Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Our future lifestyle will, in many ways, be affected by our choices today. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So many times in our own lives, we’re holding onto our lives: my rights, my time, my privacy, my peace of mind, my space. If we live selfish lives now, we will reap the fruit of our own hands.

Leslie: It’s Monday, March 19th, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Over the last few weeks, Nancy’s been teaching us about the Proverbs 31 woman. This woman is thrifty, smart, a wise business woman who works out of her home and focuses her energy on her family. Here’s Nancy in a series called The Counter-Cultural Woman.

Nancy: Aren’t you glad that God has given us in the Scripture a pattern? Some of you sew, and I know some people can sew without a pattern. But for those of us who don’t have that kind of ability or experience, it really helps to have a pattern—something to follow, something to look at, something to trace, and something to measure our progress by.

In Proverbs 31, we have a pattern for the kind of women that God created us to be. We’ve said over and over again through this series that it’s not all the domestic abilities and things that this woman can do that are what make her great. It’s the fact that she’s a woman who has a love for God and a love for people. We’re really seeing here a portrait of the Lord Jesus, and ultimately we are called to be like Him.

Now, I want to tell you this: if you are a child of God, this is where you’re headed. What we’ve been studying—the woman we’ve been seeing, the woman who fears the Lord and the outworking of that relationship with God in her very practical, everyday life—that’s what we’re going to be. God is conforming us. If you’re a child of God, He’s committed to this process, and He’s not going to stop until it’s finished. In my life or yours, He’s committed to forming us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We can either cooperate with Him in that process, or we can do what I do a lot of times, and that’s resisting and kicking and screaming along the way. But if you belong to Christ, this is where you’re headed. How much better to cooperate with the Lord, let Him have His way, and let Him mold and shape us according to His will, His pattern, and His purposes.

Now, I want to take a little parenthesis in this session before we come to the very last verse and talk about how we respond to a passage like Proverbs 31. What I’m going to say here actually could apply to any passage that you read in God’s Word that is challenging. It’s convicting. It sets a standard that is beyond what we can do naturally.

This morning as I opened the Word of God, God spoke to my heart about a particular matter. There was conviction that my life did not measure up to the standard of what I was reading. When God convicts us, there are different responses that we can have. I want to put them in three categories and relate them to Proverbs 31. You can apply them perhaps to other areas where God may be speaking to you.

The first response to a challenging passage of Scripture is to reject it. Often this is the case for a passage like Proverbs 31—this virtuous woman has all these qualities of godliness, and she’s such an incredible picture of what it means to be a woman of God. So often, the first thing we do when we see that picture is to reject it.

“I don’t like that picture,” says the world. A lot of so-called believers, professing believers in the Church today have taken a look at God’s portrait of womanhood as it’s found throughout the Scripture, as it’s found in Proverbs 31, and have said, “That’s outdated.” We have been programmed (if you’re under 50 years old for sure you have been programmed throughout your entire lifetime) by our culture. It’s in the air we breath to reject this picture.

This picture in Proverbs 31 of what it means to be a woman of God goes against the grain. It goes against the tide. It goes against the current of the whole motion of our culture, the whole direction of our society, including, I hate to say, the direction of so many in the Church today.

I’m assuming that the fact that you’re here listening to this series on Proverbs 31 means that you’re not prepared to reject this picture. If you have rejected it, let me say that is a losing battle. If you’re a child of God, ultimately this is the plan that God has for your life.

But here’s a second trap that many of us do fall into. We don’t outright reject the picture. What we do is say, “I’m going to be like that woman if it kills me.” We begin to try to perform, to strive, and to struggle saying, “I want to be a good Christian. I want to be a godly woman.”

A woman told me last night that when she first became a Christian as a young wife that she determined she was going to go home and be this model wife. She was going to submit to her husband; she was going to be meek and quiet-spirited. She said, “I went home and I just tried and tried.” After two weeks, we could just see in her face that she was exhausted. She said, “I realized I couldn’t do it.”

Let me say, the moment you come to realize that you cannot do what God has called you to do by yourself, that is one of the greatest discoveries you’ll ever make. That’s the starting place to victory.

