Archive | November 2012

A Wise Woman Builds… Her Marriage

To begin this week’s study, please read Proverbs 31:1-9, the portion of scripture that comes just before the description of the Proverbs 31 Woman.

The description of the Proverbs 31 Woman, starting with verse 10, jumps right into application for a wife. But while this portion of scripture details attributes specifically for a wife, the focus lies not just there but also with the impact she has on her husband. More specifically, her impact on his reputation.

Remember that this portion of scripture was an account of King Lemuel’s mother telling him what to look for in a wife. She wanted to be sure that he found a woman that would not sap his strength (Proverbs 31:3 & Proverbs 12:4). She then went on to indicate that his focus should be helping others (Proverbs 31:9).

It’s no accident that Lemuel’s mother first tells him to not let women distract him, then tells him to focus on helping others, and then gives him a detailed description of the type of woman he should marry. This approach, it seems, indicates the significant impact that a wife can have on her husband.

Your Husband is Your Ministry!

Someone once said to me, “Your ministry is where your husband is.” Over the years, I have come to realize not only the truth of that statement but also the added idea that not only is my ministry where my husband is, to a large extent my husband IS my ministry. Let’s explore this idea further in the context of the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Read verse 10-12 again of Proverbs 31, and note the impact that this woman has on her husband.

First, he trusts her. Trust is earned and built over time. So, this woman apparently earned her husband’s trust because of the way she ran her household, raised their children and supported his ministry. And everyone knows that having someone you can trust to help you goes a long way in bringing success.

Next, he was enriched by her. To enrich someone means adding some desirable quality or attribute to their lives. To enrich someone’s life is to make it better and to enhance it in some way. When a woman focuses on enriching her husband’s life, not only does his trust for her increase, but his reputation – and hers too – along with his effectiveness greatly increases.

The third and fourth aspects warrant covering as a pair. Not only does this woman not hinder him, she goes beyond that and actually helps him too. In other words, not only can a wife refrain from saying negative about her husband, she can also advance his reputation by speaking positive. And sometimes, a wife can help and not hinder by choosing NOT to say or do something. For example, men generally do not want their wives fighting their battles for them, especially in the presence of other men. Knowing the difference between when saying or doing something helps or hinders your husband is key to his reputation.

What Does a Strong Marriage Do for a Man?

When a husband trusts his wife, when he knows she is doing whatever she can to enrich is life and build his reputation in a positive manner, he then becomes more empowered and confident. Let’s explore exactly how such a marriage strengthens him and allows a husband to do and be more.

The husband of the Proverbs 31 Woman doesn’t have to worry about whether or not his household is running smoothly. He doesn’t have to worry about whether or not his wife is sitting around and watching soap operas all day or spending her days (and their money) at the mall.

Instead, the husband of a Proverbs 31 Woman can focus on his work, and this is probably a big reason for his good reputation with the community leaders (Proverbs 31:23). He certainly has fewer distractions simply because his wife is “virtuous and capable” (Proverbs 31:10). This gives him time as well as mental energy to build a solid reputation and to be increasingly effective.

In verse 27 we find that his wife doesn’t “bear the consequences of laziness,” which stands to reason that he doesn’t either. What are those consequences?

Once again, we see a theme threaded throughout the book of Proverbs to prove true in the life of the Proverbs 31 Woman and by extension, her husband also.

When a husband knows his house is secure and run efficiently, when he knows his reputation in the community is positive and solid, you’d better believe that the marriage as a whole is likely continually growing stronger. So, by building her husband and his reputation, the Proverbs 31 Woman also succeeds in building her marriage.

“Wait! I’m not married! How does this apply to me?”

Whether you’re married, single or widowed, understanding how the Proverbs 31 Woman builds her marriage holds tremendous value because it’s not simply a model for a wife to emulate. The Proverbs 31 Woman also provides an example for all women of how to acknowledge that we are also the bride of Christ and to realize that all we do and say reflects the His presence in our lives.

Also, even if you’re yet to be married, you can help build your future marriage by developing your faith as the Proverbs 31 Woman obviously has. Regardless of your marital status, you can build marriages by encouraging and helping other women in their marriages and by refusing to be a hindrance or distraction to anyone’s marriage.

So HOW do I Build a Proverbs 31 Marriage?

The following questions provide further study in helping a woman build her marriage:

  1. What instruction does 1 Peter 3:1-6 give for helping wives grow as Proverbs 31 Women?
  2. What does Ephesians 5:33 say a wife must do? Why do you think this is so important in building a marriage?

Please share your reflections on these questions in the comment section below!

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2012. 3 Comments

A Wise Woman Builds… Her Home

WARNING: The task you’re asked to complete to start today’s study might be somewhat frustrating & overwhelming. Better cover yourself in prayer before you go any further.

