Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Womanhood Starts in the Heart

Leslie Basham: Kelly Needham reminds every woman the reason we embrace femininity is for God, not ourselves.

Kelly Needham: As long as our womanhood is all about us, all about what I want, we will never enjoy the freedom and joy God has for us as women.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Seeking Him, for January 28, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If you have listened to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that we’ve been inviting women to join in a True Woman movement. What’s exciting for me is to see how women of the next generation are taking the baton and starting to make this movement their own.

My friend Kelly Needham is one of those younger women who’s passionate to live out biblical femininity and to help others understand it. She spoke not long ago about "Biblical Womanhood and the Gospel," and I wanted us to hear what she had to say.

Kelly is married to songwriter and recording artist Jimmy Needham, and she’s a mom. She also loves mentoring other women and opening the Scripture to them.

Let’s listen.

Kelly: Well, the truth is I have had a problem with self-love for a long time. There’s nothing new that I have battle this week in wanting things to be about myself.

Like many women, I longed to be married. I grew up as a little girl dreaming about my wedding. (Any of you girls been there? Okay.) I got to college, and my first thought was, Well, this is where most people meet their spouses, right? So that’s probably what I’m going to do.

So I’m looking around, and I’m meeting godly guys, and . . . wow! These men are so mature compared to my high school friends. I’m starting to make lists in my head. (I don’t know if you’ve done that.) “Oh, yes, he’s definitely in the yes column. That would be a yes for me. Oh, no, no, no, no. That’s a no. There’s a maybe column.”

I don’t know if you’ve done that, but that was something the Lord convicted me of in college, that I was not believing Him to be enough, and I was using my brothers to serve myself. I was not thinking of them as my brothers in Christ and how to encourage them, but was instead thinking, How could they serve me?

So I repented of the Lord, and God liberated me. He freed me from looking to marriage to be for me what only God could be—and it was awesome. In enjoying my walk with Him in that season, I unexpectedly met my husband. It was very soon after that that I met Jimmy.

He was the only man, up to that point, that I felt like didn’t get tired of me talking about Jesus. When I would share a verse of something I was reading, “Oh, can you believe that the Word of God said this?” or “God is this type of God to us?” He was like, “That’s amazing! What about this verse?” And we would just go back and forth like that.

And so, in college, when I was twenty years old, I found myself married after nine-and-one-half months of dating. Jimmy was just starting out in his career. I didn’t meet him as a musician, as a Christian artist. That all came about as we were moving toward marriage.

My first year of marriage wasn’t easy. Not because marriage itself was hard. Jimmy was the kindest, most patient man that I knew. But all of a sudden I was Mrs. Needham. I wasn’t Kelly Adams. I wasn’t who people knew me to be. I was on the road with him, and the only thing that made me important to other people was that I was married to a rock star. And that was really hard. It exposed a lot of pride in me.

I remember standing by the merchandise table in the back. People were lined up to get his autograph. And all I could think was, I have things to offer, too. I’m important, too. Does nobody care about what I have to offer?

And, man, God convicted me that I was not okay to be a servant and a sidekick to my husband if that’s what he needed me to be. I wanted it to be about me. So God exposed my pride in that, and He gave me the grace to repent and turn back to Him. I found so much joy being a servant behind the scenes with Jimmy. It was awesome.

Well then, a few years into that, of enjoying life on the road, we started talking about having a family. I quickly began to realize that I was terrified at getting pregnant. I began asking myself, “Why?” And I realized: If I come off the road with him, what’s going to happen? All these girls want his autograph all the time. I can’t be at home. People need to know that he’s married. I need to be there and stand next to him. “He has a girl already. It’s not you. It’s me.” (laughter)

I was really afraid of having children. I remember sitting in a grocery store parking lot with Jimmy and just finally going, “I need to pray right now.” And, in tears, crying and saying, “God, I’m terrified at what You might have for me in that. Would You please help me to trust You? I don’t want family to be about me. I want it to be about You.” And God freed me. He freed me from self-love in that season.

Well, we started trying to have a family, and in that same year, I had two miscarriages. At the same time, many of my close friends began to get pregnant. And all of a sudden, what used to scare me began to be something I thought I needed to be okay. Jealousy and bitterness were just standing nearby, always offering this warm blanket of, “Just come, be angry.”

It was a really hard season, and God convicted me that my source of joy I thought was going to be in being able to have a child and not in Him. God gave me the grace to repent of that and ask Him for the fullness of joy in His presence, whether or not He gives me children. And it was awesome. God freed me and liberated me from that and gave me joy.

Are you noticing a theme here? In all these seasons of my life, and many more after that, these things about womanhood, these battles that come up. I think that I knew in the Scriptures that they said were hard for me to accept because I was living for myself.

  • I knew that the Word of God in Ephesians 5 said that the husband is the head of the home, or the head of the wife, and that wives are to submit to and respect their husbands. I knew that.
  • I knew that 1 Timothy 2 said that women should dress modestly and draw attention not to themselves.
  • I knew Titus 2 said that women have a unique call to cultivate the home, to be a worker at home.
  • I knew that Psalm 127 said that children are a heritage and a blessing.
  • I knew that in Genesis 2 women were created with this unique purpose to help.

