Dear radio friends,
Our program today bears testimony to the great blessing of God to the church and to His cause in believing women.
When you, as believing women, walk in spiritual fellowship with each other; when, in the words of Ephesians 4:1, you walk worthy of the vocation (or the calling) wherein you are called as believing women—then your heavenly Father delights in you. Not only that, but when you walk worthy of your calling as a believing woman, you receive yourself one hundredfold now in this time, and in the world to come, everlasting life, in the words of Jesus (Mark 10:29). And still more, when you, as a believing woman walk in spiritual love and fellowship with other believing women, you enrich the church of Jesus Christ.
Today I would like to talk to you and with you, not so much of the smile of God that will be yours when you walk in love as the sisters of Christ, and not so much about the personal good that you will receive from such a walk of love, but about how walking worthy as a believing woman in fellowship with each other enriches the church.
There is a saying: “Behind every good man is a good woman.” So also behind every church where there is an atmosphere in which the Word of God is received, where the truth is heard, and where godly lives, especially the lives of children, are nurtured—behind such a church is a group of believing women walking worthy in their fellowship with each other.
Behind every church where God is honored in His Word and where there is an atmosphere of spiritual, vibrant life is a group of women—married, single, widows, old and young—who are knit together in the Lord Jesus Christ and who are serving the church with their feminine gifts.
What do I mean by the “fellowship of Christian women,” or “the community of Christian women”? Well, I would have you think of that in a series of expanding circles—the first circle beginning in the home between mother and daughter, and then expanding to the church with fellow women and believers, and then to the school, and finally out to the community.
The glue of the fellowship of Christian women is not the glue of common location or interest. It is not simply the desire to do something or to be involved. It is not to be equated to Meals-on-Wheels or Welcome Wagon or the Daughters of the Confederacy. Then, you would ask, “Well, should I join? When do I leave this fellowship? What am I getting out of this fellowship?” But the community of Christian women of which I speak is God’s grace placing you in Christ and joining you, therefore, to one another in Christ. It is a fellowship that is not the product of your brain, it is not your brainchild, but it is something that God has done and that you seek to reflect.
It is covenant. But it is embracing the covenant in your heart. It is not isolationism. It is not the statement in your heart saying, “I’m not needed; I’m not important; I’m single; I’m childless. I have nothing in common. I have more in common with the girls at the office.” But it is to embrace the covenant, the fellowship of God, and the fellowship of each other.
We read in Psalm 68:6, that God setteth the solitary in families—orphans, aliens, strangers, outcasts, lonely. In the covenant God calls you daughters, friends, brethren, sisters. You are no more aliens, strangers, says the apostle, but you are one in Christ, the fellowship of Christian women.
In that fellowship of Christian women you fight and overcome the feeling of rejection, inferiority, envy. You bear burdens. You help solve problems. You cherish. You encourage. You use hospitality. You attend Bible studies. If the Spirit of Christ is in you, you will have fellowship with God, and you will find joy in having fellowship with your sisters in Jesus Christ. You will say with the psalmist in Psalm 16: “I love thy saints who fear thy name and walk as in thy sight.”
It is very striking how believing women, in Scripture, walk in fellowship and how that fellowship is woven through the whole Bible. We read in Exodus 38:8 of the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. Moses, in that chapter, gave instructions to the Levites concerning the altar and laver of brass that would become an integral part of the worship of God in the Tabernacle. We read that women gathered there, literally, drawn as troops—not because Moses commanded them, but because these women saw that there was going to be a need for help in cleaning and all the rest. They simply came because the love of God and the love of His worship in the Tabernacle was in their heart. They were not told. They saw a need and they came. They came out of the devotion of their hearts.
We read in Judges 21:21 of the daughters of Shiloh when the Tabernacle in the days of the judges was pitched at Shiloh. A group of young girls would celebrate God’s goodness and praise God and express joy in God. They would come and they would assemble at the Tabernacle.
We read, further, in Judges 11, of the daughters of Israel who went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year—Jephthah, who had vowed that his daughter would be devoted to the service of the Lord. Jephthah’s daughter honored her father’s vow and lived a single life of devotion to God. And in her distress, her sisters (the daughters of Israel) would come and visit her and bear her burdens.
And then…in the New Testament. There is, of course, the group of women who followed the Lord Jesus. You may read Luke 8:1-3 and Matthew 27:55 —women who had personally experienced His saving mercy; women who ministered to Him, we read, “out of their own substance”; women who stood through the whole ordeal of Calvary; women who were the first to the tomb and the first to hear the good news.
Then we read in Acts 16:13 of a women’s prayer group, of which Lydia was a part. And Lydia became the first convert in Europe.
And then we read of a group of women who served as aids to the apostle Paul (Phil. 4:2): “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche…and with other my fellow-labourers…help those women which labored with me.” Think also of Dorcas, Lois, Eunice, Tryphena, Julia, Priscilla.
Again, in all of these examples, we read of no command to organize. We read of no office. They did not occupy office of priest or king, elder or deacons. They were not there to duplicate men. But they were there because God had made them women. They had come with womanly gifts, unobserved. They had come because they would serve and use the gifts that God had given to women.
