For Such A Time As This
Announcer: Thank you for listening to this message from True Woman ’08, Revive Our Hearts’ first national woman’s conference. It’s our prayer that God blesses you with His word and His heart as you listen.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Jesus said, “You didn’t choose Me, I chose you.” He chose us so that we might go forth and bear fruit, much fruit that remains.
So, Lord, we are truly Yours. You have chosen us. What an awesome thought that, with six billion-plus people on this planet, billions of whom have never heard the name of Jesus one time, You would have chosen us and made us Yours. So, Lord, not only are we truly Yours, we are gladly Yours, and we are wholeheartedly Yours, and we say to You, Oh Lord, again this day, “I do. I take You. I love You. I worship You.”
We are wed to You, Lord Jesus, and we bless You, and we ask in these closing moments that You would do a holy sacred work of kindling that fire in our hearts of passion for Christ and passion for Your mission and Your purpose and Your kingdom here on this earth, that the whole earth might be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Oh God, would You take my feeble and frail abilities, and I just give to You myself this morning and in these moments. All I have to offer at best is a handful of loaves and fishes, and I am weak, but You are strong. I pray that You would take, and through my weakness, magnify Your strength, and may the Word flow into our hearts, starting right here in my heart. Oh Lord, pierce and convict and probe and transform and call us to Yourself in fresh new ways. I pray in the holy name of Jesus. Amen. Amen.
Last week I was studying in a friend’s condo on Lake Michigan, preparing for this conference. One particular day, it was a really dark, dreary, overcast, rainy day. It was that way all day long. I wasn’t complaining because we’d had some beautiful days of weather. But it really was a gray day, but at the end of the day, as I was sitting looking over the lake toward the west just before dusk; the sun, which I had not seen since the day before, it burst through the clouds, and there was this glorious display. There were still the dark clouds above and around, but there was just this window opened in the sky where the sun burst through, over the clouds and over the water.
As I looked at that and just celebrated what became a really beautiful sunset, I thought, “What a picture of what I believe that God wants to do in our day where we have dark clouds. The weather outside, spiritually speaking, is really dreary. It’s dark. It’s overcast. There’s so much confusion, and there are many days when it is difficult to see evidence of God’s presence in our land and in our lives. As I sat there and watched that sun come out and then the setting sun, I cried out to the Lord. “Oh Lord, may this be a picture of what You do in this conference and in the days ahead. May Your glory and the light of Your presence shine through my life, in the True Woman conference, and in our land.” I believe that God desires and is able to do just that.
So in this closing session, I want us to look a moment at a particularly dark moment in history that took place about 2,500 years ago, at a moment when God pulled back the curtain of those dark clouds, and He displayed His glory, a day when God called out and chose to use a woman in a significant way as an instrument of His redeeming work.
Let me ask you to turn in your Bible to the book of Esther. Now with our theme verse being, “Who knows that you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this,” you knew we had to get to Esther—right? You can’t talk about “now is the time” without taking a look at her life.
In chapter 1 we find the setting, and let me just say in these next moments, I am going to do the very briefest of fly-overs. I’m not going to expand on this passage as Janet did so beautifully with the story of Hannah last night. I’m going to touch on just some key points. We spent weeks and weeks, I don’t remember how many it was, on Revive Our Hearts, walking verse by verse through the book of Esther last year. That entire series is available on CD in the Resource Center, so if you would like to explore this more . . . It’s not really so much a series on Esther, because Esther is not the primary character in the book of Esther. The primary character is God, whose name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, but it’s a series on the providence of God in the darkest moments of our lives.
Just by way of a little bit of overview here, let me start in chapter 1, verse 1, to give us the setting of this story. Esther 1, verse 1. Let me ask if you would just stand as I read these four verses, as we give honor to the Word of God.
Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the capital, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days (verses 1-4).
Thank you, you may be seated. We could go on, but this gives us just a brief glimpse at a situation. As you describe it, most people would say, “This is a place I would like to be.” We have here a picture of massive, opulent wealth, pomp, circumstance, influence. There’s a festive tone. There’s a gala celebration. There’s everything that your heart could desire. There’s authority, power, rule, money, feasting, parties, celebration, and it goes on and on. There’s no economic crisis here. You see just this splendid picture of the greatness of man. Ahasuerus is the king.
But in this story, as in all of life, and I want you to take this away with you as you go back to your world, there are always two stories going on at the same time. There are always two perspectives, two world views. There is the view, and then there’s the other view. There are two ways at looking at life. There’s the drama that you can see, and then there’s the drama behind the drama. There’s the plot underneath the plot.
The first plot, the first drama, is the visible one, the human drama, the plot on earth. It’s the kingdom of man, and that’s what we saw described in this first paragraph of the book of Esther. It’s the obvious story. It’s the story that takes place in the natural, physical realm, and it often seems to be impressive and powerful.
But you have to keep in mind that it’s not the ultimate story. There’s a story behind the story. You see, the kingdom of man is built on a foundation of self. It showcases the glory of man. That’s what Ahasuerus is doing. But the glory of man, as Scripture tells us, is fleeting; it’s frail. Ahasuerus was building for himself a house of cards, which is what most people in the world are doing today. The kingdom of man is destined to fail. It will crumble. When man builds his own economic system, it’s guaranteed that sooner or later it will crash, and we’re seeing that happen right now in our country and around the world. I understand that this morning President Bush, through the night apparently, met with the G-7 leaders, seven world leaders. They had a press conference, I was told this morning, on the White House lawn, to talk about how to keep the entire banking system of the world from collapsing.
I’m telling you what, it may not all collapse right now, but sooner or later it will, because the kingdom of man will not last. That’s the human plot, the human drama, the human story, but behind the human plot, there is a heavenly drama going on, an unseen story that is always going on in the unseen spiritual realm. It’s the kingdom, not of man, but of God, who is always moving, controlling all events on the earth, and fulfilling His eternal purposes.
