“Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn’t easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens—I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched. Pr. 11:25
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. Is. 58:10
“God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for himself the knowledge of them, that he may train us up in a dependence upon himself and a continued readiness for every event.” ~Matthew Henry
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” ~Proverbs 27:1
“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.’” ~Acts 1:7
“Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” Mark 4:24
“This is a principle which we find continually brought forward in Scripture. All that believers have is undoubtedly of grace. Their repentance, faith and holiness, are all the gift of God. But the degree to which a believer attains in grace is ever set before us as closely connected with his own diligence in the use of means, and his own faithfulness in living fully up to the light and knowledge which he possesses. Indolence and laziness are always discouraged in God’s Word. Labour and pains in hearing, reading, and prayer are always represented as bringing their own reward…. Attention to this great principle is the main secret of spiritual prosperity. The man who makes rapid progress in spiritual attainments—who grows visibly in grace, and knowledge, and strength, and usefulness—will always be found to be a diligent man. He leaves no stone unturned to promote his soul’s well-doing. He is diligent over his Bible, diligent in his private devotions, diligent as a hearer of sermons, diligent in his attendance at the Lord’s table. And he reaps according as he sows. Just as the muscles of the body are strengthened by regular exercise, so are the graces of the soul increased by the diligence in using them. Do we wish to grow in grace? Do we desire to have stronger faith, brighter hope, and clearer knowledge? Beyond doubt we do, if we are true Christians. Then let us live fully up to our light and improve every opportunity. Let us never forget our Lord’s words in this passage, ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ The more we do for our souls, the more shall we find God does for them.” ~J. C. Ryle
Recently, a young woman asked us: “Why do you think so many young Christian women these days resist godly advice from other Christian women?”
Now I know many young women who are eager, desperate even, for godly advice. But particularly on the Internet, there seems to be a trend of sometimes labeling godly counsel as legalistic or condemning.
Granted, if you’ve had the unpleasant culinary experience of an extra-biblical opinion shoved down your throat, you may not be asking for another. But more often than not, I wonder if this reaction comes from sinful comparison, a fear of feeling inferior, confusion over how to biblically handle those negative feelings that come from jealousy and envy.
But Jesus’ exhortation in John 21: “What is that to you? You follow me?” is not an encouragement to isolationist Christianity. It does not encourage individualism and pride. Rather, following Christ leads us into greater humility, which draws us deeper into community with other believers who—regardless of their different backgrounds and circumstances—are also trying to follow God.
In fact, Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t ever look at others. Put your blinders on and look only to me.” No, he says, “Don’t look to others in envy and sinful comparison. But do look to other, godly, Christians to imitate and follow their example.”
In 1 Peter 3 we are told to look to the holy women of the past and consider their way of life. In Titus 2 the younger women are to learn from the older women. Paul says it plainly in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
These verses do not mean we have to take every suggestion we receive, or that well-intended advice is infallible advice. But a humble heart is on the look out for wherever wisdom can be gleaned. A humble heart has no problem admitting someone has followed farther than we have; it runs to catch up.
So let’s not attempt to cure the pride of sinful comparison with the pride of prickly individualism. Let’s lean in to learn. Let’s press on to know more of Christ, and let’s look around for those God has placed in our lives to teach us how to obey his command: “you follow me.”
I only remember two things about Margie. She had long brown hair, and she was smarter than me. Maybe she recited her multiplication tables faster or got better grades or turned in tests sooner than me and the other dozen or so kids in the third grade—I don’t remember, exactly.
But do I remember crying to my mom, feeling sorry for myself that she was so much better than me. And the reason that I remember Margie at all is because of what my mom said next:
“You’ll always have a Margie in your life, Nicole. There is always going to be someone who is better than you. No matter where you are, who you know, how much you excel, God is always going to put people close to you who are better than you.”
Boy, was she was right. I don’t think Margie returned to my school the following year, but she’s been with me ever since.
Sometimes she is a mother who is a more consistent and creative mom than me.
Other times she’s a writer who can write circles around me.
She’s the woman who is much prettier than I am.
She has more friends than me. She has more money and a nicer house. She’s more artistic than me.
