Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Value of Guardrails

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss knows that being discontented can tempt everyone.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Most married women are not content in their marriage. At least, at times, they wish they were single. And most single women, at least at times, wish they were married. Everything in life has its challenges.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, the author of Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. Fifty years ago this week, a four-year-old Nancy Leigh DeMoss came to faith in Christ. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of this spiritual birthday, Paula Hendricks has been talking with Nancy about the ways God has led her to grow, year by year, decade by decade.

Paula Hendricks: Nancy, we’ve been talking about some of the challenges you’ve faced over the past fifty years. You’ve been walking with the Lord for fifty years now . . .

Nancy: Challenges and blessings.

Paula: Challenges and blessings.

Nancy: They come in pairs. You don’t get challenges without blessings, and you don’t get blessings without challenges. The challenges become some of your greatest blessings, because anything that makes me need God is a blessing.

Paula: One of the things that I love, Nancy, about being a Christian is that we can be honest. You can be honest, as a public figure, about some of the temptations you’ve experienced along the way. As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "There is no temptation that’s not common to man." So I’d like to look today at some recurring battles and temptations you’ve faced over the years.

In your book, Brokenness, you share about how the Lord dealt with the stronghold of lying in your life. Can you talk about why that was such a temptation for you, and how God freed you from that?

Nancy: Yes, a recurring Achilles heel in my life has been this root of love of the praise of others—wanting to be respected, admired, appreciated, wanting to look good. Wanting even from a little girl to perform well so as to be able to impress others. God has dealt with that in so many ways over the years.

There have been seasons of that. One thing that love of praise led to in my young adult life was exaggerating the truth in order to make a better impression of myself in the eyes of others. I didn’t think of it as lying. I don’t think I even thought about it.

But there came a point where the Holy Spirit convicted me that this was lying. Without going through the whole process (I’ve talked about this in "The Power of Words"), let me say that the thing that I love is that God is so able to take our sinful bents and restore us, through a process of confession and repentance and renewing of our minds, so that those actually become strong points in our lives.

This is an area where I allowed God to take me through a process of radically rooting out deception by making the commitment that I would speak the truth to every person in every situation, regardless of the cost, and that if I didn’t, I would go back and make it right.

Doing that a number of times, even occasionally, when I’m speaking publicly and as I’m talking, saying, “That didn’t exactly happen that way,” has built a stronghold of truthfulness in my life—wanting to be honest—and not just in what I say, but what other people pick up and perceive.

I thank the Lord, and it encourages me in other areas where I’m still battling strongholds of sin in my life, that God really can root those out. He can change us and replace those with His righteousness. His righteousness is what changes us and gives us the freedom and the victory.

Somebody wrote a book called Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free(laughter) I found that when I speak the truth to my own heart, it really does set me free. Ultimately, my emotions and my areas of weakness or sinfulness will be changed in the light of believing the truth.

Ultimately, the truth is Christ—finding liberation and freedom in Him.

Paula: I’d love to talk to you a little bit about singleness, because that’s one of the most frequent questions I get asked about you: “Does Nancy want to be married? Does she feel called to singleness?” How should I answer?

Nancy: Umm . . . yes.

Paula: Yes!? Well, that was simple.

Nancy: I don’t know how to answer that. Let me first say that I recognize that we have a lot of single women who serve in our ministry. I know a lot of single women who are serving the Lord in various ways who have a deep, unfulfilled longing to be married. There’s nothing wrong with that longing.

The thing that becomes wrong with unfulfilled longings is if they become demands: “God, you have to do this or I’m going to sin to get this. I’m going to flirt to get this. I’ll be bitter. I’m going to manipulate circumstances.” So, I thank the Lord for women for whom this is a deep, unfulfilled longing, but who by faith are willing to offer that up to God as a sacrifice and serve Him, as much as they would long to be in a godly marriage and have children.

For me, and there is nothing more spiritual about this, that’s not been a deep unfulfilled longing in my own heart. I love marriage. I love family. I’m a big promoter of God’s picture and purposes for marriage and family. I love children. I love being with married couples and with families.

