Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Means of Grace

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says there is value in big emotional moments of change, but those aren’t enough.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As you grow, be looking not just for the points of transformation or change, but for the process. In any area of our life, it’s the whole process of sanctification. And then, we’ve got to keep our eye on the finish line. What’s the finish line? It’s looking like Jesus.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, May 15.

Once you come to Christ, how do you begin to grow? Nancy Leigh DeMoss came to faith in Christ fifty years ago this week. She’s looking back and exploring ways God has helped her to grow since then.

She’s talking about it with Paula Hendricks from the True Woman blog. The conversation is part of the series, “Fifty Years of Walking with God.”

Paula Hendricks: You have authored seventeen books, which tells me reading is important to you. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the reading that really shaped you?

Nancy: Yes. I never thought I’d be a writer, but I do love to read. I’ve mentioned earlier in this series how I love biographies. I have a great collection of—mostly Christian—biographies, but all kinds of people. If I had more time, I’d read in more fields. I love reading about, seeing people whose lives were totally surrendered to the Lord and what that looked like, what that meant. Those are very inspiring to me.

I also love devotional books. I have a great collection of those. Some of them I’ve read numerous times over the years, some I’ll just go through once: the Valley of Vision, some of Elisabeth Elliot’s devotionals, some of John Piper’s devotionals, some classics by people that you might not be familiar with, that I wasn’t familiar with . . . those “good old dead guys.”

Sometimes their language is quaint or a little difficult to understand . . . like some of Spurgeon’s writings. William Jay wrote some devotional books. He was a pastor in a long-ago generation. They’re shorter pieces. I often use one of those to prime my pump as I’m getting ready to get into the Word.

If my heart is feeling cold or not tuned to the Lord, that’s the way I get my heart warmed. I’d like to have another whole lifetime just to read. I have a lot of interests. I tend to be fairly focused and narrow in my reading—not because I want to be—just because I know life is short, and I don’t have a lot of time.

I tend to focus more on things that will help me know Christ better, be a faithful servant of His. There are lots of other things I would be interested in reading. I will occasionally read a novel or something that doesn’t have immense, inherent value for my walk with the Lord at the moment, but I try to be careful about at least making sure that it’s going to help me think in ways that are more godly.

Life is too short to waste on a lot of reading for entertainment. Sometimes that’s like cotton candy—it tastes good at the moment, but it doesn’t really fill your soul. I don’t always engage in heavy reading, but I want things that are going to encourage me to be a more faithful woman of God.

Paula: You’ve talked a lot in this series about hymns and how much those mean to you. Can you talk about the role of music in your life?

Nancy: I love the old hymns. We don’t sing enough of them anymore, from my standpoint. I think some of those, in certain eras . . . when you go back to the Charles Wesley and the Isaac Watts hymns (they’re a little hard to understand today, and I understand why people don’t sing them as much), they had some rich theology. I think we miss out on those.

I’ve sung through a number of hymnals over the years. I enjoy the piano. I don’t get to play it very often anymore. Should I tell them our little secret?

Paula: Yes.

Nancy: You won’t tell anybody else, will you?  I’m working on something I’ve wanted to do for a lot of years, and I think maybe this year it’s going to happen . . . I’m not positive yet, but I’m working on it. I’ve wanted to do a hymns piano CD, and I think I’m going to do that this year.

Paula: Featuring Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: Playing just instrumental piano hymns. I’m not going to sing on it; I can assure you of that. I’m working on that and hoping to release that, maybe in the fall. It’s something I’ve wanted to do—and especially in this year of celebrating fifty years of walking with the Lord. I want to do it as an offering to Him, and I’m hoping it’s something that will bless people who remember those old hymns.

Paula: So exciting! Nancy, there are about two or three other spiritual disciplines—means of grace—that I’d love to hear you talk about: One, ministry is so demanding, life is so busy. You talk to us about how you slow down . . .

Nancy: The whole thing of a Sabbath rest . . . I wished I’d come to understand this better, sooner, and I’m still learning it. I’m just seeing how God has made rhythms for our lives. If anything goes at full pace, full speed, all the time—without ever taking a break—then, it breaks.

The land needs breaks, and that’s why they had Sabbath years in the Scripture, so it could be replenished. Our souls need breaks—not just breaks to play, though I think there is a theology of play somewhere in the Scripture—but for a chance to be refreshed, to re-calibrate.

