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Guess Who’s Behind Families that Thrive

From the series How to Raise a Healthy Family in a Modern World

Is there a unique key to raising a healthy family? There’s MORE than one! But there’s a significant person who can make or break the scenario, and that’s the person Chip’s talking about in this message about who’s behind families that not only survive, but families that thrive!

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Message Transcript

I believe there has never been a more difficult time to be a woman than in the world right now and especially in America. Roles change, values change, a bombardment at a level of how you have or ought to look to be acceptable, what you need to accomplish – the messages that a woman hears day after day and the demands as things keep changing so rapidly, I think even as a man and even as a husband, I don’t think most of us get it, but we are going to get it today, okay?

Proverbs chapter 31, if you have your Bible, go ahead and open to that. It’s an acrostic Hebrew poem by the wisest man in the world, according to the Creator of the world. And there’s a couple extremes you’ve got to avoid with Proverbs 31.

One is: this is not her daily schedule, okay? If you are familiar with this, it starts out, she’s up before dawn, she buys a field. This, like, she takes off her robe and she has got Supergirl inside. This is not a woman’s daily schedule.

And the other extreme, this is not like, Oh! Those three verses I really like. I think that’s what I think a woman ought to do. I don’t like those other verses. No, here’s what it is. Instead of a snapshot, it’s a movie. It’s the collage of a woman’s life in the various seasons of her life and it takes – an acrostic is each letter of the Hebrew alphabet and these are the things that, from God’s perspective, He most admires in a woman. And it will talk about her marriage, her work, her home, her ministry, her personal life.

So, are you ready? Let’s dig in together. What is it that God most admires? And what He most admires is godly character. And that might sound theological or just biblical. No, no, no. Here’s what it means: what God most admires, ladies and us gentlemen, is who you are. Not how you look and not what you have accomplished or have to accomplish. There is this drive inside in our culture: I’m not acceptable as a woman unless I look like the front of that magazine or the people portrayed on TV or in that movie. Or, I have to accomplish all these things to be a someone.

God says, No, no, no, no. “Man sees on the outside; I look at the heart.” And who you really are is what matters most. And so, there are four or five ways that your character, who you are shows up. And the first is He admires godly character in a woman’s marriage.

It says, “A wife of noble,” or, “excellent character,” that’s who you are, “who can find?” Well, what is her value? “Her worth is far more than rubies.” What is the impact? “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”

What does she do? “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Guys, I want to tell you, more than your job, more than any amount of money, more than golf, more than a hobby, the most precious possession, if you’re married, is your wife. And then God would say, Let’s treat her like she is that precious.

Second is this particular wife, her character is such, her husband has confidence. In other words, she is trustworthy. He is not worried about her stepping out. He is not worried about doing things they haven’t agreed on. There is this confidence in this woman. And her first priority, she does him good, not just on the front end, but all the days of her life. She is faithful to him even when some of us are acting like jerks.

And here’s the application: Don’t take her for granted. And we all do. You find a great home, you find a home that is thriving, you find a marriage that is thriving, you find kids that are doing well, guess who is always behind – men, we have a great role, but, boy, the glue of families – it’s the mom, it’s the wife.

And so, guys, what I want to say is treat her like your most precious possession. And, ladies, here’s one for you. The temptation in different seasons is to make work or your children a higher priority than your husband.

Moms, if you want to have great kids, the greatest thing you can do is make your husband your number one priority, because there is this thing that happens in the heart of a child when mom and dad are in love and connected and that’s what really matters. First, there is a security that bubbles over into their life. Unexplainable, but absolutely true.

The second way that God sees godly character is in a woman in her home. “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.” You might underline eager hands. “She is like the merchant ships that bring food from,” and you might underline, “from afar. She gets up while it’s still dark,” underline still dark, “and she provides food for her family and portions for her servants.”

