Would a Proverbs 31 Woman Have Time for the Gym?

Would a Proverbs 31 woman have time to go to the gym?

If you’d posed that question several years ago, I’d have popped my headphones back into my ears and continued repping to my favorite worship music, or pounding the pavement to the lively voice of a good preacher. I certainly would not have wanted to answer you. I didn’t have a problem; I had a healthy addiction to being “healthy”.

I accepted Christ as the one true God and my personal savior at the age of seven. Since then, growing in a godly home, I was taught to aspire after the mysterious Proverbs 31 Woman. But through the tangled years of adolescence, a different god warped my thinking and I began to pursue the idols of beauty, strength and thinness, all the while professing the risen Christ and devoting (my spare time) to Him. Let me share the short list of what it cost, or almost cost me …

Finish reading this post at: Proverbs31Woman

Love–A Vain Pursuit?

“Write out 1 Corinthians 13 and insert your own name every time it says ‘love’.”

The instructions are scrawled across the top of a sheet of notebook paper in my journal. I don’t remember who gave them to me, but the point was obviously to impress upon me (and those in the Bible study or sermon with me) the stringent requirements of Christ-like love.

It’s disheartening isn’t it? Do you wonder what is the point of even trying?

For starters, I know that I haven’t always been patient or kind; I’ve certainly been selfish, and will be again. I’ve been rude before and looked out for my own interest. I’ve given up, refused to shoulder someone’s burden and I’ve felt hopeless. My guilt over failures to be perfectly loving is assuaged somewhat when I realize that every single human being out there is routinely unloving. We’ve all been on the receiving end, too, which then starts the vicious cycle of being easily angered or recording wrongs.

Face it, love is simply, humanly, impossible.

Now, before you assume that I’ve lowered the bar and I’m willing to walk away sighing, “Nobody’s perfect,” recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:48, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

We also know, from Philippians 4:13, that we can do all things through Christ. So, somehow, someway, this loving thing—in all of its nuances is possible.

I am sure that whoever gave me those instructions to replace the word, “love” with my own name, had the best of intentions. However, I think they were categorically wrong. My name, your name, doesn’t belong there. God’s does.

1 John 4:8 says, “ … God is love.”

Try rewriting the Love Chapter now:

“God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Your Father does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. God does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Now, not only do we have a more accurate rendering of this chapter, but we also have a clear view of how God’s grace really works, how on earth He could sacrifice His Son, why in the world He cared about humanity instead of just wiping out the whole, wretched lot of us. Now we know why He can say that all of our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. We see how Jesus stayed on the cross. We understand how Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, won every verbal spar with the religious rulers of His day.

It is His nature.

Love is not your nature. It is not my nature. That is why 1 Corinthians 13 is not a to do list for us. It is a list of God’s characteristics and His behavior toward us. Here is what we are supposed to do with love:

“Pursue love … “ 1 Corinthians 14:1

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:14

God does not command, nor expect us to conjure up loving behavior and attitudes. Rather, we are to pursue love—in other words, replacing the word love with God—pursue God. We are to clothe ourselves with Christ and with love. As we close in on love; when we are clothed in it and experience the warm, gentleness of God’s love soothing our own souls, we become miraculously able to display love as well.

We are indeed called to be perfect and to love, but not as our human selves—as our Heavenly Father. The closer we are to Him, like a natural child spending time with his parents, we assume His character.

How are you doing in your own efforts to love others? What might happen if you refocus your energy on pursuing God (love) rather than good behavior?

How to Know if God Likes You

lt used to be enough that God loves you. You remember those days, right after you internalized, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in might not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And it felt so good, so freeing. All of a sudden, you felt humility and self-worth bleeding together, overlapping. But it didn’t take long. A few sermons, a few calls to start serving, to do your part, to use your gifts, to fulfill your “calling”; a few failures, a few skipped Bible studies, angry outbursts or nasty thoughts and suddenly you aren’t so sure God likes you.

Sure, sure, He loves you. He promised to never leave you and you know all the verses about His lovingkindness that endures forever, but yeah, not so sure He’s really all that proud of you. His love is obligatory, kind of like a parent’s. But He’s not calling you His friend. You’re pretty nervous to imply that you and God are all that close. So you cringe a bit when it’s your turn to pray out loud. You pick up dime-a-dozen devos instead of the real Word of God. God loves you, He has to, right?

You’re not the first Christian to feel this way. That’s why most of us spout off, “We are saved by grace through faith and not by works”, but then try ever so hard to do just the right things. The pulpit preaches that Jesus paid the price and we cannot earn salvation, but then, once we’re saved we discover the checklist of all the things we ought to do to insure our salvation. Sound familiar?

But if it’s true that God’s gift of salvation is free, then how is it possible that the maintenance of the same is so expensive? And if security does not come at a cost, then how can we convince our hearts to rest in the truth that God not only loved us enough to save us, but that He likes us enough to stay present with us in all our failures, to endure our screw ups, to fellowship with us in our weaknesses, to invest His Holy Spirit in us, to speak to us, to comfort us, to assure us of our salvation?

The secret is much simpler than you might fear. It is gratitude. In the KJV, Hebrews 12:28 says, “Wherefore we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:”.

In the English Standard Version, it reads, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,”.

The word translated as “grateful” in the second version is the same as is translated “grace” in the the King James. A succinct definition of the Greek word is this: The spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace, the merciful influence of kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon our souls, turns them to Christ.*

In both translations, it is easy to see that the kingdom has already been received, therefore the readers (you and I) are assumed to have accepted Christ as our personal Savior. The next step is to worship the King of this kingdom with gratitude.

When we gather around the thanksgiving table each November, it’s common to pass our plates with the query, “What are you thankful for?”. This is the same principle we must apply to our worship: What do we worship for? What are we grateful for?

The difference between “love” and “like” is gratitude. The concept of love has the potential to remain nebulous, but when that love is expressed in terms of gratitude it takes on a gritty tangibleness. Thankfulness requires knowing someone, recognizing their contribution. Thanksgiving requires that we internalize God’s love and recognize Him as good.

The next time you are fearful that you’ve let God down and imagine Him standing over you saying, “I will always love you, but I’m so disappointed, I don’t like you very much right now,” pause to thank Him. Thank Him for the factual evidence of His love. In this thankfulness it will become apparent that He does indeed like you. His affection for you overflows the boundaries of unconditional love into the confidence that He treasures you, has secured you and that you have no need to impress Him.

* Lexicon and dictionary notes taken from Blueletterbible.org