We are taking a break for the summer until futher notice.

Welcome to week 2 of the Woman of Excellence Bible study hosted by A Women's Place

Welcome to week 2 (of 2 weeks) of the Woman of Excellence Bible Study Series hosted by A Women's Place. If you missed the first week I highly recommend reading those Bible studies as well.

Proverbs 31:10-31 (Amplified)

  • v 10 A capable, intelligent and virtuous woman, who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels, and her value is far above rubies or pearls.
  • v 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her safely, so that he has no lack of honest gain or need of dishonest spoil.
  • v 12 She will comfort, encourage and do him only good as long as there is life within her.
  • v 13 She seeks out the wool and flax [of which righteous character is made?] and works with willing hands to develop it.
  • v 14 She is like the merchant ships loaded with foodstuffs, she brings her household's [spiritual?] food from a far [country].
  • v 15 She rises while it is night and gets [through communion with her God?] spiritual food for her household and assigns her maids their tasks.
  • v 16 She considers a new field [of interest or activity] before she buys or accepts it -- expanding prudently [and not courting neglect of her present duties by assuming others]. With her savings [of time and strength] she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.
  • v 17 She girds herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] and makes her arms strong and firm.
  • v 18 She tastes and sees that her gain from work [with and for God] is good; her lamp [of faith and dependence upon God] goes not out' but [full of the oil of His Spirit] it burns on continually through the night [of trouble, privation or sorrow, warning away such robbers as fear, doubt and distrust].
  • v 19 She lays her hands to the spindle [spinning threads of which character is made], and her hands hold the distaff [making yarn to weave into lives pleasing to God].
  • v 20 She opens her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind or spirit].
  • v 21 She fears not the snow [of temptation or false teaching] for her family, for all her household are doubly clothed in [the] scarlet [of redemption].
  • v 22 She makes for herself coverlets, cushions and rugs of tapestry. Her clothing is of linen, pure white and fine, and of purple [such as that of which the clothing of the priest and the hallowed cloths of the temple are made].
  • v 23 Her husband is know in the city's gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
  • v 24 She makes fine linen garments and leads others to buy them; she delivers to the merchants girdles [or sashes that free one for service].
  • v 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure. She rejoices over the future -- the latter day or time to come [knowing that she and her family are in readiness for it]!
  • v 26 She opens her mouth with skillful and godly wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness -- giving counsel and instruction.
  • v 27 She looks well to how things go in her household, and the bread of idleness [gossip, discontent and self-pity] she will not eat.
  • v 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed -- happy, fortunate and to be envied; and her husband boasts of and praises her, saying,
  • v 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly and well [with strength of character that is steadfast in goodness] but you excel them all.
  • v 30 Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain [because it is not lasting], but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!
  • v 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates of the city!
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Special Gift

The Little Girl Inside

Woman - a treasured gift so sweet,
From God's own loving heart.
A Gift that makes His world complete,
And lovely in each part.

And one of His most precious gifts,
Is, yes, the gift of YOU!
A gift He gave to all the world,
Not just for one or two.

It matters not how old you grow,
How dignified your life,
Unless the Father's love you show,
Along His chosen path.

Don't ever lose that special spark,
Don't keep it hid inside.
That awesome glow that says to all,
It was for you He died.

It is that glow that helps the world,
To see the Father's love.
The glow that comes from deep inside,
Yet also from above.

Life's journey can be dull and dry,
Without your Father's touch.
And how it helps each time you cry,
To know He cares so much!

So be a woman of excellence!
And lift your head up high.
And rest in Him, your confidence,
Though tears may cloud your eyes.

He loves you as His daughter,
And He has called you friend.
He loves you with an awesome love,
A love that has no end!

You see, He longs for fellowship,
Not stuffy grown-up pride.
Not patterned prayers that cross your lips.
No, that's not why He died.

His heart's desire for women is that,
They walk close by His side.
And through life's many ups and downs,
Safe in His love abide.

He longs to give you treasured gifts,
And in your life reside.
To walk and talk and laugh and sing,
With the little girl inside!

© Whit Gillon -- May 1994
Revised -- November 9, 1997
Tweaked -- July 10, 1999
All Rights Reserved

(Monday 02/25/08) Woman of Excellence part 5 - Wisdom

    Proverbs 31:10-31

    Do you know someone who has the characteristic of wisdom? I've considered my grandmother to be a wise woman. She was always reading and studying her Bible and could easily teach others the truths she had learned. It was also reassuring to know that my grandparents prayed for me daily. I'm finding that my own parents are much wiser than I thought they were when I was growing up. It is amazing how time and experience (not gray hair) tend to give one a measure of wisdom.

    General Definition:
    Wisdom -- someone who has the ability to judge or deal with people or situations based on a broad range of knowledge, experience, and understanding.
    For the Christian, this knowledge, experience, and understanding should be solidly rooted in God, through Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Key Verses:
    (Proverbs 31:16,18,26-27)

    These verses tell us that our Proverbs 31 woman ...

    • spoke and taught with wisdom and goodness
    • was able to make smart business decisions
    • used her resources and skills well
    • knew how to manage her time carefully

    "It is interesting that this excellent woman is praised by her husband and children " evidence that her primary ministry was to build her home in wisdom. To do this takes personal discipline, perseverance, and acceptance of the option of living selflessly." ("Eve Out of Eden", Cynthia Heald, NavPress, 1989, page 22)

    One Key Truth:

    • the source

There are two kinds of wisdom. One leads to trouble and death, the other to freedom and life. One appears foolish but is actually very wise, the other appears wise but is actually very foolish (1 Corinthians 1:20-25). What makes the difference? It's the source of wisdom.

    Man searches everywhere for his wisdom -- people and positions, books and education, money and possessions, philosophy and experience. But this wisdom does not satisfy. It is characterized by emptiness, presumption, strife, deceit, legalism, and fleshly desires. It creates a "self-made" man -- one who can boast in self and his own accomplishments. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:19 that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise and frustrate the intelligence of the intelligent.

    There is another wisdom, however, that comes from one place – the One who controls it, gives it to man, and continues to fill man with more through His Holy Spirit, the One who is the very essence of wisdom – God Himself. The Bible tells us that His wisdom is priceless and far superior to man's wisdom. It is sound and given for a specific purpose. This wisdom was evident in the life of Jesus: pure, peaceable, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy (James 3:17). God will approve the man who obtains this wisdom.

    How do we get God's wisdom?

    • Fear God. Proverbs 9:10a says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Fear is a general term for the anxiety we may feel in the presence of real or perceived danger. Does this mean we should be quaking in our shoes before God? Well, there are some who would probably do well to have a healthy "fear" of the Almighty God – He is holy and just. But, He is also a God of fathomless, unconditional love. His desire is not to destroy but to bring us to oneness with Himself (reconciliation).

      This brings us to the second definition of fear: awe or reverence. I remember visiting Mount Rushmore when I was growing up. As I stood looking at those massive heads sculptured in the side of a mountain, I was filled with wonder because of its beauty and greatness. A feeling of pride welled up inside me out of respect for these men and the honor of simply being a part of this country.

      Let me ask: When you look at the beauty of all creation – when you read or hear God Word "when you consider the Almighty God, the loving Father, the Friend who sticks closer than a brother" does your heart fill with wonder and love? Are you driven to your knees? Do your arms embrace the cross He bore for you? Are you compelled to know Him more and walk obediently in His ways? If so, your "fear" is the beginning of wisdom.