It’s a picture of a woman in her home. And, again, this is the general characteristic. This is not necessarily she is up at dawn every, single day. But notice, she does it with eager hands. There are some women, they say, “I love being a mom in this home.” She has got this positive attitude. It’s not, “Poor me,” or, “Why doesn’t anybody care more about me and I’ve got all these demands.” She does it with eager hands and she is like, she is someone who really plans ahead. She is industrious.

Like a ship that is going to take whatever extreme to go from afar, this is someone who is thinking, You know something? I want the very best for my family. And, boy, I have watched how you women do this. She gets up while it’s still dark. I have watched my wife, wow, especially when you have little ones, years and years and years the little lamp would come on while it was still dark and she would be sitting in a corner with her Bible realizing, Man, there is no way, married to this guy, which is a challenge, and then with these children and then all the demands and then my own personal life, that…

She was disciplined to make sure she got her soul fed first. And then the lunches get packed. Who keeps the schedule in most homes? The whole family schedule? It’s not you, guys, most of the time.

“She provides food for her family and portions,” she manages the family, she is disciplined, she is industrious, and most days, has this great attitude. Here’s the application: be sensitive to the demands on her life. And here are some practical ways: one, think through her schedule. It’s never-ending. And we grow accustomed to lots of things getting done. Let her get sick for two days or go out of town and you’ll go, Oh my gosh. How does she do this?

Second, help out, especially if she is working outside the home. Some of the most romantic things you’ll ever do, take out the trash, run the vacuum, get involved, listen, empathize, encourage her without ESPN or the Wall Street Journal or your phone out buzzing.

Set it all aside, have eye contact, lean in – are you ready? Listen! One of the most powerful ways we ever love anybody, but especially women and especially our wives is listening. And then listen empathetically. And then just, in your mind, believe that you have duct tape over your mouth. Because the moment you start fixing something, you just messed up. She needs to know that you understand, that you get it, that everything in her life is saying, “I need you, I need you, I need you.”

And then help her. You need to lift some of the demands. And women often feel guilty if they don’t do everything for everyone. And, see, your plan is to say, “I want to help you be a godly woman in our home and I am going to step in.”

The third area is godly character expressed in her work. Again, this is a collage. There are different seasons where women can work some, work a little. There are some seasons they may choose, the wisest thing is not to work at all when the kids are very small. But here's a snapshot. “She considers a field and buys it and out of her earnings, she plants a vineyard.”

So, this lady is obviously an entrepreneur. “She sets about her work vigorously. Her arms are strong for her task.” Underline that, because Hebrew rendering I think is far better to say. She actually strengthens herself for her task.

In other words, what she does, she understands that, Okay, whether it’s kids, whether it’s work, whether it’s a season with some of both, I need to strengthen myself. I need to take care of me. I need to be emotionally and spiritually and physically whole so I have something to give.

“She sees that her trading is profitable, her lamp does not go out at night,” that doesn’t mean that she is a workaholic and is up until three in the morning and up at dawn. Remember the little parable of Jesus about the ten virgins and some ran out of oil? This is someone who plans. This is someone, her lamp doesn’t go out because she is thinking and planning ahead and knowing, You know what? Like some of us, she has already ordered from Costco. All those Amazon boxes showing up because she is thinking ahead, unlike a lot of us men.

“In her hands she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.” This is a season where a woman is an amazing worker. Here is the application: provide her with some windows of relief.

And then let me just address something that women are being bombarded in our culture. Your children, the first six to eight years, somewhere between seventy-five to eighty-five percent, their personality, their moral values, their sexual identity, and their self-concept will be formed. You have been bombarded to believe that if you stay home when they are small, that you are wasting your education. You have been bombarded to believe that two incomes and a little bit nicer house and maybe a couple cars and later model things or being able to buy a house is more important than a mother’s time in the first six to eight years.

Here’s all I can tell you, the research is absolutely overwhelming. The bonding that occurs and the value of a child’s actual mother in his or her life will have exponential impact. And that has gone from the majority of women to less women to less women to less women.