I grew up in church. I knew those things. But knowledge was not enough for me. I struggled to implement these truths and struggled to find joy in them. Why? Because sin, by its very nature, is selfish and self-centered. I loved myself most, and I needed God to free me from self-love and put in me a heart that loved Him more than me.

We could go line by line through everything the Bible has to say about biblical womanhood. We could create a godly woman checklist. I could write it up for you right now and print it out as a bookmark for you to keep in your Bible. But if we don’t first understand the nature of our sin and our heart that gets in the way of those things, then we’ve accomplished nothing. We’ve just changed the outside behavior.

In Matthew 23, verse 25, Jesus said to the Pharisees,

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate that the outside may also be clean" (vv. 25–26).

If we try to change our behavior before we change our hearts, we’ve accomplished nothing. We’ve just done what the Pharisees did: cleaned up the outside . . . and that is not pleasing to Jesus.

We’ve put on the clothes of godliness while the essence of godliness is still missing in our hearts. And that essence of godliness is love for God over love for self.

As long as our womanhood is all about us, all about what I want, we will never enjoy the freedom and joy God has for us as women. He has great things for women. I know no other religious text besides the Bible that gives so much honor and weight and significance to women. God is a good God for us, ladies. We can trust that. But first we have to remind ourselves that it’s not about us. It’s about Him.

So, if you have your Bible with you, go ahead to Genesis 1, and we’re going to start in verse 26.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (vv. 26–27).

Now, turn with me to Genesis 2, and we’re going to read a little bit more about this creation account in Genesis 2, starting in verse 18.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (vv.18–25).

So from that creation account, the first thing that we notice is that we were created. That seems like a simple truth, but it is incredibly profound and has huge implications. We are not the creator. We are the created. Which means we have no right to define ourselves.

Isaiah 42:5 says: 

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.

Take a few breaths right now. We don’t think about our breathing very much, it’s so normal. But God’s Word says that if you can breathe right now, God has given you that breath. He sustains your life. He sustains my life. And, therefore, because He created us as women, He sustains us as women; He has every right to define what womanhood should be.

And the second thing we see in this creation of woman is that we're created in His image. That means that we have value and dignity and worth. Because God is supremely valuable, and we are made in His image, it gives us value.

It also means that women are not a lesser gender than men. Conversely, it means that men are not a lesser gender than women. This is not a “Who’s greater than whom?” battle. We are both given equal value, equal dignity, and equal worth because we are both made in our Creator’s image. That’s a great honor.

It also means that being image bearers, we are not to point to ourselves. We were made a signpost to something else. Our creation is meant to reflect and point to God.

I love what was said last night: “We’re one race, two genders; one purpose, two roles.”

There’s a unity in us as men and women. Just like Adam said, “Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” He looked at Eve and didn’t say, “Wow. She’s really different than me.” That wasn’t the implication in that passage, was it?

He looked at all the other animals, and finally, when he saw Eve, he went, “Yes! You are like me.” It was the sameness that he was celebrating in that moment. And yet, in the sameness that he celebrated, he recognized distinction.

And so, in our unity, as a race and as a species, we see the unity of our God, our Triune God. And yet our diversity in how we play that out, our roles, our genders, are very different at the same time. We see our God both operates as God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and all the distinctions in Him are important. Our faith depends on it.

And in our togetherness as men and women, we reflect His image. We need each other to do this. And also, again, it means it’s not about us. It’s not about what we can get out of this life, but how we can make Him look awesome to the world around us, that people would want to say, “I want to know your God, and I want to know who He is.”

The uniqueness of being made female and not male is not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about God. God deserves to be glorified in us.

And the third thing that we see in the creation of woman, not just that we are created, and so we receive God’s instructions for womanhood, that we’re made as image bearers, we have value and worth, but we’re also made as helpers.

I’m going to read Genesis 2:18 again. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

That’s two words in the Hebrew: ezer kenegdoezer, help. Kenegdo means at his level, or next to him, or complementary to him. We are made as a helper, suitable for him, or fit for him.

Now, our culture would scoff at that, that we would be called a helper. Sometimes when we think of a helper, we think of a secretary or someone who cleans up the house while someone else does all the important things. But that is not how the Bible sees help. In fact, there’s only one other person that our Old Testament will attribute the name ezer to. (Any guesses who that is? God Himself.)

You see woman called ezer, and you see God called ezer. Let me read you some of the verses where that word ezer comes up.

Psalm 121:1—2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

What about Psalm 33:20? “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”

Psalm 70:5, “I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help [my ezer], my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!”

That word that we just saw in those verses, that God is our help in that way, is the same word He attributes to Eve, “I’m going to make an ezer for you at your level.”

Now, when we say that God is our help, does that belittle God? It does not. It exalts Him. We seek Him as a deliverer and a shield—somebody who’s desperately needed. “If You don’t come to my aid, I have no hope.” And that kind of neediness on God as our help elevates Him when we admit that we have our need and in need of Him.

