Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to Show Strength and Dignity

Leslie Basham: This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Anything that makes me need God is a blessing—anything. You think of the things in your life right now that make you need God. I’ve got my list; you’ve got your list. I want you to look at that list and remind yourself that everything on that list is, in fact, a blessing.

Leslie: You're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, March 20. 

Fear—it tempts everybody, but you can say “No” to fear. Nancy began explaining how yesterday in the series, Facing the Future with Joy.

Nancy: We’re looking at two verses in Proverbs chapter 31: verses 21 and 25. Let me read them to you, and then we’ll jump back into this session.

Verse 21: “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” We looked at that verse in the last session how the woman who fears the Lord does not need to be afraid of storms coming for her family because she has made preparations. She has thought ahead and has taken care of their needs before the snow comes.

Then verse 25: “Strength and dignity [or honor] are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come,” or as some of your translations read: “She smiles at the future.”

I was in email with one of our staff, one of our researchers, who was helping me with this series, and she sent me this following email. I want to read it to you. It’s just a great illustration of what we’re going to be talking about today—a woman of strength and dignity. She says:

My husband was in the Philippines in the 1980s during a major political coup. As tanks turned their turrets on the mission compound where he stayed and the fighting escalated—with Filipinos switching political armbands back and forth—Bob tried to call the American Embassy for help only to be told it was up to his sponsoring mission group to get him out of the country. He packed a small bag, ready to escape out the back of the compound and over the mountains, if necessary.

Meanwhile, back in the States, my heart was overcome with fear for my husband’s safety. I fretted and fretted, the more I thought about Bob. It was the first time I had ever considered what life would be like as a widow with two small sons.

Finally, sick of my fears, I turned to the Lord—where I should have turned in the first place! I received these reassuring words from the Lord to my heart: “Your husband is entirely safe until I call him home.” The sense of God’s faithful care, no matter my husband’s or my circumstances, was tangible.

I sang "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"—finding comfort in these words: "Have we trials and temptations, have we troubles anywhere? We must never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer." I read Isaiah 26:3: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” God filled my heart with joy.

Remember what it had been filled with just moments before? With fear, but now God has displaced the fear and replaced it with joy.

[Then she closed with this thought.] When we focus on circumstances, Satan can tempt us to fear, but when we focus on the Lord, we have all we need to face those circumstances with courage and joy.

A woman of strength and dignity—a woman who is clothed in strength and dignity because her heart is fixed on the Lord.

As I think about a woman clothed with strength and dignity, another woman comes to mind. Her name is Rachel Barkey. Some of you heard not too long ago, last year when we aired a series, a message on Revive Our Hearts given by this woman who, at the time, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Weeks before she died (the cancer had spread throughout her body), she was weak, she spoke to 600 women who had come together and gave a compelling presentation of the gospel and of the hope that was hers as she was facing death because of Jesus Christ.

She’s now with the Lord, but as I’ve watched the video of that message and listened to the audio of it as we aired it on Revive Our Hearts, I think if you heard it you would say the same thing: “Here is a woman of strength and dignity; a woman of faith and joy; a woman who, in the last days of her life, was smiling at the future. In the midst of pain, in the midst of weakness, in the midst of things that would make most people dread the future, here’s a woman who was smiling at the future.”

We saw in the last session this true woman, this woman of excellence and virtue is not afraid. Now we see in verse 25 that “strength and dignity [or honor] are her clothing.” It’s a reminder, ladies, that the most important pieces in your wardrobe do not hang in your closet. You can’t buy them at the mall. It’s the clothing of godly character and moral strength.

Let me talk just a moment about the two words: strength and dignity.

That word, strength, in the Hebrew language means "boldness," "might," "power." It’s strength not of body. It’s not physical strength primarily. It’s strength of mind, strength of heart, strength of soul. She’s a woman of strength. She’s clothed with strength of mind and heart.

Then that word dignity or honor, it means "beauty," "majesty," "excellence," "splendor." She’s a woman who is clothed with strength and dignity, strength and honor, might and beauty. Here’s a woman who is able to bear up under pressure and adversity. She’s a woman who has mental, emotional, and spiritual fortitude. She’s strong within. She’s able to withstand opposition and to continue blessing and serving the Lord and others even in the midst of storms and crises.