And with it, we have seen more and more degeneration in the family and more and more kids with more and more struggles. All I can tell you is you can choose what to do, but there’s a pretty small window – six to eight years – that the wisest thing you can do, according to the best research and the wisest thing you can do according to God is all those things that are non-verbal, all that cuddling, all that eye contact.

Now, there are some single moms, you have no choice. There are some of you are in some very unique situation. Am I saying it’s wrong to work? No. I’m just saying you have some priority choices to make and biting the bullet on the front end will produce amazing, exponential, positive, encouraging results.

So, what do we do, men? What is our role? We need to provide windows of relief. For those that are working or not working, guys, let me give you a few tips and children. In the dark hour, the dark hour in my mind is if you come home from work and if your wife is cooking dinner if that’s the way it works. She needs you. Especially if the kids are small. That’s when you take them outside, you get engaged, you play with them.

Second is: help with the housework. You’ve got to engage at a completely different level. You help with small kids. “I’ll do the baths tonight.” Older kids, “I’ll own homework. I’ll do that.” Or, in my case, “I’ll do math and science. You do English.” But you divide and conquer. And what your wife feels like is, You understand my demands. You are giving me relief, you are for me, and we are in this together. And it has never been harder than it is right now for a woman.

The fourth area of her godly character is expressed in her ministry. “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” It’s so easy to let your whole life get consumed with you, your marriage, your kids, your world. But God says, When I look at the heart of a godly woman, she doesn’t live in a little family cocoon. It’s not just about running from work to here or there or carting kids around to ballet, violin, and sports. It’s she has this heart of compassion.

She notices the lady that is depressed at the gym or the person who serves coffee and she can tell her countenance is down.

She understands she has spiritual gifts and a part of her life is, yes, wife; yes, mother. But it’s her. And she uses her gifts and there is something about expressing her gifts and caring for people that God uses to not only replenish her, but help her remember her value isn’t just what she does: wife, mother. That they have been deposited with supernatural gifts that God uses in supernatural ways to love people. And she sees the impact of her life. And so, here’s the application: affirm her spiritual gifts and her impact.

My wife came from a very painful home life, followed by a very painful life afterwards. And by the time I met her, I met – we are all prejudiced and we should be – I met this very beautiful, talented person that when she looked in the mirror, saw someone very ugly and very inferior and very unworthy.

And it was such a struggle in our marriage. And when we started in our first, little church, about thirty-five people, they asked her, “Could you,” you’re the pastor’s wife in these little churches, “could you teach the women’s Bible study?” There are, like, eight or ten women.

And she just went into convulsions. “I could never do that, and I don’t have anything to say.” And, “Well, honey, I have watched you. Why don’t you?” So she, with some nudging, took a couple, little steps. And after about a year or two, she would not, she got to where she didn’t throw up before she…

All eight women would show up. And little by little, God helped Theresa see: you have something to say. You’re an encourager. Thanksgiving would come or someone came to the church. It was a neat day when, if anyone came to the church, you knew them, because you knew the all thirty-four other people.

And they had a problem; they would end up at our Thanksgiving table. Or we would meet kids going through difficult times and they just ended up at our house. Her world wasn’t just us. But as she did that, it was amazing to see how God grew her.

A number of years ago, when we were over in Santa Cruz, they asked her to teach at this women’s retreat. And someone recorded it and it became a little thing called Precious in His Sight.

And my wife, she doesn’t travel around, she doesn’t feel called to speak, but this was a passion on her heart, she spent years going through it with our daughter. And this is: how does God see me?

A number of years ago, we were running out of material at Living on the Edge and I noticed a lot of these people that listen are ladies. Why don’t we put something my wife did? And the powers-that-be said, “I don’t know, man. They kind of expect you to teach.” “Why don’t you…?”

And she is thinking, Who am I? Right? So, we put this on the radio. Every month I get these reports like how many people respond. Guess what – we put hers on and hers are like this and mine are like that.

