The following message was delivered at the 2003 Shepherds’ Conference, A ministry of Grace Community Church 818.909.5530. © 2003 All Rights Reserved. A CD, MP3, or tape cassette copy of this session (# 3114-6) can be obtained by going to www.shepherdsconference.org
Home is Where the Heart
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for this opportunity for all of us to be here. Lord, we do thank you for all of your blessings, both great and small, for the incredible variety of people in ministries that are represented on this campus, for your Word that has been so clearly taught already, and even Lord for cooperating with the weather and having it be gorgeous, where it rained Monday and Tuesday, and yet you’ve given us blue skies and comfortable temperatures so that we don’t all have be huddled in small places around campus. Thank you for all of your blessings. Work in our time today. Help me to have clarity and passion as I present these truths from your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Well, it is very good for me to be with you today. I have hoped to be here the whole week, and this is my first opportunity to be on campus in several weeks. My name is Sheila Pennington; my husband is on staff here, and I see some familiar faces from a couple of years ago. Last year I wasn’t able to be here because I had just had a C-section with my youngest, and so this is really a great privilege for me to get to be here with you today
I have three young children, a 7-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, and so you pretty much know what my life is like, those of you who have had children. I was going to tell you that I had every plan to be here. I had a sitter for Thursday so that I could go to the luncheon at the Reagan library. I was going to be here this morning to hear Donna; I was so excited about the week, but I realized that particularly for this stage in my life my life verse really needs to be “Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps.” And that’s always true, but particularly with young children, the Lord seems to direct my steps through viruses, bacteria and other nasty things. So I have spent the last two weeks holding a very sick baby and “Lysoling” everything in sight. So you know what my world has been like, but I am so thrilled that my kids are better and I am well enough to be with you here today. And it was also fascinating that right when I am going to be speaking on Titus 2—that’s the text we’re going to today—I have a wonderful opportunity to really truly particularly love my children and be at home. And so I realized that “OK, Lord, you’re giving me an opportunity to really try to live this out.” Even though my heart was to be here with all the excitement, I got an opportunity to really serve my husband and serve my children and be at home a lot more than I expected to.
I wanted to start out our time today by telling you about a time about a year and a half ago. Those of you who are not familiar with southern California—this is a desert, and you’re getting to see it as its greenest. We’ve had more rain in the last month, really than we often have in a whole year; we had five inches a couple weeks ago, and that’s a third of our yearly rainfall, just to give you an idea. We usually get oh, 10 to 15 inches of rain. Therefore, we have a lot of wildfires, and you see them on TV. Of course, everything that happens in LA, you see on TV. But we do have a lot of wildfires, and about a year and a half ago, my children and I had been down here on campus on a Friday morning and we were driving home around lunch time. And I crested the pass to go up into the Santa Clarita Valley. And a large plume of smoke was in the distance, and I thought—hmm, that looks like its in Saugus. That’s where I live. And so I called Tom, and I said, “You hear anything about a fire?” And he said, “Well, yeah, it’s further up Bouquet Canyon.” So I said, “OK,” and I keep driving and looking, and thinking, “That really looks like it’s near my house.” But we hadn’t eaten lunch; I stopped at Wendy’s, you know the $.99 burgers. And we were eating lunch, and I called my friend who lives further up Bouquet Canyon, Linda Adrian. And I said, “Linda, are they evacuating you?” And she said, “No, ma’am, they’re evacuating at Copper Hill in Hascal.” I said, “That’s—that’s where I live.” Copper Hill in Hascal is a ¼ of a mile away. So I tried to hurry up the kids without panicking them and still I see fire truck after fire truck after fire truck passing going up into my neighborhood. And I pulled in the neighborhood just a few minutes before they closed the area. And dutifully called the sheriff’s department, cause the helicopters every 15 minutes flying over. I sat in my living room and watched them douse the flames through the windows. And I said, “Should I leave?” And he said, “No, you’re under—you’re under voluntary evacuation right now. Just up the street there are mandatory evacuations.” He said, “You’re welcome to leave, but realize that if you leave, you won’t be allowed home.” I’m going, “Great.” I was pregnant at the time, two small children, dog, the whole bit. Where am I going to, you know, just go camp out? Because it can sometimes be days before you’re allowed back home. He said, “I would advise you to sit tight, but if you have to evacuate, you’ll be given 10 minutes to leave.” OK. So I’m trying to be calm. And I put on the Blues Clues marathon tape to try to get the kids distracted from the helicopters and the airplanes flying over our house and the flames leaping. I could literally see them on the hills. And so I said, “Kids, you get to watch TV!” You know, whoo!, they thought that was a big deal because we don’t do that a lot. And I put the fan on. I tried to do anything just to knock down the noise. And I sat in the living room, and I said, “OK.”
And here was the question of the afternoon. You’re given 10 minutes to leave your home. What do you take? And you know what? It was fascinating because it brought such clarity. All of a sudden, all the clutter, all the stuff—not much mattered. The kids, that was a given, the dog, better take the dog, the important papers, the pictures. That was my list. And I thought, “OK, if I’m given 10 minutes I can do this. Get the kids in the car seats, you know, lock them in, get the music, then start throwing things in the van, we can be out of here. The Red Cross station was set up right down the street. I thought OK. Well, it brought such clarity that it was incredible.
Now, as the hours went on through the afternoon, that clarity faded a little bit. Oh, Tom’s paintings, oh, the furniture Tom made, my grandma’s necklace, you know, I started thinking of everything else I could add to that list. And so my clarity didn’t last a super long time. But for that initial time, it was crystal clear what was truly important. That’s the kind of passage that we’re coming to today.
Titus 2 gives us that clarity. Because I don’t know about you, but when I look at life, the clutter just “chhh…”. It crowds in on me. What am I supposed to do? And in ministry whether you’re a pastor’s wife or whether you’re a lay leader’s wife, there is so much to do. There are so many demands on our time, so many good things that we can do that we need a passage that cuts through the clutter and says, “OK, what are we supposed to do?”
