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In Praise of Women (and Godly Living)

There are some women in history that I do not know by name, but they are heroines of mine because they have impressed upon my oft-impatient and vain soul the power of a quiet and godly life.

Charles Bridges said, “It cannot be doubted that our work has been greatly weakened by the dissociation of the Minister’s wife from the service of God.” That is certain. A pastor must have a wife that feels along with her husband the full weight of spiritual shepherding. She is indispensable, and happy is the man who has a wife who is a co-laborer for souls.

While this is unquestionably true, the women I wish to praise today, however, are the unknown and unseen women who are quietly serving God in obscurity, wondering if their godliness will have any more value than what they immediately discern in their souls. Women who are not as often in the public scene of ministry as their male counterparts may despair of effective usefulness for God, because we mistakenly believe that whatever is effective is immediately visible. Yet the contrary is true -– seemingly little services for God may bear fruit for centuries! How little do we know in this life what our usefulness really is, and if we do not pursue godliness we may forfeit the privilege of impacting the world for years to come. I would like to reassure you that your godliness matters. And it may be much more consequential than you ever dreamed.

History tells us that several women from the twelve founding members of the Puritan Free Church were discussing more than having babies and recipes when the village tinker overheard them. “Their talk,” says John Bunyan, “was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature. They talked how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil…. They spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said that they were to me as if they had found a new world.”

They were talking about God! These were lady theologians who knew what they believed and felt comfortable discussing deep truths! That piqued John Bunyan’s conscience, causing him to turn away from worldliness to find refuge in Christ. The rest of the story is well known: Bunyan’s literature is still having a powerful influence in the lives of believers today. His Pilgrim’s Progress was second only to the Bible in sales for centuries.

It was a godly woman who cooked in the school of Newmarket that turned the young Charles Haddon Spurgeon into the champion of Calvinistic theology that he became. It is a real delight to read about the godly and lively conversations that took place between the young boarder and the aged, female cook. “The first lessons I ever had in theology,” says Spurgeon in his autobiography, “were from an old cook in the school of Newmarket where I was an usher. She was a good old soul, and used to read ‘The Gospel Standard.’ She liked something very sweet indeed, good strong Calvinistic doctrine, but she lived strongly as well as fed strongly. Many a time we have gone over the covenant of grace together, and talked of the personal election of the saints, their union to Christ, their final perseverance, and what vital godliness meant; and I do believe that I learned more from her than I should have learned from six doctors of divinity of the sort we have nowadays.” Often,Spurgeon would refer to this saintly woman as one of the major influences in his life.

We do not know their names, but God does. He who gives attention to those who speak about Him and writes their conversations down in a book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16) certainly remembers those conversations and has put to their account the centuries of fruitfulness that have issued from the minds of the eavesdropping tinker and the inquisitive teen.

If they could hear me and cared to know my thoughts, I would say something like this:

Ladies, your godly fear will be remembered. You thought you were just a cook talking with a stout — and always hungry — young man, but you were God’s ambassador, filling his soul with the truths that he would declare until his dying day, bringing untold thousands into the Kingdom of God.

You thought you were insignificant members of a 12-member church, pastored by an insignificant man (John Gifford), but you were angels of mercy bringing the Word to the ears of a soul that would shake the world with the truths he first heard from your lips. Your rewards are great, and you lived all your lives never knowing about it. I pray God will make me learn from you the power of a godly life.

And to our ladies, I say:

You are indispensable to the life of our church and the future of our ministry. Most of the great women of God are the unheralded, not-yet-recognized heroines of the ministry of God. The promise remains true for the virtuous woman -– her children shall rise up and call her blessed. Perhaps one day generations will rise up and bless your memory for conversations you hold today. Perhaps you will meet in heaven scores of souls who were brought to the Kingdom by the little lips and ears that overheard your talk. So, be godly. Someone is listening!

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