And you know what? I went back thinking, I’m so glad I kept nudging her and saying, “You have gifts. Yes, you’re an amazing wife. Yes, you’re an amazing mother. But you are an amazing person.”

But, guys, you know what she needed? She needed someone to look her in the eye and say, “You have value. You have gifts. You’re a somebody. You have something to offer.” And as we do that, you just might be surprised that God has some things inside your wife that is beyond maybe what you had ever, ever dreamed. Let me encourage you to affirm her spiritual gifts and her impact.
The fifth and final one, in terms of her character, is God looks down and He goes, When I see a woman’s godliness, her character, her encouragement, her love – first, in her marriage; and then her home, her work, her ministry – but, lastly, in planning and priorities.

This is a very interesting passage. “When it snows, she has no fear for her household, for they are all clothed in scarlet.” Circle the word scarlet. “She makes coverings for her bed,” underline the word for her bed, “and she is clothed in fine linen and purple,” underline linen and purple.

There are three things where I get she is a wise planner and has great priorities. That that word scarlet, in Hebrew, the word – it has a picture of something that is double-folded. And it can mean scarlet, but it can mean double-folded. And I think the translation, it’s not like all her kids had red stuff on.

It’s what – she didn’t have any fear, because what she did is she planned ahead and she knew her kids are going to be warm, like all you do, right? Winter is coming. School clothes time. All the kids have what they need.

The second, she makes coverings for her bed. This is not like she was into embroidery. What a wise woman understands is: you have small kids, he is working, and especially if you’re working, you have no time together.

And what happens is your romantic life can go down the tubes. When your romantic life goes down the tubes, then pretty soon, a distance occurs in your relationship. Here is a woman who says: “I am going to plan in times for us to make love. I am going to keep our love life alive.”

And the other research and I don’t know why we are wired this way, there are few things a man feels more empowered and loved and actually even what happens in the brain when he makes love with his wife in terms of opening up, being understanding, and being engaged.

And so, this woman says, “You know what? I’ve got a plan. I am going to plan for my kids, I am going to plan for my husband,” and are you ready for this? She is clothed in fine linen and purple. This is nice. This is a luxury item.

A Jewish woman in fine purple and in linen, which probably came from Egypt, is like, woo! She is taking care of herself. She looks good! She realizes, Yeah, I have to help the kids, I’ve got all these demands. But my life matters.

Here’s the application: give her permission to be good to herself. Now, there are some of you ladies that you have stuff in the closet that you have bought that you haven’t even opened. And a good day is going to the mall and buying more shoes. This part of the message is not for you. Pause. Okay? So, guys, lighten up here.

There are some of you, however, that you feel like all you hear is, “I need you, I need you, I need you.” You meet everyone else’s needs and then over time, you feel resentful. And your life ends up like there are all these needs and so I am in a hurry and I put my hair in a ponytail and I put on a baseball cap. I don’t put on any makeup. And I’ve got to get the kids here, then I am going to go here, I’ll change later, and I’ve got sweatpants. And so, you have a life where, pretty soon, that becomes habitual.

And then because you don’t feel good about yourself, you feel a little better when you eat some stuff. And so, you eat some stuff and gain some weight you don’t like and pretty soon, you’re looking in the mirror of someone with no makeup, with sweatpants, who has gained a little bit of weight. And you don’t like you.

And, guys, you have got to step in. You’ve got to say, “You matter.” And, ladies, you have to believe. Here is God’s view: you are valuable. You are precious. You are worthy. And you know what? You should have some nice stuff. And you should take care of you.

What does your wife need? What does the mother need? And why don’t we set aside some money that she feels deeply valued?

What is the impact? This is such a high calling for women. But it’s such a strong calling for us men and for children. When a woman progressively lives out a faith like this, over time, where she walks with God and she, this is the kind of marriage.

And, by the way, she does it. She is good to him when he is not so good to her. We, men, sometimes are a little slow. “And this is what I do in my home, this is what I do in ministry, here’s what I do at work.”

