Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God has a heart for the poor and the needy, and if I have God’s heart, then I will have a heart for the poor and the needy.

Leslie: It’s Thursday, March 1st, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. If a woman spends all her time volunteering at the local homeless shelter, that’s a good thing, right? Well, maybe, and maybe not.

As Nancy will explain today, we all have a mandate to help people who are hurting, and we have to weigh that mandate against other, important priorities, too. Let’s find the balance as Nancy continues in a series on Proverbs 31. It’s called The Counter-Cultural Woman.

Nancy: Now we’ve come to verse 19, and actually we already commented on this verse when we talked about the woman working with her hands. Let me just read it again because it flows with where we are in the passage.

“She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle.” Some of us, without checking into it, would not even know what a distaff and a spindle are because these are things we don’t use today.

This is in a culture before even the spinning wheel, and some of us don’t even know what a spinning wheel is. Some of us don’t know what a sewing machine is. We know what Target is.

What we’ve seen is that this is a woman who develops whatever skills are necessary in order to better meet the needs of her family, not just for self-enrichment, but her purpose for developing these skills is to meet the needs of her family. Whatever your family’s needs are in this season of life, ask God to help you develop the skills that will help to minister to those needs.

As I’ve said before, some of you younger women who did not have a model, did not learn some of the skills that were needed . . . In fact there’s an older woman here who told me recently, actually her husband kind of told me, that when they got married, this woman was clueless about how to cook, but she learned. I was at their home for dinner when she was telling me this, and she’s a great cook today.

She obviously developed some skills to be able to minister to the needs of her husband and her children. Then here comes me, years later—hungry camper here, and she had me into her home and was able to show gracious hospitality and to minister to the needs of someone outside of her own home because she developed that practical skill.

If you don’t know how or haven’t learned how, ask God to point you to a woman who can help teach you how to develop those skills. Thankfully, today there is the Internet. There are classes. There are so many ways that are available for women to learn how to develop practical skills of homemaking.

Now we come to verse 20, which is a beautiful verse and shows us, as do other verses in this chapter, the heart of the Lord Jesus. We’ve said before that we’re looking here at a portrait of Christ, and nowhere is this seen any more clearly than in verse 20 of Proverbs chapter 31.

“She extends her hand to the poor,” the Scripture says, “Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.” Here’s a woman—and we’re seeing this all the way through this passage—she’s not a taker. She’s a giver.

She’s got her priorities in order. This is verse 20; it’s not the beginning of the passage. Her hands were first used to minister to the needs of her own family. I know it sounds like I keep repeating myself, but the passage keeps bringing this truth out; she’s a woman who has priorities.

She doesn’t minister to everyone else’s needs before she has ministered to her own family’s needs, but once she has ministered to her family’s needs, in due time, in due season, as God provides opportunities, she reaches beyond the circle of her family, reaches out her hands, extends them. You see that she extends her hands to the poor. She reaches out her hands to the needy.

Now as this woman extends her hands to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy, she does good works. She does good works on behalf of those who need help, who need grace. I want to remind us that, according to the New Testament—and all of God’s Word bears this out—that we are not saved by our good works. Our good works cannot earn us salvation.

We could never do enough good works to balance out the scales when it comes to our sin against a holy God. So no matter how good you are, how many people you’re helping, how much volunteer work you do, it will never get you a place in heaven.

You can never earn the favor of God, no matter how good you are, and there are people all over this world, in various religions, including people who call themselves Christians, who think that they’re going to heaven because they’ve lived a life doing good works.

No matter how much you’ve reached out to the underprivileged, if you do not have a personal relationship with Christ and are not trusting in what He did on the cross for your salvation, your only hope of salvation, then you can live a lifetime of good works and still spend an eternity in Hell.

You say, “That’s strong language.” Well, the Scripture talks about this in Matthew chapter seven, about those who will come to the end of life and will say, “God, You should let me into Heaven. I did all these good works.” God will say to them, some of them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (verse 23, KJV).

You see, if we do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then all of our “good works” are actually an abomination to God. It’s actually wickedness if it comes out of a heart or out of hands that have not been redeemed and made righteous by the saving blood of Jesus Christ.

I may be speaking right now to some women who are full of good works. You’ve lived a life of doing good works, but maybe God has spoken to your heart in this session. You’ve realized that you have never been born again. You’ve never been made righteous through placing your faith in Jesus Christ, acknowledging that it’s His works, not yours, that make you righteous.

If that’s the case, I’d like to invite you right now to join with me in prayer, and I’m going to pray a prayer and give you the opportunity to express your desire to trust in Christ and His works to save you. Let’s bow our hearts right now, and if this expresses the desire of your heart, would you just make it your prayer to the Lord?

O Father, I know that I cannot save myself and that all my good works will never earn me a place in Heaven or a right relationship with You. I confess that I have sinned against You and that in spite of all my good works, my heart is basically bent against You. I am a sinner separated from You.

Thank You for sending Jesus Christ to this earth, and I recognize that He is the only one that’s ever lived a sinless life. Through His sinless life and His death on the cross for sinners, I realize He has made a provision for me to be saved, for me to be reconciled to You.