God made weeks. He said, “Six days work, one day be refreshed—rest.” We could go into a whole theology of that, and I don’t have that all figured out. I do know that, even early in our radio ministry, I was working seven days a week. I would go to church Sunday morning, and by mid-afternoon I was starting a new eight-hour shift.

Really, by the time Monday morning came, I had not had my soul refreshed in the Lord. As I got older, I began to realize that God gave this to us as a gift. We can quibble about which day of the week it is, but the concept of needing a Sabbath rest and having seasons when you stop, re-calibrate, take stock of where you are . . . I use birthdays and new years.

 The holidays in the Old Testament were holy days. They were special days that the people set aside on an annual basis to focus on the holy works of God, the redemptive works of God. We have so secularized holidays and long weekends. I think our souls end up exhausted, even after times of going through a holiday.

We haven’t used the time to get refreshed. So increasingly I have become a believer in that Sabbath rest—and also in simplicity and quiet, insofar as I can get moments of that. That really helps strengthen my soul and my spirit and makes me more effective when I do go out. You as a parent, or me teaching a group of women, or whatever, we’re going to have more to offer if we’ve gotten our souls filled up.

Paula: Nancy, you’ve talked about how the Sabbath is a gift. That reminded me of giving. When I started here at Revive Our Hearts as your personal assistant, that was the first thing that really impressed me. You were constantly giving gifts to others. That’s something that you put on the list you gave me of your spiritual disciplines. It was kind of surprising to me.

Nancy: It is a means of grace in my life, in our lives. If you want to be Christ-like, you have to be a giver. The greatest, most generous giver ever is Jesus, who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might be made rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9) That’s the giving of Christ’s life for us.

I saw giving demonstrated by my dad and mom who together had such a spiritual gift for giving. They loved giving. They were always looking for opportunities to invest in the Lord’s work . . . not waiting to get these urgent appeal letters or for somebody to come begging for money. They wanted to take the initiative and give.

So that was the environment of our home. They weren’t splashy about it and didn’t draw attention to themselves in it. But growing up in that home, I knew that they were very generous with our home, with their time, with their financial resources.

I’ve found that giving God’s way, being a generous person, is a real antidote to selfishness and hoarding and clinging to my rights. When I find that I’m being frustrated because others are infringing on my rights, or they’re taking up too much of my time . . . I have a family of six living in my house right now, missionaries home on furlough. They have four little kids, and there is not a lot of peace and quiet at the moment. Things get used in your house in a way they wouldn’t, if it was just you being there. But it’s so good for me, for a lot of reasons, to have my space invaded—so it’s not “mine,” it’s “ours.”

It’s good for me to give when I am concerned about my own future. I’ve been thinking about that as I get older. It’s so good to be in a place where you’re giving at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It helps to not keep your hands clenched, to have them open. To be able to say, “Yes, you can . . . please come into my home . . . yes, you can have time . . . you can have money . . . it’s not mine, it’s the Lord’s.”

I have found that if I’m not giving, if I’m more conscious on what I’m getting or buying for myself than I am giving to others, then I become just selfish in so many, many ways. It’s a means of grace and a discipline.  

Paula: Earlier I mentioned a goal that you wrote at nineteen, that really caught my attention. I have a thick stack of papers that you sent me of goals you’ve written over the years. Why has that been a helpful thing for you? How have you found that to be good?

Nancy: Some people are not big on the idea of goals or New Year’s resolutions or annual markers that you try to set for yourselves. I understand that you don’t want to be legalistic about those or bound into that. You don’t want to be rigid. I want to be alert and sensitive when God’s doing something fresh in my life that wasn’t one of my goals.

But I do think that if we don’t have something to aim at in our lives, we’re going to hit it every time—nothing. There is value in different seasons. I do this one or more times a year (not every year, but most years). I say, “Where am I in my walk? Where do I want to be?”

I can still remember when I was nineteen years old. My family was on a missions trip to Haiti, and we were sitting in a tiny, little, black Haitian church on hardwood benches. My dad leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Honey, what are your fifty year goals?”

I will confess that up to that point, I had not given a lot of thought to my fifty-year goals. But I went home, and I began to think about it: Okay, between now and the time I’m fifty-nine, what kind of woman do I want to be? I didn’t know if I’d be married or single. I didn’t know what I’d be doing. I was just finishing college, just heading into ministry, at that point.

But I wrote down what turned into two typed pages of my fifty-year goals—December of 1977, age nineteen. It was basically stated in three high priorities:

  • One, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and body.
  • Two, to love God’s people.
  • Three, to love God’s work in the world.