Here’s the impact. Three things. One, in her marriage, “Her husband is respected at the city gates where he takes a seat among the elders of the land.” A godly woman has incredible impact on her husband’s character, and therefore, his whole life.

I jotted in my notes here, I have had to go to lots of schooling and I had to learn Hebrew and Greek and then mentored by some great people. I will tell you, the number one impact in all my life is my wife. Her integrity, her prayer life, and the way she has run our home has shaped everything.

I am the means justify the ends personality. Close is good enough. Very insecure. Wanting to impress people and, so, the very first church, there was thirty-five people. And I’m up all night with my messages. And so, we did a Bible study for kids in the neighborhood and we had blacks and whites and Hispanics and all kinds of different kids and I took them all to church.

And when you bring twenty-five kids to a church that is only thirty-five people, it made some waves. And I was trying to tell them that, “We have to care about this community!” And I was in my most passionate self.

And I said, “We had fifty kids here last weekend and some of you don’t even care about these kids!” And I thought I really had a good weekend. Boy oh boy. Man, I’m going to tell them!

So, then, we are in the car and she is really quiet. And I’m just a young, insecure pastor. I am now an older, insecure pastor. But, so, you want to hear from your wife like, “How did I do?”

Silence. “So,” I hate to have to ask for it, “what do you think?” Silence. Finally, she turns to me. “Why did you lie in church today?” “What?” “Why did you lie in church today?” I said, “What do you mean? I didn’t lie in church.” “You said there were fifty kids, Chip! We counted them. There were thirty-seven.” I said, “I rounded.” “How do you round up thirteen?” I would love to say that’s the only time.

I have lived my whole life with someone that, more on a few occasions has said, “Why did you lie?” “I just, I exaggerated.” “I don’t think God calls it exaggeration.” After about three years it was, “Just forget it. I’m just not going to, I’m not even going to exaggerate anymore. It’s not worth it.”

And you know that, “end justifies the means?” It was like, man, you live with this high-integrity person, it’s like, Oh my gosh. I guess I’ll have to be honest in the little things.

Guess what that does. It changes the course of your life. She has prayed hours for me and for our kids through huge times of marriage that I think deep in my heart, I wondered if we would make it through. We have had times with our kids where I wondered if our kids would ever walk with God or be in a good place.

Ladies, here’s what you need to understand. You are such the core of any success that we have. And our application is that we need to remind her of her role in your success.

Most people don’t know my wife started the radio ministry. You say, “Really?” Yeah. We were doing five services and I was getting burned out and she got a prayer partner. She goes, “Every week we are going to pray God takes the message outside the walls, because it’s killing my husband like this.”

At the end of one year, some guy I never met came in and said, “Hey, I think you sound pretty good. It’d be good on radio.” I said, “I don’t want to go on radio. I don’t listen to radio.”

And a businessman said, “I think it’s a good idea too.” I said, “Well, if you guys want to make it happen, go ahead. But I am overwhelmed as it is.” And it got birthed because she prayed.

And who would have ever dreamed years later that millions of people would find Christ and would grow in Christ because a woman saw a need and did something that no one will probably ever know about, unless they listen to this message now. And you know what? That’s the impact. She needs to hear that. And men understand any success you have or ever will have, is rooted in this relationship.

Second, her work. “She makes,” notice, “linen garments. She sells them and supplies them to merchants with sashes.” As time and priorities change, and a woman has more freedom and they have different energy and different passions and there are different seasons for them, here’s what I would say: cooperate with her creativity and her life transitions. Cooperate with her creativity and her life transitions.

I have four kids, for those of you who don’t know me very well, and they are spread out. My oldest twins are thirteen years older than my daughter.

But that makes you, you parent for a long time like that. And I remember when Annie was not just out, but she is now this adult, she is on her own, all the kids are done. And I’m thinking, Great!