Now in the book of Esther, we see the kingdom of man, we see the human drama as it plays out. Ahasuerus is a powerful king. He occupies the highest throne on earth at the time, but at the same time, unseen and not even named in the book of Esther, which I think is indicative of the fact that most people who are living out the human drama have no idea that there is a heavenly drama going on. They are oblivious to realities. You say, “Earth is reality.” No. Earth is a vapor. The reality is what is going on in heaven.
Well, Ahasuerus is on his high and lifted-up throne, thinking he is the king of the world, and God is on His holy throne in heaven, above all earthly kings. Ahasuerus was a godless, ruthless man. In our series on the book of Esther, we talk a lot more about what history tells us about this man. He thinks he runs the world, but the unseen hand of God is moving and working behind the circumstances to accomplish God’s purposes.
Now in chapter 1, most of you are familiar with the story, so I won’t go through all the details, but there’s the human drama in which Ahasuerus’ Queen, Queen Vashti, is deposed. She’s no longer the queen. Now fast forward four years, and you come to chapter 2. The king sets out to find a replacement for his queen. In the meantime, he’s had this amazing campaign in Greece. He comes back, and he remembers that he threw out his wife, so he decides he needs another one.
At this point in chapter 2, we’re introduced to a Jewish girl named Esther. Both her parents had died, and she was being raised by an older cousin named Mordecai. Through a whole series of circumstances, Esther is taken into the king’s harem, into the king’s palace, the king’s custody, and we have a long process that leads us to verse 17 of chapter 2.
The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he sat the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
So Esther is crowned the First Lady of Persia.
Now, thinking about the human drama, the kingdom of man, in some people’s eyes, this would have been considered a great honor for Esther, a boost for her self-esteem, an accomplishment that she could be proud of, a successful career path, if you will. She’s gone from a nobody to the queen in rapid succession. On the other hand, still thinking of the human drama, you could feel sorry for Esther because she’s not exactly living a life that most of us would envy. Her family had been carried away from their homeland as captives; she’d been orphaned; her “fate” was to marry. “Fate”—I’d put that in parenthesis, there’s no such thing as fate, but in the human drama, they don’t believe in providence, they believe in happenstance. From a human perspective, we could say, “She got a bum deal,” by having to marry a proud, unbelieving, angry, arrogant man.
You say, “Well, she’s the queen.” But she’s still married to that angry, arrogant, unbelieving man, and if you think about what happened to her predecessor, her position is not exactly secure. That’s the human drama, the kingdom of man.
Now behind that and above that, unseen, we have the heavenly drama being played out, the kingdom of God. In that drama, in that kingdom, it doesn’t really matter whether you think Esther is a success or she got a bum deal. The fact is, the story is not really about Esther’s success or her misfortune at all. There’s a bigger picture here. The story is about God and His agenda, His aims, His purposes. What is God up to? Esther, as with all of us, is just a player—not the star, but a player in God’s heavenly drama. Ultimately, it was God who put Esther in that position. This was about Him. She was placed in that palace by God for His kingdom purposes, which—remember this—at that point were totally unknown to her.
God has placed you in a place for His kingdom purposes right now, and you say, “My circumstances are not to my liking.” God understands that, but He has a heavenly drama being played out, and you’re a player in it. He has purposes that are big and eternal, and we don’t, at this moment, know what those purposes are. We can’t see them. That’s why we have to trust that they are secure.
So whether we win or lose the beauty contest, whether we’re popular or rejected, whether you get the job of your dreams or you lose your job, whether you’re financially prosperous, or whether, as is happening to many people now and is going to happen likely to more in the days ahead, you lose it all, and you find yourself financially destitute . . . Wouldn’t it be an interesting thing, by the way, and I don’t wish any economic disaster, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we came to the place where we actually had to pray as Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”?
I confess I don’t pray that prayer very often because I’m not usually very aware that I need God for daily bread to the extent that it’s true. By the way (I’m really on a rabbit trail here for a minute), it was 151 years ago this coming Monday, October 13, 1857, when there was a huge national bank crash in this country that fueled the great prayer awakening of 1857-1858. God had been preparing people’s hearts, they had been meeting in small groups, but within days and weeks of that bank crash, churches across New York City and ultimately across the nation were filled day and night with people crying out to God. Wouldn’t it be amazing if God would use this economic crisis to bring our nation truly to her knees?
Where was I? Whether you have healthy children or children with special needs, whether you have a happy and healthy family background or a dysfunctional one, whether you have physical health or sickness; in the human drama, all these things matter a lot, but in the heavenly drama they matter not at all. In the kingdom of man, the question is, “How will the circumstance affect me? How will it fulfill my desires, my needs, my purposes?”
In the kingdom of God, the question is, “How does God want to use my position, my season of life, my place in life to fulfill His kingdom purposes in this world?” You see, there are no chance circumstances in our lives. There are no chance circumstances in this world. Even those details that seem trivial, that seem insignificant are a part of God’s divine plan and process. He is always at work. All we can see is here and now and this moment, but God sees the whole eternal span of the picture. That’s why we can trust Him.
In the human drama, some circumstances that we go through seem to make no sense at all. They seem unfair. Take, for example, in the story of Esther, the fact that Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin who has taken her under his wing, he’s a humble servant. He uncovers a plot to assassinate the king. He exposes the plot, and yet he goes unrewarded—for the moment . . . for the moment. You see, we grouse and whine and complain because we’re just looking at the moment. We need to step back and say, “Lord, You have a bigger picture, and that’s what I want to look at.”
So Mordecai goes unrewarded. On the other hand, Haman, who is this proud, vicious, hateful man, is promoted, and everybody bows to him. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? It’s just for the moment. God is going to right all wrongs. Wait on the Lord. Be patient, He will act. Now Mordecai, as you remember, refuses to bow, so Haman sets out to get vengeance. He gets the king to issue an edict to exterminate the Jews. Turn to chapter 3 in the story of Esther, and look at verse 13.
Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instructions to destroy, to kill, and annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.