Now when I describe that woman, does somebody you know come to mind? Is there somebody you’ve seen go through some really difficult waters? I think of a friend of mine who walked through a long, hard journey with an unfaithful husband. Now by God’s grace and mercy, he has been restored, he has become repentant, and God has restored that marriage. They recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary—only the grace of God.

But I watched that woman when she had no idea whether that marriage would ever be restored, whether her husband would ever come to true repentance, whether he would even break off the affair. I watched her, through tears, through grief and heartache and hardship be a woman of strength and dignity.

Matthew Henry says in his commentary on this passage,

Strength and honour are her clothing, in which she wraps herself . . .  and in which she appears to the world. . . . She enjoys a firmness and constancy of mind, has spirit to bear up under the many crosses and disappointments which even the wise and virtuous must expect to meet with in this world; and this is her clothing.1

John Wesley said of this passage, “She lives in constant tranquility of mind from a just confidence in God’s gracious providence.”2 I love that—if I could just get it. “She lives in constant tranquility of mind.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but that would not describe me. It’s what I want to describe me. I have ways, if I’m not experiencing my own storms, I make everybody else around me experience storms. There’s nothing really naturally tranquil about me, but I know that as I get clothed with the Lord Jesus and His strength and dignity and His beauty, His honor, His glory, that I will have that constant tranquility of heart and mind. It comes from within, and it cannot be shaken by whatever storms may be going on outside.

Now, to have that kind of strength and dignity, or honor, is not natural. We are naturally weak, not strong. Naturally, we cave under pressure. But the wonderful news is that our God is strong, and you read some wonderful verses in the Scripture about how God is clothed with strength and majesty.

Psalm 104, verse 1: “God is clothed with splendor and majesty.”

Psalm 93, verse 1: “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty. The Lord is clothed and girded Himself with strength.” (NASB)

Psalm 96, verse 6: “Honor and majesty are before Him. Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” (NKJV)

So where do you find strength and beauty if that’s what you want to be clothed with? If you want to have that constant tranquility of mind, if you want to have that firmness and constancy of mind that Matthew Henry referred to, that spirit to bear up under crosses and disappointments, where do you find that kind of strength and beauty? In God’s sanctuary. And what is God’s sanctuary? It’s God’s presence; it’s where He lives.

A woman’s strength and dignity, a woman’s strength and honor come from living in God’s presence. If you spend your time focusing on your circumstances, you’re not going to have strength and dignity as your clothing. But if you spend your time living in the Word of God, bowing before Him, getting on your knees, seeking His face, basking in His presence, meditating on His Word, you are going to be clothed with His strength and dignity.

These qualities come from Him. They are not something we can manufacture on our own. That’s why we have to cry out to Him and say as I did many, many, many, many, many days at the beginning of launching this ministry. “Oh Lord, I am weak, but You are strong.” And you know what? I’m still saying that.

“Lord, I am weak, but You are strong. Clothe me in Your strength. If You leave me to myself today, I will be unclothed. I will not have the strength and dignity I need to face the future. Lord, clothe me in Your strength and dignity.”

Now, how can we get that strength and dignity from the Lord? How can we get what we need to be able to smile at the future when the future seems uncertain or frightening or overwhelming? Again, I just want to acknowledge that there are many in this room who are facing something in your present or in your future that does seem uncertain or frightening or overwhelming, and your heart is saying, “I want to be clothed with strength and dignity.”

You’ve just gotten that doctor’s report, and it’s not a good one, about you or, even harder, about someone that you love. How do you face that with strength and dignity? I want to say that perspective is so important. If we want to be clothed with strength and dignity, we need to take a look at the past, at the present, and at the future, and we need Gods’ perspective on each of those.

First of all, we need to look back and remember what God has done in the past—remember what God has done.

I have a friend who sent an email to his five children, who are about my age, and their mates. My friend is in his eighties. He sent this to his grown children and their mates, and he sent it when the economic crisis had just hit a couple of years ago. He said,

I want to remind all of you dear children, that just within our own family we have seen the unmistakable hand of our God, time and again. He has proved Himself faithful all the days of our lives. And He is the One who is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8).