The first time that I really remember this passage, Titus 2, being emphasized, was when I was a senior in college. Now I was brought up in a very good Christian home back East, but I must say, women’s roles were not emphasized and the passages that taught clearly from the scripture were not stressed. In fact, women were expected to work full time just as a given in the community where I grew up. And those passages that really emphasized women’s particular roles were not emphasized at all. And the first time I saw this passage emphasized was in a book. I was perusing the library, which I loved to do. I’d give myself an hour a week at least just to go through the library and pick out books and just give myself that time to introduce myself to some new topic. And one day I was going through the family section, and there was the book called “The Family” by this guy in southern California (now mind you, I grew up in South Carolina), southern California named John MacArthur—never heard of him. Picked out this book “The Family,” see the MacArthur clan on the back in their 70’s garb; it’s really funny. I still remember that picture. But he just carefully exposited Titus 2, and it resonated with my heart strings. And I thought, wow, this is so clear. And Tom and I—I shared it with Tom; we were engaged at the time—and we said, that’s the way we want to live. This is so clear. But it wasn’t until about 10 years later when I finally had children—we had been married at least 9 years before we had kids—that I really started wrestling with this passage on a daily basis because all of a sudden, instead of being out there, because I was working. I was working at the college. I loved it. I was in admissions, college admissions, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy. And then, “whoom!” all of a sudden I was at home. And I went from “out there,” to home. And I felt like often all I did—hmmm, I still feel like this sometimes—laundry, diapers, bills. I mean, that’s—I was just buried in it. And I thought this can’t be ministry. Ministry is out there; ministry is teaching and discipleship and foreign missions and running an orphanage. You know, that was my idea of ministry. And so I saw myself, but I still didn’t really believe that my ministry was first and foremost loving my husband, loving my children, being a godly woman, being a keeper at home, being busy at home, discipling women younger than myself. And so I started really wrestling with this passage. It was years, ladies, that I would just flip open to Titus 2, and just say, “What am I supposed to do again? What am I supposed to do again?” And I went there, and ever since that time I’ve been asking myself, for myself and also for women in all different stages, how are we supposed to live this? And that’s what I want us to explore today.
First of all we have to understand what this passage teaches. Is it merely saying a woman’s place is in the home? You know like the bumper sticker If a woman’s place is in the home, why am I always in the van? I know a lot of you understand that; I see my friends that have older children and even grandmothers, they’re just, you know, “I’m supposed to be at home and all I’m doing is in the van.” What does it mean; why is there the breakdown between older and younger women? What do the words like “reverent” really mean. What does that look like? And then how do I live this way?
The book of Titus was written by Paul to Titus. And it doesn’t emphasize doctrine; it’s not Romans. It emphasizes equipping for evangelism, and it tells us how to live a righteous, loving, selfless, godly life. It starts with in chapter 1 verses 5 through 9 the qualifications of elders, then verses 10 through 16 of that chapter deals with wrong teaching. And then starting in 2:1, it talks about the things which are proper to sound doctrine. And I just want to read, starting in chapter 2, and we’re just going to read verses 1 through 5.
“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older women are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith and love and perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips or enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the Word of God will not be dishonored.”
Now notice the first part of this, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” Now this is in contrast. If you look ahead, I got tickled at verse 16. Do things ever strike you really funny when you read scripture? This doesn’t sound like it’s funny initially, but listen to this, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” I thought, “Well, come on Paul, how do you really feel about it?” You know, “detestable and disobedient and worthless.” OK, there was nothing good in what they were teaching. Paul felt pretty strongly about it; don’t hold back Paul. But then he contrasts that wrong teaching to this proper teaching that he shows us starting in chapter 2.
Speak, teach implies a persistence, a command. You are to do it. This is not “try to”; this is not “if you have time.” No, this is what you’re supposed to do; you are supposed to teach. Fitting means based on what’s appropriate to; it reflects. Our pastor has put it this way: “Healthy doctrine produces healthy spiritual living.” That’s what Titus is all about. It’s not that our practice is totally separate from our doctrine; it’s that our practice grows out of our doctrine. Ladies, we need to be careful as ladies not to say, “Well we’re not interested in the doctrine; we just want the practical stuff.” Everything is doctrine. Tom and I were talking about this the other night, because I kind of get on the soap box about this, that women should read the hard books and study the hard passages and grapple with the difficult concepts and not wimp out. And I was saying, “It’s all about doctrine.” I’m sorry, but the way I respond to the middle of the night call from my infant or my sick child or the fourth interruption that night, has everything to do with my belief in the sovereignty of God. That’s doctrine; how I respond when I don’t feel well and when ministry demands are overwhelming all comes down to doctrine. We can’t separate the two; they are not capable of being separated. The way you behave shows what you believe. And so this book is not in contrast to doctrine. Rather it shows you what proper doctrine lived out looks like.
Our behavior should match our belief, and the flipside of that is, sorry, but the way you behave shows what you believe. We may say—I’ve seen this in my life a lot this last year, and I’ll share some of this with you—I say I believe God is God, and I say I believe God is good, but how am I acting? Am I really behaving like God is good in whatever He does? Now Paul’s teaching here begins with older men, and then it also addresses older women, young women, young men and bondservants. And quite often the injunctions that follow—this is not a popular passage, because it is so counter-culture. This stuff sounds shocking, and it is shocking because it’s totally counter-culture. This is not the way our culture is structured, but you know what? These injunctions, they may not be popular, but they are also crystal clear. Now they’re going to look different in each person’s life, but the principles laid out here are very clear.
My goal today is to come alongside of you, and we are from all different backgrounds and all different stages of life. We’ve got a lot of you gals that are younger than myself, some that may be more mature than myself, but this passage is for all of us. And so what I want to do today is just to come alongside and work through this passage, and it may be a really familiar passage to you. But I would like to reignite your passion for the truths for yourself and also for the ladies that you have opportunity to minister to. And I’m going to address something right up front here. Maybe this is so familiar to you, or when you share it with your women they go, “Titus 2 again, can we please move on?” They might be so familiar that they just tune out, or maybe you find yourself in that. Or, you know, there’s a lot that could be predisposed against this. You know, “Oh, she’s going to talk about never working outside the home and never…” click. I’m going to turn you off. Or maybe there are people that are just in your group, just totally ignorant, like honestly I was. I mean, I knew my doctrine well, I knew the catechism when I was four and am very grateful for that. But I was pretty much ignorant of passages like this. And so you’re going to find ladies in your churches with all of those, from all of those perspectives as well.