The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. [And the capital city], and the king and Haman sat down to drink [threw a party], but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion (verses 13 & 15).
Now here we have, you see the word confusion? In the human kingdom, the human drama, there is panic—there is panic! If I can find it here . . . I jotted it down . . . the headline yesterday of the Chicago Tribune said, “All Signs Pointing to Panic.” That’s the human drama. In the human drama in Susa, there was panic, but in the heavenly drama, in the heavenly kingdom, there is never an iota of panic—only plans, God’s plans, His wise and good eternal plans.
Move to chapter 4 and look at verse 3, Esther 4, verse 3.
And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
This, by the way is the appropriate response of the righteous when the wicked prevail. When God’s people are in jeopardy, over and over again in Scripture you see them turning to mourning, fasting, weeping, and lamenting. We have a National Day of Prayer in this nation, but before that was instituted in modern times during, what I believe was the Reagan Administration, if I’m not mistaken. Years ago, as in during the years of Abraham Lincoln, there were not days of prayer, there were days of humiliation, repentance, and prayer.
That’s the kind of days we need to call for today—humility, sackcloth, and ashes. Where are those kinds of responses in our day? How often do we see the mourning, the weeping, the fasting, the lamenting, the humility? The fact that we don’t see that kind of response today says to me that we’re not yet desperate enough. God has ways of making us desperate so we will cry out to Him, turn our hearts to Him.
Well, in the following verses, Esther hears about the turmoil and the unrest. Mordecai is sitting outside the palace gates. She hears that he’s dressed in sackcloth and ashes. She knows you’re not supposed to be sitting outside the king’s gate dressed that way, so she’s distressed. She doesn’t know what’s going on. She sends one of her attendants; she can’t go out herself. She sends Hathach, one of her attendants, to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach goes out to Mordecai in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai tells him everything that has happened and the money that Haman has promised to give the king in order to exterminate the Jews.
Look at verse 8 of chapter 4. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg for his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said.”
Mordecai is saying to Esther, “You’ve got to act. Now is the time.” Well, verse 10,
Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days” (verses 10-11).
She is saying, “You are sending me on a suicide mission. For me to go, this is a costly assignment. I could die.” Verse 12,
They told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish” (verses 12-14).
Mordecai is saying, “God is not dependent on you. He doesn’t need you to accomplish His purposes. God will win with or without you and me. He can bring deliverance from other sources.” But Mordecai is saying, “There is a lot at stake—your life, your family’s lives, your people.”
And then that very familiar part at the end of verse 14, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Who knows, whether it was Esther then or us now, only God knows, and only time will tell, or eternity perhaps why God has sovereignly put you where you are right now at this moment in history. You have been given a role to play, and no one else can fill it.
You think, “I’m not a speaker. I don’t lead anything. I don’t have any interesting gifts or abilities.” I’m saying you have been called to the kingdom for such a time as this. You’re not here by accident. You’ve been given privileges, opportunities, a place in the kingdom—in the human kingdom—to be used to further God’s heavenly kingdom at this time.
Esther’s heart is stirred by this appeal from Mordecai, and she realizes that she’s got to take decisive action, that there is no time for delay, so, verse 15,
Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do.”
“Gather all the Jews,” she said. Notice she doesn’t act alone. She realizes she’s a part of a community. She realizes the importance of being of one accord. I think of the many who have been praying and fasting together leading up to this conference, and how we have been in one accord in this place seeking the Lord. She calls for a three-day fast. There’s a sense of urgency. Drastic times require drastic measures. Nothing is more important than this moment. She’s saying, “This is not a time to play Trivial Pursuit.” Now prayer is not explicitly mentioned here, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this was what was a part of this fast, that this is what they were doing. Before going to the King of Persia, Esther goes to the King of the Universe, who lifts up and tears down kings.
Now, we see that prayer and fasting were not the end. They were just preparing the way for Esther to move forward and for God to intervene on her behalf and on behalf of her people. So she says in verse 16, “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
Here’s a woman who is going for broke. This is not a half-hearted effort; it’s not a half-hearted commitment. She lays everything on the line in order to fulfill God’s purposes for her life—even if it means giving up her life.
As I was studying this text, I happened, providentially, on to a message by Pastor Tim Keller from Redeemer Church in New York City. He just mentioned Esther in a passing reference in that message. He said something that just really struck me. He talked about how Esther was willing to leave the palace and risk her life in order to save her people, and then the comparison there to Jesus who actually did leave His heavenly palace and did give up His life in order to save His people. So we have a foreshadowing here of the heart of Jesus in the gospel.
Now you know God supernaturally intervened. We won’t go through all that part of the story. His people were spared from annihilation, Mordecai was exalted, Haman the perpetrator was brought down to justice, and we have an important chapter in the history of redemption. So as we consider what it means for us to be true women of God in our day, I want to just walk through briefly several important insights and lessons from the story of Esther. I’ll just give them to you, and then you can go back to the text and meditate on these further.
- We are in a battle.
We’re in a battle. In this story, we see how Satan, by means of Haman’s edict, attempted to wipe out the line of Christ. He threatened the continuity of God’s purposes in redemptive history, threatened the future existence of God’s chosen people, threatened the appearance of the Messiah. Satan was behind Haman, trying to stamp out the line leading up to Christ. So you see that the real battle was not between Haman and Mordecai. They were just pawns on the board, so to speak, symbols of a conflict between two kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.
Ladies, our battle is not against feminists. They are not the enemy. Our battle is not against men. They are not the enemy. It’s not against human powers or political parties or secular culture. We’re in a spiritual battle here, and we need to keep our eyes on that reality.
- The weapons and tactics of the human kingdom are entirely different than the weapons and tactics of the heavenly kingdom.
You see, in the human drama, the world depends on weapons like: worldly power, human laws and decrees, military might, self-sufficiency, anger, force, deception. Those are the world’s instruments and weapons. The children of the kingdom of God win the war with humility, prayer, fasting, sackcloth and ashes—reliance on God. Remember that, and remember that regardless of the outcome of elections, the outcome of the economy, the outcome of your situation. The battle is fought and won in the spiritual realm with spiritual weapons and tactics.
