Note: I’ve been asked to share some of the classes I teach to ladies. This is a preparatory challenge to a new season of lessons.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Joshua 1:8
What does the Bible mean to you? Most of you have been reading the Bible for 10, 20, or longer. Some of you have been in classes here at the church for over 20 years. Every month I read the daily corresponding proverb. I go through the Psalms regularly. I have challenged you to do the same. This practice serves as a daily reminder of how I ought to be living.
Think about your life today and think about your life 10 or 20 years ago. Has the Bible changed your life? Don’t answer; I ask you this so that you might examine your life.
More specifically, think about the areas that you struggle in. Think about the sin that you cannot seem to shake, or forsake, leave behind.
Why do you think that is? Why no victory in certain areas? (Allow answers.)
I am going to list some of the sins that are common to man, common to women:
- Wasting time…. Not using your day wisely
- An inconsistent prayer life…. Shows a poor faith in God, for starters. We do not truly think God answers prayer… or we would “bug” Him all the day long.
- Jealousy… Are you happy when something good happens to someone else?
- Hate… you cannot say you love God, and not your sister. What is not love is hate.
- Arrogance …. Being proud, as if you are more important than someone else.
- Gluttony … consuming anything beyond what is reasonable, can be food, consuming more of a thing than is good for you.
- Adultery… unfaithfulness to our husband in body or mind.
- Lying … done habitually; seen as an easy way out. Lying is often viewed as a harmless convenience. God does not view it that way. How do we know that?
- Greed … gimme, gimme, gimme. Never satisfied. Links to jealousy, dissatisfaction.
- Stealing… obvious thought of taking from another, but consider “an under-the-table” transaction. Testimony is damaged. (Share story of an offer to buy tile at a cheaper price.)
Are there any other common sins that we might want to add to this list?
Let’s look at, and consider a few Scriptures that reflect the necessity of a changed life.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 2Timothy 3:16
This verse reminds me that all Scripture is for our good. One of the primary intents of the Bible is to teach us how to live righteously. We are also reminded by countless examples what happens when we live to our own desires, particularly when we live carelessly, while knowing that God would not be happy with what we are doing. We continue and we ignore our conscience. We ignore The Holy Spirit of God. This thought takes me right into another Scripture that came to my mind as I was considering the last Scripture.
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
For those of you that have been Christians for many years, I would like to think Scripture runs through your minds all day. It should. We tend to think about the things that we do the most. I believe the Holy Spirit of God brings verses to our minds at specific occasions, particularly if we are open to his leading. This has been my experience.
We read the Bible; we know what is right and what is wrong. In truth, many of us knew what was right and what was wrong long before we were Christians. That is the way we were made. God gave us a brain and ability to know things, but he put some basics into our heart and brains as we were formed.
“Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” Romans 2:15
We were born with a conscience, an awareness or knowledge within us that will tell us that something is right or something is wrong. An example would be that people know not steal from their neighbors whether they are Christians or not. We know taking something that doesn’t belong to us is wrong. We simply know.
Let’s look at another verse:
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2
We are warned not to be like the world and this verse indicates that the only way to avoid being like the world and living like the world is to renew our minds. It is filling your brain with truth every day. We need to spend time thinking about the way we should live according to God’s word. We must examine ourselves more than we examine others. Are we living according to the principles that we know from Scripture? Knowing is not difficult; disciplining ourselves to make the changes that are necessary can be difficult.
Perhaps we need to daily remind ourselves what the Bible is for and who it is for. The first verse we spoke of today, 2 Timothy 3:16… Is almost a plea. Let us not make the mistake that the Bible is a history book and doesn’t really apply to us today or to the people of India. This book is divine, supernatural. It applies to every soul in the world, for God created every child in His own image. We are more alike than we are different. It is human nature to think that another person needs to have the Bible, that it applies to them but not so much to us because we already know it. Have you ever been in church, listening to a wonderful message, and all you can think of is the person on the other side of the church? You are thinking, “I really hope they are listening to this.” Or perhaps you have thought, “I wish my husband were here; he really needs this.” I can promise you that you will never hear a message preached from God’s word that will not contain a truth that will help you grow in your own life, to draw you closer to the One that created you. On a practical level, let me add that listening to a sermon or reading God’s word ought to make you a more likable person.
Think about someone that you really do not like. It is natural that we prefer the company of some over others because some people share our interests or hobbies. Is there a lady in the church that you simply do not like? Whose fault is it? Does it matter?