Now, I don’t normally give away my outline up front, but I’m going to today. And the reason I’m doing this is you ladies have listened a lot, to a lot. This is the last day, the last afternoon of this session, so this might help you those of you that are taking notes, just to kind of as we go through, you’ll know pretty much where to fit this in. We’re going to deal with I believe it’s four main points: the character of a godly woman; the priorities of a godly woman—and under that we’ll deal with older and younger; the motive of a godly woman (You notice it’s all of a godly woman, so you can just put those little…OK.); the practice of a godly woman. So character, priorities, motive and practice. And you can fill in as we go, but hopefully that’ll give you a little bit of an idea of the direction where we’re heading.
I. So let’s begin with the character of a godly woman since that’s where this passage begins. 2:3 states, “Older women, likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good”
Now this verse identifies what older women are to be and what younger women are to pursue, so it’s for everybody. And as I mentioned, we’ve got both categories here in this room, and they’re both in our churches. You’ll notice through my illustrations, I never have fit in any category. I’m not exactly young, but I have young children. But each of us will find ourselves and that our priorities are the same, and as we go through, maybe you’ll find some things for yourself, but also those that you can pass on to women that are in other categories in your churches.
Now older women were typically at least 60 years old, Now, I’m not quite 60, so I guess by that definition, I’m a younger woman. They served in many ways. They ministered to other women; they visited the sick, those in prison; they provided hospitality. These were busy women, you know, there’s—there’s none of this, “I did mine—I did my time, and now I’m going to sit around and drink tea.” I mean, these women were really busy. They were taking in orphans. You know, you remember Dorcas, they’re making things. I am blessed at Grace Church to have many, many examples of women like this that are busy women, and some of them are here in this room today that have ministered to me in many ways. But these older women were busy women.
The word likewise, it links it with the previous instructions. This is not something totally separate. This is likewise, just like the older men, these women also are to be reverent in their behavior. Now this is one of those phrases that I thought I knew. You know, when you read scripture, do you do this? Do you think you know something and then when you study it you find you didn’t know it at all? You know, reverent in their behavior, I thought reverent? What does that look like? Well this definition is the one that came together from the commentaries, and it wasn’t very helpful. It said, priest like, that which is appropriate to holiness, consecrated as priestess. OK. It didn’t have any flesh on the bones. I didn’t know what that looked like, and so I had to look a little bit further. And one of the passages that seemed to illustrate this concept the most was I Timothy 2:9-11, and it’s the passage that talks about “likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather”—How are they supposed to be clothed?—“by means of good works.” We’re not to be known by our outward show; we’re to be known by our good works as is proper for women making a claim to godliness, so that fleshed it out a little bit for me. And then as I continued studying and meditating, I realized that really this deals with the demeanor of a godly woman. She has—a godly, a truly godly woman has an awareness of God in every single aspect of her life whether she is washing the dishes, taking a shower, driving car pool, leading a Bible study, helping with a church activity, home schooling her kids, whatever she is doing, taking care of her grandchildren, she has an awareness of God. Do you sometimes lose that awareness of God getting so buried in the details? I know I do; I know it’s something that I have to stop and say, “Wait a second, this is worship. Whatever it is that I’m doing is worship, and it needs to be for God.” This isn’t something—I hurry through this so I can get to God. I need to have an awareness of God in every single activity of my life, and this is what it means to be reverent in their behavior. It’s not that they walk around in hushed tones and sound super spiritual and pious. It’s that they’re aware of God in everything—they realize that they are living life “Coram deo” before the face of God, in everything that they do.
Then the passage moves from reverent in their behavior to “not malicious gossips.” This is based on the work diabolos which means slanderer or false accuser. Now this is really interesting. When I was initially doing this study, Tom printed out for me all the word studies, you know, doing the search for all the words. And at first I thought he had handed me the wrong one, because it all had to do with Satan. Well, guess what? This is the term used for Satan; it’s the same term. That’s scary, that God used something that actually means a slanderer and a false accuser; that’s Satan. And we are behaving Satan-like when we slander and when we falsely accuse. Thirty-four times in the New Testament this actually refers to Satan, and what is he called? “The father of lies”—strong word.
These women do not listen to or spread slanderous or demeaning words about others. Now, women, I think you’ll agree with me, this doesn’t have to be exclusively a struggle for women as a gender, but it really can be. And part of that lies in our strength, communication. We like to talk; we take a personal interest. And so that can be a good thing. I mean, an example of the difference—this is kind of a male-female thing. Men can have this difficulty as well, but a humorous example of this –Tom and I—Tom uses this illustration sometimes, too.
Several years back Tom had played golf with a group of men. OK, golf. This is seven, eight hours, a long day. Then we came back together and the women had dinner together, and the men had dinner together. And then Tom and I left together. So, OK, you get the picture. I’ve been the women two hours; he’s been with the men nine. We get in the car, and I said, “What about so-and-so and their son that had a brain tumor” and he goes, “They have a son?” “Yes!” “Oh” And I knew everything about these women—their background; how they came to know the Lord; their hopes, fears and dreams for the future. I mean, I knew these women. We’d been together two hours. He’d been with the men all day long, and knew nothing. And I was appalled. I said, “What did you talk about?” “Golf?” OK.
Now, this can be a good thing. I often come back, and you know, I’ll say, honey, “They’re struggling, you know we need to really come alongside of them.” And you know, and he works at it. He’s really cute. He’ll come back from a golf game which is maybe two, three times a year; truly, he doesn’t get a lot of golf in. But he’ll come, he goes, “Honey, I tried to steer the conversation; I tried to find out. He goes, “I’m sorry, we’re just going to talk about golf. That’s all they want to talk about.” So he tries. That can be a good thing. But also it raises a lot of temptations, doesn’t it? Because now we know. We know the hopes, fears, dreams; we—you know, and women can couch them in prayer requests. You know, we need to pray for so and so and give more information than we really ought. Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear,” spiritual benefit to those who hear. Proverbs 10:19, “Where there are many words,” “transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” So a godly woman is not a malicious gossip.