I think that families have a way of reflecting the gospel to our world that is very beautiful and very powerful. But I also believe—because the Scripture says it’s true—that singleness, for a time or for a life-time, can be a gift. First Corinthians 7 talks about the apostle Paul. He uses his own journey there.

He doesn’t exalt singleness or marriage—he exalts Christ. He says, “Eternity is not about singleness or marriage . . . that’s for time. God has made most needing to be married; most will be married.” It’s not wrong to ask God for that. I think for those who want a mate, that’s a good request.

But Paul said, “If God has set you apart with a heart for kingdom work that you can fulfill without being married, then consider that a gift and embrace it as that.” I think, basically, what he says to everyone in that passage is, “Accept the state or the condition where God has you and be content in it.”

The fact is, most married women are not content in their marriage. At least, at times, they wish they were single. And most single women, at least at times, wish they were married. Each looks at the other with jealous eyes.

The married woman can think, “That single woman doesn’t know how good she has it . . . she can do this, she can be free to do this . . . I’m tied up here, not only with this mate, but with these three toddlers, and I don’t ever get to speak adult English.”

Everything in life has its challenges, but God has, I think, given me a grace. I’ve never had a sense that I will never be married. He’s never called me to a lifetime of singleness. I do think I’ve always had a sense that God was probably setting me apart for kingdom service as a single woman.

Is that ever hard? Sure. Is it ever hard for you to be married? Sure, but as a whole I’ve felt like it’s been a great gift. Singleness is also a great responsibility, because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that the single woman or man who is not distracted with the good requirements of meeting their mate’s needs should serve the Lord with undistracted devotion.

So being single is not a chance to be free from responsibility or hardship or giving or serving or tying into other people’s lives. It’s a chance to serve the Lord and others with undistracted devotion. It’s not a time to be foot loose and fancy free; it’s a great responsibility. I consider it a blessing.

Do I ever deal with loneliness? Every human being deals with loneliness at one level or another. Do I ever wish there was a companion to share my life with? Yes, but I also have enough married friends who struggle—even good marriages, at times—to connect at a soul-to-soul level. The fact is, there is no human being on the earth who can fill the innermost parts of my heart.

We set ourselves up for disappointment and pain when we look to the creature to do what only the Creator can do. Now, having said that, God does use people in our lives to bless us. I’ve been intentional about having relationships with married and single people, with people in different seasons of life.

I mentioned earlier I have a family with four little kids living in my house right now—that’s a season. It’s a crazy season, but it’s good. It’s made me more compassionate and tender-hearted toward moms who are in that season with young kids . . . where just the chance to get a shower is a big deal for some of the women in that season.

I can get a shower anytime I want—by myself. Each season has its own challenges. I think having people in your life from different seasons makes you more sensitive. I’m thankful for families that I became friends with when their children were very little, and now . . .

In fact, the couple living in my home, I’ve known that girl—the mother—since she was ten months old. Her parents are longtime dear friends of mine. Now she’s a thirty-four-year-old mom with four little kids. I’m holding her little ones in my lap, and they’re calling me Ya-ya, which is Greek for grandmother.

So it’s a great joy for me to see my friends’ kids growing up and walking with the Lord, and now to see their children’s children, and to be a part of their lives. I think the more you give into other people’s lives, the less you’re going to feel the gnawing, crippling effects of being too self-centered. 

I don’t have time to lie around and feel sorry for myself—and that’s a good thing. Now, sometimes I do feel sorry for myself, but God’s call to invest in others’ lives really helps me a lot in those lonely moments. Then, when we do have the lonely moments, it’s a reminder that this is not Paradise.

There’s a day coming when every unfulfilled longing will be filled by Christ, Himself, and in the meantime we embrace the unfulfilled longings. We thank God for them. Anything that makes us need God is a blessing, right? So that’s a blessing.

Paula: You have served on staff at churches and ministries and have worked alongside married men for years. How has the Lord protected you and helped you to maintain good peer boundaries?

Nancy: It is the Lord, let me just say that. I cannot take any credit for that. I think a couple things have sobered me and made me realize how important this is. One, we’ve all known people in public ministry who have defaulted morally—people who at one time were very effective servants of the Lord.