Right now by faith I stop trusting in my own good works, and I trust instead in the righteousness of Christ. Please come into my life, Lord Jesus. Save me from my sin and then give me the grace to do the good works for which You have saved me, not by which You have saved me.

If you just prayed that prayer in these last few moments and it came from your heart, then you can know on the assurance of God’s Word that God has saved you and that you are right with God. You’ve been reconciled to God, not by anything good that you have done, but by His righteousness. Now when God looks at you, He will look at you as clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and now you will be free, able to do good works for which God has saved you.

Thank You, Lord, for such a great salvation, and may those of us who have experienced that salvation show our gratitude to You by the good works that we do. I pray in Jesus' name amen.

Leslie: If you just prayed with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, would you take a next step in growing in your new-found faith? We’ll send you a booklet, at no charge, explaining what it means to be forgiven from sin and to walk with God from day to day. Ask for the booklet Right with God when you call this number: 1-800-569-5959 or look for it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

You’ve been hearing that a woman’s good works need to be balanced with her responsibilities at home. That definitely doesn’t mean she can ignore the needs outside her home. Nancy looks to the New Testament for an example of a woman who gave of herself generously. Let’s continue in the series The Counter-Cultural Woman.

Nancy: One of my very favorite characters in the New Testament is a woman to whom there is only one paragraph devoted. We don’t know a lot about her, but what we do know, I think is inspirational and really challenges my life as a woman of God.

Her name is Tabitha, or as Acts nine tells us, when that word is translated, the other name you may know her by is the name Dorcas. She lived in a town named Joppa, and you may want to look there in your Bible in Acts chapter 9, beginning in verse 36.

We’re told that she was a disciple. She was a follower of Christ named Tabitha or Dorcas, and here’s the descriptive phrase of this woman. She “was always doing good and helping the poor” (NIV). That’s almost all that we’re told about her.

She was a disciple. She was a woman. We don’t know if she was married or single. She may have been widowed. We don’t know, but we know that she loved Christ and that the way she expressed her love for Christ was that she was always doing good and helping the poor. She had a reputation for that. That’s what she was known for.

Well, verse 37 tells us, “About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter [the apostle Peter] was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, ‘Please come at once!’” (37-38, NIV).

Now, they didn’t go and call Peter every time someone died, but when this woman died, she was really missed. Even the men were sent to him. The disciples heard that Peter was there. They sent two men to him. They urged him, “Please come at once!”

It seems like everyone’s life was affected by the loss of this woman. What a reputation! She wasn’t an apostle. She wasn’t a preacher. She wasn’t a pastor. God has called men to have those roles in the body of Christ.

She wasn’t the head of a home. We don’t know much about her except that she was a woman who was always doing good and reaching out to those in need. When this woman died, she was missed. People were affected.

How will people be affected when you die? Will there be a sense of “this is a crisis” because you were always doing good and helping people, and you’ll be missed for reasons of your being compassionate and merciful?

Well, Peter went with them—verse 39 of Acts 9. “When he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room.” Then listen to this description. “All the widows stood around him” (NIV). Apparently, one of Tabitha’s ministries was caring for the widows.

Now, we don’t know that that’s all she cared for. She cared for the poor. She did good. If she had family, we know she did good to them, but here were widows who stood around Peter. They were “crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them” (verse 39, NIV).

They came to display these things that Dorcas had made for them while she was still alive. They were touched. She apparently had not just done these acts of mercy. She must have had a heart of mercy because they apparently felt connected to her.

It wasn’t just the clothing they were going to miss. It was the woman behind the clothing, so we see that with these acts of mercy there was relationship. There was heart. There was compassion. There was tenderness, and I think I’m not reading into the text to say that that would be the case.

As the passage goes on, it says that, “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and,” only in the Bible could this be true, and it is true because it’s in the Bible—“seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (verses 40-42, NIV).

By her life, by her death, and by her resurrection, God used this woman as an instrument to bring many to faith in Christ. It’s as we as women live out a life of compassion and generosity and mercy toward those who are in need, that we make the Gospel believable.

It’s one thing to have preachers and writers and radio speakers talking about the Gospel. It’s another thing to have a woman in your community who lives out the Gospel, who makes it visible, who makes it tangible, who makes it believable by acts of mercy and compassion, coupled with a heart of mercy and compassion.

As we’ve been reading and studying in Proverbs chapter 31, we’re talking about this virtuous, excellent woman, and we see in verse 20 that, “She extends her hand to the poor, and she reaches out her hands to the needy.” She’s a woman who practices mercy and compassion.

First Timothy chapter five, verses nine and ten tells us that when a woman is widowed, as an older woman, if she wants to be cared for by the church—and it is the church’s responsibility to care for her . . . If she wants to be plugged into serving in the life of the church, which I believe is the specific context of 1 Timothy five, if she wants to be put on that list of godly widows, there’s some things that have to have been true of her before she was widowed.