Nor is she enslaved to much wine. OK, this is exactly what it appears to be. She’s not given to drunkenness. Now, drunkenness was a big problem on the isle of Crete. OK, I guess if you were on the isle—there’s not a whole lot on the Isle of Crete, but drunkenness was a big problem. And it says, these women are not to be enslaved to much wine; enslaved, to be held against one’s will, not to be enslaved to anything. Now, when I went through this I thought, “OK, this is not a real big temptation for me. I don’t even like wine.” But what is the bigger concept here? And I think we find that in I Corinthians 6:12, the broader principle is “I will not be mastered by anything—anything: TV, exercise, clothes, spending, you fill in the blank. “I will not be mastered by anything.” And we need to ask ourselves, and we need to come alongside the women that we have opportunity to minister to, and are we or are they enslaved to anything?
I had early on, right after we were married, 17 years or so ago, I found myself starting to get addicted to coffee, you know the office thing of getting your fix in the morning getting caffeine. And I kind of made a rule with myself; it’s not a big spiritual thing; it’s kind of a silly illustration, but as soon as I found myself not being able to get through the morning without a cup of coffee, I went cold turkey. Because I thought, “I don’t want to be enslaved to anything.” Again, do I still drink coffee? Yes, you know, now you can be addicted to caffeine anytime, you know, coffee mochas or whatever. But it’s the principle of just being very careful that we are not addicted to anything and we’re not enslaved by anything. We will not be mastered.
Teaching what is good. This translates into one Greek word, “teachers of good.” It’s something she is; it’s not something she puts on; it’s not something she merely does. She is a teacher of good. Are you a teacher of good? It’s not something added when your have time; it’s a character quality. By this time these women are to have lived all the things that they are teaching. They are to have taught their own children well, and now they are to teach the younger women how to be godly wives and mothers. They must be and do these things that they are to teach and encourage the young women to be and do. They’re to be doing that. They are to have done those things before they can teach them. Now, notice the contrast; I found this very interesting. Again, in really meditating through the passage I like to connect the dots because it’s so easy in a cursory reading, just to go, “OK, OK, OK, that’s true,” and then you just kind of move on. What in the world do these things have to do with each other, “reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, not enslaved to much wine, teachers of good.” These women are not wasting time gossiping and deadening the pain and loneliness because by this time many of them would be widows. And that would be a real temptation, wouldn’t it? But rather, they are actively involved in others, and they’re teaching what is good. They’re not gossiping and deadening the pain, but they’re actively involved in other people’s lives, teaching what is good. So that’s to be her character.
II. Let’s move to her second point, to our second point: the priorities of a godly woman, and this is verses 4 through 5. “So that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands.”
First we come to the priorities of older women. Priority number 1: to teach the younger women. Remember they’re already being what we talked about, her character. Now this is their first priorities of an older woman; they are to teach the younger women. They are to encourage, helping others to cultivate good judgment and sensibility.
Now this is formal and informal, isn’t it? We see this teaching and encouraging in formal ways when we set up formal programs. Here at Grace we have some wonderful ones, and some of you ladies have spoken to some of the women from our women’s ministries. We have a Titus 2 that meets in homes; that would be a structured time, even though it lends itself to relationships, but it’s a structured time. Every Woman’s Grace, some of our ladies seminars, retreats, things like that, they would be structured, but there’s also a lot of informal, unstructured times. This would be older women coming alongside younger women and living life right alongside of them, practical help, encouraging phone calls, meals, cleaning out their cabinets. I have one lady in my life—I come home, and my cabinets are reorganized. She’s kept my kids, reorganized my cabinets and cooked dinner for me. I said, “Linda, you have set a very high standard.” You know, wow, I’ve never—just to see this in action from so many of the older women here in our church, that’s the kind of help that as we mature beyond having children of our own in our homes and even as our kids get older where we can help, we can come alongside and help in these practical ways. That encourages me to love my husband and love my children. Wow! Come alongside and say, “Can I help you? Do you know how to budget? Can I help you budget? What are you discouraged about? Can we talk through some discipline issues with your kids?” So it can be formal, structured classes; it can be informal, just living life alongside.
And is says to encourage the young women, young women of marriageable age until about 60. Now there’s some fluidity, and you’ll see this with the ages. You’re not young at 59 and instantly old at 60, OK? Before a woman is 60, she can still reach out to teach and encourage women younger than herself or even younger in the faith; however, her first priorities are her own husband and children and home. Now in older women, older women past child-rearing will still have those priorities, won’t they? I mean, Patricia [MacArthur] recently said to me, she said, “I still have Johnny [John MacArthur]. I still have my kids, and now I’ve got 10, 11 grandkids, 12? I mean, they’re just poppin’…” You know, and she’s—so she goes, “I still have…” You know, she’s still living these priorities. Johnny didn’t go away. And her kid’s need her now more in some ways than ever, and she’s very involved in her grandchildren’s lives. What an example. But older women past childrearing still have these priorities and maybe have added grandkids to them, but she will sometimes have more time to focus on younger women as she keeps her own priorities still.
Priority number 2. The first was to teach the younger women. The second is to model what they teach; God’s design is dramatically different as we’ve talked about from our world, our culture. And so the priorities of an older woman is to teach younger women and to model what they teach.
Then we come to the priorities of the younger women. And I’ve paired these, and I’ll show you why as we get to the end of this section. But the first one is her husband and children, and this is in verse 2:4.