    • Know God. The last part of Proverbs 9:10 says, "the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." The only way to really know someone is to spend time with them. That means we must set aside time each day to read and study God's Word, to be quiet before Him in prayer and meditation. "Study to show yourself approved unto God" (2 Timothy 2:15); "The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7). Christian books are good and have their place in our libraries, but they should never take the place of our own study of God's Word.
    • Ask. James 1:5-6 says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…in faith, nothing wavering." That's exactly what Solomon did. Because of Solomon's love of the Lord and obedience to the Word, God told Solomon he could have anything he wanted. His reply was this: "Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong." God was pleased and granted Solomon wisdom and a discerning heart, as well as riches, honor, protection, and long life. (This account is in 1 Kings 3:3-15.) You see, God longs for us to ask anything of Him, but He also sees the motive of our heart. He delights in our unselfish requests. The problem is that we usually fail to ask.
    • Proper attitude. Those who have a humble, teachable heart will be open to hear truth, apply truth, and obey truth. Proverbs 1:5 says that the one who listens increases learning, and the one who is open to the guidance of others will gain discernment. And Proverbs 9:9 says, "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." There should never be a point when we say we have "arrived". God's Word is new every day!

    Enemies that rob us of wisdom:
    Basically, trusting in anything or anyone other than God will deprive us of true wisdom. There are some specific actions, however, which lead us astray:

    • Neglect. If we fail to nurture the truths we have already acquired, scripture says that what we "know" can be lost. There is something even more dangerous, however, turning away from or rejecting the wisdom we have already received. (Proverbs 4:5,7)
    • Bad company. At some point while growing up, you probably heard someone say, "one bad apple can spoil the whole bushel" or "bad company corrupts good morals." As much as we would like to think we are strong enough to run around with the wrong crowd, the fact is that they will have a more negative influence on us than we will have a positive influence on them. Our light is to be put on a lampstand – high above the darkness of the world – to give light to all around us. Proverbs 13:20 says, "He who walks with the wise grows, but a companion of fools suffers harm."
    • Uncontrolled tongue. Psalm 111:10 says that the mouth speaks what the heart holds. We cannot get through life without being deeply wounded by the reckless words of another person. Rather than build us up, they choose to tear down. Solomon says that a fool is consumed by his own lips. His words are wicked and full of deceit; he ceases to do what is right. Actually, if we would remember that we are accountable to God for every word that passes our lips, we might be more careful about what we say to others.
    • Pride. Our society has taught us that the way to succeed is to be in control of our own destiny -–to make our own way in this world. So, we do whatever we can, run over whoever is in our way just to be self-sufficient and boast in our accomplishments and ourselves. However, we are told in Proverbs 14:12 that there is a way which seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death. Pride will always set us up for a hard fall.

    Am I willing to pay the price?
    Basically, it boils down to what you want out of life. If you desire to chase the wisdom of the world, you may appear to be wise, enjoying success, and having a good time for a season, but the truth is that you will find yourself on a dead-end street. One day man's wisdom will be judged and destroyed by God.

    On the other hand, if you humbly and earnestly seek the wisdom of God, you will enjoy the blessing of God's fellowship now and the assurance of an eternity with Him. In addition, He promises that your life will be like a bubbling fountain, your heart will be glad, and you will have security, strength, and success. You will find yourself like our Proverbs 31 woman – speaking and teaching with wisdom and goodness, making wise decisions in your business and home, using your resources and skills well, and managing your time carefully. Your husband, children, and friends will praise you and look to you for guidance. But as always, the choice is yours.

    Closing Thought to Ponder:
    "So I come to the Lord with the prayer that He would teach me, mold me, and lead me: The key to being a faithful builder lies not in my own effort or striving, but in my choosing to be dependent upon the grace, wisdom, and strength I can receive from the Lord." ("Eve Out of Eden", Cynthia Heald, NavPress, 1989, page 27)

(Tuesday 02/26/08) Woman of Excellence Part 6 - Strength

    Proverbs 31:10-31

    What is strength? Is it the ability to pump iron and flex bulging muscles? Is it endurance to perform manual labor or win first place in athletic competitions? Is it the capability to handle life's challenges and major decisions? Is it a self-assured stability and inner peace?

    Women's magazines tell us there is not much difference between men and women, and we can do anything a man can. Health clubs show us how to build muscles and improve our health. Society in general tells us we are our own person, in control of our own destiny if we just "will" to do it; nothing is impossible. Various religions even tell us we can get in touch with our own inner powers and be at peace. But what does God say about the strength of an excellent woman?

    General Definition:
    -Intellectual strength -- able to think vigorously and clearly; tenacious
    -Physical strength -- healthy, sound condition; having the capacity to perform and endure
    -Moral strength -- firm and upright in character & will
    -Emotional strength -- stable; not easily upset by stress or difficulties

    Key Verses:
    (Proverbs 31:17,25)

    • she sets (girds) about her work vigorously (intellectual)
    • her arms are strong for her tasks (physical)
    • she is clothed with strength and dignity (moral)
    • she can laugh at the days to come (emotional)

    These verses tell us there is an outward strength. To gird means to equip or prepare for action. In other words, she has completely thought through the matter, considered all the consequences, determined the best plan of action, and is thoroughly prepared to mentally and physically attack and finish the task before her. She labors with energy and enthusiasm. She is fully rested and concerned about her physical well-being.

    There is also an inner strength which stabilizes and drives her. She does not allow whims or current fads to compromise her high moral standards. She is confident in her decisions and does not waver or crumble when opposition or hardships arise. This is not something that just "happens", however. Daily she must equip herself -- to reinforce what is already within her.

    One Key Truth:

    • In quietness and trust

Although physical might and intellectual ability are important, our strength will never be any greater than that which is founded in the humility and submission of our inner (or hidden) person. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, "And let not your adornment be merely external…but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." Isaiah 30:15 states it this way: "For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 'In repentance and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength'...".

    There are two vital components of strength -- quietness (a freedom from noise, hushed stillness, soothing restfulness which is characterized by tranquility and serene peace) and trust (a firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, and justice of another person or thing). Yet, these two components are difficult to find these days. Noise blares at us from every direction and schedules press around us like a vice. We are left feeling tense, hurried, frazzled, and angry. And trust? Well, we've been misled and let down so many times that we don't trust much of anything or anyone anymore -- sometimes not even ourselves.

    How do we get it?
    We do not need to be swept along by the fast pace of life around us, however. There are things we can do to effect positive change. Let's look at each of these components individually.

    There are three practical things we can do to foster some "quietness" in our daily lives:

    • Discover the nature of quietness (inner and outer). It's in the external quietness that we are able to develop our inner quietness. The disciples recorded throughout the Gospels that Jesus withdrew (from the crowds, from them, and even from his ministry) to lonely places where He could talk with His Father, rest his body, and renew His spirit. Why? Because noise distracts us from our intended purpose and people and work drain us of energy. Unless alterations are made to our outer world, any attempts to order and effect change in our inner life will be temporary at best.
    • Discern the need for quiet.
      • Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." It's during those quiet moments alone with God that we learn to know Him in a more intimate way and how He intends for us to live righteously before Him.
      • Quietness is also necessary for developing good interpersonal relationships with others. It will make us better listeners -- not so apt to express anger and respond in haste. James 1:19-20 says, "But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."
      • It is consistent with righteous living. In other words, our lives are lived from the inside out. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says, "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need." 1 Tim 2:2-3 adds, "...lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior."

    • Discipline your life for quietness. Easier said than done, you say. Basically it comes down to a decision as to whether or not it is a priority. If it is, secondary matters that interfere will more easily be put aside. Specifically, here are some things which may help:
      • Plan your schedule carefully to allow adequate time to practice this discipline.
      • Schedule a quiet time into your daily routine. Have a general format to follow while you are quiet, but do not become rigid or legalistic in that format (which can stifle the prompting of the Holy Spirit within you).
      • Choose an uncluttered place. Eliminating clutter is helpful in establishing a relaxing, peaceful environment.
      • Try to use the same place every day for your time of solitude and silence. This practice will eliminate many distractions.
      • Write down thoughts that need attention or action. Sometimes these thoughts are distractions, but sometimes they may actually be a prompting of God's Spirit.