So why would we, as women, feel inferior because we’ve been called a help? God does not feel that way. Why should we? We are no more inferior to man because we were created to help any more than God is inferior to us because He is there to help us. As God is a help to His people, so we as women get the privilege and honor to be a help to mankind.

Do you enjoy the fact that God is a help to you? Do you enjoy the fact that the One who numbers the stars cares enough to bend down and be a part of your life and help you? We have this awesome privilege to image God in a beautiful, humble, and sacrificial way.

God does not need to come and help us. He doesn’t owe us that. But He does willingly, and through Christ, at a great cost to Himself. And we get to reflect that as we relieve the burden of others—not add to them, as we encourage and strengthen others—not tear them down, as we push others to Christ—not steer them away.

What an honor! What a privilege! When you think of women as helpers, you should not think, Low; man, that’s such a lame role, thoughts. You should think, Awesome! I can’t wait to do that!

That’s the type of woman that we want to be, the type that when other people in our lives look around and go, “We need someone who can help us do what we’re doing better. Who could that be?” That our names would come to their mind because of the ways that we’ve been faithfully trying to help and serve those that are already in our lives.

And don’t wait for marriage to be that kind of woman. Be that kind of woman who’s known to come alongside and help others thrive.

This is what you were made to do, and this is what I was made to do. We serve God wholeheartedly and selflessly, where we’re planted, right now. That gives God honor as we reflect Him as helper to us.

And so, concluding that, our creation as women, God created us in His image to be a reflection of His helping nature. That means biblical womanhood is womanhood with God at the center. God made us in His image to reflect His helping nature. Which means biblical womanhood is a womanhood with God at the center. He is to be our center of gravity, our motivation, our ultimate goal.

But, as I talked about earlier in my own life, we have a big problem embracing that. It’s that problem of sin. So we’re going to turn, as we look at our sin as women, to Genesis chapter 3, that very next fateful chapter. Genesis chapter 3, starting in verse 1,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate (vv. 1–4).

So we’re going to look at what our sin is. The nature of it is choosing to assume the role of God and define womanhood to suit our own desires. Our sin, in essence, is choosing to assume the role of God and define womanhood to suit our own desires.

Now, we weren’t there in the garden with Eve that day, but the sin of Adam and Eve reflects the nature of our own. Why was Eve tempted toward this tree?

You’ve got to imagine, pre-fall, that the fruit they could have enjoyed in all the other trees would have been plenty in taste and sustenance. It wasn’t the taste alone. Do you see what Satan tempts her with in that moment? It’s in verse 5. It says:

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.

That is the lure. “Don’t be what He made you to be. Be like Him. Don’t you want to be like God?” And that is what our sin is: We want to be like God. We want to define our lives for ourselves, and we want to make it what we want it to be to suit our desires.

And isn’t this how our culture defines freedom, right? “Do what you want, when you want to do it. Don’t care what anybody else has to say. You don’t want to do that? Then don’t do it. If it doesn’t benefit you, then why would you be there?”

Freedom is portrayed as being able to do whatever you want to do, when you want to do it. Define your own life, in your own terms, in your own way. It’s the same lie that Satan has been preaching since the very beginning. “You can be like God. Doesn’t that sound great?”

But is it great? It seems to be at the beginning, but it never turns out that way as we live that way. We weren’t made for that.

I shared with you how self-love has played itself out in my life. How does it play itself out in your life? Think about that. Consider that for a second. How does love for yourself and wanting your life to be what you want it to be play itself out in your life?

This is a motive issue. It comes from the heart, and it affects our actions. And so it’s hard to pin down just by looking at what we do.

We’ve all gone through many different experiences, different things we’ve suffered, different things that were modeled for us in our homes as what is valuable and good. And because of that, our sin manifests very differently, but I want to put it in two categories. This nature of self-love is manifested in two ways: Trying to gain something that we want, and trying to avoid something that we don’t want.

Leslie: Hmm . . . that’s so good.

Like Kelly said, our sin can show up in a lot of different ways, but the reason the gospel is good news is that it provides us with a solution to our sin problem. Because of Christ, we can move from the self-love she’s talking about to loving God and then living out His love toward others the way He meant us to.

Nancy: When we discover our unique calling and design as women, it puts the gospel on display and helps those around us see a fuller picture of Christ and the Church.

We’ll hear more from Kelly tomorrow.

I’m so grateful that we can bring you practical messages like this one, thanks to the support of our listeners. If you appreciate what you hear on Revive Our Hearts day after day, would you ask the Lord how He would want you to help make this program possible?

When you donate any amount this week, we’d like to send you a booklet I’ve written called, A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood. It’s a great follow-up to today’s message. This booklet will walk you through a number of Scriptures that help us to unpack God’s design for our lives as women, and you’ll learn some practical ways that you can influence and build up the lives of others around you.

Be sure to ask for the Bible Portrait of Womanhood booklet when you give a gift of any size to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. You can do that online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Leslie: So, what is God’s solution to our problem of self-love? Tomorrow, Kelly Needham will show you how the gospel can transform every aspect of your life as a woman. Please join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you discover and embrace God’s design for your life. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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