But we strive, and we struggle, and we try to perform; and that’s really a picture of going to Mount Sinai. Do you remember what happened at Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus? That’s where God gave the Law. God said, “You’re not going to be able to keep it.” But the people said, “No, we’ll keep the Law” (see Exodus 24:3). Do you know what the rest of the Old Testament is about? It’s just proving that they couldn’t keep the Law—that God was right.

The Law was given knowing that we couldn’t keep it, but it was given to show us that we couldn’t keep it, that we could not live up to God’s standard. The purpose of the Law is so that we will come to see ourselves as failures. The old-fashioned word for that is sinners . . . so that we can be pointed to Christ who alone can fulfill the Law. Christ is the only person who has ever lived who was able to fulfill the righteousness of God’s Law. The purpose of the Law is to bring us to Christ, to help us to see our helpless condition.

The purpose of Proverbs 31 is not to make us leave this place and say, “I’m going to be a godly woman. I know I can do it. I know I can do it.” And then you know, by ten o’clock in the morning, we’ve blown it. The purpose of this picture, in part, is to help us see that we can’t live up to it, that we cannot measure up to it.

It’s a great day when we come into the presence of the Lord, and we say, “Lord, I cannot be the woman that you want me to be. I can’t.” Paul said in the New Testament in the book of Romans, “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, there dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). I cannot be that person on my own.

So you can reject the picture, or you can struggle and strive to perform. You can go to Mount Sinai and live there and gut it out and grit your teeth and say, “I’m going to be this woman.” You’ll get exhausted in the effort, and you’ll wear other people out in the effort, too. You’ll be an uptight Christian.

Here’s the third alternative: not Mount Sinai, but Mount Calvary. Go to the place where you get God’s grace. Go to Calvary and say, “Lord, I cannot be this woman, but I know that You live in me. It’s not I who live in me, but Christ who lives in me. The life which now I live [Galatians chapter 2, verse 20], I live not on my own, but by the power of Christ who lives in me. So Lord, would You be in me what I can never be apart from You.”

It’s a life of faith; it’s a life of dependence—not of striving and struggling, but of saying, “I can’t do this; but Jesus, would You be Jesus in me? I can’t love that husband. I can’t love those children. I can’t have that diligent, hard working, industrious spirit. I’m going to get worn out in this effort. I can’t speak words that are kind and wise all the time. My mouth just runs away. Leave me to myself, Lord, and I’m going to be one unpleasant person to live with. But Lord, I know that You’re living in me, and You can do this in me and through me. And by faith, I want to let You live that life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, and be in me and through me what I could never be.”

This is what it means to believe and to receive and to live the Gospel. The Gospel isn’t just something you needed when you got saved 23 years ago. The Gospel is something I need today to live as a woman of God. It’s the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for me. It means that it’s finished. I don’t have to strive. I don’t have to struggle. He’s paid the price for my sin. He now lives in me to fulfill the righteousness of His Law.

So this passage is a call, as is the whole Word of God, to walk in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit. You say, “Does that mean I’ll never blow it again?” No, because we’re so prone to get back to Mount Sinai and try do it on our own, or to reject the picture.

But when you find yourself having rejected the picture of God’s Law, or you find yourself back in that cycle of trying to strive and perform, just stop. Get quiet before the Lord and say, “Lord, I’m so sorry. I repent of trying to do this on my own.” It’s just as sinful to try and do it on your own as it is to reject the picture, because either way, you’re doing it apart from Christ. Whatever is not of faith is sin.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with the second half of today’s teaching. It’s part of an in-depth study of Proverbs 31. Maybe you liked what you just heard and are disappointed to discover that in this verse-by-verse study, she’s about to teach the final verse because you missed quite a bit of this helpful teaching.

Well, don’t worry. Just order the series on CD. When you do, you’ll get longer versions of Nancy’s teaching segments. We don’t always have time to air all Nancy’s material, but you’ll get the complete versions when you order on CD. Look for The Counter-Cultural Woman at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. 

Let’s get back to Nancy in the long-awaited final verse of Proverbs 31.

Nancy: We’ve seen that in the last paragraph of Proverbs 31, there’s the whole concept of the reward. Her children will rise up and call her blessed. Their lives will reflect the heart that she invested in them and in her home. Her husband will praise her. He will say, “Many women have done well, but you excel them all” (verse 29). 

