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The women that I admire most—both now and throughout history—are women who have chosen to live their lives on purpose for Jesus Christ. They are women who build their lives around His priorities instead of frittering away their time on the meaningless distractions of the world.
Take, for instance, Corrie ten Boom, who traveled the world to share the Gospel—even into her old age. She refused to settle into retirement, even when her body began to break down. Even when people told her, “It’s time to take it easy—you deserve it!” she knew she had a commission from God. As she put it, “I refuse to spend the rest of my life in a pasture when there are so many fields to harvest. I hope to die in harness.”
Or Esther Ahn Kim, who, even when she was young and beautiful, exchanged a comfortable, pleasure-seeking lifestyle for prison, torture, and poverty in order to make a bold stand for the Gospel. At a crucial moment of decision, she declared, “I will not live my youthful life for myself; I will offer it to the Lord and bear witness of Him.”
It is my greatest desire to live my life on purpose for Jesus Christ, just as these remarkable women did. And yet, growing up amid one of the most selfish, shallow, temporal, pleasure-seeking generations in history, choosing to embrace purposeful femininity is easier said than done. Everywhere we turn, cultural messages encourage us to pursue trivial things instead of eternal ones; to spend our time, energy, and resources on our own pleasures instead of the glory of God.
Unless we make a conscious decision build our lives around the things that matter most to Him, we’ll find that our lives quickly begin to revolve around shopping, socializing, texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook, watching movies, perfecting our wardrobes, and other trivial pastimes.
One of the most powerful verses in Proverbs 31 says, “she . . . does not eat the bread of idleness” (31:27). Idleness is the polar opposite of purposeful femininity. Idleness is that relentless pull to waste our lives on shallow, trivial, selfish pursuits. The “bread of idleness” often seems appealing at first bite, convincing us that a pleasure-filled existence will bring satisfaction and fulfillment. But God has something very different to say about women who build their lives around temporal things: “She who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6).
Idleness baits us in a variety of ways. When we are young and single, the temptation to “eat the bread of idleness” may come in the form of idle chitchat, gossip, and meaningless cultural preoccupations. As we get older, it may come in the form of laziness and self-pity, baiting us with the message, “You’ve been working so hard serving other people; now you need to take a break and just focus on YOU!”
Eric and I had been in full-time ministry for several years when the bait of idleness began to call my name. Ministry life was quite demanding; we were constantly traveling, speaking, writing, and counseling. As an introvert, I often felt drained from these tasks. I knew that I should be turning to Christ to revive my spirit, but after a long day of ministry work, I found myself wanting to take a break from spiritual things. It sounded so much more inviting to settle down with a novel than to study my Bible. A movie-marathon seemed far more appealing than a time of prayer. Slowly, I began to allow trivial actives to consume the majority of my free time.
Instead of reading my Bible or inspiring Christian books, I often turned to shallow novels and magazines. Instead of cultivating meaningful relationships with others, I wasted hours surfing the Internet for the latest fashion trends and beauty tips. Instead of taking time for personal worship or Scripture meditations, I downloaded the latest music from iTunes. Though I was a Christian leader, I became more in tune with pop-culture than with the Word of God.
Without even realizing what had happened, I had exchanged an eternal focus for a temporal one. With my mouth, I proclaimed that the things of God were most important to me. But with my time and daily choices, I was placing much higher value on the things of the world.
My life began to feel empty and unsatisfying. I was living in pleasure, but I was slowly shriveling up from lack of true purpose.
Around that time I heard a true story about a pastor in a persecuted country who was thrown into solitary confinement for over a year because of his faith in Christ. Day after day, he crouched in a tiny cell with no light, no sound, and no human companionship. When he was finally released from prison, his body was weak, but his face was radiant and glowing. His Christian friends asked him, “How did you survive? What was it like?”
The frail pastor joyfully proclaimed, “It was like a dream come true. I was completely fulfilled in the presence of Jesus!”
Stop for a moment and imagine having all your pleasures and indulgences stripped away. No mall to shop at on the weekends. No coffee bars to make your favorite latte. No Facebook page to post on. No cell phone to text with. No Pinterest to browse. No Netflix or cable TV to entertain you. No gym membership to help you de-stress. No hair salons or spas to pamper you. No magazines or books to read. No chocolate desserts or whipped mocha frappuccinos to enjoy.
