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What A Woman!

Ladies when was the last time you heard your husband or significant other say to you, "What a Woman?"

Well today in proverbs we read a description of a woman with noble character who seems to be able to do it all. And isnít it fitting that a book of wisdom, the book of Proverbs, begins with "Woman Wisdom" and ends with "Woman Wisdom." Perhaps your not aware but wisdom, in biblical times is considered a feminine word.

If we were looking for a role model in the Bible the woman represented by this text would be one to look to, although she is unnamed and hidden in a book not often read. Her appearance in Godís Holy Word is important. But we need to be careful, because it would be extremely difficult to compete with the woman described in the text.

Hereís a woman who brings her husband "good, not harm, all the days of her life;" gets up before the morning light; feeds her family; shows good judgment in her purchases; works "vigorously;" helps the poor; has time to make bed coverings for her household and garments for sale; has enough faith to "laugh at the days to come;" "speaks with wisdom;" has no use for idleness; and earns blessing and praise from her husband and children.

I canít think of a better response then, "Wow! What a woman!"

The woman presented to us in Proverbs leaves us with the image of a woman of strong character, great wisdom, having many different skills, and demonstrating great compassion. Is there anything she canít do? Many would call this woman the super woman or super mom of her day.

Itís interesting that many people have the view that women of the Bible are very passive, domestic, and reserved. But this isnít true. This woman described in Proverbs is seen as very proactive, confident, her own thinker, and in turn is described as an excellent wife and mother.

And as you read the text you begin to see a common theme or thread emerge regarding her character, and thatís her strength and dignity, and the realization that her abilities donít come from her, they come from her reverence and her acknowledgement of almighty God.

Letís be honest competing with this woman would be very difficult. But we donít have to; you see this woman is probably not just one woman but rather a description of different women rolled into one chapter. The point is this scripture provides us with specific examples of the behavior, which both men and women ought to continually aspire to.

However, just as all Christians aspire to be like Jesus, we will never actually reach His level of perfection, nor will many reach the super woman status of a Proverbs 31 woman.

The key to understanding Proverbs 31 is found in verse 30, the next to the last passage in the book of Proverbs: "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." According to this verse, a "woman who fears the Lord," Ė who seeks His will for her as a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a follower of Jesus Ė is the Proverbs 31woman, no matter how a particular day is going.

My encouragement to women is to seek God and submit to his direction with love. If you do this not only will you please God, you will bring honor to yourself, your husband, household and family, and you will find a contentedness that will never be matched.

Now lets take a look at our Epistle reading this morning, which can be viewed as a disturbing text by some because of the use of the word "submissive." Our reading begins, "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbandsÖ"

Well gentlemen over the years we have misread and misinterpreted the meaning of submissive with sometimes tragic results.

So lets deal with the word submissive. Submissive as defined by Websterís Dictionary means to refer to others for decisions and to yield to the control and power of others.

In the Bible the word submissive is used to convey cooperation. Someone who submits, cooperatively volunteers with someone else out of love and respect for God, and for that person.

So as you can see one definition is about control the other is about cooperation. You can easily see how the word submissive has been used, and is still used in some cultures (including our sometimes), to oppress others, especially women.

In reality the expression of submission, when carried out appropriately, can be an effective Christian strategy. After all Jesus submitted himself to death so that all of us could be saved. He voluntarily cooperated with the will of God. Just as we too have the choice to cooperate with the will of God. We arenít controlled like puppets.

However, this type of submission demonstrated by Jesus requires tremendous strength, courage, and humility that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Cassie from last weekís sermon is a great example of Christian submission. What she did in answering the gunman required strength and courage. A strength and courage I donít believe many have without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

We also read in the epistle that women are the weaker partners. This is not to mean that women are weaker morally or intellectually, but rather physically.

Back in 60 AD when this letter was written by Peter, women if unprotected, were very vulnerable to attack, abuse, and financial disaster.

A man who honors his wife will protect, respect, help, and stay with her. This is what Peter was writing about. Peter wanted men to take their role as husband, brother, and father seriously. This was important 2000 years ago, and itís still very important today.

Look at how many of the poor throughout the world are single mothers and their children. How many broken families today are victims of abuse, lack of respect, lack of cooperation, by one or both partners in the relationship.

And although women today have better lives then their ancestors they are still vulnerable to attack and abuse. And men, along with respecting and helping, are to protect women.

Quit honestly this is why I donít like the idea of women serving on the front lines of combat. Itís not that women canít perform the job well because they can. But I get worried about potential capture and what countries that do not share our moral standards might do to women to inflict terror and pain, as prisoners of war. For me itís troubling to visualize how women might be treated as prisoners.

Peter goes on to emphasize why itís important for men to be considerate and respectful to their wives. If they arenít their prayers will be hindered, because living a right relationship with God hinges upon our ability to live in right relationship with one another.