- God has a sovereign redemptive plan, and His plan will not fail.
He has a plan for your life, a plan for your family, a plan for His people, a plan for our world—to reveal the glory and the splendor of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and to fill the earth with His glory, and His plan will not fail. Nothing can abort it—nothing—no economic crisis, no ungodly husband, no challenge. Nothing can abort the plan of God. Even when you cannot see His hand, even when it seems that nothing is happening, God is always behind the scenes at work fulfilling His purposes. He will prevail.
- Through faith and obedience, you can be part of God’s plan.
Mary mentioned a few moments ago feeling at times she was all alone in this battle. There are times when we feel helpless. You may feel helpless in your situation, outnumbered by ungodliness, the ungodly people around you, overwhelmed by the powers of darkness and wickedness. You may feel like a mere pawn on a chess board, being moved around. But never underestimate the power of God. Never underestimate the significance and the potential impact of your faith, of your prayers, of your faithfulness, of your obedience. The power of influence of one woman, an Esther, a Mary, a Sarah, a Ruth, a Deborah, who is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and says, “Yes, Lord, I’m available to fulfill Your purposes.” Don’t think that your life cannot make a difference.
Teenagers, we’ve got some 12- and 13-year-olds here. We have older women. We had the other night an octogenarian—that means over 80—stuffing the tote bags, standing on her feet for hours that night, helping us prepare of this conference. She’s a true woman. Women of all ages, between all seasons of life, don’t think that your life cannot make a difference in God’s kingdom. He has brought you into His kingdom for such a time as this. So be courageous. Be willing to step out in faith when it’s time to speak, time to act.
- There is no situation so desperate that God cannot redeem it.
If ever there was a situation that seemed hopeless, it was Esther’s. Think about it. She was orphaned as a girl, taken into a Persian harem, married to a cruel, arrogant, alcoholic husband, and then experienced a law being enacted that every Jew was to be exterminated. It was a desperate situation. Her plight seemed hopeless, but the heavenly kingdom ruled over the earthly kingdom. Are you getting that point? Will you remember that 24 hours from now when you’re in the midst of the earthly drama? The heavenly kingdom rules over all.
What did Dr. Piper say? “In every situation, God is always doing what?—a thousand things that you cannot see and you do not know.” Get it written, not just on your notebook, but on the tablet of your heart. So wait for God to act. Wait on His time, and remember that you don’t win by pushing, nagging, screaming, yelling, badgering, manipulating, whining, shaming. Those things may get you your way in the immediate sense, but they will not win the kingdom of God any victory.
We tend to justify that kind of behavior—becoming shrews and getting shrill when the circumstances are dire. Even in our political situation right now, you hear a lot of shrillness; you hear a lot of anger. That should not be coming from God’s people—not in your marriage, not on the national scene, not on the “blogosphere.” There needs to be that gentleness and that meekness of spirit that is power under control, God’s power under control.
Here’s a woman in the most dire of circumstances, confronted literally with the likelihood of death, and you see Esther being remarkably in control of her tongue and her emotions. There’s no hurry, no histrionics, no hysterical outbursts. She’s an incredible picture of self-control because she knows that the kingdom of God is in control. Remember that when you go home. I know I keep saying that, but I know that 24 hours from now you’re going to be tempted to forget that I said that, so I want to say it enough that you don’t forget.
- Don’t judge the outcome of the battle by the way things look now.
You see, in the here and now, as we saw with Mordecai and Haman, the wicked often flourish and the godly often suffer, but don’t despair when you see that happening. Remember that things are not now as they always will be. In the early scenes of Esther, we saw the wicked partying. We see the righteous mourning as the story unfolds. But by the close of the story, the wicked have been judged, and the righteous are partying. That’s a picture of what is yet to come. Are you ready for that day?
The wicked are riding high now, but one day they will give an account, there will be a final judgment. The righteous suffer now, but one day there will be the triumph of the kingdom of God. The Man coming riding on a white horse will burst through the clouds and will come to take over, and there will be everlasting joy for the people of God. In the end, Psalm 58, verse 11 tells us mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous. Surely there is a God who judges on earth.” God writes the final chapter.
And let me say, by the way, we haven’t read the final chapter. We don’t even have a—well, we have a glimpse of it, but we haven’t read it yet, but it’s already written. It’s not like God’s sitting up in heaven trying to figure, “Oh what am I going to do with this world-wide banking crisis?” No mysteries in heaven. He’s written the final chapter in eternity past, and it is being unfolded in the human drama.
So as we leave True Woman ’08, now is the time. We are believing God for a movement of reformation and revival in the hearts and homes of Christian women all around this world. We have many joining us through the Internet today. You’re a part of this as well. In a few moments, as we sign that True Woman Manifesto, we want to give you an opportunity to join with us in saying, “This is what we believe, this is what we affirm, we want to be a part of that counter-cultural revolution to take back the ground that has been given over to the world’s way of thinking for so many years.”
As you think about that counter-cultural revolution, it may seem very possible today while we’re all here cheering for each other, cheering with each other, but when you get back to your work place where everybody thinks you’re nuts for the ways that you believe, because you don’t talk the way they do; you don’t sleep around the way they do; you don’t have the attitudes they do. People, you talk about the True Woman Manifesto, and you’ll find many Christian women today who either don’t agree with what we’re about to affirm, or who think it’s totally irrelevant, like, “What’s the big deal?”
You say in your heart, “This does matter,” and in your heart you know it’s true, but you feel so alone in that; it seems like such an impossibility. When you feel that way, remember Esther—raised up by God for such a time as this to make a huge difference in her world. A common, ordinary, young woman in the human drama with a lot of difficult things in her background, but God gave her courage and faith. As a result of her surrender and her obedience, one woman in God’s scheme of things, millions of her people were spared from destruction.