And they love God; this is wonderful! More time for us! Let’s go! But being the sensitive husband that I am, I thought, I’ll probably give her a few months to adjust. So, she was kind of mopey and grieving and struggling. So, after three months I said, “Are you just going to mope around forever? Look at all this new time we have and the house is empty and we can do whatever we want. And let’s, hey, let’s…” And we had, our empty nest, it was not pretty. We had about nine or ten, twelve, thirteen months that we were not on the same page.

And I was, honestly, I was resentful and hacked off like, “Can you not get with the program, here? So, you care about kids that aren’t here more than me that is here?” Guys, they feel that way.

And then, in her great wisdom, she said, “Chip, can I ask you a question?” She did it at the right time. I was clothed and in my right mind. I was ready to listen. One of those rare moments. “Can I ask you a question?” “Oh, sure.” She said, “What if twenty-four hours, like, this time tomorrow, you could no longer speak, no longer write, and no longer be a pastor? How would you feel?” Ooh. I never thought of it that way. I’d have to reorient my entire life.

And she looked at me with tears coming down, she goes, “Now you get my life. For thirty years, my world has been around packing lunches, getting kids ready, sports teams, development, school, organizing my world around all the crazy stuff that you do. And I have given my life to that and I have loved it. It has been the most fulfilling thing ever. And I love our kids and I am so excited for them. And I am glad they are out of the house. But my world completely changed. And I am sad and I don’t know what the next season looks like. And I am not sure how to figure it out. And just running around the world with you is not really what I had in mind.”

And I remember, I just, in a rare moment of maturity decided, I am going to shut up. And I am going to give her as much time as she needs and I am not going to make a lot of suggestions. And I am going to respond when she asks a question.

We have got to understand, part of our role in loving the women that God has given us is to be on their team and cooperate with their, both, creativity and transitions.

And then, finally here, in her world. I love this. “She is clothed with strength and dignity.” Notice it doesn’t give the size of dress or if there are any logos. She is clothed with things you can’t see: strength, character, godliness, faith, wisdom, love, compassion. Things that no one can take away and no one can buy. Dignity – she is class.

“She laughs at the days to come,” – why? Because she trusts God. She has a sovereign God. She has developed a faith. She is a woman of the Word. “She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

The mouth always speaks from that which fills the heart. This is a woman that is godly. People want to know: “What do you think about this?” And, “Could we meet together?” And, “Could we get tea?” Or, “Could we get coffee?” And, “I’m having a struggle over here,” or, “one of my kids is going through this over here.” People are seeking her out.

“She watches over the affairs of her household and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness.” The application: focus on compliments on her inner character, not simply her external behavior.

In essence, God says her marriage, her work, and her world is a way better place because she is a woman who walks with God, who loves her husband, who runs her home, who works at appropriate times and the appropriate way, who ministers to people, and there is a woman who fears God. And notice her reward, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her.” Words of affirmation. “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Your wife or your mom needs to feel like that. “You surpass them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting.” It’s a shame, but it’s true. There is not enough cream or enough surgeries to keep us the way we want to look. “But a woman who fears God is to be praised.”

Command: “Give her the reward that she has earned,” more than just on one day, “and let her works bring praise at the city gates.” That’s where the action is in Hebrew culture. Private affirmation; public acknowledgment.

God would say, ladies, You are precious and you matter. And it is not based on how you look or what you accomplish. It will be based on who you really are, the kind of person, the kind of woman that is kind and loving and patient and selfless and holy and just.

In the end, our wives, our daughters, our mothers, our grandmas, and our sisters need to know that character is more important than curves; that integrity is more important than influence, likes, and Instagram; that purity is more important than popularity; that godliness is more important than glitter; and that commitment actually is more important than cosmetics; and that love, at the end of the day, will be way more important than looks.

God, the bombardment that these women receive and that our daughters receive is so overwhelming. Will You deliver them? And would You just allow them to grasp how deeply loved, precious, valuable they are, just for who You made them to be?

Would You help us to honor the women in our lives, to be sensitive, to help them be good to themselves, to support them, to praise them, to encourage them, and to love them the way You do? In Jesus’ name, amen.