Everywhere I turn, every time I try my hand at something, every time I think, even for a split second, that maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally earned a blue ribbon, she shows up, just in time, to grab the grand prize.
What would I do without her?
I would be puffed up and self-satisfied. Apathetic. Unmotivated. Hard-hearted. Unhappy. That’s why I thank God for all the Margies in my life. Not always right at first, but sooner than I used to; because I have come to see each one—not as a threat to my happiness and success—but as a gift from God: a token of his particular, adopting, sanctifying love for me.
God uses Margie to expose my heart. She shows me what the wise old preacher once said: “What hurts ain’t dead yet.”
God uses Margie to challenge me to grow. She shows me that I really haven’t “arrived” in the Christian life but that I can, and I should, make progress.
God uses Margie to purify my heart for service. She eclipses my glory, and so, with the silt of my ambition strained out, I’m more apt to serve for God’s glory.
No doubt you have a Margie or two in your life. She’s probably the woman you’re thinking of right now. If so, thank God. He loves you, and he is not done with you yet.
Destination matters; not just how we feel along the way.
Take the whooping cranes, for example. A lone whooping crane, or batch of inexperienced flyers, may enjoy the breeze and the scenery every bit as much as the whoopers who follow an older bird, but they all have to land some time. And it matters where they touch down.
“So what is our destination?” we may well ask. What is the end goal of older women teaching younger women?
That the word of God may not be reviled. (Tit. 2:5)
That we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (Tit. 2:10)
We are to imitate and follow godly women so we might reach Destination Godliness.
But if we are honest, we sometimes want more sympathy than steadfastness out of discipleship. We prefer more understanding, less exhortation. A little more comfort and a little less correction.
So we tend to drift toward the “What you? Me too!” friend who makes us feel OK about our shortcomings. We prefer friends who can relate to our struggles, who are “real” about their faults. But we may keep our distance—and even judge—the woman who seems godlier, more “together” (we say, a tad derisively) than we are.
We may like to talk, even debate, serious theology, but resist inquiry into how that theology is working out in our home, our work-place, or our parenting. We may shower likes on blog posts where women share faults and failures as if they are badges of honor, but pass over an article or book that we fear may make us feel bad about ourselves.
We sometimes have a take the sugar hold the medicine approach to discipleship.
But this is not to our benefit. “Who is the friend who will be a real blessing to my soul?” asks Charles Bridges: “Is it one who will humor my fancies and flatter my vanity?....This comes far short of my need. I am a poor, straying sinner with a wayward will and a blinded heart, going wrong at every step.”
The authors of the epistles see our need. They don’t laugh off faults and failures. Rather, they repeatedly, relentlessly remind us that a life transformed by the gospel should look like it. They exhort us, by the grace of God and in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, to stay on course, press forward to maturity, and make progress toward the goal. And if we are to reach our destination, they tell us, younger women need to follow older women. (More to come on who these older women are, anyway. Not all of them have white hair.)
While it is a wonderful blessing to have friends to walk with us, we also need friends who have walked ahead of us. We need women who have weathered storms and passed landmarks of godliness to teach us how to make progress in our faith. We need godly, older women to help us reach our destination.
Labor Day is for many, a day to rest from work. But how do we find rest for our restless souls? Scripture, which is always saying things we don’t expect, tells us to find rest by walking.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jer. 6:16, emphasis mine)
Rest for our souls is found when we search out and walk in the ancient paths, on God’s Good Highway. How do we do this? Through repentance and obedience to God’s Word. Our souls find rest when, by the power only available through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we obey.
This isn’t always the answer we want to hear. Like the original recipients of God’s message through the prophet, we often cross our arms and stand still. We want to find rest some other way than God’s way. Derek Kidner comments:
As for the compassionate offer of rest for your souls, it is brushed aside—for as sinners we do not take kindly either to God’s diagnosis of our restless state or to his remedy for it. That remedy…both here and in our Lord’s quotation of the last line (Mt. 11:29), is no rest-cure but a redirection: the blessed relief of stepping out along the right way. Jesus interprets this in personal terms of walking with him as his working partners (‘my yoke upon you’) and his pupils (‘learn from me’). ~The Message of Jeremiah, p. 46, emphasis mine
We find relief from the weariness of sin when we walk with God as his servants and his students. We find rest for our souls when we take a step of repentance for our laziness or anger, our anxiety or our judging and trust in the forgiveness that comes only through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
So what good and ancient road of obedience do we need to take a step down today?