So many women today, even Christian women are disoriented. They’re not experiencing freedom and fulfillment and fullness in Christ. We have a lot of truly desperate housewives even within the church, but God has given us in His Word a message of grace and hope for those women. So I believe, in case you didn’t hear me say it yet, that God has brought you into this kingdom—His kingdom—for such a time as this, and that means the willingness to go against the flow.
Teenage gals, that means the willingness to follow Christ and His Word when it seems that all the other girls your age are consumed with beauty and guys and self and sex and having a good time. It means, girls, setting your affection on Christ, guarding your heart, choosing the pathway of purity, become a truth-speaker in your generation when all the peer pressure is going in the opposite direction.
Single women, it means going against the flow for you. It means choosing the pathway of contentment, to be willing to be married, willing to be single, whichever God has for you for His glory and the sake of His kingdom. It means while you are single, doing what many of my single women friends are doing—in using that time to serve the Lord without distractions. It means the willingness to be sexually pure, into your 20s and 30s and 40s as a single woman, to be a servant of the family of God. There are some of you, I believe, here today, single women, that God may want to use your gifts and your training in vocational Christian ministry, perhaps even taking the gospel to other parts of the world as many single women have done before us.
Married women, it’s a call to go against the flow for you as well. A call to be faithful in a world of broken promises, to love your husband, to pray for him, to build a marriage that glorifies God. It means being faithful in the good times and the hard times. It means saying, “Yes” to your high and holy calling of being a helper to your husband, to reverence him, as the Scripture exhorts, to submit to him as a picture of your submission to Christ Himself.
It means to give yourself wholeheartedly to that husband and to say, “No” to emotional or physical intimacy with any man other than your husband. I believe there are women here that God . . . you’ve been going with the flow, you’ve been going with your emotions, you’ve been going with what’s natural, and God is calling you today to break off those wrong attachments and to say, “Yes” to faithfulness, even though it means going against the current.
Mothers, going against the flow means to embrace the calling and the gift of being a giver and a nurturer of life. Don’t let the world tell you how many or how few children to have. Let God give you His vision for the impact that your children and your grandchildren could make for His kingdom for generations to come. It means a willingness to do battle for the souls of your children and your grandchildren and saying, “Lord, we’re not going to let the enemy have this next generation. We want them to belong to You.”
Older women—what does it mean for you to go against the flow? It means you choose not to retire spiritually. Don’t settle for a life consumed by golf and bridge and meaningless activity and preoccupation with self. I see some gray hairs in this place, and I’m so thankful for them, and I want to say to you women, younger women need you. They need your counsel, your encouragement, your prayers. They need you to take younger women under your wings and help them to learn how to live lives that please the Lord.
I’m wearing today a necklace that was given to me by a woman I called “Mom Johnson.” I lived with her family when I was a student at the University of Southern California many years ago, and we stayed in touch over the years. She was one of my most faithful prayer partners. I watched her age with grace. I watched her stay in the battle. I watched her stay pursuing Christ in spiritual growth. At her funeral, I believe, if I recall correctly, she was 92 years of age, and she gave this to me when she was in her 90s, found this and sent it to me for a birthday. At her funeral, I met a young mom in her 30s who said, “Mom Johnson has been mentoring me for years”—into her late 80s and early 90s, Mom Johnson was taking women under her wing and encouraging them and discipling them. We need some more Mom Johnsons to take her place.
And just another word to those of you who are my age and older, that’s 50 and older, we are a part now of the generation of 77 million baby boomers, the first of whom hit retirement age this year. There is so much energy and capacity and opportunity—that is the largest generation we will ever have, because of birth control and not having children, there will never be probably another generation that size of the baby boomers. So we have this huge force of men and women with an opportunity to invest our lives in His kingdom at that season of life, and I just believe there is a massive women’s movement of true women in those millions of women who are able to capture all kinds of battlefronts for Christ. Something or someone is going to get the attention and the affection of those baby boomers as they move into their latter years, and we need to pray that God will raise up an army of true women of God out of those boomers.
Many of you are familiar with the story and the writings of Amy Carmichael who in 1895 went to India as a 28-year-old single woman. She stayed for the next 55 years without a furlough. When she got there, she discovered that there were children, infants, little girls, young women, who had been taken captive and sold into prostitution in the Hindu temples. Her heart was broken by what she saw, and she said, “Someone has got to do something about this.”
Well, God had brought Amy Carmichael into His kingdom for such a time as this, and so one life at a time, she and her little band of co-workers began to rescue those children from the temples in which they were held. It was dangerous work. It was difficult work. They had to withstand the enemies of centuries-entrenched religion and cultural issues. They had to go against the flow.
As we talk about this counter-cultural revolution, I often say to women, “We’ve got to be willing to be salmon, swimming upstream.” What do salmon do? You’ve heard the stories, and you’ve seen the pictures of how they swim upstream. They get bloodied and beat up on the rocks. And why do they do it? To give birth. To give life. They give life, then what do they do? They die. You say, “That doesn’t sound like something I want to be called to.” What a picture that is of the heart of Christ, the heart of Calvary, who swam upstream, bloodied and beaten, to give spiritual life, laying down His life to give us eternal life.
Listen, we may die in the process, but if we die fulfilling the kingdom purposes and will of God for our lives, so be it. If I perish, I perish. I’m going for broke.
That’s what Amy Carmichael did over all those years—risking her life to rescue one little girl, one young woman at a time—working tirelessly to salvage those lives and to expose the works of darkness that had claimed so many children’s lives in India. Each step of the way she was fighting against, pushing against the powers of darkness, but not in her own strength—in the strength and power of God who had sent her there. She endured, and she persevered through all those years through a handful of victories, but also through numerous heartbreaking losses and apparent defeats.
Now the issues are a little bit different in our day, perhaps, though we do have the whole issue of the sex trade, which is a serious issue in our world. The issues around us are no less serious than those of those little girls sold into prostitution in the temple. Women and girls all around us—we live in and among them—are in bondage to guilt and fear and bitterness and anxiety and eating disorders and sinful behaviors and addictions and depression. They need to be rescued from the enemy who has taken them captive. We are called to fight the powers of darkness in the name and the power and the Spirit of the Lord Jesus and to join God in His great rescue operation. We’re called to shine the light in the darkness, to see captives set free, and to see God glorified.