    Trust is actually a disciplined activity that begins in the mind and results in bold actions:
    • Think. Many people today prefer to be told what to do and what to think rather than develop their own ideas or initiate their own activities (secular or spiritual). Eventually this leads to boredom (not taking responsibility for your own entertainment). However, when we broaden our knowledge and gain personal, practical experience, we also develop our ability to trust.
    • Remember. The Israelites were encouraged to record those things God had miraculously done and provided for them. Why? To pass on to generations to follow and remind them of God's faithfulness when they encountered other difficult circumstances. Likewise, when we recall God's faithfulness to us in past circumstances, we will be encouraged to continue on in our walk with Him and before others.
    • Understand. Knowing and understanding our limitations is an important part of trusting. God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that "My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight." While we understand what we can see and reason with our finite minds, God's perspective is eternal -- already aware of the beginning to the end.
    • Submit (willingly yielding one's rights of power, authority, or control in favor of another). Our inability or unwillingness to submit to another person may indicate a lack of trust in that person. We may fear that if we give, with no manipulative purpose, we will be shortchanged. Our needs will not be met. At best we'll be disappointed; at worse, we will be destroyed. Likewise, unwillingness to submit to God in any area of life indicates a lack of receptivity to His perfect and unconditional love for us. Our responsibility is to learn faithfulness and obedience believing that God will always honor His Word.
    • Thanksgiving. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Giving thanks in all circumstances means giving verbal support to an inner attitude of confidence we have placed in God. Words of praise and thanksgiving spring from a heart that is full of adoration and gratitude. And a heart that is grateful (satisfied) will more easily trust the giver.

    Enemies that rob us of strength:
    There are many things that can distract and rob us of our strength. Only few of them will be pointed out in this study along with a verse of scripture (for further study on your own if you desire):

    • Unconfessed Sin
      (Psalm 32:3-5) When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to Thee, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; And Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.
      (Psalm 66:18) If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.
    • Unforgiveness
      (Mark 11:24-26) "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."
      (Ephesians 4:32) And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
    • Fear
      (Deuteronomy 31:6) "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you."
    • Anger
      (James 1:19-20) This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
      (Ephesians 4:26-27) BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
    • Discouragement
      (Proverbs 24:10) If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited.
    • Self-Centeredness
      (Proverbs 16:18) Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
      (Philippians 2:3-4) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
    • Anxiety
      (Proverbs 12:25) Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.
      (Philippians 4:6-7) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    • Neglecting Responsibilities
      (Hebrews 13:16) And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
      (Proverbs 31:27) She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.
    • Fatigue
      (Psalm 127:1-2) Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
    • Physical Disorders
      (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

    Am I willing to pay the price?
    Basically, there are two choices:

    • continue to strive for and chase after those things of the world which promise to give you strength, peace and stability. The end result, however, will always leave you feeling spent and incomplete. OR...
    • turn to God and submit yourself, your desires, your plans to Him. Reliance upon His strength and guidance will always lead to fulfillment.

    If your desire is to choose God's way...

    • Turn to God; realize He is your source of strength
    • Submit to God; relinquish control of your life to Him
    • Trust God; wait patiently for Him to lead and work
    • Obey God; rely on His strength to carry out His commands from a heart of love

    Your life will begin to demonstrate the strength of God's excellent woman!

    Closing Thought to Ponder:
    "I have noticed that wherever there has been a faithful following of the Lord in a consecrated soul, several things have, sooner or later, inevitably followed. Meekness and quietness of spirit become in time the characteristics of the daily life. A submissive acceptance of the will of God, as it comes in the hourly events of each day, is manifested; pliability in the hands of God to do or to suffer all the good pleasure of His will; sweetness under provocation; calmness in the midst of turmoil and bustle; a yielding to the wishes of others, and an insensibility to slights and affronts; absence of worry or anxiety; deliverance from care and fear, -- all these, and many other similar graces, are invariably found to be the natural outward development of that inward life which is hid with Christ in God."
    -- Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, p. 201

(Wednesday 02/27/08) Woman of Excellence Part 7 - Beauty

Proverbs 31:10-31

The world's view of beauty is usually formed around the physical aspect of an individual. Magazine covers and television ads present the "ideal" woman and then encourage us to purchase their products, lose weight and tone up through their programs, and dress or act in specific ways so as to be like these model women. If we choose to believe the world's view of beauty, we will strive to be slim, attractive, and alluring.

To further illustrate the commonly accepted view of beauty, Emily Prager of the New York Times (April 1994 Virginian Pilot article) wrote that men do not require a woman to be perfect - just that she possess one excellent physical trait that he highly prefers. In other words, a woman could be totally average looking, or even unattractive, as long as she possessed one trait (usually physical) that would not only compensate for but actually eclipse her deficiencies. This may sound good on the surface, but there seems to be something missing from the secular view of beauty.

Can we assume that there is more to beauty than what is seen on the outside? Could it be that the inner character of a women enhances or detracts from her beauty as well? The woman in Proverbs 31 answers these questions with an resounding "YES"! The world may look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

General Definition:
Webster's says that "beauty" is the quality attributed to whatever pleases or satisfies the senses or mind. These good feelings of pleasure may be aroused by a certain line, color, form, texture, proportion of an object; sometimes by rhythmic motion or tone; or possibly because of a specific behavior or attitude.

Key Verses:
Proverbs 31:22, 30

These verses reflect two aspects of beauty: the outer and the inner. It is important that we look at both.

The Outer: Verse 22 (NIV) says that she makes coverings for her bed (or coverlets, cushions, and rugs of tapestry). This is the only verse in the passage that refers to the private places of her home – her bedroom. You will notice that she has taken great care to make it a place that is warm, comfortable, and pleasing – a special place for her and her husband. What about your bedroom? Is it the first room you clean and decorate? Or, do you open the door only to be greeted by an unmade bed, clothes strewn all over, dust on the furniture, papers and books in piles, and musty odors? It is important to have one place in the home that is quiet and private – a sanctuary of sorts – a place that invites rest and fulfills personal joys.

The second half of the verse says that she is clothed in fine linen and purple (priestly, hallowed, and royal). Does this mean her clothes were purchased from the most expensive shops in the village? Probably not. But it does mean that the clothing she did wear was nice and made her look well groomed. Some women have a knack for shopping in thrift stores, mixing and matching other people's discards, yet the final result leaves them looking like they just walked out of the most expensive and elite women's retail stores. (If you have been blessed with that ability, may I encourage you to help those of us who haven't.) It is also essential that clothing is laundered, pressed, and stored properly. There is nothing that makes a woman look more unkept than to wear a garment that is soiled, wrinkled, limp, or out of shape (stretched or shrunk).

Our desire should be to attain the look of quality. After all, we represent Christ, and we can compliment others by looking like God's special woman! Anne Ortlund in her book "Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman" gives us several good questions to ask ourselves before leaving our home each day:

  • Does my clothing call attention to itself, or does it make a great background? (You have the choice of being thought of as a clotheshorse, or as a beautiful woman.)
  • How are the seams, the zippers, the buttons?
  • How about the total fit, the hemline, and neckline? Are they modest? (You don't want to be just a classy woman; you want to be God's classy woman.)
  • Does the outfit do the most for me?
  • Do I have on the right undergarments for this outfit?
  • Will I maintain a discreet appearance when I sit, stand, walk, or bend?

It is also important to mention the care we must give our bodies. Queen Esther was blessed with a whole year of her life to beautify herself for the king. Few of us can afford that luxury, but we can take steps to be sure care is given to our hair (trimmed and clean), our skin (soft and cleansed), our hands and feet (washed, nails trimmed, and soft). How much time should we spend pampering our bodies? A general rule of thumb should be that of balance. Anne Ortlund points out that only one verse of the 22 on the Proverbs 31 woman describes her looks; therefore one should not spend more than a 1/22nd of the day (a little over an hour) on outward grooming. Though this observation is not a strong theological mandate, it does offer a good guideline when trying to determine how much time should be spent on our outward appearance.