Imagine losing all contact with those you love. No opportunity to see your husband, or friends, or children, or even to hear their voices over the phone. Imagine being completely by yourself—twenty-four hours a day. Would Jesus be enough to satisfy you? That simple question changed my life.
Amy Carmichael, one of my spiritual heroes, made a decision at the age of seventeen to say, “Nothing will matter to me again except the things that are eternal.” I began to ask God for the strength to live according to that same creed.
With God’s help, I began to change my daily habits to align with eternal priorities. Eric and I exchanged our movie marathons for powerful times of prayer. Instead of mindlessly surfing the Internet during our spare time, we began studying Scripture and reading inspiring Christian biographies. We talked for hours about what God was doing in our hearts and what we were discovering in His Word.
Something amazing happened as I began to spend my time on Christ-centered activities instead of frivolous ones. Jesus became my All in all, not just in theory but in reality. My relationship with Him began to satisfy all my needs.
I experienced the words of Psalm 16:11: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” By seeking pleasure and fulfillment through pop-culture distractions, I had settled for temporary, short-lived satisfaction. But as I built my life and my time around the eternal instead of the temporal, I discovered joy and peace that was real and lasting.
My life has never been the same since.
It’s not that I’ve never watched a movie or read a novel since that season of shifting my priorities. But my approach is far different than it used to be. No longer do I find my fulfillment or identity in shallow pursuits. Rather, I have learned that true purpose comes only from a truly Christ-centered existence. Not just saying that He is my highest priority, but living as if He is.
My vision for the ministry of Set Apart Girl was inspired by a statement I read in Elisabeth Elliot’s biography about the life of Amy Carmichael. She wrote, “The preoccupations of young women—their looks, their clothes, their social life—don’t seem to change much from generation to generation. But in every generation there seem to be a few who make other choices.”
The bait toward idle, shallow, trivial living is present in every generation. But in every generation, there are those who are willing to rise above the mediocre norm and embrace the narrow way of the Cross, exchanging idleness for purposeful femininity. Idle femininity causes us to waste our lives on things that are meaningless in light of eternity. But purposeful femininity will change this world for the glory of God.
The most important step in embracing purposeful femininity is exchanging a temporal focus for an eternal one. Imagine if today was the day Jesus was coming back for His Bride. Imagine that within a few moments, you’ll be standing at the threshold of heaven. Will it matter how many Facebook friends you have or how many trendy outfits are hanging in your closet? Will the latest Hollywood blockbuster seem appealing? Will your fitness goals or career pursuits be relevant?
Jesus told a parable about ten virgins who waited for their bridegroom to come. Five of the women were wise and kept oil in their lamps. The other five became complacent and slothful, letting the oil in their lamps burn out. By the time the bridegroom came, they were not ready to meet him (see Matthew 25:12). Standing before the Judgment seat of Christ, we must all give an account for the way that we lived while here on this earth. Will we look back on our lives with shame and regret, or with fulfillment and triumph?
When our Bridegroom comes for us, will our lamps be burning brightly, or will our spiritual fires have been extinguished by worldly distractions and shallow living?
Jim Elliot gave the profound advice, “Live every day as if the Son of Man were at the door, and gear your thinking to the fleeting moment. Just how can it be redeemed? Walk as if the next step would carry you across the threshold of heaven.”
When we live each moment as if our next step would carry us across the threshold of heaven, it completely shifts our daily priorities. It’s not that we should never spend time enjoying the simple pleasures that God has blessed us with here on this earth—such as the beauty of nature or the fellowship of dear friends. But if pleasure is what we are living for, we are not living in light of eternity.
Contrary to what many women today believe, this life is not about us. We are not meant to spend our years pursuing our own personal satisfaction and happiness. We are here for the glory of God. We have been given a commission by the King of all kings to go into all the world, preach the Gospel to all nations, and walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. This will look different for each of us. Some of us are called to literally go across the world in order to proclaim the hope of Christ. Some are called to stay at home and pour out lives out for our families and neighbors. But no daughter of the King is called to live an idle, self-indulgent life built around trivial things.
The Great Commission is not a special call for a few select Christians. It is a sacred claim that our Lord has placed upon every person who is called by His Name. Our lives are not to be made up of social activities and cultural diversions. A close study of the Proverbs 31 woman reveals a beautifully purposeful existence - a life that is full of eternal priorities instead of temporal ones. It’s true that she spends some of her time on earthly activities, such as preparing food, making clothing, and buying and selling. But all of these tasks have a higher purpose. She does not do them for her own selfish pleasure, but to bless and serve the people God has put in her life, and to fulfill the high calling He has given her. Her life is overflowing with eternally-focused, purposeful activities such as reaching out to the poor, meeting others’ needs, and teaching about God’s ways.