Eight years ago, as I was in the process of praying with friends and colleagues about launching the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, I’d asked those on our Board of Directors and Advisory Council for our ministry to pray about that decision. We came to a board meeting, and I was sitting in on a discussion about whether it was time for the ministry to launch what became Revive Our Hearts Radio Ministry. There was an older gentleman—I suppose he would have been in his late 70s, maybe 80s—who was in that group of men. He’s a man of prayer. Some of you know the name of T.W. Hunt. He’s been a Bible teacher and leader for many years.
He was real quiet for the longest time as there was a lot of discussion going on in the room, and then when everybody else had had their say, Brother T.W. spoke up. He said,
I’ve been praying about this. I want to tell you that for many years I have been deeply burdened and concerned in my heart about the widespread, increased corruption among women in our culture, the coarsening of women, the rawness, the vulgarity, the secularism. I’ve been burdened and praying about this for years and what could make a difference, what could address it, what could go against that tide.
As I’ve been praying about the potential of launching Revive Our Hearts, I believe that God has raised up this ministry to be a light and to make a difference and to take on the powers of darkness among women, to turn back the tide of corruption among women.
As I heard those words, on the one hand I was inspired and grateful in helping to clarify the mission, and on the other hand there was within me a real sense of weakness, overwhelming inadequacy, fearfulness. The Lord brought to mind, as He has numerous times over the year, and I share this not to just to tell you my story, but to say whatever God is calling you to, maybe you have feelings of weakness and inadequacy and fear. I assume I’m not the only one who struggles with those things.
The Lord took me back to that passage in Luke chapter 1 where the angel came to Mary and said, “You’re going to have a baby. It’s going to be God’s Son. I know you’re not married. I know you’ve never been intimate with a man, but this is what God is going to do.” Mary asked the obvious question, “How can this be? It’s not humanly, physically possible.” That’s what I was feeling when we talked about launching this ministry with this mission. How can this be? I don’t have the gifts, the skills, the abilities—no one does. This is a big, big issue—what needs to happen among women today. The angel said to Mary, and these words have been God’s word to my heart many, many times over the years, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
Who’s going to win the battle? God is. Who’s going to fill you with power? God is—His power. “Nothing will be impossible with God,” the angel said. What was Mary’s response? If I have a life verse, this is probably it, Luke 1:38, Mary said simply, in faith and humility and surrender, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Mary said, “Yes, Lord.” Esther said, “Yes, Lord.” Amy Carmichael said, “Yes, Lord.”
If you were to ask those women today, “Was it worth it? Would you do it again?” Do you have any doubt about what they would say? Millions of Jews spared—the line through which the Messiah was to come preserved. Hundreds and hundreds of little girls in India rescued from Satan’s clutches and given physical and spiritual life. The Savior was born. His calling on our lives will be difficult at times. Maybe you’re in that hard place right now. His calling will involve hardship and suffering and obstacles. Ladies, if you’re going to sign this declaration, this affirmation, I’m just telling you—it’s not a calling to an easy life. It’s not a calling to comfort and convenience and self-fulfillment. It’s a calling to glorify God, with the laying down of your life. It will involve hardship when we follow in the steps of the Savior, who was willing to lay down His life so that we could live.
When you and I see the face of Christ, and it won’t be long, if we’ve been faithful in fulfilling His calling in our lives, we will say, “Jesus, it was worth it all for You.” In fact, I think most, if not all of us will say, “I wish I’d given Him more.” Would we do it again? Absolutely.
I’m asking God to raise up a great host of women, women of courage and faith and compassion and humility and wisdom. Women filled with Jesus for such a time as this. Will you join me in that mission? Will you be a part of that counter-cultural revolution? Will you say, “Yes, Lord. I am Your servant. Take me, use me, spend me. Fulfill all Your holy eternal purposes in and through my life, whatever the cost”?
Oh, Father, how I pray that You’d find here a host of women who would say simply, “Yes, Lord,” for Jesus sake, and the sake of Your great kingdom, amen.
Watch the screen for just a moment, if you would.
Pastor Bill Elliff: I’m not sure that every woman recognizes the power that they hold in their lives. They shape in great manner the destiny of the next generation. When a woman walks with Christ in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, that testimony is even more greatly amplified. I believe that the women who are here today and are learning about fTrue Womanhood could start a revolution that could change this nation, and we drastically need it.
Nancy: In July of 1848, the first women’s rights convention in the United States was held in Senaca Falls, New York, 160 years ago. That convention adopted a document that was titled, “The Declaration of Sentiments,” which they asked the women to sign. That document was essentially a list of grievances against men—all the things men had done to wrong women—and those who signed the document agreed to use every method at their disposal to right those wrongs. Now as I’ve read about that gathering, not everyone present signed that document, but those who did, went on to make history.
I believe that God is giving us an opportunity today, and we’ve been trying to prepare you for this throughout the weekend, an opportunity today to be a part of His great redemptive plan for such a time as this. So I want to ask you to take out that True Woman Manifesto—I hope you brought it with you. We may have extras. You can go to www.TrueWoman.com and get it there. Those who are joining online, there’s a tab you can click on there where you can join and follow along in this True Woman Manifesto.
I want you to take it out. We’re going to walk through this together in a solemn and prayerful and careful ceremony because we do not want you signing anything just because someone else is. We want you to know what you’re affirming and to realize that when you sign this, listen, when Jesus said to His disciples, “Follow Me,” He was calling them to come and die. I’ve already told you what happens to salmon. So when we’re calling you to be a part of this counter-cultural revolution, we’re saying, “Come and die—to self and your own plans, your own desires.” This is a call to come and die, and if that’s not where God has you at this point, if you’re not there, then we don’t want to breed hypocrisy or Pharaseeism. We want you to be affirming what God has put on our hearts to present in this document.