Then under each of those, I broke down what that might look like. Like under loving God, one of the things I wrote was, “Know every part of the Word thoroughly and intimately. Be able to teach any book or major topic of the Bible.”

Well, I’m not nearly there, but I am a lot further down the road of knowing and loving God’s Word and being able to teach it than I would have been if I hadn’t set out to know God’s Word.

I talked about being an encourager to God’s people—to always have a group of “Timothys,” people that I’m investing in as Paul did in his Timothy. I talked about being a world Christian . . . to pray over countries of the world. As I was re-reading this list of goals recently, I was thinking that there are some of these areas where I need to go back and refresh this.

Then, at the bottom a statement was, “P.S. All these commitments to death (highlighted).” That is, no retirement.

I was nineteen when I wrote that, and the retirement word was not anywhere in my vocabulary. Well, now I’m heading toward fifty-five. I know that’s still young, but it’s not nineteen, and I’ve done a lot since then. Some days I think, (Sigh) I’d like to just maybe take it easy for a while—maybe just coast for a bit.

Kim is sitting there on the front row, saying, “No way, girl. Go, girl!” As I’ve gotten older, at different seasons, those goals look different. That’s the only time I’ve written down my fifty-year goals. But I will often make a list of: “What do I want to see God do in my life this year? What are the things I think God wants me to be focusing on this year?” Sometimes it will be just one thing. Sometimes it will be a list of things.

Often these lists are made up of issues of the heart: Self-control, focus on my relationship with the Lord. Sometimes they’re physical disciplines. As I’m getting older, I’m realizing that if I don’t have some physical disciplines in my life, I’m not going to have the energy to serve the Lord faithfully all the way to the finish line.

I try to make the goals practical, specific. I often share them with someone else, some others in my life, so they can be praying with me about those. I’m not rigid about living my life by those, but I do set them as something that I think the Lord wants me to be moving toward.

I don’t want to be standing still. I don’t want to be stagnant in my walk with the Lord. Now, many times I have been, but this is what helps me to be intentional. As I’m coming to this fifty-year marker of walking with the Lord, it’s really been good for me to go back and review some of these and say, “Okay, for this next season of my life—however long or short it is—what do I want to be true?”

There are some things I wish I would have been much more disciplined about—some things I wish I were a lot further along than I am. So I say, “Okay, thank God for grace, thank God that it is His righteousness, not mine, that counts.” But it’s not too late to late to be faithful in these areas that God’s put on our hearts. Start now.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I didn’t come to know the Lord ‘til late. I didn’t have the benefit of all these years of seeking the Lord.” That’s fine. Start where you are, and ask the Lord what’s on His heart for you, for this season of life. If you’re a person who’s known the Lord for a lot of years, ask yourself, “Am I coasting, or am I really growing? Am I being intentional about putting these areas to work in my life and letting God grow me up?”

Paula: Nancy, as we close, I wonder if you could speak to the woman who feels defeated or like, “I’m not even going to start because I know I’m going to fail”?

Nancy: As I look back on these years, one thing I believe even more than ever is that spiritual growth is a process, a journey. The founder of our ministry used to say, “Spiritual growth is not where you are; it’s the direction in which you’re headed.”

It’s so easy to look at where you are in faith . . . Some days when I’m out of sorts, I’m talking too much, being a selfish, demanding person, I think, Have I grown at all? I can get discouraged, but then the Lord helps me to see that spiritual growth is a process. Someone has said that it’s “three steps forward, two steps back, three steps forward, two steps back.”

It also helps me to realize that spiritual growth is not just a point of change or transformation. Some of us can remember as kids going to youth camp or having this very watershed experience in our life . . .”Yes, I’ve surrendered my life to the Lord, and my life is never the same again.”

Well, we do surrender our lives to the Lord, and yet three weeks later we may be back to where we started out. So you can’t just build your Christian life on those points of surrender or commitment or growth. There need to be those points (and I’ve had a lot of them in my life), but there also needs to be the process of working that out.

When you sow something in the ground, fruits or vegetables or plants or whatever, when they’re under the ground, you can’t see what’s happening. Growth is slow, and it’s small, and you just see in the long haul what has happened. If I just look at this momentary slice of my life, there may not be a lot of growth to show in it, but if I can look at the whole I say, “Oh, yeah, I have grown in those areas, and by God’s grace I am growing in this area. I’m not the same person I was. God is giving me grace in this area, and He’s maturing me in this area.” As you grow, be looking not just for the points of transformation or change, but for the process. In any area of our life, it’s the whole process of sanctification.