We said your praise ultimately may not come from any man here on earth or from your children, but even beyond that, there will be the praise and the “well done” of the Lord. That’s what we want to focus on in this last verse.

We’re picking up actually in verse 30 of Proverbs 31: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,” that’s external beauty—physical beauty—“but a woman who fears the Lord” here’s what I want you to notice, “she shall be praised.” There is a reward. There is an outcome to this way of life that makes it worth all that you have to go through to get there. “She shall be praised.” Verse 31: “Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:30–31).

Now, here’s a passage, Proverbs 31, that when we first come to it, we can look at all the things this woman does—all the abilities she has, all the expression of the commitment to her family—and we can just feel overwhelmed by all that is involved in being a woman of God. We’ve looked at some of these characteristics over the past weeks as we’ve been in this series.

We’ve seen that she’s trustworthy; she’s loyal; she’s dependable; she’s a diligent, hard worker; she’s industrious. She’s not idle; she doesn’t waste time; she’s a woman who is enthusiastic about work. We saw that she works willingly and eagerly with her hands. She keeps long hours; she’s an early riser; she has a servant’s heart; she’s a practical woman; she meets the practical, physical needs of her family—food and clothing.

She deals in just very every day matters; she’s thrifty; she’s good at managing money and resources that her husband provides through his work; she’s quality-conscious; she knows a bargain when she sees it (and some of you say, “Well, if that’s the qualification, then I am definitely a virtuous woman!”)

She’s a woman who is compassionate; she’s generous; she has a heart for the poor and needy; she gets involved in acts of mercy, extending her hand to the poor; she’s a woman who thinks and plans ahead; she anticipates the needs of her family; she’s prepared for future needs they will have.

Her character, we saw in the second half of this chapter, enhances her husband’s reputation outside the home: other people think better of him because he’s got a good wife at home. She’s skillful, and she’s developed. She wasn’t born knowing how to do all these things. She’s developed the skills that she needs to serve her family effectively.

We’ve seen her heart—that she reverences the Lord, that she fears the Lord, that she’s spiritually minded. We’ve seen her priorities—that she prioritizes the needs, the interests of her family and of the people around her. She prioritizes their needs over her own needs. We’ve seen about the way she talks, about her tongue and her speech, that she says words that are wise and kind, and she’s alert to her family’s needs and the conditions of her home. She looks look well to the ways of her household.

It’s quite a list, and it can be overwhelming, can’t it? But what you’re seeing is the work of her hands. This is the investment that she’s made over a lifetime, and now the Scripture is saying, “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

What are her own works? What has she done with her hands? It’s all the list we just read. It’s the things we have seen in this passage. And you can read all of those things, and you can say, “That sounds like such a sacrificial lifestyle. This woman didn’t have any life of her own.” Do you know what Jesus said? “If you hold onto your life, you’ll lose it.” Here’s a woman who understands the paradox of the ways of Christ. If you lay down your life, you’ll get it back. You have to be willing to give it up in order to really have it (see John 12:25).

So many women today, and so many times in our lives, we’re holding on to our own rights: my time, my privacy, my peace of mind, my space. We’re being self-protective, self-seeking, and what happens? We end up alone and miserable. Broken relationships, broken homes, no one to care for us in our old age—we see that happening with a lot of older people today.

If we live selfish lives now, we will reap the fruit of our own hands. Our own works will be what we have to live with long-term. This woman is selfless. She’s giving; she’s sacrificial; she’s serving; but as you read this passage, there’s no indication that she’s a miserable woman. I mean, look at her! She’s well-clothed; she’s well-fed. She has a husband who’s wild about her. He brags about her to his friends. She’s got kids who rise up and bless her. What woman could ask for more? She laid down her life, and she’ll be praised.

Let me say, by the way, we will reap what we sow. This woman reaps what she has sown over a lifetime of fearing the Lord and living out that fear of the Lord. But the beginning of Proverbs tells us about another kind of seed we can sow. In Proverbs chapter one, we read, beginning in verse 29, “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Proverbs 31 says this woman chose the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs one says some people don’t choose the fear of the Lord. “They would have none of my counsel. They despised my every rebuke.” This is Wisdom speaking, and the Lord speaking, and He’s saying that if you won’t take My counsel, if you won’t take My instruction, if you won’t choose the fear of the Lord, verse 31, “therefore, they shall eat the fruit of their own way. They will be filled to the full with their own fancies” (Proverbs 1:29–31).