The True Woman Manifesto explains on the front, “This is a personal and corporate declaration.” That means it’s individual, but it’s also us doing this together.
A personal and corporate
declaration of belief,
to the end that Christ
may be exalted
and the glory and
redeeming love of God
may be displayed
throughout the whole earth.
And the first releasing of this today in Schaumburg, Illinois, October 11, 2008.
I’ve invited a number of women that you’ve heard speak this weekend, as well as ones representing our sponsors, some of them, and those who have provided administrative leadership. There are other women who could join these, but I’ve invited the number that we need to join us on the platform and to lead us in reading through the first portion of this document. I want you to listen as we state this and to be affirming these beliefs in your heart as an expression of our corporate affirmation. You’ll see the words on the screens, you can follow along on this brochure as well, but listen now as these women read what we believe, and then we’ll look at how we respond to that.
Kim Wagner: WE BELIEVE that God is the sovereign Lord of the universe and the Creator of life, and that all created things exist for His pleasure and to bring Him glory.
Judy Bertucci: WE BELIEVE that the creation of humanity as male and female was a purposeful and magnificent part of God’s wise plan, and that men and women were designed to reflect the image of God in complementary and distinct ways.
Kristyn Getty: WE BELIEVE that sin has separated every human being from God and made us incapable of reflecting His image as we were created to do. Our only hope for restoration and salvation is found in repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ who lived a sinless life, died in our place, and was raised from the dead.
Dannah Gresh: WE REALIZE that we live in a culture that does not recognize God’s right to rule, does not accept Scripture as the pattern for life, and is experiencing the consequences of abandoning God’s design for men and women.
Mary Kassian: WE BELIEVE that Christ is redeeming this sinful world and making all things new, and that His followers are called to share in His redemptive purposes as they seek, by God’s empowerment, to transform every aspect of human life that has been marred and ruined by sin.
Alice Moss: As Christian women, we desire to honor God by living counter-cultural lives that reflect the beauty of Christ and His gospel to our world.
Monica Vaught: TO THAT END, WE AFFIRM THAT . . .
Scripture is God’s authoritative means of instructing us in His ways and it reveals His holy pattern for our womanhood, our character, our priorities, and our various roles, responsibilities, and relationships.
Susan Henson: We glorify God and experience His blessing when we accept and joyfully embrace His created design, function, and order for our lives.
Fern Nichols: As redeemed sinners, we cannot live out the beauty of biblical womanhood apart from the sanctifying work of the gospel and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Jennifer Lyell: Men and women are both created in the image of God and are equal in value and dignity, but they have distinct roles and functions in the home and in the church.
Stacey Smith: We are called as women to affirm and encourage men as they seek to express godly masculinity, and to honor and support God-ordained male leadership in the home and in the church.
Sarah Stevenson: Marriage, as created by God, is a sacred, binding, lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.
Devi Titus: When we respond humbly to male leadership in our homes and churches, we demonstrate a noble submission to authority just like Christ’s submission to God His Father.
Karen Watts: Selfish insistence on personal rights is contrary to the spirit of Christ who humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant, and laid down His life for us.
Marlae Gritter: Human life is precious to God and is to be valued and protected, from the point of conception until rightful death.
Holly Elliff: Children are a blessing from God, and women are uniquely designed to be bearers and nurturers of life, whether it be their own biological or adopted children, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, or any other children in their sphere of influence.
Carolyn McCulley: God’s plan for gender is wider than marriage; all women, whether married or single, are to model femininity in their various relationships, by exhibiting a distinctive modesty, responsiveness, and gentleness of spirit.
Rhona McGregor: Suffering is an inevitable reality in a fallen world; at times we will be called to suffer for doing what is good—looking to heavenly reward rather than earthly comfort—for the sake of the gospel and the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.
Elsa Mazon: Mature Christian women have a responsibility to leave a legacy of faith, by discipling younger women in the word and ways of God and modeling for the next generation lives of fruitful femininity.
Nancy: Now comes the “so what—therefore, we will.” You’ve had a chance to read these “We will” statements, and in just a moment, I’m going to read through them and give you a chance to affirm them by saying, “Yes, Lord.” That’s what we’ve been learning to say, but let me just set the context for that by telling you about a phrase that I came across recently that was new to me. It’s the phrase, “Nail the colors to the mast.” Have you heard that before?
“Nail the colors to the mast.” The origin of that statement comes from naval battles. The sign of surrender was to lower the flag, or the colors, the flag, that identified the ship. If you lowered those colors, that flag, it meant you were surrendering, but nailing the colors, or the flag, to the mast meant that they could not be lowered. It meant that you had no intention of surrender—you intended to win the battle or die in the attempt.
“Nail the colors to the mast.” That phrase has come to mean, “to make a firm declaration of what you believe.” The implication is that the declaration may not be popular, as I guarantee you, this declaration is not going to be popular, not only in our secular culture, but even among many in the church today. “Nailing the colors to the mast”—it means you’re willing to be criticized for the position, but you believe in the cause. We believe in it because we believe it comes from the Word of God. You’ve committed yourself, you’re taking a stand, and there’s no turning back.
I came across a quote in a biography by C. T. Studd who was a British missionary in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and here’s what that paragraph says:
Nail the colors to the mast, that is the right thing to do. Therefore, that is what we must do and do it now. What colors? The color of Christ and the work He has given us to do. Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible, by faith in the omnipotence, fidelity, and wisdom of the Almighty Savior. Is there a wall in our path? By our God, we will leap over it. Are there lions and scorpions in our way? We will trample them under our feet. Does a mountain bar our progress? Saying “be thou cast into the sea,” we will march on. Soldiers of Jesus, never surrender. Nail the colors to the mast.