The Inner: Verse 30 cautions us that charm (those qualities or features which attract or delight others) is misleading, and beauty (those physical qualities or features which please or satisfy the senses) is passing away. BUT, a woman who fears (reverences) the Lord is to be praised. Let's spend the rest of our study looking at this inner aspect of beauty.

One Key Truth:

Peter tells us that what draws others to the Lord is "the hidden person of the heart." In other words, we should be living from the inside out.

How do we do this?
In Colossians 3:12-24 Paul lays out very clearly this point: when there are specific characteristics in place within the heart, there will be specific actions extended to others.

According to these verses, the inner characteristics consist of the following:

  • Heart of Peace (verse 15) - a freedom from conflict, calmness, quietness that every person, community, and nation desperately longs for. Specifically, it is Christ who grants that peace. When our eternal relationship with God is right through the loving sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, there will be peace WITH God. And, as our heart remains right in our daily experience before God, the peace OF God through Christ will rule. Notice here that Paul says we are to let peace rule. In other words, allow peace to rule without any opposition or resistance – which implies that our own will or plans may get in the way at times to block peace. Paul further states that we are members of one body (Christ) and that we have been called "peace". That unity (oneness of spirit, aim, or interest) will prevail in spite of our diversity as individuals only because of Christ's work in our hearts.
  • Heart of Thanksgiving (verse 15) - a feeling or expression of appreciation. A grateful heart knows the source or reason of the benefits received and is ready to publicly acknowledge, to offer praise to those responsible. When we truly see our own unworthiness and understand the depth of God's love and sacrifice for us, we will become thankful. Our hearts will overflow with joy.
  • Heart Enriched by God's Word (verse 16) - adorned, of greater value, made more effective. Soaking in God's Word through personal Bible study, group study, or corporate worship is important. But if you truly want to make that Word richer in your life, you need to be pouring yourself into the life of someone else – discipling them in the knowledge, insight, and understanding you have already received. Don't let the Word become stagnant in your life. Find an outlet so that the Word within you can become purer and sweeter, a blessed fragrance within.
  • Heart of Song (verse 16) - poetic verse or music. David is an excellent example of a heart filled with song. From his songs (psalms) we hear deep sorrow, frustration, or confusion, while from others he expresses extreme joy, pleasure, and gratitude. Praise psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs can lift our spirits and further enrich God's Word within.
  • Heart of Purpose (verse 17) – focused with the end in view; a reason to do or exist. Paul says that whatever we say, whatever we do should be done in the name of Jesus and for His honor and glory. He is the reason we hope for the future. He is the one who invites us to join Him in His work and then enables us with His strength to do it. And, He is the one who deserves the praise for all that is accomplished.
  • Heart of Submission (verse 18) - choosing by an act of the will to allow another to take the leadership or control. Contrary to common belief, submission does not make you less important, less valuable, or less as a person. Instead of detracting from your beauty as a woman, this deliberate act of obedience enhances your beauty – in the eyes of your husband, your children, your friends, an on-looking world, and most important in the eyes of the Father. Look again at what Paul says in 1 Peter 3:1-6 (NIV), "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without talk by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."
When these traits are being nurtured within our heart, we will begin to act in ways that genuinely touch others. Specifically, Paul says that we are to be clothed in:

  • Compassion - a deep feeling of sorrow for the sufferings and trouble of others that compels you to do something to help in some way or meet their specific needs.
  • Kindness - dealing with others in a friendly manner, with tenderness or generosity.
  • Humility - not demanding personal recognition or insisting on your rights; unassuming.
  • Gentleness - responding pleasantly or softly; not violent, harsh or rough.
  • Patience - willing to wait without complaint or demand; implies that you bear or endure calmly and with self-control.
  • Forbearance - controlling yourself even when others are trying to provoke you.
  • Forgiveness - giving up your resentment against another; releasing them from a debt or offense; choosing to stop being angry because God has already forgiven you.
There is one more thing, however, that binds the inner and outer characteristics together in perfect unity - godly LOVE. But it is more than glue. It is the very foundation upon which our lives must be built. It is the very essence of God's heart and the obedience of Christ. Without it, our words, our ministry, our acts of kindness will be like clanging cymbals and blaring horns. (1 Corinthians 13) This diagram reflects the result of nurturing God's beauty within.

You see, it is the outward actions that are borne from the inside BY God. And it is those outward actions that can direct others TO God. However, there will be a lack of genuineness, or transparency, or vulnerability, or perseverance if our actions are not FIRST nurtured by God in the heart.

Enemies that rob us of beauty:
The enemies that destroy our beauty are earthly in nature. They are a part of your old self – before you became a new creature in Christ. They encompass anything that diverts attention from God and places the focus on us, others, or things. Let's take a quick look at Colossians 3:5-11 and compile a list of contrasting inner characteristics:

  • Heart of Turmoil & Anger
  • Heart of Ungratefulness & Greed
  • Heart of the World's View
  • Heart of Discord
  • Heart of Aimlessness
  • Heart of Rebellion
When these traits are being nurtured within our heart, we begin to act in ways that have a negative impact on the lives of others. Some of these could include:

  • Merciless
  • Malice
  • Pride & Self-Centeredness
  • Harshness
  • Intolerance
  • Ill-tempered
  • Bitterness
  • Lying

Instead of being firmly founded in godly love which produces unity, this heart with its inner characteristics and outward traits is floundering in SELF, thus producing fear and disharmony. Paul tells us that we should rid ourselves of them, put them to death, and put on our new self – one that is being renewed in knowledge in the image of God. This diagram reflects the result of self and not nurturing God's beauty within.

Truly, what we foster in our heart and make the foundation of our life will be evident to others in our countenance and our actions.

Am I willing to pay the price?
Based on what we have studied, let me give you a biblically sound definition of godly beauty -

Beauty is an outward reflection
of an inward work
for which God receives the glory

In order to live your life from the inside out, you must:

  1. Let God do the work. Do you want to be more like Christ? Then you must take your hands off the control panel of your life and let the One who created you finish the work He has already begun.
  2. Be obedient. Although God will do the work, it starts with a desire and willingness on your part to be obedient to all that He directs.
  3. Spend time in the Word, filling your heart and mind. In order to be like someone you must spend time with them, mimic them, know them personally and intimately. There are no short-cuts that bring lasting beauty or change.
  4. Quiet yourself before Him in prayer. For those who are busy "doers", this may be the hardest part. "Be still and know that I am God." It is also important to understand that your prayers do not change the heart of God. Instead, they change your heart and mind – bring you in line with the will of the Father. It will be time that is well spent.
  5. Be patient. This is a process. It takes time. Our life is a journey to be walked one day, one step at a time. Don't rush ahead of the Father. Remember, let God do the work!

Closing Thought to Ponder:
"For all your adult life you'll be a woman. And how you live your life as a woman, all by yourself before God, is what makes the real you. Nothing on the exterior can touch or change that precious inner sanctuary – your heart, His dwelling place – unless you let it.…The beautiful woman is disciplined, chaste, discreet, deferring, gracious, controlled, 'together'. This kind of woman God considers godly, which means she's got His qualities, and she's close to His heart. This is 'His kind of woman' - His kind of beautiful woman." -- Anne Ortlund, "Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman", pages 125, 127

(Thursday 2/28/08) Woman of Excellence - Conclusion

Proverbs 31:10-31

Throughout this series we have studied seven qualities unique to a woman of excellence:

  • Contentment – satisfied with what she has and where she finds herself in life's circumstances
  • Resourcefulness – puts God first and creatively and wisely uses what she already has
  • Trustworthiness – consistently upright in her behavior
  • Confidence – abiding in Christ
  • Wisdom – knows the source of true wisdom is God
  • Strength – in quietness and trust of the Lord
  • Beauty – living from the inside out (God in us) for His glory
What a remarkable woman! It would be easy to become discouraged and give up if we lost our perspective – as one author so aptly put it "and other impossible dreams"! But we must remember that her life as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a friend was really no different than yours or mine – it came one day, one moment at a time filled with choices that affected the outcome of her days. It was not that she had attained perfection (as we often believe), but rather that she lived her life above the "norm". Note, too, that her husband never once said she was perfect – only that she surpassed them all: "many daughters have done virtuously, nobly, and well…but you EXCEL them all" [emphasis mine].