Bari Nichols appeals to pastors to think strategically about moms who work at home when they are preaching and applying God’s Word to their congregation. This is an article for pastors, —and I would encourage you to forward it to your pastor, along with a note of gratefulness for his preaching.
But I think there is something here for us as women, no matter our season of life. I highly recommend you read it.
The author of this post is a provoking example for all of us. Her appeal to pastors also forces us to consider how seriously we take the preaching of God’s Word each week. Would we write an appeal like this?
As my dad likes to say to our church on Sunday morning: “The preaching event, being addressed by God through the reading and proclamation of His Word, is the most important event in the life of this church every week.”
So we need to ask ourselves: Is the preaching of God’s Word from our local church pastor the most important event in our lives each week? (Even if we are out with fussy children, do we make it a priority to review the sermon during the week?) The answer will reveal a lot about what we love and what we are living for.
What I also loved about this article was that this woman is asking her pastor for preaching that provokes and encourages her to conform to God’s Word, whether or not it is popular or comfortable.
Much of what Bari is encouraging pastors to remember is biblical teaching about women that is despised and derided in our culture today. And yet she is asking her pastor to teach her God’s Word, not what itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3).
So let’s ask ourselves, are we the kind of women who eagerly anticipate the preaching of God’s Word? And do we ask our pastors to teach us that Word just as God wrote it, no matter how convicting or uncomfortable or challenging that Word may be?
Women of the Word will do both. Let’s be those kind of women.
Last night, before trudging upstairs to our loft bedroom, my husband and I placed an old fashioned alarm clock, set for 5 o’clock a.m., in the narrow hallway between our children’s bedroom doors. Then we set our phone alarms for just a few minutes earlier. If we failed to wake up to our phones, we would risk waking up our four energetic children at 5am. Talk about motivation to get out of bed in the morning. It worked.
Why in the world would we do that? Are we crazy? Maybe, but not in this case. Waking up early is the most important New Year’s resolution I have ever made or will keep making. It is the resolution that makes all my other resolutions possible. So whenever I slack off for a time, which often happens over the holidays, I resolve to rejoin The 5 O’ Clock Club.
By getting up early, I can make the most important things most important. And that means communion with God comes first:
“I earnestly recommend that [Bible reading and prayer] be in the early morning, unless there are some extenuating circumstances,” writes John Piper, “Entering the day without a serious meeting with God, over his Word and in prayer, is like entering the battle without tending to your weapons. The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep. The body does, but not the heart. We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God and prayer.”
Oh, does my heart desperately need replenishing every day.
The 5 O’Clock Club also serves my family. Trust me, the day gets off to a much better start when Mom has had a quiet time, made necessary preparations for the day, and maybe even taken a shower, than when I am groggy and grumpy, groping for the coffee pot as a try to field twenty questions at once. That’s just reality, folks.
Now trust me, I’ve opted out or slacked off countless times, especially when I’ve had babies or newly adopted children come into the home. A solid night sleep is essential to successfully rising early and I don’t suggest this to make anyone feel discouraged or condemned. But if you can get up early right now (even if you don’t think you’re a morning person!), consider this a friendly challenge. Just imagine what you’d get done in a day—in a year!—if you woke up half an hour earlier than you already do.
I know it might be January 2nd , but it is not too late to start. Do something crazy in 2013. Join The 5 O’Clock Club.
So if the pain can’t be prayed away, how do we pray? If the answer from God seems to be “no,” should we keep repeating the same requests? Or should we just stop praying?
A friend and I were talking about this recently. We’d both reached this point in our lives. We had prayed those “righteous, rigorous, repeated” prayers Nancy Guthrie talked about, but the answer from God still seemed to be “no.” Uncertain of how to pray, we each returned to God’s Word, and in particular, to the Psalms.
When we feel like don’t know how to pray (and even when we think we do!) we must rely on the prayers given to us by God. Throughout the Bible, but especially in the Psalms, God has provided relevant, profound, infallible prayers.