Now I want to invite you to stand with me, and, again, I’m not asking you to say something that is not in your heart. In fact, I don’t want you to say something that is not in your heart. Scripture has a lot to say about honoring Him with our lips but our hearts are not there. But if it is in your heart, as I read these statements, I want you to just say after each one, “Yes, Lord.” Some of you may want to have those white flags handy. Feel free to use those if you want. Let me just pray as we move into God’s presence, because this is a declaration, not to one another, but to the Lord.
Oh, Lord, we stand as a group of women who’ve been redeemed by the grace and love and the blood of Jesus Christ. You gave Your life for us, and now You’re calling us—perhaps in a fresh way—to be willing to lay down our lives for You. So, Oh, Lord, would You give grace and courage and faith? I just want to confess, some of these women probably think I am courageous and bold. I’m not. I’m a coward. I don’t like being in the battle many times. But, Oh, Lord, we stand, and we just say, “strengthen us,” and by Your grace we will say, “Yes, Lord.” For Jesus’ sake and the sake of Your great kingdom, amen.
BELIEVING THE ABOVE, we declare our desire and intent to be “true women” of God. We consecrate ourselves to fulfill His calling and purposes for our lives. By His grace and in humble dependence on His power, we will . . . Now, as I read each of these, if it’s in your heart to affirm this, I just want you to say with courage and conviction, “Yes, Lord.”
We will seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
We will gladly yield control of our lives to Christ as Lord. We will say “Yes, Lord” to the Word and the will of God.
We will be women of the Word, seeking to grow in our knowledge of Scripture, and to live in accord with sound doctrine in every area of our lives.
We will nurture our fellowship and communion with God through prayer—in praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, and supplication.
We will embrace and express our unique design and calling as women with humility, gratitude, faith, and joy.
We will seek to glorify God by cultivating such virtues as purity, modesty, submission, meekness, and love.
We will show proper respect to both men and women, created in the image of God, esteeming others as better than ourselves, seeking to build them up, and putting off bitterness, anger, and evil speaking.
We will be faithfully engaged in our local church, submitting ourselves to our spiritual leaders, growing in the context of the community of faith, and using the gifts He has given us to serve others, to build up the Body of Christ, and to fulfill His redemptive purposes in the world.
We will seek to establish homes that manifest the love, grace, beauty, and order of God, that provide a climate conducive to nurturing life, and that extend Christian hospitality to those outside the walls of our homes.
We will honor the sacredness, purity, and permanence of the marriage covenant—whether ours or others’.
We will receive children as a blessing from the Lord, seeking to train them to love and follow Christ and to consecrate their lives for the sake of His gospel and Kingdom.
We will live out the mandate of Titus 2—as older women, modeling godliness and training younger women to be pleasing to God in every respect; as younger women, receiving instruction with meekness and humility and aspiring to become mature women of God who in turn will train the next generation.
We will seek opportunities to share the gospel of Christ with unbelievers.
We will reflect God’s heart for those who are poor, infirm, oppressed, widows, orphans, and prisoners, by reaching out to minister to their practical and spiritual needs in the name of Christ.
And we will pray for a movement of revival and reformation among God’s people that will result in the advancement of the Kingdom and gospel of Christ among all nations.
Let me ask you to be seated for just a moment, because there’s one other important part of this ceremony. We’ve affirmed these words before the Lord; He knows our hearts. It’s like a couple standing at the altar saying “I will, we will, we do,” and then the next day it’s like, real life, and the next week the honeymoon is over, and it’s real easy to walk past those vows. God knows no couple can keep those marriage vows, and no woman can keep these affirmations before the Lord apart from the continuing help and enabling of the Holy Spirit. But it is our hearts’ intent and desire that we’ve expressed to Him to follow through in this way.
So I want to invite you, in this next moment, to sign this document in two places. One is at the bottom of what we just read, and you keep. You need to have your signature on there to be reminded that on this day that was what you said before the Lord. And then the other is on this parchment portion that is perforated. That is the fourth panel there, and it says,
I desire to be a part of a counter-cultural,
spiritual revolution among Christian
women in our day.
I have read and personally affirm
the TRUE WOMAN MANIFESTO,
and I hereby express by desire to join
other women in living out and
reproducing its message—to the end
that Christ may be exalted and the glory
and redeeming love of God may be displayed
throughout the whole earth.
This is where you get to be among the first, and, Lord willing, tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands will be doing this online at www.TrueWoman.com. Print your name, write the date, sign your signature, give us your email address, and then tear off that perforated portion. There are going to be ushers at the doors with baskets to collect those as you leave, so I’ll give you just a moment to sign your name, write your name, give that information, and then tear off that portion, as you “nail the colors to the mast.” No turning back, God willing and God helping.
In 1977 there was a national women’s conference in Houston that was funded in part by the federal government, who by the way has had no part in funding this conference. That conference brought about a seismic shift in our culture. I sat across the table from a woman whose life had been influenced by the outflow of that conference in a negative way. She said, with tears in her eyes, “I wonder how my life would be different today if that conference had never taken place.”
Ladies, I can’t help but wonder, 30 years from now, should the Lord tarry, how many women, perhaps we’ll be sitting in a place like this, with tears of joy, saying, “I wonder how my life would be different today if my mom, my friend, if I had not attended that conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, in 2008, the True Woman Conference.”
Would you join with me in prayer? Once again, as an expression of our oneness, our being in one accord on what we’ve just said, could I invite you to join hands with the woman seated next to you, the women seated on either side of you?
Oh, Lord, this has been a sanctuary during these days. I think of a woman who prayed on a conference call we had to pray for this conference a week or so ago. She said, “Oh, God, as a pebble dropping in water, may the ripple effects of True Woman ’08 touch every corner of the earth for Your namesake and for Your glory.” Oh, God, our hearts’ cry is, “Let it be so.” Amen.
Announcer: This message was presented at True Woman ’08 in Chicago. Check out all of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.TrueWoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect, from books and resources you can order for yourself, your friends or your life group, to on-demand multi-media, to on-going conversations you can be a part of, and we’re updating it all the time.
True Woman ’08 is a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, helping you become God’s true woman.