Key Verses:
Proverbs 31:28-31

The portrait which begins in verse 10 with the touch of an excellent wife is filled in – each verse like the stroke of a brush enhancing the features of a woman who fears the Lord. "For all the lovely features described –

  • her faithfulness to her husband
  • her active personal habits
  • her good management and hard work for her family
  • her consideration for the necessities and comforts of others
  • her watchfulness of conduct
  • her tender concern for the poor and afflicted
  • her kind and courteous behavior to all –
the completeness of character and grace could only flow from godliness. They are the 'good fruit' that prove the 'good tree'. They are the fruit that grows out of right belief." ("A Modern Study in the Book of Proverbs" by Charles Bridges' Classic Revised for Today's Reader by George F. Santa, page 739-40)

In other words, a woman of excellence is one who has found herself and her security in Jesus Christ.

One Key Truth:

  • Security & Significance are based in Christ
If I were to ask you this question, what would your answer be:

"Who are you?"
Would you say something like – I am a …
  • Housewife
  • Mother
  • Woman
  • Sunday School teacher
  • Secretary
  • Chauffeur
The world's system has taught us from a very early age that we are what we do. We have also learned that we must do each of these things well if we want to be successful or be accepted by others. When our security is based on success and the opinions of others, however, we become dependent on our ability to perform and please others. Our self-esteem is high as long as everything is going well. But let something go wrong or someone speak poorly of us or our work, we feel like a failure or rejected. We are living our lives by this equation:


The truth is that we don't have to be successful or pleasing to others to have a healthy self-esteem. Our worth has already been freely and conclusively given to us by God. There is nothing, including failure or the disapproval of others, that can take it away. So, who I am (my person or being) is more than the sum total of what I do (my performance). The truth is:


The problem is that we do not know or often forget what God says about us. One of the most precious passages to me is Colossians 1:21-22 (NIV) which says, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But NOW He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blame [blameless, faultless], and free from accusation [beyond reproach]. (emphasis mine)

Do you see the depth of the truths Paul is telling us? Jesus paid the debt for my sin when He was nailed to the cross and shed His precious blood for me. His loving and obedient sacrifice reconciles me (or puts me in a right relationship) with the Father and grants me eternal life when I accept His work for me. From that point on (including right now), the Father sees me as holy, blameless, and beyond reproach in my person. There is absolutely nothing I can do to make Him love me any more. And, there is absolutely nothing I can do to make Him love me any less. Why? Because who I am is not based on what I do. It is based in Christ.

  • Christ is the source of our security
  • Christ is the basis of our worth
  • Christ is the only One who promises and never fails

When we are identified with Christ, our self-esteem is secure in His acceptance and unconditional love. As a result, we become more mature. We are freed from the bondage of constantly needing our emotional cups filled by the approval of others. We gain a more matter-of-fact approach to life's situations. We can more easily admit our own errors, ask forgiveness, and forgive others.

Larry Crabb in his book "The Marriage Builder" says:

"Until I am aware that my needs are already met in Christ, I will be motivated by emptiness to meet my needs. When by simple faith I accept Christ's shed blood as full payment for my sins, I am brought into a relationship with an infinite Being of love and purpose who fully satisfies my deepest needs for security and significance. Therefore I am freed from self-centered preoccupation with my own needs; they are met. It is now possible for me to give to others out of my fullness rather than needing to receive from others because of my emptiness. For the first time, I have the option of living selflessly."

The following chart summarizes the concepts we have been discussing:

The World's System
(Satan's Lie)
God's Provision
(Absolute Truth)
1. I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.

Consequences: Fear of failure

1. Justification (a judicial act) - God has forgiven me of my sins and granted me the righteousness of Christ.

Romans 5:1 - Because of justification, I have the righteousness of Christ and am pleasing to the Father.

2. I must be approved (accepted) by significant others to feel good about myself.

Consequences: Fear of rejection

2. Reconciliation (relational) - I am now forgiven and brought into an intimate relationship with God.

Colossians 1:21, 22 - Because of reconciliation, I am totally accepted by God.

3. Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished.

Consequences: Fear of punishment

3. Propitiation - Christ has satisfied the wrath of God by His death on the cross.

1 John 4:9-11 - Because of propitiation, I am deeply loved by God.

4. I am what I am; I cannot change; I am hopeless.

Consequences: Shame, inferiority, habitually destructive behavior patterns

4. Regeneration - I am now a new creation in Christ.

John 3:3-6 - Because of regeneration, I have been made brand new, complete in Christ.

"Search for Significance" by Robert S. McGee

How do I make this change?

Paul describes this process of change in Romans 12:1,2 (NIV) "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any long to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will."

To change our behavior, we must reject our old ways of thinking (the lies of Satan) and replace them with the truth of God's Word. Solomon said, "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7). The way we think affects the way we feel, the way we perceive ourselves and those around us, and ultimately the way we act.

Here are three steps that will help in the process of renewing your mind:

  1. Identify the lies of Satan and the world's system that are the basis of your beliefs, thoughts, and actions. Use your emotions as a barometer to determine if your beliefs about specific circumstances are based on truth or lies.
  2. Choose by an act of your will to reject these false beliefs. Ask God to help you through the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells you.
  3. Replace the false beliefs with the corresponding truths of God's Word. This means you must be reading and studying God's Word. It means that you begin thinking those things that are true. Paul says in Philippians 4:8,9 (NIV) "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
The following declaration encompasses the truths we have been discussing in this Woman of Excellence series. Read it aloud often. Place it on your mirror, refrigerator, desk, or dashboard where you can see it throughout the day. Meditate on it. Let the truths reaffirm "who you are" right now in Christ and sink deeply into your heart and mind to set you on a new path of healing and wholeness in Christ.

I am an awesome spirit being
of magnificent worth as a person.

I am deeply loved by God,
I am fully pleasing to God,
I am totally accepted by God,
I am absolutely complete in Christ.

And when my person
is expressed through my performance,
the reflection is dynamically unique…
There has never been another like me
in the history of mankind, nor will there ever be,
I am an original, one of a kind, really somebody,
And so are you!

"Search for Significance"
by Robert S. McGee

Kay Marshall Strom in her book "Perfect in His Eyes" (pages 84-85) provides several specific things one can do to help nurture healthy self-esteem:

  • Allow yourself to love yourself.
  • Instead of comparing yourself to others, try to be the person God intended you to be.
  • Look at yourself honestly. Assess your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
  • Don't condemn yourself. Accept God's forgiveness, forgive yourself, then go on.
  • Have an attitude of love and forgiveness toward others.
  • Do things that will make you like yourself more.
  • Choose realistic goals.
  • Seek God's praise – not the praise of others – for what you do.
  • Determine to use your abilities and gifts for the building up of others.
  • Seek out friends who will build you up, not tear you down.
  • Build up those around you.
  • Trust God to mold you into the person He wants you to be.
  • Thank God for His endless, limitless love for you.
  • Thank God for the future He has prepared for you.

By changing the way you think, you will be renewing your mind – weeding out the deep-rooted lies and planting God's life-changing truths. The actions that follow will be unique and beautiful expressions of Christ in you.