If you like, we can spend time talking about conflict within the church among our sisters. It is a real problem, and unfortunately rarely dealt with Biblically. It is not easy, but the Bible does give guidelines. Remember, its purpose is to give us instruction in righteousness.
I will be honest with you. Back home in Florida, there is a woman in our church that I have a poor relationship with. It was not always that way. We were never the closest of friends but real friends. On a day that was extraordinarily difficult for me, she perceived that I snubbed her. Knowing some of the struggles that I had recently, and knowing my testimony, there were two good options. She could have just forgotten it, and acted as if it never happened. I hate confrontation, so this is my usual response. She knew me and knew I’d never treated her that way before. The second choice would have been to come to me and humbly say, “your abruptness hurt me and I wanted to let you know.” Had this happened I would been broken immediately before her. And I would have done everything within my power to restore the relationship to where it had been before. We would likely have become closer friends. Unfortunately, she chose another avenue to deal with this offense. It involved bringing other people into it. The result is that we have never spoken face-to-face about this problem. I have forgiven her, but I am somewhat afraid of her. I don’t want to get into the same situation again. I cried for days as a result of how she handled the offense. I have taken the easy way out of this predicament, not easy but easier than what I fear would happen if I brought up an old wound. In America, we say to let sleeping dogs lie, sleeping babies sleep and so on. This is not what the Bible teaches and God still deals with me about this situation. He knows my heart and my frailties and He has been merciful to me.
We all have areas in our life that we need to grow in. If we truly want to, we will mature and develop to a place that we can do the right things with grace and confidence. Is the situation with my friend properly taken care of? Of course not, or it would not cross my mind frequently.
The point is, there is a right way to handle offenses. It is not to take them to someone else. If you have a difference with the lady in the church, you need to handle it biblically. Experience has taught me that we must understand that the apparent offense had little or nothing to do with ourselves. A problem can arise between friends because there is an unseen circumstance that one is dealing with privately, or is simply overwhelmed. If you ladies like, we can have a special lesson on building lasting friendship I’d be happy to. I’ve had very few friendships ruined in my life and I can name friends from as long ago as 45 years.
If you cannot let an offense simply evaporate into yesterday, go to that person, but pray first and be certain that you can go with a good spirit … a genuine heart to reconcile. If it doesn’t go well, it is okay to get wise counsel as to how to proceed. Go to someone that will pray about the situation and pray with you. Do not go to someone that will say, “Well I don’t like her either. She is just like that.” Red flag!
It is God’s desire to refine us in our lives, to make us more like him. The reason I spent most time speaking of relationships is because we deal with people all day. The Bible has given us two requirements. First that we love God and second that we love each other. The Bible also tells us that we will be known by our love for each other. When we are talking about each other to each other in negative ways it creates a very bad spirit in the church. Visitors will not want to become part of the fellowship. Regular attenders will be inclined to find another church where people care for each other. What is at the root of conflict? Why? (Pride, Satan; to destroy the church that Jesus died for.)
We tell people that God is love, but He has not changed our hearts.
Yes, ladies, I do know that some of you are struggling in relationships in the church. I know some specifics, but I will tell you that because we are human and because I have been in ministry so long I just know this is part of human relationships. But we are not supposed to live like the world. We are supposed to show the world how to live.
Next week, we are beginning a study on a historical book of the Bible. We are going to be learning about one of our favorite women, Queen Esther. We will learn history, but we will pull truths from that book that will help us become better women of God. Let us not forget that as children of God, we do have a high calling and we should want to embrace that to get a hold of it. I would encourage each of you to read the book of Esther this week, perhaps read it more than once. It is a short book… Only 3000 or so words and well under 200 verses. We want to apply this book to our lives.
Esther was a simple, common woman that became a queen. She was a woman with many struggles and many trials; in many ways she was likely a woman not so very different from us. We may never become queen of a country, but I can assure you and I deeply believe it – that each of you has a high calling on this earth. No exception; God can lead you to this place if you allow Him to. In order to be used of God we will have to let him shape our lives into the woman He wants us to be.
Let us end with these verses:
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: Colossians 3:4,5
And one from Esther:
“And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17
You may not know how reading the Bible daily will change your life, but pray to God that it will, believing. As we begin looking into the life of a common woman that was pushed into a life that she neither desired or asked for, we will see how her faith changed her life, and the lives of a nation.
It is wonderful what miracles God works in wills that are utterly surrendered to Him. Hannah Whitall Smith