoping in. When you’re left truly all alone, you come to the place where you have nowhere to hope other than God.

Paul is saying a widow who is to be cared for by the church is alone, and she has set her hope on God, not on people, not on the government, not on things around her. She has set her hope on God. Here’s a woman who has a heart attitude of faith, a heart attitude of dependence. She’s not self-centered or self-sufficient or independent. She is God-dependent. 

Isn’t that what we’ve seen in the life of Anna? She was a woman who set her hope on God. Why did she spend all her time in the temple? Well, she loved being there, but she had no other resources, no other means of survival other than God, presumably. She had set her hope on God.

Then this woman Paul talks about in 1 Timothy 5 continues in supplications and prayers night and day. Well, that’s exactly what we read about Anna. She prayed and fasted night and day. This kind of widow who is being described here, this kind of woman has a heart for the Lord.

She loves to pray. She’s faithful in spiritual disciplines. All of that is evidence that she is spiritually alive. It’s evidence of her heart for God. What she does with her time, where her values are, what her priorities are—all of that shows what she really loves and whether she is spiritually alive.

Now that’s important because then you see in verse 6 of 1 Timothy 5 the contrast. Instead of this woman who has set her hope on God and praise night and day, verse 6 says the other kind of woman is self-indulgent. Paul says "she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives." What is he saying?

The woman who lives a worldly life, an ungodly life, an indulgent lifestyle, an immoral lifestyle, any of those, she may be physically alive, but there’s no evidence that she has spiritual life. If we have the life of Christ within us, it will manifest itself in God-centered appetites and longings and priorities and values.

So Paul says these women who look alive but they’re just living for the world, they're not alive spiritually. They may be alive physically, but they’re not spiritually alive.

I was just talking with Dorothy, who I called in the last session a modern-day Anna. We were talking over lunch about this self-indulgent line, and she said it’s so easy to be self-indulgent in our world. We have so many choices, so many options. We have so much, most of us in our culture, in the area of food and options for lifestyle, etc. The natural bent is to be self-indulgent. We’re taught, "You deserve it. You have a right to this."

I asked Dorothy, "What are some of the things that older women might do in terms of self-indulgence? What might that look like for some older women." We talked about a number of things. Television can be a means of self-indulgence. "Computer games," she said. I said, “Older women into computer games?!” She said, “Well, not real old.” Playing cards, shopping, traveling.

Nothing is inherently wrong with all of those things. The question is:

  • Where’s your heart?
  • What do you gravitate toward?
  • What do you really enjoy?
  • What is your bent toward? Is it towards self-indulgence, or is it God-centered and other-centered?

Gambling has become a huge issue with older women today. Self-indulgence. Of course, it’s become very destructive for many older women as well. The woman who is self-indulgent—by the way, whether she’s widowed or married, whether she’s young or old—is dead even while she lives.

By contrast, Paul says in 1 Timothy 5, the widow who is qualified to be helped by the church has lived a faithful life. She has fulfilled her God-given responsibilities and calling. What does that look like?

Look at verse 9 of 1 Timothy 5. “Let a widow be enrolled [that is in the list of the church’s widows] if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted to herself to every good work.”

By the way, that’s a great curriculum for a women’s ministry in a local church. That’s a curriculum for life. Those are the kinds of things that God wants us as women to be learning to do and practicing.

Paul goes on in 1 Timothy 5, verse 11, by contrast to this woman who lives a faithful, giving, serving life. He says, “Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.” There’s a lot in that verse we’re not going to get into, but let me just say it’s not saying that it’s wrong for younger widows to remarry.

John MacArthur in his study Bible says that this passage may refer to a pledge or a covenant that these women made as young widows when they asked to come under the protection of the church and they promised to devote the rest of their lives in service to the Lord and to the church. But it was a premature pledge. It was a premature covenant. It wasn’t what God had in mind for them at that point. So Paul’s saying, "Don’t enroll them as the widows. There needs to be time for them to demonstrate that this is the life God has set them apart for."

The characteristics of these women that Paul is talking about in the passage we just read, their passions draw them away from Christ. They incur condemnation. Here’s what he goes on to say about them in verse 13. “Besides that [this is these younger widows who are not faithful to the Lord], they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers but also gossips and busybodies.”

That word, by the way, busybody, literally means "one who moves around, goes around from place to place stirring up trouble, stirring up contention, saying things they shouldn’t." That’s how he ends verse 13: “saying what they should not.”

