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(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

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