She is commanded—they are commanded to love their husbands. This is a committed choice; it’s willing; it’s determined; it’s not based on his worthiness, but rather on God’s command. It’s a choice. And she must train herself to love by doing. There are no conditions or exceptions; it’s not a feeling; but rather a committed action, service, meeting his needs. And one of the commentaries stated, “It’s not simply that love of a husband is a virtue, but that not loving is a sin.” Not to love her husband is a sin; this also is so contrary to our society. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m with my unsaved friends, and I talk about, “Well, I really need to do this because this is what Tom needs,” they look at me like, “What, are you a doormat?” Because there’s such an emphasis on self-love and self-fulfillment, and you know, 50-50, you know, well he should be doing his—you know, this whole—you know what I’m saying. There’s very little emphasis in society at large on service and on giving oneself and on a woman and a wife being made as a completer and a helper to her husband. That is truly counter-culture. But love, Biblically, is committed; it’s self-sacrificial; it is sometimes contrary—often perhaps, contrary to feeling. It’s meeting the need of that person. And this fills out the commands in Ephesians and Colossians and in I Peter on submission, where women, wives are called to submit to their husbands, here we’re called to love our husbands, and it’s a joyous thing.
She’s also commanded to love her children. And again, this is selfless, it’s self-sacrificial, it is not an option; it’s based on their needs. We are to love our children in every way, in every way, practical, physical, social, moral, spiritual, no conditions and no limits. And it’s exhausting, and it’s extremely demanding. I laugh because I wrote on my notes, “sleep illustration.”
I remember when Lauren was first born, I really thought that when she went to bed, that I was off duty. I really—you can imagine how distressing that was; it didn’t work. And so, I really thought, I’ve done my time, you know, she’s in bed and now it’s my time. And then she’d wake up. The nerve of that child. I checked out. This is my time. And now that I have three [children], seven and under, I swear, they get together before they go to bed some nights and say, “OK, you take 10:30 and I’ll take 11:30. Let’s get her like an hour and a half so she gets that really deep—and then you wake her up OK, and then the baby will scream.” And they’ve got it all worked out back there. I just, sometimes, I swear, cause I’ll get up in the morning, and Tom say “How’d the night go?” Because of course he’s out, doesn’t hear any of it. And I’ll say, “Well, I got up at…” you know. There have been times with sick kids and this is nothing new. I’m not telling you ladies anything you don’t know. I think the record was 14 times in one night. And usually, I mean, that would be very rare. Most nights there’s nothing, but 14. OK. I have gotten to the point, particularly when the kids are sick, that before I go to bed, I remind myself, “I am here to serve my children even in the middle of the night.” Now, I beg them before I go to bed, “Girls, I’m here if you need me. Please try not to need me.” You know, but I’m here. I’m here if you need me, because, you know, you go through the bad dream stage, and you know, the baby’s on antibiotic and you know that she’s probably got diarrhea. You know all the things; you want to be gracious; you want to be there. But it’s still “Please don’t get me up unless you absolutely…” And so Lauren will say “Unless we’re bleeding…” You’re right, and normally they do a good job.
But the point is that motherhood, just like being a wife is demanding and it’s self-sacrificial. And we are here to serve. And hopefully most of the time that doesn’t mean at 3:00 am. But I have to remind myself, with this last round, poor baby, my Jessica—she just turned a year old—she’s had in the last week and a half, got a cold, turned into bacterial conjunctivitis, turned into ear infection. You know how it goes. And so before I went to bed, [I said to myself] “I will respond cheerfully when the baby screams.” She had a fever of 102. You know, you’ve got to deal with this. And so I would work at before I got up saying, “I’m going”—even though she doesn’t know the difference—“I’m going to be cheerful. Lord, please help me to do this and to serve her cheerfully whatever time this crisis occurs.” You can tell this is a big issue with me, this sleep thing. But it’s just one illustration of loving our children self-sacrificially, and I understand that once their teenagers you look back at the sleep thing and say, “Huh, I’d take the sleep thing any day.” I know, I know, I’ll look back and wish for this stage again, right? So she’s to love her husband and to love her children.
And then the second main point her heart. Her second priority is her heart; and this includes to be sensible and pure.
She is to be sensible; this has to do with, just like it sounds, common sense, good judgment. She’s thoughtful; she’s self-controlled. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The problem with this is that it’s often contrary to feelings, and many choose to live by feelings. I talk with a lot of gals that really don’t know that you don’t have to live by your feelings. They think they’re compelled to live by—“but I feel…” Sorry! You know, there are many days I don’t feel like getting up; you don’t live by your feelings. We do what is right; it’s not reactionary. It is thoughtful, full of thought; it’s sensible. And this is a big temptation for many women; we are to learn for ourselves, and we are to teach the women that we have opportunity to minister to, that we as women are called to think and to act based on proper thinking. And this is not a given. We need to think; we need to be sensible; we need to have good judgment. And base our lives, live each day based on proper thought.
She’s also to be pure; this deals with moral purity, sexual purity, marital faithfulness, both physically and mentally. It goes back to the I Timothy 2 passage that I’ve already referenced.
It has to do with modesty; it’s a healthy sense of shame at saying anything, doing anything or dressing in any way that would cause a man to lust. Don’t you wish that we didn’t have to even talk about this at church? But it is a huge problem. Now this is rather a blunt statement, but I think that you’ll understand where this lady’s coming from—Nancy Wilson. Some of you may have read her. In her recent article I read, she said that she told her husband, “It must be difficult for men to know which ones they have to pay for these days.” Now that’s really ugly, but it’s true. Our society—the women and the gals dress in such a way that you kind of have to wonder sometimes. Immodesty is just a given. And we need to be very careful, and to address this very clearly in our own lives, with our daughters. “You truly are not going out looking like that.” The husbands need to come alongside and say “Sorry, sweetheart, I will not allow to wear it that tight, that low, that high.” Modesty is not a small thing; tempting a man to lust is no small thing. And we need to emphasize with our daughters and with our ladies: causing a man to lust—if he lusts in his heart, he has committed adultery. This is a serious offense, and you have aided and abetted in that. This is no small thing.