Jesus says if we have a problem with a fellow believer we must make it right before we come to worship God. And lets face it this makes sense doesnít it? If weíre distracted by an issue or with someone else, isnít our worship attention diminished with preoccupation?

Well this is true of family relations as well. If men use their physically stronger body to mistreat their wives or children, their relationship with God will suffer. And if women use their ability to influence, to mistreat their husbands or children then their relationship with God will suffer. Peter is concerned about relationships and is telling us to make our relationships with our spouses and families solid, so that our relationship with God will be solid. One relationship clearly affects the other.

The truth is we will never know how to worship or really experience God, until we know how to love. Know that in our relationship with God itís not God that holds back his blessings or his interaction with us. Weíre just unable to receive all that God has to offer if we are not fully aware of Godís presence in our lives. Or if we donít fully expect to encounter God.

So in Proverbs we are given a description of a Godly woman that serves as a role model for both woman and men. And in 1 Peter how we are told to respect, love, help and cooperate with one another in our relationships, both our relationship with one another and our relationship with God.

Now I would like to share with you a story told by Nanette Thorsen-Snipes. As a mother and wife she strives to be that Proverbs 31 woman. But like all of us she has days when she falls short of this goal, which leads to frustration, depression, and dissatisfaction.

"My day began on a decidedly sour note when I saw my six-year-old wrestling with a limb of my azalea bush. By the time I got outside, heíd broken it. "Can I take this to school today?" he asked.

With a wave of my hand, I sent him off. I turned my back so he wouldnít see the tears gathering in my eyes. I loved that azalea bush. I touched the broken limb as if to say silently, "Iím sorry."

I wished I could have said that to my husband earlier, but Iíd been angry. The washing machine has leaked on my brand-new linoleum. If heíd just taken the time to fix it the night before when I asked him instead of playing checkers with Jonathon. What are his priorities anyway? I wondered. I was still mopping up the mess when Jonathon walked into the kitchen. "Whatís for breakfast, Mom?"

I opened the empty refrigerator. "Not cereal," I said, watching the sides of his mouth drop. "How about toast and jelly?" I smeared the toast with jelly and set it in front of him. Why was I so angry? I tossed my husbandís dishes into the sudsy water.

It was days like this that made me want to quit. I just wanted to drive up to the mountains, hide in a cave, and never come out.

Somehow I managed to lug the wet clothes to the Laundromat. I spent most of the day washing and drying clothes thinking how love had disappeared from my life. Staring at the graffiti on the walls, I felt as wrung-out as the clothes left in the washers.

As I finished hanging up the last of my husbandís shirts, I looked at the clock. 2:30. I was late. Jonathanís class let out at 2:15. I dumped the clothes in the back seat and hurriedly drove to the school.

I was out of breath by the time I knocked on the teacherís door and peered through the glass. With one finger, she motioned for me to wait. She said something to Jonathan and handed him and two other children crayons and a piece of paper.

What now? I thought, as she rustled through the door and took me aside. "I want to talk to you about Jonathan," she said. I prepared myself for the worst. Nothing would have surprised me.

"Did you know Jonathan brought flowers to school today?" she asked. I nodded, thinking about my favorite bush and trying to hide the hurt in my eyes.

"Let me tell you about yesterday," the teacher insisted. "See that little girl?"

"Well, yesterday she was almost hysterical. Her mother and father are going through a nasty divorce. She told me she didnít want to live, she wished she could die.

I watched the little girl bury her face in her hands and say loud enough for the class to hear, ĎNobody loves me.í I did all I could to console her, but it only seemed to make matters worse."

"I thought you wanted to talk to me about Jonathan," I said. "I do," the teacher said, touching the sleeve of my blouse.

"Today your son walked straight over to that child. I watched him hand her some pretty pink flowers and whisper, ĎI love you.í"

I felt my heart swell with pride for what my son had done. I smiled at the teacher. "Thank you," I said, reaching for Jonathanís hand, "youíve made my day."

Later that evening I began pulling weeds from around my lopsided azalea bush. As my mind wandered back to the love Jonathan showed the little girl, a bible verse came to me:"Önow these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

While my son had put love into practice, I had felt only anger.

I heard the familiar squeak of my husbandís brakes as he pulled into the driveway. I snapped a small limb bristling with hot pink azaleas off the bush. I felt the seed of love that God had planted in my family beginning to bloom once again in me. My husbandís eyes widened in surprise as I handed him the flowers. "I love you," I said.

You know life can be tough some days and it can be difficult to be that Proverbs 31 woman or to be the respectful, helping and loving people we are called to be. Our relationships seem to become burdens rather than blessings, and our focus turns away from God.

Itís easy for us to get down on ourselves or to get angry and discouraged because we havenít lived up to the Proverbs 31 woman, we havenít lived up to the standards of Christ. But all is not lost, our God is a loving and forgiving God. He knows the intent of our heart, he knows we try even when we fail.

Itís during these challenging times, when all seems wrong we must remember that these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love."

Amen

Read other messages by Pastor Wade