To get yourself in the right mindset for this week’s study, take a few minutes to create a master list of everything on your plate right now. In other words, create a “to do” list of all the projects and tasks you want to or need to complete. This isn’t a list of dreams and goals, but a hard and fast list of all that you know needs done.

The Proverbs 31 Woman’s “to do” list probably looks something like this:

No, she doesn’t do each item every day, but many of them she does, and the rest no doubt take up a her time on a pretty consistent basis. And the list doesn’t even cover all those activities implicit in other areas of her life (which we’ll cover in the coming weeks) such as her relationships with her husband and her kids?

Maybe you stand in awe of all that she accomplishes, even feeling like less of a woman in the shadow of her “to do” list. Maybe you can easily pit your own “to do” list up against hers, confident yours will come out the clear winner.

The problem with both of these mindsets lies with the realization that comparisons create dangerous realities. You see, someone will always accomplish less than you in a day. Likewise, someone will also always accomplish more.

Have you ever thought about why people become addicted to online gaming and chat rooms? There’s always another level and always another conversation. No end exists. That’s the hook.

Unhealthy comparisons can do the same to us as these online addictions (which, by the way, researchers have discovered work in the brain the same way addiction to drugs and alcohol works). We seem to get so wrapped up in proving our value by what we do and by how we compare to what other women do or don’t do. Sometimes, we simply get depressed realizing how much we just don’t measure up to others.

To help transform this mindset, let’s consider how the Proverbs 31 Woman sets an example for us to follow rather than creating an unrealistic ideal and unhealthy competition. In other words, rather than competing with the Proverbs 31 Woman or any other woman for that matter, let’s discuss how the qualities and abilities she possesses can also be cultivated in our own lives.

Consider the following 5 aspects found in the Proverbs 31 Woman as related to building her home:

  1. She prioritizes. Prioritizing involves knowing what needs done first and what can wait.
  2. She considers quality. This can mean choosing what’s best rather than just what will get you by.
  3. She is organized. Being organized increases a woman’s effectiveness like few other aspects can.
  4. She manages her time. This is done through prioritizing, organizing & choosing quality.
  5. She is a self-disciplined woman. Self-discipline can be cultivated and is essential for being productive.

These 5 aspects found in the Proverbs 31 Woman really only get us started in describing why she is able to accomplish so much in the area of building her home as well in every other area of life. Other aspects include sacrifice, wisdom, energy, commitment and motivation.

We started this week’s study comparing our own “to do” lists with that of the Proverbs 31 Woman’s list. And now we find ourselves considering the qualities and attributes that allow her to accomplish so much. Doing so can either take us into the dangerous area of comparisons once again, or it can inspire us to grow these same aspects in our own lives.

Let’s again remind ourselves that this description of the Proverbs 31 Woman is not written to make you feel less of a woman. She simply represents the gold standard toward which all women can and should grow.

Now, please read 2 Peter 1:3-11. Not only are the attributes of the Proverbs 31 Woman seen in this scripture, but so is the essential point that becoming a godly person means growing in these qualities over a lifetime.

None of us are meant to be exactly like The Proverbs 31 or any other woman. But we are meant to cultivate these godly qualities within ourselves. The unique combination of these qualities within each person can give us an increased appreciation for the One who created us. After all, we are made in His image (Genesis 1:27).

These qualities also shape who we are and what we do as individuals. They allow us to rejoice in our unique “to do” lists and to remain free of weighty comparisons. After all, Christ came to set us free from that sort of weight, so let’s live in that freedom!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

For further study:

  1. Read through 2 Peter 1:3-11 again, and make a list of all the qualities named in this scripture. Name some ways that faith can be “supplemented” with these qualities.
  2. Of all the qualities we’ve discussed regarding the Proverbs 31 Woman, which one do you feel you currently possess the most? Take a minute to thank God for producing that quality in you.
  3. What one quality found in the Proverbs 31 Woman do you feel you most want to develop right now? Take a minute to ask God to cultivate and grow that quality in you.

Previous Weeks’ Studies

A Wise Woman Builds… A Study on the Proverbs 31 Woman

A Wise Woman Builds… A Foundation

A Wise Woman… Builds Her Faith

This entry was posted on November 22, 2012. 2 Comments

A Wise Woman Builds… Her Faith

Please read Proverbs 31:10-31 and note anything that speaks to the building of faith.

For me, the above exercise was not easy. Upon first (and second) look through this scripture for specific descriptions of her faith, there appears to be only one somewhat obvious statement of faith building. Proverbs 31:30 says that this woman fears the Lord.