Here’s a man who has lived eighty years, and he’s walked with God most of those years. He has a track record with God, and he’s looking back. He’s reminding the next generation, “Remember what God has done in the past.”

That’s a good reason to journal, if you don’t do it. I now don’t do it in longhand in books. I do it on my computer, but I store those words. I can go back and remind myself in a desperate situation what God has done for me in the past, how He has been faithful again, and again, and again.

Even during these recent weeks as we’ve been facing changes in our ministry, as I am in the midst of a move that has not been an easy one for me. There have been a lot of emotions swirling in my heart, a lot of rogue thoughts that had to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. One of the things that has been so helpful for me is to affirm the faithfulness of God in the past.

As I look back, I think to the first year of radio—how hard it was. It was the hardest year of my life—the tears, the effort, the desperation, the difficulty, the challenges of that year. I look back, and I think how many, many times God met us right when we were at the Red Sea, and God parted the waters. He met the need, and He poured out grace. He’s been so faithful.

So I’ve been counseling my heart in these days and reminding myself, “God never let me down then; God is going to be faithful now.” It’s been an encouragement to my heart to look back and remember what God has done.

And then, look at the present. We need to look at the present. We can’t avoid it. We need to stare at it, and then realize that in the midst of these circumstances, whatever they may be, heaven reigns; heaven rules. If you want a two-word summary of the whole Bible, that might be a possibility. Heaven rules. God’s in charge. He’s on His throne, regardless of what it looks like around us.

I love that passage in 2 Kings 6—you’ve heard me refer to it in the past—when the Syrian army was sent to retrieve Elisha and to kill him. The horses and chariots and army of Syria surrounded Elisha’s house. They surrounded the city of Dothan, and the house where Elisha was staying. His servant looked out the window or the door, and he saw this enemy army, and he freaked out. He went nuts. He said, “Elisha, what shall we do? We’re going to die.”

Now, I know nobody here ever gets freaked out or panicked about what’s going on. We do, don’t we? “What are we going to do?” You may say it to your husband; you may say it to your kids; you may say it to yourself; you may have a meltdown emotionally—we have different ways of expressing this—but he had a meltdown.

Elisha said to his servant, “Lord, open his eyes so he can see not just the physical, visible reality, but give him eyes of faith to see the eternal, spiritual reality that you can’t see with your natural eyes” (see v. 17).

God opened that servant’s eyes, and what did he see? Not just the enemy army with their horses and chariots—they were there; they didn’t just go away—but what he saw were the hills filled with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha—the hosts of the living God. He realized, “Those Syrian hosts, they looked great to me, when I just see them with natural eyes. But when I see in the light of God’s army surrounding this place, they are no match for God. We’re safe. God is on His throne. Heaven rules.”

We need to remind ourselves that seasons of adversity, financial, physical, relational, otherwise, they don’t catch God off guard. They may catch us off guard, but God knows it all. He’s known it all from eternity past. He knows everything that is going on in our world. He also knows what lies ahead, and He is orchestrating all things in heaven and on earth to fulfill His eternal redemptive purposes and to glorify Himself. Count on it when you’re in the midst of troubling circumstances.

Your circumstances may be intense or fearful or painful at times, but they don’t have to overwhelm us or steal our peace.

In fact, and you’ve heard me say this many times, but I want to repeat it today, in the ultimate sense, anything that makes me need God is a blessing—anything. You think of the things in your life right now that make you need God. I’ve got my list; you’ve got your list. I want you to look at that list, and remind yourself that everything on that list is, in fact, a blessing because it’s a good thing to need God, to recognize our need for Him.

I love that quote of Oswald Chambers’ in My Utmost for His Highest where he says, “Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is.”

Your circumstances, difficult as they may be, those very circumstances are not only a blessing to you, but they are means of demonstrating to those who are watching how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is. The Son of God who will come to you there even in the midst of that fiery furnace—the fourth one like a Son of Man—and will join you in that furnace. People will see Christ as you walk through that fire, and they will be drawn to worship Him. You can manifest to the world what He is like.

