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(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

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