Psalm 115:11 tells us that “All you who fear the Lord, trust the lord. He is your helper; he is your shield.” So clearly, fear of the Lord plays a big part in trusting and having faith in Him.

Even though the description of the Proverbs 31 Woman does not directly state that she was a woman of faith, her strong faith becomes increasingly apparent the more you study this description of her. In fact, if you consider her character attributes, evidence of her faith becomes more obvious. Let’s look at one powerful examples of this in contrast to a powerful example of the opposite.

Please read Proverbs 31:25. Being clothed with strength and dignity and living without fear shows a strong faith. In other words, her quiet faith provides an effective example of a strong faith. Consider her example as an opposite to the example the women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 provide.

Note that in this letter to Timothy, Paul is not saying that women cannot be teachers and leaders. What he is saying is that acting in a loud, disorderly and flamboyant way is not appropriate for women in the church. And remember too that Paul’s purpose was to get rid of false teachers, not to stop women from being leaders in the church for all time. (For more on this portion of scripture, please read An Examination of 1 Timothy 2:8-15.)

In contrast to the women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15, the Proverbs 31 Woman gives a terrific example of what a woman of faith looks like. Her quiet faith teaches us in a powerful and effective way.

Perhaps the most effective evidence of faith in the Proverbs 31 Woman comes in verse 31.

“Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.”

In this verse of Proverbs 31 Woman and also significantly the last verse of the book of Proverbs itself, we realize that this woman exemplifies what James rather bluntly says is the best way to know if a person has faith. Here’s what James had to say about the best evidence of faith.

Now go back through Proverbs 31:10-31 noting the good deeds of this exemplary woman. Based on her deeds alone, does her faith become even more evident?

When we combine the fact that this woman feared the Lord (v. 30) and that her actions revealed her faith (v. 31), we realize why she is called a woman of faith. We can also see how faith is best illustrated and built in our own lives.

For further study:

If you have not already done so, please read the first two parts of this series.

The New Living Translation Note Maker’s Bible describes the theme of James as follows:

James stresses the need for Christian living not only to show the reality of a person’s inner development but to show the world that the gospel does, in fact, change lives. If a person claims to be a Christian but is no different from an unbeliever, what benefit is that to anyone, much less to a world in need of truth? When we follow Christ in work and action, we can be a transforming force in the world.

With this theme in mind, take a few minutes to read the book of James. While you read through this short book, note the attributes, characteristics and qualities that James describes in a person of faith and how they exist in the example of the Proverbs 31 Woman.

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2012. 1 Comment

A Wise Woman Builds… A Foundation

Remember your homework from last week in our introductory session A Wise Woman Builds… A Study on the Proverbs 31 Woman? You were asked to read Proverbs 31:10-31 and list all of the attributes and qualities you saw in the Proverbs 31 Woman. You were then asked to mark those qualities you admire most and to spend some time thinking about why you admire them. If you have not done this assignment yet, please do it now. We’ll wait while you do…

While different versions of the Bible offer difference words to describe the Proverbs 31 Woman, they all still paint a picture of what some versions in verse 10 say is “an excellent wife.”

Before we get into a discussion on her qualities and attributes, let’s first address the fact that this is a description of what King Lemuel’s mother gave him to look for in a wife (Proverbs 31:1-9). Even if you’re not a wife, please know that these qualities apply to any woman desiring to please God. We are all Daughters of the King and make up the bride of Christ. As such, we can know that seeking the qualities found in the Proverbs 31 Woman pleases Christ.

The following list of qualities and attributes are offered as a reference point for discussion, not as an exhaustive list. Your list probably looks at least somewhat different from this one, and that is okay.

Qualities and Attributes of the Proverbs 31 Woman

Virtuous, capable, excellent, valuable, trustworthy, helpful, industrious, creative, energetic, organized, good steward, strong, hard working, caring, courageous, values self, dignified, fearless, joyful, wise, listens, kind, careful, loved and fears God.

Whew! Just making this list was exhausting, let alone striving to be like her. Remember, we live lives of progressive sanctification. In other words, small changes over time will add up to make a huge, holy difference. Also remember that the Proverbs 31 woman is a “composite portrait of ideal womanhood” (Life Application Study Bible), not someone any of us should try to be like in every detail.

We won’t take the time to discuss every quality and attribute today, but we will get to the majority of them during the course of our 2-month-ish study. For now, let’s look briefly at three qualities that seem to blanket who this woman is as a whole and give a solid foundation on which she builds all the other aspects of her life.

(1.)  Virtue (v. 10)

(2.)  Strength (v. 17 & 25)

(3.)  Fear of God (v. 30)

A Wise Woman Builds Virtue

Virtuous means having high moral standards. Some versions say “noble” or “excellent” instead of virtuous. When the word “noble” is used, it is the same word used to describe Gideon when he is called a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6). Overall, this means to be brave.