And then, we’ve got to keep our eye on the finish line. What’s the finish line? It’s looking like Jesus, being conformed to His image—that’s where we want to be. I want to tell you, I don’t ever want to get to where I’m satisfied with anything less than that. I’m so far from it. I know that better than anybody else in this room. You just see me teaching and speaking and having it all put together. But you don’t live with me. You don’t live inside the private parts of my heart where there are, at times, doubts and fears and anger and things I wrestle with, and points of wanting my way more than God’s way.

I see those things, but God’s in the process of changing me. And do you know what? If you’re a child of God, you will be like Jesus before it’s over. He will bring to completion that which He’s started. So that gives me hope; that gives me courage. I say, “Okay, for fifty years, I should have more to show than I do for this journey. But by God’s grace, by the time I see Him, I will be like Him.”

So we stay in the battle, in the growth process. At times it’s hard; it’s slow. At times it’s almost imperceptible growth, but we know He is at work. He’s the one doing the work in us. We’re cooperating with Him to see that happen. Thank God that He is doing the work and that it will be completed in His time.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Paula Hendricks from the True Woman blog. Nancy’s been explaining how the Lord has been helping her grow and mature after she came to faith in Him as a four-year-old. That conversation is part of the series, “Fifty Years of Walking with God.” When you order the series on CD, you’ll hear longer versions of the programs. We’ve needed to trim them in order to air them, but when you order the series, you’ll hear the complete conversations.

Nancy celebrated her actual spiritual birthday, which was yesterday, with a group of listeners in Indianapolis, as part of the Revive Tour. If you’re in the Cleveland area, I hope you’ll get the most up-to-date information, as the Revive Tour comes to Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls tomorrow and Friday. There still may be space at the evening event and the recording session. Find out at ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’ve loved meeting so many listeners so far on the Revive Tour, like Sharon, who the team met in Houston.

Sharon from Houston: I started listening to Revive Our Hearts about seven years ago, through a mutual friend who told me about the ministry. I can tell you that I am not the same person that I used to be, because of how the Lord has used Nancy in my life, personally, to impact me.

First of all, I came from a broken home, as many people do. I got married and had no clue of what a family was supposed to be, to look like. I grew up sort of in church, but I didn’t have anybody that could really bring before me the Lord and His Word and impact me personally.

As we were saying in the conference here, I was the one in the need of prayer. It’s not other people, it’s not other people that are the problem—I’m the problem. The problem is my sin, and I need a Savior, and His name is Jesus. I’d heard all those things before, but it never really made a complete impact on me until I started listening and learning how to not only be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word.

That’s what I love about Revive Our Hearts—Nancy brings before us how to do it practically. It’s not like it’s impossible. You can’t live the Christian life yourself—you need Christ. I like how practical she is, day in and day out, things like how to respond to my husband, my children, and not to do it in anger and frustration, but just point them and myself to Christ, who is my Redeemer and my Savior.

I just love Revive Our Hearts. I’m glad to support it. I pray for this ministry. I am really thankful for it. It’s really practical in my own life. I’m happy to help and pray in any way that I can.

Nancy: I’m so grateful for how the Lord has been speaking to this woman through His Word over these past seven years. It’s so humbling and gratifying that He has chosen to use this ministry in that process. My heart’s desire is just to be faithful in doing what He’s called me to do—what He’s called us to do as a ministry—and then trust the Lord to share these messages, as we present them, to countless more women like this one.

We can’t continue providing Revive Our Hearts to this woman, or any others, without the encouragement, the prayers, and the financial support of listeners like you. So, I want to ask if you would help us invest in lives like this woman’s, speaking biblical truth, day in and day out.

We especially need to hear from you during the month of May. As we’ve been sharing, this is the end of our fiscal year, when we reset our accounting books. As we head into the summer months, donations generally tend to be down. In order to end the fiscal year strong and prepare for the summer, we’ve been asking God to provide at least $350,000 during the month of May.

When you help us meet this goal by sending a donation of any amount, we want to say thank you by sending you a CD we’ve been telling you about called Hidden in My Heart, vol. 2. It’s a CD of Scriptures set to music that I know will minister to you and your family in a powerful way.

Just ask for that CD when you make a donation by calling us a 1-800-569-5959.  Or if you prefer to donate online, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com. Thank you so much for doing your part to help make Revive Our Hearts possible.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Do you ever feel stressed, worried that you’ll miss God’s will? Nancy’s knows what that feels like, but recently she hasn’t been stressed about it. Find out why, tomorrow 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.