I’ve seen enough of that over the years to realize if you ever think there’s a sin that you could not commit, you may be setting yourself up to be vulnerable to that or some other type of sin that’s unimaginable to you now. There is not any type of sin that I could not commit.

I take this very seriously. There’s something so sacred about the marriage union. It’s a picture of Christ’s relationship with His Church. I’ve seen too many people go that way (not taking it seriously), and I know I could. One of the practical things I’ve done is to put into place some guardrails—some practical things.

Nobody ever has an affair with somebody they didn’t spend time alone with in inappropriate settings or circumstances. Affairs and immorality are first a matter of the heart. So right behavior doesn’t necessarily keep you from sinning, but it can certainly help protect you from making stupid choices.

I’ve gone above and beyond what some would think is necessary—not only for my own heart’s sake—I don’t know where somebody else’s heart is. I don’t know what issues they may be facing in their marriage, that they’re struggling with. Most of all, for Jesus’ sake, I don’t want to bring shame or reproach to His Name. I know I could, in this or many other ways.

I don’t want to exalt moral sins over other sins, I just think it’s one of the most subtle and deadly and dangerous sins. It has so many consequences, as Proverbs says. So, practically, I don’t carry on personal email exchanges or texting exchanges with married men.

You’ve got to know what’s appropriate in a given relationship. You have to know what a man’s wife is comfortable with. But I don’t want to ever say anything—unless I’m helping plan a surprise birthday party for his wife—that, if his wife saw what I said, she would be uncomfortable . . . or if somebody else discovered my texting or emails, that they would have a question and would think this is not appropriate.

I just don’t want to be set up for something that could look inappropriate or could be inappropriate. That’s what defrauding is, creating desires that you can’t righteously fulfill. Again, it’s God who keeps us, Christ who keeps us. It’s a real longing and passion of mine to want to be pure morally and to want to protect marriages around me.

Paula: Nancy, fifty years is incredibly significant. As you look ahead to the future, what is your hope?

Nancy: I can tell you this: When I was a younger woman, from the time I was a little girl, I always had these goals to be a godly, old lady someday. I don’t know where I got this. I now realize that getting older comes whether you try it or not. The godly part is not so easy.

I remember reading the story about Caleb in Joshua 14, and how he got to eighty-five years of age and was still vigorous to serve the Lord and still wanted one mountain to capture for God. I remember being very struck by that and I began to pray, “Lord, if it pleases you, would you let me have eighty-five years to serve you with a sound mind? I just want to be faithful for however many years that is, but would you let me have that?”

I will say that once I hit fifty, I wasn’t so sure I want to go to eighty-five. It’s seems longer now and maybe a little harder. I’ve seen, now, friends who struggle more in some of those later years. So God knows how many years. Somebody told me recently that they had watched the documentary Killing Lincoln. What Lincoln didn’t know was that he only had twenty-nine days left . . . twenty-five days left. So the commentator is telling you this, but it’s showing you what’s happening on that day of his life when he doesn’t know he’s only got a short time to live.

I was very struck by that. I want to live in such a way that, if it is only twenty-nine more days or twenty-nine more weeks, or if it is twenty-nine more years or more, I want to faithful with each one of those—that I could go and meet the Lord without regrets, without unfinished business.

You’ve heard it said, “Live today in such a way that you’re ready to die.” Live that you don’t have unfinished business or things to complete. I want to live that way; I want to be faithful. If He gives me many more years to serve Him, I would be grateful for that. But I want to do it with what I call fresh oil—with the fresh anointing of His Holy Spirit.

I carry a picture in my Daytimer that is a laminated photograph that a friend shot for me years ago when she was on the road. She saw this “fresh oil” sign at a construction site. She took a picture of the sign and laminated it for me and wrote on the back, “This is my prayer for you.” She gave me that, I don’t know, fifteen years ago or more, and I still carry it with me. It’s a picture of what I want to be true in my life.

I love that passage in Psalm 92 that says, “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord. They flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age. They are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

I want to be, with whatever time the Lord gives me, using those days to declare Christ, to make Him known, to make a big deal about Him and His gospel, and to be serving the people in my life. I look at Jesus at the end of His life. He says in John 17, verse 4, “I have finished the work that You gave me to do.”