So what’s characteristic of these women? They’re idle. They waste time. They waste their time, and they waste others’ time. They live unproductive and even counter-productive lives. Now compare that to Anna. What did she do with her life? She didn’t fritter it away. She spent her life in fasting and in prayer. She was devoted to the person and the cause of Christ.

These women, Paul says, have loose tongues, not Spirit-controlled tongues. Well, how did Anna use her tongue? We read about it in Luke 2:38. “At that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him [Christ] to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Here’s a woman who is not a busybody. She’s not a gossip. She’s not an idler. She uses her tongue to give thanks to God and to tell others about the Lord Jesus. You see the contrast here between the godly widow or the godly married woman and the woman who is self-indulgent, living her life for herself.

Paul says in verse 14, “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households [here’s the key], and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan.”

What is Paul saying? The lives of these self-indulgent women provide ammunition for the enemy. When you become an idler, whether as a married or a single or a widowed woman,when you become an idler, a gossip, a busybody, you give Satan an opportunity to bring reproach to the name of Christ. These women give up their commitment to Christ and they may actually end up following after false teachers and false doctrine. They bring disgrace on the name of Christ.

Now compare that to the life of Anna. Anna lived a life that gave glory to God. Her life defeated Satan’s plan. It glorified God. Here’s a woman who:

  • stayed faithful
  • didn’t abandon her commitment to Christ
  • didn’t follow after false teachers
  • didn’t bring disgrace on the name of Christ.
  • She stayed faithful through her long life all the way to the finish line.

Let me say, by the way, just to insert a thought here, for those who are unmarried, single women, for whatever reason at this stage of life, don’t pursue marriage as the ultimate objective. Now, I’m saying whether you’re eighteen or twenty-eight or sixty-eight, whatever, pursue God. Marriage is not the ultimate objective.

Now, marriage in the will of God is a wonderful gift, but it’s not the ultimate gift. If God is pleased for you to remain single, and I know we have a lot of single women who listen to Revive Our Hearts, don’t pine away those days, those months, those years, and don’t fritter away your life with meaningless and trivial pursuits.

I can’t say that strongly enough, and I’m saying that from the heart of a single woman. I want to live a purposeful life, a meaningful life, a useful life. So whatever season of life God has you in, don’t waste it. Use it for God’s glory. If you’re single, spend those years in devotion to Christ in offering up your life as an offering to Him.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7, there is a sense in which an unmarried woman can give undistracted devotion to the Lord that is very different from the way a married woman can serve the Lord. Now married women and single women can both serve the Lord, and if you’re in God’s will, then you’re in the best place. Don’t be pining away for something God hasn’t given you. If you’re married, don’t be pining away to be single. If you’re single, don’t be pining away to be married. Use that time that God has given you, if you are a single woman, for God’s glory.

As we think about Anna, I just want to make a note here about what we don’t see in the description of Anna in Luke 2. We don’t see a woman who is bitter, who is discontent, who is pining away her life in loneliness.

We don’t see a woman who’s focused on her aches and pains, and at 103, she surely had to have some. You don’t see a woman who’s self-centered. You don’t see a woman who’s focused on her own needs or getting others to minister to her needs.

I’ve seen some older women be sweet and gracious and other-centered, and I’ve seen some become really hard to live with—cranky, self-centered, and always upset or disappointed. "My kids didn’t do this or they did do that, or the church didn’t do this, or somebody didn’t do this, or the doctor didn’t . . ." complaining.

You can do that at any age. As I become an older woman, I’m more focused on how important it is to have a life that’s free from that, and that’s what I see as a model in Anna.

We don’t see in Anna a woman who lived a frivolous lifestyle. We don’t see a woman who is entertainment driven. There’s nothing wrong with traveling, seeing some sights, going to Branson, doing things that maybe you couldn’t do years earlier, but is that what your life consists of? Or does your life consist of following Christ, pursuing Him, and making Him known to others?

You don’t see here a woman who lived an immoral lifestyle. Dorothy and I were talking about the fact over lunch that I’m reading now some reports, even out of the state of Florida where you have a higher retirement population, about how many older people today are living together. Men and women co-habiting, not married, living an immoral lifestyle. You thought of this as a youth problem, but this is now with older people.

You don’t see in Anna someone who said, "I’m tired of living alone. I think I’ll go find a man friend." That’s not her pursuit. That’s not where she’s headed. She’s seeking to please the Lord.