She needs to have been faithful to her husband, and she should be well-known for her good deeds. If you want to qualify to be a godly, older woman, one of the things that must be true is that you are well-known for doing good deeds, and then it tells us what some of those good deeds are, “Such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds” (verse 10, NIV). These are distinctively womanly ways that we make the Gospel believable.

First Timothy two, verses nine and ten, just three chapters earlier, tells us that as women, we are to adorn ourselves. We’re to make ourselves beautiful, and our primary adorning is not to be the external appearance, but it’s to be a heart that produces good deeds. We’re to be adorned, dressed, with good deeds, and when we do, you know what we do? We demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel.

When we’re adorned with good deeds, we adorn the Gospel by our good deeds. We see a woman here who’s a picture of generosity, of giving—giving money, giving food, giving clothing, giving things. Then we see her reaching out her hands—not only reaching out her hand to give things to people, but reaching out her hands to give herself and her time in activities that require two hands—things like caring for the sick, holding a baby for a mom whose got her hands full, reaching out her hands, caring for children, caring for the elderly, using her hands for ministry.

Susan Hunt says that a true woman’s sanctified, feminine instincts make her a channel of compassion to the afflicted and the oppressed. That’s to be womanly. That’s to be virtuous. That’s to be an excellent woman—is to be a channel of compassion to the afflicted and the oppressed.

We see this heart all the way through the Scripture. Deuteronomy 15 tells us, “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns . . . that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs” (verses 7-8, NIV).

You see, when we are givers, we reveal the heart of God, and we may be the only picture that our neighbors, our friends, those in our community ever get of what God is really like. Psalm 72 tells us that God “will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy” (verse 4, NIV). "He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death” (verses 11-12, NIV).

You see, God has a heart for the poor and the needy, and if I have God’s heart, then I will have a heart for the poor and the needy. I quoted earlier in this series from a wonderful book I discovered recently that was first written in 1882 by J. R. Miller. It’s been recently reprinted. It’s called Homemaking.

Let me just read to you what this pastor says about women and acts of compassion. He says, “A woman whose heart is not touched by the sickness of sorrow and whose hands do not go out in relief where it is in her power to help, that kind of woman lacks one of the elements which make the glory of womanhood.”

He goes on to say, “Some homes bless no lives outside their own circle. Others are perpetually pouring out sweetness and fragrance. The ideal, Christian home is a far-reaching benediction. Its doors stand ever open with a welcome to everyone who comes seeking shelter from the storm or sympathy in sorrow or help in trial.”

Then he speaks to women, and this could really have been written today because I can just hear some woman saying, “I cannot do one more thing in this virtuous woman list here.” Back in 1882 this man addressed that very cry.

He said, “Some wife, weary already, her hands over-full with the multiplied cares and duties of her household life, may plead that she has no strength to spend in sympathy and help for others, but,” he goes on to say, “it is truly wonderful how light these added burdens seem when they are taken up in love."

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been quoting from a classic book called Homemaking. She’ll be right back to pray. The quote Nancy just referred to said that our homes could be filled with sweetness and fragrance. That doesn’t mean that there are no kids making messes or that everything is perfectly in its spot every moment of the day, but it does mean that the overall personality of the home reflects God’s peace and priorities.

It’s hard to live according to biblical priorities if we’re just running around from one frenzied activity to another. Would you slow down for at least a few minutes each day and evaluate your purpose as a woman? Make sure you’re fulfilling the role God has for you during this season of life—that you’re filling that role effectively.

One way you can slow down and think these things through is with a book Nancy and other godly women wrote called Becoming God's True Woman. It will lay a groundwork to help you understand what the Bible says about femininity. It will also help you think through some practical issues such as true beauty, suffering, and submission to God-given authority.

If you’ve never gotten in touch with Revive Our Hearts before, we want to send you Becoming God's True Woman at no cost to you. Ask for it by calling 1-800-569-5959, or look for it when you visit our website, ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you have contacted us before, we still want to put this helpful resource in your hands. We’ll send it when you make a much-needed donation of any amount. Make sure to ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or send your gift online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

It’s sobering to think about the hard times past generations have been through. Think about the perseverance women showed during the Great Depression and World War II. We may be headed for times of suffering in our generation, and that doesn’t need to be a cause for alarm. We’ll hear about that tomorrow when Nancy describes how a wise woman prepares for the future. Now let’s pray.

Nancy: Father, I pray that you will give us hearts full of love, full of Your love because you live in us. Give us hearts that are compassionate and tender and sensitive and alert to the needs of the people around us. 

Lord, help us to know when it’s You directing us to these ministries of compassion and not to feel the responsibility to do everything that needs to be done, to meet every need for every person, but to be seeking You and to know when You’re putting it on our heart that this is a time to reach out. This is a way to reach out, and as we all are obedient and sensitive to Your Spirit, then we know that the needs around us will be cared for.

Father, give us the heart of Jesus, who took into His arms children and the sick and the weak and the needy and the poor and reached out His hands to them. In fact, You reached out Your hands to us when we were poor and needy and could not help ourselves, so may we extend to others the mercy, the goodness, the grace that You have lavished upon us. I pray in Jesus’ name, 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 unless otherwise noted.

 

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