I also wish that I could act like immorality is not a problem in the church. I’m not so naïve, unfortunately. I cannot tell you how many incidents in recent years Tom and I have been brought into where other churches have called here at Grace, where it has been the pastor’s wife that’s involved with the young intern. It’s not uncommon. Don’t get cocky. We cannot allow ourselves to say, “Well I,” you know, “got this or I’ve been married 17, 35, 50 years.” Don’t think you stand, because you need to take heed lest you fall. This is so common. Ladies, we must guard ourselves, and we must teach those around us to guard ourselves. We’ve got to set very high hedges. Tom and I come together, and we have set our own personal hedges. And if ever there is any relationship, any relationship that starts to get to comfortable, we cut that off or build a really high wall. And I know for me, one hedge of mine is, if there is a friendship that starts to get too close with a man, I do not talk to that person anymore; I avoid them. And I tell my husband what’s going on at the first glimmer that I get that it may even remotely be an issue. That’s how I protect myself, and he does the same. And this is no small thing. I wish it were, but it’s not. So she is to be pure.
Her third priority is to be her home, and that brings us to verse 5: workers at home. Now this can be translated “working at home, busy at home, diligent homemaker.” The idea is she’s a hard worker, and she’s working on her home. OK? It’s not a complicated concept. Now, our culture views that as bondage. “Oh, my goodness. Her emphasis is home? How demeaning; how lowly.”
What are some of the ramifications from our culture of women not making home their chief priority? I was thinking about this. Children are raises by strangers. You know, I don’t know what it is like in your communities. In my community, if a kid is not in preschool by 2, the neighbors look aghast. “She’s not in preschool yet?” “She’s two; she’s a baby.” You know, it gets younger and younger. It was mandatory kindergarten, and then now they’re trying to get mandatory preschool and, you know, younger and younger and younger. So these kids are institutionalized; they’re raised by strangers. Now I’m not wholesale saying your kid can never go to preschool, OK. I’m not going to set a time—“They can go for 8 hours, but not 10.” OK? We’re not going to go there. They should not be primarily raised by strangers. So children—and they’re lonely. You read about the kids that have been brought up where the mother is never at home; they are lonely, lonely kids that turn into lonely adolescents that hang out in the mall and have blue hair. I mean, not all of them, but truly, I was with my girls a couple months ago; and there’s a certain section of our mall where all the lonely adolescents hang out. And my kids are kind of looking at them like, “Oh, boy. They have blue hair.” And you know, and I said, “Sweetheart, do you know why those kids are hanging out together?” “Well, no, Mommy.” I said, “I don’t think they really think their parents care so much for them maybe some of them. You know, a lot of them don’t have mommies and daddies that hang out with them and that are at home.” And I said, “We shouldn’t look down on them. We should love them and care for them.” I said, “Which do you think God hates worse, blue hair or self-righteousness?” You know, and they’re like, because they had been real “They have blue hair.” You know? Well, that’s not in the Bible. I mean I hope my kids never have blue hair, and they won’t come home with it, that’s for sure. But trying to help them see, you know, you’ve got to have compassion. Oftentimes this is because they’re very lonely kids, and that’s why they’re hanging out with dog collars and you know? They’re often lonely kids raised by strangers.
Another ramification for women not making home their priority. Wives are under the authority of men other than their husbands. This is tough. I mean, I remember, even before kids, and again, I’m not here to set down, “A woman may never work outside the home,” because the Bible doesn’t say that. It says the priority should be her home. But I remember working—I worked here at the church, loved it. I worked at the Master’s College, fabulous. But there was often a “OK. Tom wants me to travel on this event, and yet work is pulling this way—‘nyeeh’.” It sets up a lot of difficult problems, because a wife’s authority is not just her husband. It can really create some tension. You can study this in sociology. Extra-marital affairs, they’ve always been there, but the workplace is an environment. You’re dressed to the nines. They don’t see you at your weakest; they see you at your best. You’re thrown into projects, into intimate relationships with people that aren’t your spouse, and it’s an environment rife for extra-marital affairs and chaotic homes, utter chaos. Have you ever stepped into a lot of homes? How do they live? There’s a path, you know? Wow! It’s difficult if you’re not home to care for the home.
Now, women with no children or grown children may have more time for work; they may have more time for outside ministry, but we must use sensibility, that character quality we’ve already talked about under our husband’s authority and guidance to know how much of our time we can invest outside of our home. And our husband is the best one to do that, isn’t he? He’s there to protect us. And before I accept any ministry opportunity or extra responsibility, I say, “Tom, what do you think?” And he’ll, “If you want to do it, honey, I want you to be able to.” But he’ll ask some guiding questions, “How much time is it going to take? How is this going to affect the other activities you’re involved with?” You know, so under his guidance he can help me decide how much time I can spend. And it’s going to look different; it’s going to look different for different families. You know, the Jones family is going to look different than the Pennington family.
One illustration I think of, and I’m going to change this name because this is being taped, and you know how tapes have a way of getting around. I’ll call this woman Mrs. Green, and it’s a good example. But we had a woman where I grew up, and I’ll call her Mrs. Green, that she had so much energy, it was disgusting. OK, my mom was not one that had a lot of additional energy. Life was hard for my mom; she did not have a lot of extra. But Mrs. Green could work and teach piano and take care of her home and have home-baked things and parties that she talked, talked, talked for all of her birthdays for her kids. Legend, local lore had that she had a baby on a Tuesday and hosted a dinner party Wednesday. OK, this was a woman that all the other women were like… They loved Mrs. Green, but she could do anything. And she always was cheerful and truly had the energy.
My mother-in-law, Mrs. Pennington had 10 children; she did not have extra energy to throw dinner parties. She got up at, you know, breakfast was at 5:30. You know, “Boys, come to the table.” And, they had Bible-reading and prayer. She had eggs, grits, bacon, biscuits, OK. She did not have time to run a local charity. Her home was the local charity, taking care of 10 kids. My point is we’re going to look different. And if tried to aspire to be Mrs. Green, I would kill myself. If I tried to aspire to be Mrs. Pennington, I—“whoo”—that means seven more kids. Bless her. She had my husband when she was 46, number 10 and oh, she’s such a neat lady. Now which one would I have traded in? You know, which one would I wouldn’t have? She loves her children and her grandchildren and now her great-grandchildren.
But both ladies in my illustration, their focus, their joy was their home, and ministry flowed out of their family and their home; that’s the point. It’s not that my way is the right way or that we can set any individual and script our lives to be like that person. The priorities are Biblical; how they are carried out in your home is going to look different from how they’re carried out in mine. The point is her responsibility is for the home. Her home is her special domain and her highest priority. And Proverbs 31 fills this out, doesn’t it?