Enemies that rob self-worth:

The biggest enemy to security and significance that is based in Christ is SELF. God asks us to present our body to Him (Romans 12), but we often withhold it for our own pleasures. To be renewed we must break old destructive habits, but we choose to continue in the easy or familiar. We are instructed in John 15 to abide (continue) in Christ, but we may depend on others to sustain us. Ephesians 6 describes our need to put on the whole armor of God, but we often attempt to fight the battles on our own. God desires that we submit in obedience to Him and allow Him to sit at the center of our life, but many times we choose to run our daily affairs on our own. In essence we are saying: Thank you, God, for the gift of eternal life, but I can handle the rest on my own. The struggle becomes an "I" problem. And when "I" am in the way, God's transforming work is hindered. Our desire should be to know our awesome God and to please Him, not self.

Am I willing to pay the price?
The answer to living as a woman of excellence is found in the last part of Proverbs 31:30 –

"…but a woman who reverently
and worshipfully fears the Lord,
she shall be praised."
The fear spoken of here is not the dread or fright that comes out of fear of punishment. It is a reverential trust that comes when we experience the reality of God's holiness. There is an overwhelming sense of awe because of His majesty, power, love, and goodness. Just as Isaiah saw the Lord and fell down before Him declaring his own unworthiness (Isaiah 6), we, too, will be compelled to fall down on our knees with hearts full of gratitude to honor the only One who is worthy to be worshipped. Our desire will be to be cleansed of sin, to seek His will, and to submit in obedience to His revealed will.

Do you want to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God? Do you want the days of your life to have meaning and touch those around you for the glory of the Lord? Do you want to find your security and significance in Christ? Do you want to be a woman of excellence? Then Proverbs 2:1-4 lists six things you must do:

  1. ACCEPT God's words – willingly, openly, readily receive all that He says; drink thirstily the water that gives life and satisfaction (fulfillment)
  2. TREASURE (store up) God's commands – memorize God's Word and hide it in your heart where no one can take it away (Psalm 119:11)
  3. OPEN your ears – be attentive both physically and spiritually to the voice or direction of the Lord, ready to submit and obey
  4. APPLY what you have heard and learned – meditate on God's Word and put it into practical use in your life, work, and ministry
  5. ASK for understanding and discernment of truth – lift up your voice, cry out in prayer to the Lord
  6. SEARCH for deeper truths – dig into God's Word, diligently seek out and uncover hidden treasures and mysteries of God (nuggets of truth)

As you do these things, you will find that your relationship with the Lord becomes more intimate and precious. But Psalms and Proverbs also assures us of many other wonderful blessings from the Father as a result of our search and obedience:

The last four verses of Proverbs 31 say that this woman of excellence shall be praised –

  • by her children,
  • by her husband, and
  • by all those outside who have been touched with the works of her hands.

A woman of excellence knows who she is and understands her purpose, responsibilities, and roles. A woman of excellence is able to control herself. Her home is a haven for her family where her husband is content and respected and the children are nurtured physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A woman of excellence does not have to "toot her own horn" or draw attention to herself. Instead, the characteristics of Christ in her, the works of her hands, and the fruit of her labors declare to all her trust in God!

"Listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the [woman] who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." Proverbs 8:32-35

Closing Thought to Ponder:
"To break with all worldly customs; to live utterly separate from the spirit of the world, so that we shall not say, 'What is the harm of this and that?' but simply shall have lost all relish for what is not of the Father; to live as those who truly lay all on the altar – time, strength, possessions, literally everything we are and have; to live, not nominally but truly, in unity; this will cost us something. Are we ready for what it will cost?"
--Amy Carmichael, "Thou Givest…They Gather", page 199

Welcome to week 1 of the Woman of Excellence Bible study hosted by A Women's Place

Welcome to week 1 (of 2 weeks) of the Woman of Excellence Bible Study Series hosted by A Women's Place.

Proverbs 31:10-31 (Amplified)

-v 10 A capable, intelligent and virtuous woman, who is she who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels, and her value is far above rubies or pearls.
-v 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her safely, so that he has no lack of honest gain or need of dishonest spoil.
-v 12 She will comfort, encourage and do him only good as long as there is life within her.
-v 13 She seeks out the wool and flax [of which righteous character is made?] and works with willing hands to develop it.
-v 14 She is like the merchant ships loaded with foodstuffs, she brings her household's [spiritual?] food from a far [country].
-v 15 She rises while it is night and gets [through communion with her God?] spiritual food for her household and assigns her maids their tasks.
-v 16 She considers a new field [of interest or activity] before she buys or accepts it -- expanding prudently [and not courting neglect of her present duties by assuming others]. With her savings [of time and strength] she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.
-v 17 She girds herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] and makes her arms strong and firm.
-v 18 She tastes and sees that her gain from work [with and for God] is good; her lamp [of faith and dependence upon God] goes not out' but [full of the oil of His Spirit] it burns on continually through the night [of trouble, privation or sorrow, warning away such robbers as fear, doubt and distrust].
-v 19 She lays her hands to the spindle [spinning threads of which character is made], and her hands hold the distaff [making yarn to weave into lives pleasing to God].
-v 20 She opens her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind or spirit].
-v 21 She fears not the snow [of temptation or false teaching] for her family, for all her household are doubly clothed in [the] scarlet [of redemption].
-v 22 She makes for herself coverlets, cushions and rugs of tapestry. Her clothing is of linen, pure white and fine, and of purple [such as that of which the clothing of the priest and the hallowed cloths of the temple are made].
-v 23 Her husband is known in the city's gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
-v 24 She makes fine linen garments and leads others to buy them; she delivers to the merchants girdles [or sashes that free one for service].
-v 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure. She rejoices over the future -- the latter day or time to come [knowing that she and her family are in readiness for it]!
-v 26 She opens her mouth with skillful and godly wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness -- giving counsel and instruction.
-v 27 She looks well to how things go in her household, and the bread of idleness [gossip, discontent and self-pity] she will not eat.
-v 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed -- happy, fortunate and to be envied; and her husband boasts of and praises her, saying,
-v 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly and well [with strength of character that is steadfast in goodness] but you excel them all.
-v 30 Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain [because it is not lasting], but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!
-v 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates of the city!

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(Monday 02/18/08) Woman of Excellence- Introduction

Proverbs 31:10-31
We can respond to these verses in several different ways:
*Challenged to dig deeper,
*Overwhelmed with a sense of never being able to measure up, or
*Reluctant to read them at all

It is difficult to understand how verses that appear so out-of-date could possibly offer any help in light of the increasingly complex problems we as women face today. God's Word never grows old or stale, though. So, let's accept the challenge to dig deeper.

As we begin this passage, the writer asks a pertinent question (one which men are still asking today): Who can find a woman of excellence -- one of high noble character? (verse 10). There is almost a sense of frustration in the question. It's as if he is pacing back and forth, scratching his head, pondering, muttering things under his breath like:
*Where do you look?
*Aren't they in the usual places?
*What is she like?
*How would I know one if I saw one?
*There must not be very many around if you can't find them!
*She must be pretty picky about the men she hangs out with.
*If there aren't very many out there, but there are lot of guys looking, how do I stand a chance of attracting her?

The writer goes on to say that this special woman is worth far more than rubies or pearls. It is an accepted fact that the value of anything is determined by its uniqueness and its rarity. But we must go one step further because what you may consider valuable may not be valuable to me. Instead, something is valuable because I have made the determination in my mind that it is of high value to me, and in response my feelings rubber stamp that decision. In the Old Testament time, rubies (or pink pearls) were a highly prized possession. The writer is saying that a woman of noble character is more valuable, more highly prized than all those precious gems one could possess. I don't know about you, but that is the class of woman I want to be. So how do we get there? Where do we even start?

Throughout this series, we will study seven qualities that characterize the life-time achievements of this "Proverbs 31" woman and share practical truths that will encourage us to become a "woman of excellence"! These characteristics are:

During the Bible study series, find a place to sit down -- one that is quiet and with limited distractions. Let's ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds as we open God's Word and discover truths about this "special woman."

(Tuesday 02/19/08) Woman of Excellence Part 1- Contentment

Part 1 - Contentment
Proverbs 31:10-31

We have all heard the phrase (and may have used it ourselves with our children): Contentment is next to godliness. Many times we say things without understanding what they mean. What does contentment mean? What things does the term encompass? How can it change my life and make me more like that "woman of excellence"?