As you go about your daily life, I encourage you to prayerfully examine the motives behind why you spend time doing the things that you do. When evaluating any activity, ask yourself these questions: Am I doing this for selfish reasons, or Christ-honoring ones? Is this activity frivolous, or does it serve a higher purpose?
Here are some ways you can tell whether something has eternal value:
It causes you to draw closer to Jesus Christ and/or learn more about Him.
It builds meaningful relationships with people God has put in your life.
It helps you bless others and assists you in sharing the love of Christ with them.
It helps you become better equipped for the things God has called you to.
It leaves you peacefully refreshed instead of agitated and distracted.
It bears “good fruit” instead of “bad fruit” in your life (see Galatians 5:19-26).
To evaluate whether your choices are serving God’s purposes for your life, it helps to write down the specific things that you know God has called you to, and then to compare your daily activities against those things. During this season of my life, I know that God has called me to cultivate my relationship with Him, serve my husband and children, be a keeper of my home, minister to the weak, and encourage women in biblical femininity. When I’m evaluating my activities, I look at each of my pastimes in light of whether they are assisting me in those priorities. Reading a book on how to bless and serve my husband? Yes! Spending an hour chatting on the phone while my kids run around the house? No! Emailing a friend who is in need of encouragement? Yes! Texting about trivial things throughout the day? No!
The Bible says that even the small areas of our lives, like eating and drinking, should be done for His glory and not our own selfish pleasure (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). When you allow your daily activities to serve God’s purposes for your life rather than your own, you will begin to gain an eternal focus in everything you do.
Another way that idleness often sneaks into our lives is through the words that we speak and write. 2 Timothy 2:16 says, “Shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” The term idle babbling means “empty discussion, discussion of vain and useless matters.” What a perfect description of much of our modern communication! Facebook comments, Twitter, Pinterest boards, and even blogs can often be breeding grounds for idle chatter, emotional ramblings, showing off of wit and personality, and exalting our own thoughts and opinions instead of God’s thoughts and opinions.
This kind of idle babbling is the opposite of the godly, fruitful, eternally-focused communication that marks a purposeful woman. Romans 14:19 says, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
The word "edify" means “to build someone up in their faith, to promote another person’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, and so on.” In other words, if you don’t have something important, edifying, and God-honoring to say, then don’t say it (or post it)! Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” With all of today’s modern technology, it’s so easy to say or write meaningless words without even thinking about it. But Jesus says we must weigh each word we say (and write) in light of eternity.
If you choose to blog, text, tweet, or post on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook, your goal should be to edify your readers, to build up others’ faith in Jesus Christ and encourage them spiritually through what you are sharing, or to bless your friends and family members and remind them of your love for them. If your online communications serve no eternal purpose, they become nothing more than time wasters and distractions, not only in your own life, but in the lives of those you are conversing with.
A great way to figure out whether the words you are speaking, posting, tweeting, blogging, or texting have eternal value is to ask the questions, “Do these words point people to Jesus Christ and reflect His nature? Do they serve any higher purpose other than to fill space and sound interesting? Do they honor God, or do they esteem the shallow things of this world?” If your words are hollow and meaningless, then it’s better not to say (or write) them at all.
If idle chatter has become an unhealthy pattern in your life, prayerfully consider taking a season away from all the outlets (blogs, social media, and so on) that seem to pull you into that habit. Use that time instead for prayer and worship, serving someone in need, encouraging people in your daily life, or reaching out to someone who is lonely. This habit might seem difficult to give up at first, but if you ask God for the grace to make this exchange, He will be faithful to give you the strength you need.
God has entrusted us with the precious gift of time. Twenty-four hours in every day, seven days in every week—each day significant, each hour important, and each moment of value to God. How many of those moments are being spent on things that matter in light of eternity? Only when we are willing to give God the best hours of our day—rather than whatever is left after we have wasted most of our time on trivial things—will we be able to triumphantly live the purposeful femininity He has called us to. May we wake each morning with the spirit of surrender in our hearts, and declare along with the old hymn:
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in endless praise.
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
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