Now, I don’t know about you, but I really like Proverbs 31. But it overwhelms me. I have to put Proverbs 31 in the context of Titus 2. OK? Because if I go to Proverbs 31, I’m going to be all over the map. And someone reminded me recently, “Sheila, that was not a real woman.” OK, point well-taken. So Proverbs 31, though, shows the myriad of activities that a woman can have, but her home is still her priority. Our culture thinks that the victims are those whose priority is their home, don’t they? But the true victims are those who’ve been misled about being set free from God and the home. I mean I have neighbors that I just look at them and I think that is so sad. They’re dropping their kids off at daycare at 6:30 in the morning for preschool breakfast, and so sad. And they think they’re living. You know, and that just makes me very sad. It makes me very sad. So she’s to be busy at home.
And she is to be kind. Kind—it means “good, gentle, considerate, amiable, congenial”—ouch! Gentle, considerate, amiable—this is kind of a tough list, actually. Congenial—she is sympathetic even with those who are undeserving and unkind. Do you notice, this is not towards everybody else. Who is this directed toward mostly? Who? Her family. It’s a god-like characteristic. Luke 6:35—“For God himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” That sounds like my kids sometime. Ephesians 4:32—“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.”
There is some evidence that these instructions are in pairs. Notice that I put them in pairs. Her husband and her children was one pair; her heart covered sensible and pure; and then her home is workers at home and kind. So they’re to love their husbands and love their children; they’re to be sensible and pure; they’re to be workers at home and kind. Now that pair—when I—I thought what? What does that have to do anything with each other? Workers at home and kind. That has nothing to do with each other. Workers at home and kind, busy and kind? That has nothing to do with each other. Do you get the point that I’m driving at? Busy and kind? It’s a combination of being hard-working while still being good-natured and considerate. Ouch! Now I don’t know about you, but I can be busy. And I can be kind. But busy and kind at the same time? I struggle with that. I can be busy; I can get a lot done. And I can be kind. But busy and kind—and so I thought. How fascinating. Because truly, I kept studying, going, “These two things have nothing to do with each other.” That’s the point; they should. She needs to be hard-working while still being good-natured and considerate.
Now this hit a little too close to home earlier this week because I was very busy. And I sensed that my seven-year-old needed some mommy time, subtle clues, you know. So I took her up to my room and sat her on my lap, and we just kind of rocked. And I said, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” And she said, “Well, I’m just tired of you being so busy, getting ready for Shepherds’ Conference,” you know, “and your just so busy.” Well, you know what? We’re often busy, and so I knew it really didn’t have anything to do with our being busy. I kind of sort of thought I knew what she was getting at. And I said, “Sweetheart,” I just thought I’d ask. I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, you’re just so busy.” And she didn’t know how else to say it, and I said, “Lauren, is it because I haven’t been speaking kindly to you?” She said, “Yes, Mommy.” Ouch. Busy and kind, busy and kind. And I had to apologize to her and seek her forgiveness because you know what? I can be busy, and she’s busy too. You know, we work, and we spend time together. But what she was telling me is I was too busy because of the way I was speaking to her, and I was not being kind. And I even had her illustrate it, and it wasn’t attractive. But I said, “Can you give me an example?” And she did, and I won’t even go there. I won’t be that vulnerable. So that point made such an impression on me. And if I can only remember it, to be both busy and kind, and thankfully I’ve told my kids. They really are fabulous consciences. Because, I have told them, “You may come to me and ask me and tell me, ‘Mommy, you’re not speaking to me kindly’ or ‘Mommy…’” And I want them to, and so they do. They do it very respectfully. And I try to respond properly when they do. I sometimes have to take a break in order to do it. “I’ll be back with you in just a few minutes; let me pull it together here first.” So I know when I’m not being busy and kind at the same time.
And then her priority is her head, or being subject to her own husband. And it’s interesting; the final priority here about being subject to her own husband comes all the way back to her husband. Did you notice we started with loving her husband and we end this section with being subject to her own husband? Do you think it has something to do with maybe being focused on her husband? Subjecting yourselves—the definition here would be willingly submitting one’s own will to that of another or arranging oneself under. Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, I Peter 3 all deal with submission. And Ephesians 5 tells wives that they are to submit to—here’s the whole lesson—I did a whole lesson on this a couple years ago. And it’s a really good study, to study out submission because I thought I knew what it meant until I studied it. But Ephesians 5, here’s the whole answer, OK? Tells the wives they are to submit to their own husbands as to the Lord in everything. That’s it; it’s simple; it’s just not easy. Martha Peace covers it well in her book, The Excellent Wife; she’s very thorough. Charles Spurgeon wrote this about his wife, Susanna:
“She delights in her husband in his person, his character, his affection. To her he is not only the chief and foremost of mankind, but in her eyes, he is the all in all. Her heart’s love belongs to him and only to him. He is her little world, her paradise, her choice treasure. She is glad to sink her individuality in him. She seeks no renown for herself. His honor is reflected upon her and she rejoices in it. She will defend his name with her dying breath. Safe enough is he where she can speak for him. His smiling gratitude is all the reward she seeks. Even in her dress she thinks of him, and considers nothing beautiful which is distasteful to him. Such a wife as a true spouse realizes that the model marriage relation and sets forth what our oneness of the Lord ought to be.”
That’s what he wrote about his wife.
So we’ve looked at a godly woman’s character and her priorities. But what’s her motive to be? Why are we to do this? That’s answered in 2:5, “So that the word of God will not be dishonored.” In other words, this is to silence the enemies of Christ. They should never have a legitimate complaint. In essence, the motive is to glorify God and not bring Him dishonor.
Our time has gone for me rather quickly today. You can tell I’ve been deep into this, and thank you for listening so well. But I do want to end with just a couple of practical things that can help us. This is very practical, so if you can stick with me for a little while longer. I wanted to give some practical helps not only for those of us here, but also that we can take and perhaps help others.