General Definition:
*happy enough with what one has
*not desiring something more or different

Whoa! That strums on some uncomfortable chords, doesn't it. Now don't give up. Let's keep going and see where this leads.

If you were asked to describe your mental picture of a contented woman, what would you say?

Some answers might be:
*sitting back on soft cushions eating strawberries and ice cream
*peace that just surrounds her and follows her wherever she goes
*no void areas in her life
*not looking around for something else to satisfy or occupy her time or desires
*a smile on her lips, a twinkle in her eye, a bounce in her step
*at peace with herself, so she can be at peace with others and with her surroundings

Take a moment and list some ways in which the "world" seeks to fill its need for contentment:

There are three basic areas in which people strive to fill their cup of contentment. The first one is that of material things -- cars, houses, boats, clothes, large bank and retirement accounts, jewelry, trips/vacations, the newest gadgets, memberships, etc. Next is that of status -- the ranking within society, such as poverty, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, wealthy, millionaire, etc. Lastly, there is position -- particularly with respect to education and employment. The problem is that we get caught on the "keeping up with the Jones" treadmill. We work and work only to find that someone else got something we don't have or that changes in industry or technology have left us just shy of "the best". There is a thirst for more that isn't ever satisfied -- at least not for long.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

One Key Truth:
* be satisfied with what you have

Why is this truth so important for us to understand and apply? When we are content, we are at peace with ourselves, others, our surroundings, and our circumstances. Within that peace there is freedom. Then we are not only healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, but we are also healthy spiritually which nurtures spiritual growth.

How do we get it?

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11 "...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Did you catch that? "I have LEARNED." (Sounds like school, doesn't it.) To learn means: to get knowledge of or skill in by study, experience, instruction; to come to know how; to acquire as a habit or attitude.

Paul learned three specific principles about contentment:
*Learn to appreciate the basics of life (1 Timothy 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.)
*Learn to simplify the lifestyle (Philippians 4:11-12 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.)
*Learn to fear (trust) the Lord (Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.)

Let's take a quick look at each of these.

Learn to appreciate the basics of life. This is a touchy area with most of us, especially in today's society. We have so much already compared to most countries and there are so many modern conveniences at our disposal that we have lost touch with what is practically needed to get by. Things become handy gadgets that we feel we just can't live without. Everything we have and do becomes taken for granted. We feel we have to pile on lots of extras in order to feel good. Let me give you a simple example -- the all-American hot dog. Remember when you were little? All you had on your hot dog was the hot dog. As you grew up, however, you started to add the bun, and then the mustard/catsup, and then the chili, onions, relish and cheese. Pretty soon, there was so much "stuff" on top of the hot dog, that you couldn't really enjoy the taste of the hot dog -- it was too covered up with everything else!

Take a moment to read Matthew 6 and 1 Timothy 6:8. There are two, maybe even three, basic needs in life -- food, clothing, and a place to stay. That is all we NEED. (We won't get into whether food includes steak for every meal, or whether clothing means two closets full, or whether a place to stay means a mansion.) This is simply where we need to start to find our basic contentment; anything over that is to be considered an extra blessing from God (but not to be counted on).

Learn to simplify the lifestyle. This principle piggy-backs perfectly onto the previous one. Getting back to the basics means that we must simplify our lifestyle (make it less complex). This may mean getting rid of some of our "stuff". Quick example. Have you moved lately? No fun, is it! You start to pack and uncover things that have been squirreled away for that "I might need this some day". Then you have to load the truck. It seems that there is no end to the boxes and furniture. Sometimes you even have to leave things behind that you don't want to because there simply isn't room in the truck. Finally, you arrive at your new house -- ah, the task of finding a new spot for all the stuff! The task becomes even harder when you move into a smaller house and again you have to give up some cherished "things". Isn't it amazing how things seem to stick to us like fly paper?

Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Can there be contentment in having a lot? Absolutely. Can there be contentment in having a little? Absolutely. The amount of what we have isn't what is important. The point is that sometimes our "things" get in the way of us obeying the Lord -- doing what He wants us to do, going where He wants us to go. Stop for a few minutes and ask the Holy Spirit to point out anything in your life that may be holding you back -- something you may need to simplify. Remember, our "things" only have earthly significance; it stays behind when we die. (1 Timothy 6:7 "For we brought nothing into the world, and we can taking nothing out of it.")

Learn to fear (trust) the Lord. For most of us, trust is a difficult issue to resolve in our lives. It is much easier to trust in those things we can see (such as our bank accounts, our jobs, our "things"). They become a 'god' that we worship and strive for. Or, it is much easier to trust in something we can control -- which is usually ourselves. We think: if I can control myself and as many things around me that affect me, then I am relatively safe. Hebrews 11:1 gives us a good definition of faith: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." A minister once put it this way: Count so (you can go to the bank on it) what isn't so (those things which you cannot see or understand) in order for it to be so (changing your perspective many times changes the outcome) because God said so (the buck stops here)! I like that!

Sometimes we struggle with trusting God because we don't know Him. The truth is that He isn't hiding Himself from us; He is waiting, willing, and able to reveal Himself and establish an intimate relationship with us. Instead, it is our unwillingness that hinders a deeper relationship with Him. Perhaps we struggle with trusting God because we have been abandoned or let down by significant others so many times that we hide behind walls of fear or indifference or stubbornness, etc. Let's go back to a passage we mentioned earlier (Hebrews 13:5), where Paul reminds us that God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Sometimes we just have to take God at His word and hang on to those promises. Want to get off the circumstance roller coaster? Then trust in the Lord -- it leads to life and rest.

Enemies that rob us of our contentment:
*Love of money (Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money) (1 Timothy 6:9-10 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.) When our passion, our craving, our inner drive for money and the things or power that money can buy becomes our "god", we are headed down a road filled with unrest and trouble.
*Discouragement (Joshua 7:7 And Joshua said, "Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!) God provided a way for the Israelites to leave a life of slavery in Egypt, He led them across the Red Sea and through the desert to a land He had chosen specifically for His people. But things got tough and discouragement set in. They were afraid of the future, frustrated with the present, and envious of the past. We often fall into this same trap, and when we do, contentment becomes an illusive dream.

Am I willing to pay the price?

Everything worthwhile comes with a price, doesn't it.

Remember the phrase we started today with -- "Contentment is next to godliness"? Well, Scripture actually says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (1Timothy 6:6) We don't see the actual word "contentment" used of our Proverbs 31 woman, but we do hear the praises of her family for the attitude towards life which she established for herself and those within her home:

*Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her (verse 28)
*Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all (verse 29)
*Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate (verse 31)

Is having a peaceful, loving, content home worth the effort and sacrifice? What will it cost? Where do we start?

If contentment is something that is learned, the best place to start is at the feet of our loving Heavenly Father. Come before Him with a humble heart and simply say, "I am asking You to TEACH ME. I am willing for you to PLACE ME in circumstances to learn."

That's a simple statement, but oh so hard to say. Fear wraps its ugly claws around our heart when we get ready to voice that prayer. "Maybe God will make me do something I don't want to do -- like be a missionary or something." "Maybe God will take away things that I love very dearly." "Maybe life will get too hard for me."

Sometimes, my dear friend, God wants us to lay everything down on the altar so He can give us something better or more in return. Remember when God told Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son, the one through whom God would fulfill His blood covenant with Abraham? Abraham probably didn't understand, but he was obedient anyway. Do you remember what happened? God provided a lamb caught in a bush to be sacrificed instead of Isaac. Do you think Abraham learned a few things that day? I imagine he learned lessons that he never forgot! (You can read this account in Genesis 22.)