Here we cannot go wrong. Here we can pray each and every word with confidence—certain that God is pleased to hear the prayers of His eternal Word, prayed in faith, in the name of Jesus Christ.
And these prayers are not lifeless or detached from the struggles and stresses of real life. They are waiting for us in the depths of human grief, confusion, and uncertainty; they pull us up to the heights of praise.
So when you can’t pray away the pain, pray through the pain. Pray through God’s Word. Pray through the Psalms.
“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Psalm 6:9
While walking the church basement halls last Sunday with a loud little boy who wasn’t able to attend nursery due to sickness, I ran into another mom doing the same with her (not so loud) little girl. We chatted for a minute, laughing about the challenges of Sunday mornings with little ones and the many missed sermons and times of worship. Then she marveled at the day and age we live in—that the very sermon we were missing would only be a click away on our computer the next morning. I was reminded afresh of the wealth of biblical resources at our fingertips.
Over the past couple of years, as I have found it more challenging to find long stretches of time to read (for 3 little sweet obvious reasons), so I have begun to incorporate sermon listening into my daily routine. The options are endless. For starters just check out the Sovereign Grace store, Gospel Coalition, and Desiring God websites and you will find hundreds of sermons just waiting for your mp3 player.
This morning, while attacking my bedroom floor with the vacuum and mop, I listened to Kevin DeYoung’s sermon from T4G entitled “Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Feuled Effort.” It was the perfect message for the job, since my floor was greatly in need of some effort driven by the Spirit’s power. Me (and my floor) were greatly blessed and challenged by his message and I’m so grateful that technology allows me to bring T4G right into my home—and I didn’t even have to get out of my pjs!
So consider adding sermon listening to your daily routine and begin with Kevin’s message. Your floor will thank you.
My favorite preacher recently spoke at Solid Rock Church from Luke 18 (the very familiar passage of the Pharisee and tax collector). Like me, you might be well acquainted with this Bible story, yet surprised to discover who you most resemble in this story. We are all standing in line: either after the tax collector or behind the Pharisee. There is no third line. So, listen and learn which man you most resemble, which line you are standing in.
Each year we make New Year’s resolutions for things we want to change, but we also have New Year’s hopes for things we can’t change, but wish we could. We long to receive certain desires of our heart that seem elusively out of reach. And maybe, just maybe, we will see those hopes fulfilled this year.
When I was single, I hoped for a husband. Maybe this year, he will come. I imagined myself married by the following New Year, or at least engaged. Maybe the New Year was holding my future husband in the wings. God eventually gave me an amazing husband, but new hopes still sprang up with each New Year’s Day. When we lived in a teeny apartment, I wanted to move to a bigger place. When I experienced secondary infertility, I wanted to have another child. Maybe this year.
I’m sure you have hopes for this year. They are probably whatever you are thinking about right now.
But in her book, Keep A Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot encourages us to focus on the most important of New Year’s hopes:
“Will the young woman find a mate? Will the couple have a child? Maybe this year will be the year of desire fulfilled. Perhaps, on the other hand, it will be the year of desire radically transformed, the year of finding, as we have perhaps not yet truly found, Christ to be the All-Sufficient One, Christ the ‘deep sweet well of Love’” (page 49, emphasis mine).
This year, let us ask God to dissolve all our hopes (however good they may be!) into a single hope: to know Christ and to be found in Him. May this be a year of desire radically transformed, a deeper, truer, knowing of Christ as our All-Sufficient One.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8a).
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“Take one step at a time, every step under Divine warrant and direction. Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without his counsel. He loves to be consulted…Consider no circumstances too clear to need his direction. In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let him be supreme. Who of us has not found the unspeakable ‘peace’ of bringing to God matters too minute or individual to be entrusted to the most confidential ear?... If in true poverty of spirit we go every morning to our Lord, as knowing not how to guide ourselves for this day; our eye constantly looking upward for direction, the light will come down. He shall direct thy paths…. Let the will be kept in a quiet, subdued, cheerful, readiness, to move, stay, retreat, turn to the right hand or to the left, at the Lord’s bidding; always remembering that is best which is least our own doing, and that a pliable spirit ever secures the needful guidance…. No step well prayed over will bring ultimate regret.” ~Charles Bridges