Crises provide opportunities for us as God’s women to flourish spiritually and to point people to Christ who is our only rock and hope, not only in this present time but for all eternity.

“God alone is my rock and my salvation,” the psalmist said, “my strong hold; I shall not be greatly shaken” (62:2).

Then finally, look ahead—look ahead. Rejoice that the final chapter has been written, and we know the outcome. We know who wins.

Proverbs 31:25 says, “She shall rejoice in time to come.” Here’s a woman who is banking on a future reward. Her circumstances now may be challenging, but she knows that the day is coming when there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at His right hand.

Sometimes you just need to look to the finish line. We lose sight of the finish line. We get so weary in the marathon, in the long race that is this life, that we forget to fix our eyes on Jesus who’s standing there waiting for us at the finish line.

Several years ago ChristianityToday.com asked readers to share how much their mothers and grandmothers meant to them. In response, one man shared a moving testimony about how his mother was clothed in strength and dignity as she faced the future and the impact that made on him as a son. Let me read to you a portion of what he wrote. He said:

[Mom] grew up around the coal mines where her daddy worked, deep in the mountainous regions of Virginia. She came from a large, proverty-stricken family, so she learned how to be content with little. Dad and Mom were poor by the world’s standards, but as a kid growing up, I did not know that. We were rich in so many other ways. Daddy had two—sometimes three—jobs, so Mom could stay home and be a full-time mommy to her five children.

She hummed softly as she went about her work. It was as if she had blocked all the bad news out and was contemplating what was good and right and lovely. She was always living in the present, fondly reflecting on the past, and looking forward to the future. She found that in the present there was love, in the past, there was joy, and in the future there was hope.

I will never forget the day the doctors told us that Mom had terminal cancer. I was devastated by the news. Things did not seem to change for Mom, though. Whenever I visited her, she was busy cooking or baking, doing a load of clothes, or sewing or working on something else. As she worked, she hummed a tune that seemed so beautiful to me.

When I spoke with her about the cancer, she was calm. She told me that this was not really her home. She said she had a home in heaven, and that she would be going there soon. She told me not to worry, that she would be all right. Although that brought tears to my eyes, she continued to hum. I saw a beauty in my mother that I had never seen before. In her affliction, she had become radiant. When she died, she was fifty-nine years old. I’ve replayed her words many times. "This is not my home. I have a home in heaven. I’ll be all right.”3

Here’s a woman who is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come; she smiles at the future. No one and nothing can take that strength or dignity away from her. Other people may reject her, abandon her, betray her, disappoint her, but she can still have strength and dignity.

As I think about the bleakness of the landscape in which we live today, we desperately need women who are filled with hope in our great God—women of strength and dignity; women whose hearts are grounded in the Word of God; women of holy boldness. Feminine warriors who hope in the Lord, who, when things are falling apart around them, they fall to their knees, they cry out to the Lord, and they get up off their knees to minister hope and grace and peace and strength and dignity to their husband, to their children, to others around them—women who speak faith and hope and courage into the lives of the men and others around us.

What a call we have to encourage and influence those men to be courageous, to send them out with their heads held high, walking worthy of their calling.

Strength and dignity can be ours as we live in His presence, for strength and beauty are found in His sanctuary.

Leslie: Women have a huge influence on the men around them. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us how to encourage others when they’re tempted by fear.

That message is part of a series called “Facing the Future with Joy.” If you find that fear is keeping you from looking forward to the future, I hope you’ll follow this series up by going through a Bible study our team wrote called “Worries, Woes, and Worship: Moving from Fear to Faith.”

This study will take you through the book of Habakkuk. This prophet lived through tumultuous times.  e had some serious reasons to worry. Yet through all his questioning and all his frustration, he learned how to choose faith over fear. You’ll learn the same thing as you go through this study.

We’ll send you Worries, Woes and Worship when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

How would your family or coworkers describe you today? Would joyful be an accurate adjective? Nancy will tell you how to display authentic joy 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 English Standard Version.

1 Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Peabody: Hendrickson.

2 John Wesley. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes.

3 Bill Fix, of Taylor, Michigan--Taken from "Memories of Mom," www.ChristianityToday.com, 2001.

 

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