You see, growth in our spiritual life is a journey -- not just a destination. It will take a lifetime. But we have a very loving, understanding Heavenly Father to walk that path with us. All we have to do is invite Him to join us, to guide us, to teach us. And no matter what circumstances that path leads us through, we can count on the promise that He will go with us, He will never leave us or forsake us. What a precious blessing!

Closing Thoughts to Ponder:
"Wrong attitudes need to be replaced by godly responses. Greed can be overcome by generosity and giving. Coveteousness must be replaced by a content spirit. Ignorance can be overcome by obtaining wisdom, understanding, and instruction. Impatience can be replaced by trust in God's timely provision. Indulgence can be replaced by thriftiness."

"Contentment is wanting what we have."

(Wednesday 02/20/08) Woman of Excellence Part 2- Resourcefulness

Part 2 - Resourcefulness
Proverbs 31:10-31
I can just see her now. She is very domesticated (does everything from scratch whether it is something to eat, something to wear, or something to hang on the walls or cover the beds/windows). Anything that can be recycled, is. She is so organized that there is never any wasted time or energy. Her children are homeschooled. She is creative and imaginative. Bargain hunting is a breeze. It seems that everything she touches turns to gold.

Do you know anyone like that? I do, and I feel so inadequate when I am around them. How can we overcome these feelings? How can we develop this remarkable characteristic?

General Definition:
A resource is "something that lies ready for use; can be drawn upon"1. So, someone who is resourceful is "able to deal promptly and effectively with problems, difficulties".

Our society tells us to just let someone else be resourceful for you -- kind of like the "fast food" way. Don't have the money right now, that's fine; just "charge it." Or, we are told that we can solve our problems if we will just put more money into educating society about the problems. Unfortunately, society's solutions don't always measure up with the principles of God's Word.

Key Verses:
(Proverbs 31:13-16,18-19,24,27)

Take a look at the key verses. What are they saying about this resourceful woman?
*She is a thinking individual
*She invests her time
*She looks for dividends and returns
*Instead of focusing on the daily "grind", she looks at the benefits her work will bring
*She is disciplined (takes charge of herself so she can meet her family's needs)
*She is organized (has a sense of planning; takes the challenge of a family as just that, instead of a cross to bear)
*She is dedicated (which is marked by unselfishness and a desire to live for others)

An impossible task? On our own, the answer is probably "yes". But God doesn't leave us on our own. Matthew 6:33 tells us "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well".

One Key Truth:
* Put God First

How do we get it?
The best place to start is to evaluate and reshape our lives into priorities. God says, "I want to be first". He wants to have the most important place in your heart because you are most important to Him. He wants to have an intimate relationship with you personally. In order for that to happen, you have to know Him -- not just know about Him. We must know the Creator before we will ever be able to resourcefully use the things He has created. Anne Ortlund suggests four ways in which to truly make God the number one priority of your life: (1) practice his presence, (2) jealously guard a daily quiet time spent alone with God, (3) seek the Lord in occasional longer hunks of time, and (4) be diligent in your attendance of public worship.

Let's take a quick look at these. First of all, practice His presence. There are many scriptures which tell us that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Check out Hebrews 13:5 or take a fresh look at Psalm 23; you might even want to do a detailed search of your own.) Can we say that literally under NO circumstances will He ever leave us? Or does it mean that He will only stick with us if we are good enough today and do everything that pleases Him? Do we only meet Him at the local church on Sunday, or is He with us every moment of every day? You see, we often think that God really isn't concerned about us personally or have our best interests at heart; He really doesn't walk through this life and guide us step by step; He really isn't sovereign or love us unconditionally. WRONG! Satan would love to deceive us and let us believe these lies. The truth is that God loves us so unconditionally and desires such a special relationship with us that before we even knew or loved Him, He sent His only Son to die and pay the penalty for our sins. (1 John 4:19 & Romans 5:6-8) That is not the world's kind of love -- you know, "love 'em and leave 'em". That is the kind of love that is there for the long-haul! We need to get to the place where we sense His presence with us when we rise up in the morning, when we get ready for the day, when we eat our breakfast, when we travel to work, when we perform our tasks throughout the day, when we eat our dinner, when we relax in the evening, when we get ready for bed, and even when we get into bed. HE IS ALWAYS WITH US!

Next, jealously guard a daily quiet time alone with God. I think most of us would have to confess that our "daily quiet time" is neither daily or quiet. We get up late, or we are too tired, or there are too many other more pressing things that need to be done first. And usually if we do sit down to spend time with God, we are rushed or there are a thousand distractions. Throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus rising early and getting away into the mountains or desert to spend time alone with His Father. Multitudes of people demanded His time and attention; the disciples needed instruction because His days of ministry would be short. But, He always made time for His Father. You may need to be creative here, especially if you have very small children. But if this is a priority, a desire of your heart, then you will find a way to spend time alone with God.

Then, seek the Lord in occasional longer chunks of time. Sunday School, the pastor's messages, tapes, and Christian books are all good ways to learn God's Word. But these should never replace our own study of scripture. We must search God's Word for ourselves; we must allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach and direct us. This may not be something you do every day. Maybe you will only be able to set aside a couple hours one night each week or on the weekend. Ask God to help you make this a priority. There are many good study books available in Christian bookstores -- just to name a couple, I would recommend Cynthia Heald and Kay Arthur. These books will not only teach you how to study the Bible, but they will start you in a structured study environment.

Lastly, be diligent in attendance in public worship. Hebrews 10:25 says "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." There is something special, totally unique about lifting our hands, our hearts and our voices together in praise and prayer to Almighty God. The sense of unity, strength, and encouragement is indescribable. But, one day we will celebrate Him together for all eternity. And that will be glory!

So, we are to make God our first priority. What comes next? Well, that is something that you will need to determine as you spend time with God. What is His plan for your life each day? For me, my second priority is my husband followed by my family and my home. My ministry and work fall in behind that. As we know where our priorities lie and what is important to us, we can better prepare for and utilize resources available to us.

Enemies that rob resourcefulness:
*Procrastination; lack of discipline. No two ways about it -- most of us are not very disciplined. We are soft on ourselves and have a tendency to let things slide until the last minute. The result of this is that we are rushed and do not have the time to adequately research, develop and use resources that may be available to us.
*Disorganization; lack of direction. If we don't know where we are going, it is pretty hard to know when we have arrived. If we don't know where the target is, we will never to able to hit it. If we can't find what we need, it is pretty hard to use it.
*Unrealistic expectations. We have probably all gotten caught on this treadmill before. We set goals so high and make our "to do" lists so long that there is no possible way to accomplish them. The result is that we feel defeated and before long, we give up.

Am I willing to pay the price?
Let's go back to our Proverbs 31 Woman: She was a thinking woman, invested her time wisely, looked for dividends and returns, focused on the benefits her work would bring, disciplined herself so she could meet her family's needs, organized and planned her work, and dedicated herself unselfishly to God and to others. This is not an impossible characteristic to develop.

Ask God to teach you to:
*realize that what He has given you is enough. (Sounds like we are talking about contentment again, doesn't it.) But God has given us everything we need.
*creatively and wisely use what you already have. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-29 teaches that to those who wisely used what they had, more was given. As you take the time to learn, become creative, and wisely use the resources already available to you, God may bless your life with even more.

All that we have been talking about boils down to this: "The source of your resources is never your job. The source of your resources is God." And God is good. When this truth takes root in your heart, then you will see change in your life. As your mind is renewed, your life will conform into the image of Christ. (Romans 12:1-2)

Closing Thought to Ponder:
"When we find ourselves frantic and frustrated, harried and hassled, it is a sign that we are running on our own schedules, not on God's. Frustration is not the will of God. Direct your time to do anything and everything that God wants you to do. Direct your time and energy into worry, and you will be deficient in things like singing with grace in your heart, praying with thanksgiving, listening to a child's account of his school day, inviting a lonely person to supper, sitting down to talk unhurriedly with your spouse, writing a note to someone who needs it., etc." Elizabeth Elliot