As women, we must dive into life and be willing to bravely tackle a lot of responsibility. Being a woman of high moral standards sets us up for successful lives that can astound others just like the description of the Proverbs 31 Woman probably astounds most of us.

A Wise Woman Builds Strength

Two kinds of strength are mentioned in verse 17, which says, “She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” The first strength refers to her character, and the second refers to her physical strength. We’re looking at the first kind of strength for now.

A more full understanding of what this type of strength entails comes from reading verse 25, which says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” This type of strength includes dignity also and is the type of strength that MacArthur describes as being “wrapped around her.”

Think of this type of strength as the self-discipline and commitment that we as women desire because we know it helps us lead productive lives.

A Wise Woman Builds a Fear of God

The fact that the Proverbs 31 Woman “fears God” is emphasized at the end of the chapter and notably placed at the end of the book of Proverbs. Remember that this virtue was extolled at the beginning of Proverbs as well (Proverbs 1:7), which tells us that this woman was able to live with such wisdom because of this very virtue.

Fear of God means having a reverence and awe (Psalm 33:8), a hatred of evil (Proverbs 8:13) and an obedience to God (Deuteronomy 17:19). Fear of God brings happiness (Psalm 112:1) as well as leads to riches, honor and a long life (Proverbs 22:4) when accompanied by humility. Very obviously, this fear of the Lord gives the very reason this woman exists as the godly standard for all women.

Application & Homework

As we build these qualities in our own lives, we will find that many of the other attributes and qualities listed come as a natural following. For this reason, let’s determine to deliberately and consistently seek to grow toward the example set by this Proverbs 31 Woman.

For study this week, devote at least 10 minutes a day toward our A Wise Woman Builds study. Do this by spending two days in each of the assignments described below, one day reading the material, and the second day reflecting on how God wants you to apply His Truth in your life.

  1. A huge part of strength and virtue comes from living totally committed lives. Read the article Great Expectations to help in assessing your view of commitment as compared to God’s great expectations.
  2. Read the book of Ruth and note the qualities of the Proverbs 31 Woman found in Ruth.
  3. Read the book of Esther and note the qualities of the Proverbs 31 Woman found in Esther.

Next week we will look at how A Wise Woman Builds… Faith. As always, you are encouraged to share any thoughts you have on this study in the comment section below.

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2012. 1 Comment

A Wise Woman Builds… A Study on the Proverbs 31 Woman

Before reading this post, take a minute to read Proverbs 31:10-31.
Once you’ve done this, please continue here.

Not sure about you, but I feel completely inadequate as a woman when I read about the Proverbs 31 Woman. Thinking about trying to do all that she did overwhelms me. Of course, any woman who strives to be and do all of what she did is probably not just overwhelmed but worn out, tired and often frustrated.

So, if that’s you, stop. Even if just for a few minutes to read this study each week, just stop doing and take a few minutes to just be.

Many commentators actually believe that the woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31 is not actually a specific woman but instead describes the ideal woman, sort of a combination of all the positive attributes a woman should cultivate within herself.

In Divine Design MacArthur explains that the Proverbs 31 Woman “reveals qualities and characteristics that every woman should seek to emulate.”

We live under a delusion if we think we can do all this woman did. Yet, we are equally deluded if we fail to see value in her areas of focus for our own lives. Take note of the fact that many of the attributes found throughout Proverbs come together in the description of this ideal woman.

Proverbs begins with a call to fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:7) and ends with this picture of a woman who “fears the Lord” (Proverbs 31:30). This point really drives the focus of our study: When a woman fears the Lord, she becomes a wise woman who builds in every area of her life.

Instead of seeing the Proverbs 31 Woman as an impossible standard, let’s see her as an inspiration. In fact, instead of seeing any woman in a way that creates a weight of comparison, let’s see every woman as an inspiration. Let’s choose to rejoice in who these women are and what they inspire us to be.

Be inspired to build on the wonderful you that God created you to be, and in that inspiration, look at specific areas in your life in which you can build. Instead of looking at any other woman and seeing something you’re not, choose to rejoice in who she is and who you and what we all can become in Christ.

We will spend the next 2 months or so (one post a week, every Thursday) looking at the 7 focus areas represented in the above graphic. Our goal is to build within each of these areas as individuals, looking to each other for inspiration.

Homework: Read through Proverbs 31:10-31 at least one more time before next Thursday, and list all of the qualities and attributes you see in this woman. Put a check mark by the qualities you admire most. Spend some time thinking about why you admire those qualities.

If you feel so inclined, share the qualities you checked in the comment section below this post.

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2012. 6 Comments