Let me tell you, ladies, one way or the other, you and I will eat the fruit of our ways, or the choices of our hands. The foolish person, Proverbs chapter one, won’t regard the counsel of God, will not accept God’s picture of what it means to be a godly woman, rejects the fear of the Lord, and that person will eat the fruit of their own hands, the fruit of their own works.

Our families are falling apart, our finances are falling apart, our health is falling apart, and in many cases, it’s because we’ve rejected God’s counsel for our lives. We’re reaping the fruit of our own hands.

But here at the end of Proverbs, we have a picture of a wise woman. She chooses the fear of the Lord. She accepts God’s ways. She accepts God’s counsel. She accepts the knowledge of God’s ways. She lays down her life. She doesn’t hold on to it. She gives it up for Christ and for others, and what’s the result? “Give her of the fruit of her hands. Let her own works praise her in the gates.”

H.A. Ironside was a long time ago wonderful Bible teacher. In his commentary on the book of Proverbs, he closes this portion by saying that we can see in this last verse of Proverbs 31, “More than a hint of what awaits the Christian at the judgment seat of Christ.” Let me say ladies, if you’re in it for the short term, for the short haul, you’re not going to get the paycheck or the rewards soon enough. You’ll give up. You’ll get discouraged.

So, Ironside says to look to what awaits us at the judgment seat of Christ. Look down the road. He says, “When the mists of earth have gone on forever, such a woman,” the kind of woman we’ve been reading about in Proverbs 31, “that kind of woman will appear in her Lord’s own presence with rejoicing, bearing her sheaves with her. At His feet, she will cast down the fruit of her hands and the works accomplished through His grace to have all surveyed by Christ. How sweet to hear His words of approval in the gate.”1

Let me say, you may never have heard man’s words of approval this side of Heaven, but if you’re living out this life by the power of the Holy Spirit, one day you will hear those words of approval in the gate, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:23).

Ironside goes on to say, “At that moment who will regret the days of toil and nights of watching? Who then would exchange the saint’s path and portion with all its responsibilities as well as privileges, for a place of ease and careless enjoyment of a few fleeting hours on earth? Not one. Living in view,” he says, “of that sacred hour when all our works will be inspected by Him who has won our deepest affections, may we purposely and earnestly cling to Christ. May we hold fast to His faithful Word, not denying His name, while we wait here for His return.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She just finished teaching on the final verse of Proverbs 31. Before going through this material with Nancy, I knew this chapter had a lot of important information for women, but I didn’t realize how practical and far-reaching it would be. If you missed any of Nancy’s helpful insight into Proverbs 31, I hope you’ll order the entire series called The Counter-Cultural Woman. It’s available at ReviveOurHearts.com.

There are also many other Scriptures that relate to biblical womanhood, and now that you’ve studied Proverbs 31, why don’t you do a study of these other verses? Nancy’s organized it for you in a booklet called A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood. It would be perfect for a personal Bible study.

You can order these booklets in packs of ten, keep them on hand, and then when you meet someone who is confused about what it means to be a woman, or a wife or mom who is discouraged about her role, give her copy. You can order packs of the booklet A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. 

God has been at work in the lives of women during this series The Counter-Cultural Woman. Our listeners will explain how Proverbs 31 has affected them while they’ve been listening. That’s tomorrow. Now, here’s Nancy to pray.

Nancy: Thank you, Father, for the promise of the reward that awaits us, and the real reward of faithfulness here on earth is that You will be pleased. That we will have something to offer You of real value, of worth, lives that have been laid down in Your service out of love and devotion for You. We’ll have something to give You that will express that love. We want You to be pleased, and so Lord, help us to choose today to lay down our lives, to offer up our self as a living sacrifice, that when we stand before you at that gate, that final day, we may hear You say, “Well done.” For Jesus’ sake we pray, amen.

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

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.

1H. A. Ironside, Proverbs (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1995), 273.

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