And so we move to the practice of a godly woman. These are the “how-to’s,” OK, the “good stuff,” how to do this.
As we look at how to live this way, I broke it down into three areas: we need to think properly, plan wisely and reexamine often.
Think properly: we need to recognize that the motives are far greater than our own comfort. We need to listen to godly men as they teach us. We need to have the proper goals for our character and lifestyle, Biblical goals, don’t we? We need to think properly. We need to diligently work on our character. As we think properly, we need to think Biblically about what our days should really entail. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the most spiritual thing I can do is care for people; it’s not attending some function. I had the opportunity the last four months to care for my dying father. He just passed away a few weeks ago, and there were many days that I had to get up and say, “This is the most spiritual thing I can do today.” I had a myriad of other things that were pressing, and the most spiritual thing I could do was to go care for my dad. This last week was to care for my kids. You know, that’s the most spiritual thing I can do. True religion is to care for the orphans and widows. In my case, it was a widower. And so we need to think properly; we need to think Biblically—that caring for people and particularly that God has set out of our priorities, is the most spiritual thing we can do.
We also need to plan wisely. We need to order our schedules to give proper time to these things. We need to set up our lives in order to fulfill these requirements. Now this means that we’re going to have to say no to a lot of good things, doesn’t it? There are so many good things to do. We have to set aside our time and choose carefully what we are going to do. We have to ask ourselves daily questions. Here are some of the questions I ask myself:
What time am I going to spend in God’s Word and prayer today?
Which areas of my life need shoring up today—tongue, purity, kindness, sensibility?
How can I love and submit to Tom today?
How can I love and care for my kids today?
What at home has to be done today, not what do I want to get done today, but what has to be done?
How can I reach out to a younger woman today and teach her and encourage her?
Setting out my schedule according to these priorities. I’ll also sometimes—I am a To Do person, and it can really get in my way, OK? Because I’ve got a list a mile long and I get so caught up in checking those things off the list that I forget to do what’s really important cause I’m getting one more thing done on my list. So many times I will write my list and I’ll put “God” and say, “The most important thing I can do today is spend 20 minutes in praise.” “Tom” “What’s the most important thing I can do for Tom today?” And put each of my children’s names. Then, at the bottom I get into the “To Do’s.” Because if I don’t do that, my whole day’s topsy-turvy, and I’m doing all the stuff and ignoring the people. Do the important thing first. All of our time can be swept away with the stuff of life. Often the important thing is something that doesn’t seem to be getting much done, calling our husbands, writing an encouraging note, doing the thing that’s bugging him that I could care less about. Spending 20 minutes rocking my seven-year-old because she needs a little extra TLC. Those are sometimes the important things that never make it on my “to do” list. So do the important things first. So think properly, plan wisely, and we must reexamine often.
We must reexamine often. What does your average week look like? You know, we often set our sites ahead, and then we veer off two degrees. And what happens? We veer off a little bit at a time, but where do we end up? Close to our goal or very, very far from it? We have to reexamine often so that we get back on course. You know, we’re always going to get a little off course, but that’s why we have to keep coming back and saying “OK, what am I supposed to do again?” “Who am I supposed to be again?” Get back on course. Do you schedule and take sufficient time for these priorities? Are we tacking these truths onto our lives? “Oh, I need to disciple women, so I’m going to tack that on to my life.” Or are we structuring our whole lives based on this text? It’s not something to tack onto our life; it’s something to take our life and say, “How do I measure up to this passage.” And “What radical changes need to take place perhaps in order for me to live this way?”
I had a very poignant moment soon after my mom died five years ago. I wrote out the kind of woman that I wanted to be. Now, and I’m always doing that, but this was particularly poignant, because my mom was gone at 62. And I wrote out the kind of woman that I wanted to be, you know the character, what I wanted to be known, and basically my eulogy, what I want my eulogy to be. It’s a good exercise because you know what I did next? I took my “to do” list and compared the two. There was no overlap—none. And it was so poignant because I thought, “This is the woman I say I want to be, and here’s what I’m spending all my energies doing? And there’s no overlap? This is a problem.” Compare your priorities with your schedule. Compare your priorities with your “to do’s”. At the end of each day, we should step back and say, “Where was my time with God today?” “What did I do for my husband today?” “Was I there for my children today?” “How did it go at home today?” “How did I minister to other women today?” And often we have to say, “Wow, I was way off course. Got to do better tomorrow.” So reexamine often.
Now, we’re going to have women in our groups that are from various stages: single, married with no children, single mom, widow. You know, these principles still apply. It’ll take wisdom in each of those cases to know how to specifically apply it. And I had a lot of specific things, but I think that God can give each of us wisdom as we deal with women in these situations. But let me share a story that will probably clarify this in all the different situations.
One of my dear, dear friends and mentors is Mary Barshaw, and many of you from Grace know Mary. And Fred her husband passed away almost 10 years ago now. We were talking the other day; it’s been almost 10 years. Mary has been such an example to me because she told me shortly after her dear Freddy—she still calls him Freddy—passed away. And I said, “How you doing, Mary?” And she goes, “You know what sweetheart, I have determined to be the best widow I can be.” I mean, it’s one thing to say, “I am determined to be the best wife I can be.” It’s another to say, “I am determined to be the best mommy I can be.” But “I’m determined to be the best widow I can be”? You know, it shows that in all the various stages that we will go through, that the women around us in our churches will go through, that God can give us the grace to live out these priorities to the best of our ability in whatever stage of life we find ourselves in.
Our pastor says this in his commentary on this passage: “The home is where a wife can provide the best expression of love for her husband. It is where she teaches and guides and sets a godly example for her children. It’s where she’s protected from abusive and immoral relationships with other men and where, especially in our day, she still has greater protection from worldly influences. The home is where she has special opportunity to show hospitality and devote herself to good works. The home is where she can find authentic and satisfying fulfillment as a Christian and as a woman.”
We must diligently strive to live out the priorities of Titus 2, and to encourage the women around us to do the same. There’s such wonderful opportunity, ladies, to structure our lives around this passage. When we’re feeling overwhelmed, let’s stop and meditate and pray through Titus 2 and get clarification and get back on course.
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