  • You don’t see a woman who’s a busybody.
  • You don’t see a woman who’s a meddler.
  • You don’s see a woman who’s a gossip, on the phone, on email, sending out reports about other people.
  • You see a woman who’s just so focused on the Lord, a woman who’s a life giver rather than a life taker.
  • You see a woman who knew what mattered,
  • You see a woman who lived her life for the glory of God and in light of eternity, all the way to the finish line.

That’s what I want. This is the kind of older woman I want to be. Many of you have heard me say over the years that my goal in life has always been to be a godly, old lady. I found my godly, old lady here. Anna. I’ve been thinking about her, pondering about her, and I say that’s the kind of older woman I want to be.

Do you know what’s challenging to me, it’s the thought that you don’t wake up at eighty-four or 104, however old Anna was, and find that these things are true in your life. This brief description that we’re given of Anna in her old age is the result of years, years of choices that she made along the way. Little choices, simple choices, obscure choices.

Choices that no one else saw and no one else honored or applauded. Choices to honor the Lord. Little choices to please the Lord instead of herself. Choices to trust the Lord when she could have been fearful. Choices to serve the Lord when she could have been looking to be served.

So I say if I want to be that kind of woman when I’m eighty-four, what kind of choices am I making today that are putting me on that path and will have me end up being that kind of woman at the finish line? It’s one thing to please the Lord and serve the Lord when you’re twenty, but I want to be faithful all the way to the finish line. I think you do, too.

So Lord, we put our hearts and lives before You and we say would You shape us and mold us, give us a vision for what You want our lives to be. Give us a vision for living for others and for You, a life that is truly spiritual, truly godly, set apart for You, a life that brings You glory. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, from the teaching series, Anna: The Woman Who Welcomed Christ. Nancy’s been showing us why day-to-day actions matter so much. Those little actions add up to become the story our lives are telling.

At Revive Our Hearts, we’re asking the Lord to bring about major turning points in the stories of women everywhere. Nancy’s back with an example of how He’s doing that.

Nancy: Cara wrote to Revive Our Hearts and said, “It was the middle of the night when I reached out in desperation.”

Cara logged on to ReviveOurHearts.com in the middle of the night and wrote to the ministry about some struggles in her marriage. We were able to send her some helpful materials, and as a result, she says,

I was healed, and I was changed from a skeptical, unfulfilled, hurting woman into a humble, grateful, joyful daughter of God. When I realized God saw my pain and loved me, I wept and I handed my burdens over to Him.

These burdens included a husband who had major anger issues. Cara said,

I took your 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge and learned to stop resenting him or worrying about him and our future. 

What happened is amazing. With no therapy on either of our parts, he started to soften. The more sincere and respectful I became toward him, the softer he became toward me. 

I can now say with utmost certainty that he loves and appreciates me, and we (and thankfully, our children) are reaping the benefits. 

I have Revive Our Hearts to thank, as you inspired me to finally listen to the knock on my heart that I had been aware of my whole life. I now realize it was Jesus I had to let in all along.

Wow. Thank you, thank you Lord! 

I’m so grateful that Cara was able to reach out to Revive Our Hearts all the way from Australia and that God chose to use this ministry to change the direction of her story.

In 2013, women everywhere—just like Cara—in all parts of the world who will be in desperate situations. They will be looking for help. We want to be there to point these women to Christ. You can be part of the story that God is writing in their lives. 

We’re only available for women like Cara as long as listeners like you support this ministry financially. The donations we receive during the month of December are hugely important to this ministry, and they have a big  affect on the extent to which we can continue ministering into women's lives around the world throughout the year ahead. 

So as you think about your year-end giving and what the Lord wants you to give to your church and perhaps other ministries, would you stop and ask the Lord what He might want you to give to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts during this important time? 

Over the last couple of weeks we are in the middle of a matching challenge of $450,000 that has been extended to our listeners. Some friends of the ministry will double any gift that you give to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts between now and December 31, up to that matching challenge amount. 

So we're asking God not only to meet that challenge, but to go far beyond it so we can continue ministering to women like Cara, all around the world through the year ahead. If you'd like to make a donation and be a part of the story that God is writing in women's lives, give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or if you'd like, visit RevivOurHearts.com. 

Leslie: Is there something you’ve waited for for a long, long time? Tomorrow we’ll hear what it’s like for the waiting to come to an end. Join us tomorrow 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.

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