Now, Jesus hadn’t done everything there was to do in that short period of time He was on earth. He hadn’t healed every sick person, but He had done everything God sent Him here to do. I guess that’s what I want to be able to say at the end  of my life—“I’ve finished the work You gave me to do.” But I realize I can’t do that if He doesn’t keep me.

So I have a hymn—I don’t want to say it’s my favorite hymn—but as it relates to my life and calling, it’s a bit of a life hymn. It’s by Charles Wesley. It’s not as well known as some, but this is what drives me, what keeps me wanting to be faithful in the race:

A charge to keep I have; a God to glorify,
A never dying soul to save and fit it for the sky.

Now, I don’t save souls—Christ does. But there are people whose lives are at stake whom God is calling us to serve.

To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powers engage, to do my Master’s will.

Arm me with jealous care, as in Thy sight to live,
And O, thy servant, Lord, prepare, a strict account to give.

Help me to watch and pray and on Thyself rely; 
O let me not my trust betray, but press to realms on high.
("A Charge to Keep I Have" by Charles Wesley)

So, you see, it’s a journey there. It’s a pilgrimage; it’s a story unfolding; it’s depending upon Him.

Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior be glory and honor and dominion and power, now and forever.

It’s His story; it’s up to Him. It’s a story He’s been writing. I want to keep leaning on Him; I want to honor Him while I can speak and teach. I want to honor Him if the point comes when I can’t. I think of Corrie ten Boom who had a stroke. For the last five years of her life she couldn’t talk. There’s been a whole book written—called The Five Silent Years—on how her life ministered to others.

If the Lord has me bedridden and I can’t talk, somehow I want for my life to bring glory to Jesus. And then, I want to be ready to face Him, to be with Him, to enjoy Him for all of eternity. This life is just a prelude, a dress rehearsal—just a moment, really—for all of an eternity that He’s preparing us for. I’m very excited about that and ready for it when He’s ready.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Paula Hendricks from the True Woman blog. Nancy’s marking her fiftieth spiritual birthday this week, and she’s been talking with Paula about the way God has led her and helped her grow in these five decades.

Who has helped you grow over the years? Have you said “thank you”? Not long ago we heard from one Revive Our Hearts listener who is thankful for how God is using this ministry. She was especially challenged in the area of gratitude. She realized she needed to write Revive Our Hearts because of how the Lord has used the ministry in her life, through conferences, books, and the online broadcasts. She said,

I would like to thank you for your dedication in serving God and allowing Jesus Christ to be first in your life. Thank you for allowing God to use you to further His kingdom. Thank you for being bold and courageous in telling women the truth about our calling in this world, as image-bearers of Jesus Christ, as women after God’s heart, as obedient servants of Christ, as wives, homemakers, mothers—and as women who should not be afraid to walk in truth so that God can use us as well.

Nancy, I know emails like this encourage the team at Revive Our Hearts. All of us can learn from her example.

Nancy: It meant so much to me that this listener would take the time to write and share these words of encouragement and let us know how God has used this ministry in her life. It’s something I’ve tried to do over the years as I realize how much an author or a songwriter or a speaker has influenced my life and how much it means to stop and say “thank you.”

I hope you look for those opportunities to thank your pastor, to thank others who have ministered into your life spiritually.

Perhaps the Lord has used this ministry in your life in a special way. If so, would you consider partnering with us and helping to make it possible for us to continue, through your prayers and your financial support?

As we’ve been sharing with you over the last couple of weeks, this is the time of year when we pause to evaluate what ministry we’re able to do moving forward. We call it our fiscal year-end. We really need your help this month as we go through the budgeting process for the coming fiscal year and also as we prepare for the summer months, when donations tend to be down a bit.

When you send a gift of any size to help support this ministry, we want to say “thank-you” by sending you the second volume of a CD called Hidden in My Heart. It’s a collection of Scriptures set to music, and I know it will be a huge blessing in your life.

You can give us a call to make your donation at 1-800-569-5959, or you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. On Monday, we’ll hear from a woman who had money, prestige, a nice-looking family and plenty of nice things, but none of these satisfy. Find out how she finally found what she needed, next week on Revive Our Hearts.

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

 

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