We read in Genesis 2:18, “I will make him an help meet for him”—a reference to Eve, the first woman. God’s design in making a woman went beyond Adam. It went for His church, to be a help. The word “help” or “helper” is not a reference in the Bible to a second-class citizen. God Himself calls Himself “Helper”: “Our help is in the name of the Lord.” He “helped us in our deepest woes. His grace abideth ever.” “Unless the Lord had been my help,” says the psalmist. As a Helper, God is the One who comes, out of compassion, to our aid. God has helped us. God took notice. God took initiative. God did something. God did not wait for us to ask. God alleviated because He saw our misery and our woe. God knew us in sorrow and bore us up. God drew near when we were bitter and rebellious. God took pity. God took of His own substance to aid us miserable sinners. God is our Helper now. By a divine design, He has made women especially, in the church, to be helpers.
This touches the believing woman in a feminine way, according to the design of a woman. God made you a woman. He made you His daughter. He gave to each one of you strengths and gifts, opportunities, families, whether you are single, a widow, childless, or bereft. He placed you in the body of His Son, the church, so that the church might become a home. That there might be, in the church, compassion and thoughtfulness.
Did God hand you a list of things to do in the church? No. Men need a list—as you say to your husband, “Honey, here’s your ‘to-do’ list.” Likewise, in the Scriptures, men, called to offices, are given lists of things to do. But to women, God works through the womanly gift to foster fellowship. Did anyone tell the women to go to the grave on that Resurrection morning? Did anyone tell the women to go up to the Tabernacle to polish the brass? These were the womanly gifts, the grace of God working in them as women—the abilities of organization, the abilities of warmth (a woman brings warmth to the home). The woman makes the church a home.
Men preach. Elders rule. Deacons dispense. Husbands lead. But a woman helps! A woman brings warmth.
The community of Christian women within the church is intended to come to the aid of the church in her need and the members in their need and to strengthen faith.
Let me use an example. Although it is an example of two men, it is applicable also to believing women. The example is of Jonathan and David. In I Samuel 23:16-18 we read that Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the wood and strengthened David’s hand in God—that is, he helped David get a grip on faith in God. David was in need. He was being hunted by Jonathan’s father, Saul. Jonathan had made a conscious effort to find David and to strengthen his hand in God. We see Jonathan walking through bushes and going through the woods trying to find David, who was hiding, to remind David of the promises of his God. When David had come to a low point and could not see those promises, Jonathan told him of the reality of God’s promises. God has ordained that we be related to each other in such a way that we can help each other fight the fight of faith day in and day out.
So women of the church are called to develop the kind of Christian friendship in which you hold fast to the promises of God and you escape the deceitfulnesses of sin. Are you part of such a cluster of women in your church—a Bible study or a prayer group, friends, singles who hold the same faith and life of Christ as do you? This is to be spiritual fellowship of believing women.
There is nothing spiritual, you understand, in the gathering of groups. There is nothing spiritual about talking to a sister in crisis. Not in itself. There is nothing spiritual about sharing burdens. There is nothing spiritual in itself in discussing common interests or in providing, as they say, affirmation. None of these things, in themselves, are spiritual. Such things as coming to the aid of one in crisis, of trying to share a burden, of trying to provide affirmation—such things happen all the time in your city, in bars where Christ’s name is derided, or on the phone where people “unload” or share their bitterness and resentment and talk. And it could very well be possible for groups to be in the church of Jesus Christ that have no spiritual atmosphere—groups where God’s Word, prayer, and spiritual things are considered an intrusion. They make people feel awkward. The group simply fills up the air with talk.
What makes it worthy of the calling of Christian women is that their groups of fellowship are based on the love of God, on trust in God, on obedience to God, on delight in God, on reverence to God. The more you delight in God, the more you shall delight in each other. We read in Psalm 16:2, 3, “O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.” Thou art my Lord, and therefore I express that in delight with the saints.
These groups of fellowship, then, are not meddling or destructive, fostering prejudices and resentments and gripes. But the groups will instill hope, defuse bitterness, restore confidence, and pray for peaceful submission.
Women are given an ability to cultivate fellowship in the church, to cultivate in the church a sense of family. Any widower knows exactly what I mean. And any man with an ounce of sense in his head knows exactly what I mean.
I want to encourage all women today (not just mothers), women of all ages, and in every situation, to be active as a woman, as a married woman, as a single woman, caring, observing, and quietly helping in the church of Jesus Christ and ministering to the members of the church out of their own substance. Welcome people into your home. Send cards. Attend baby showers—even if you do not know the person or do not have children yourself. Sit next to a lonely woman in the church. Does your church feel like a home? What are you doing to create a sense of family and love for each other?
The question to be asked in the fellowship of the church is not: “What am I getting out of this?” but: “How can I benefit the lives of others in my church with the grace and mercy of God so tenderly given to me?”
It is through the lives of Christian women (married, single, and of every age) that the church takes on an atmosphere of spiritual vibrancy, a sweet smell, we may say, in the nostrils of God. Strive that the atmosphere of your church be one in which the Word of God is heard, where truth is imbibed, where there is a nurturing in the Word of God. But this shall be traced to your heart. A stony, hard heart does not become you as a daughter of God. A selfish attitude, a self-absorbed approach, does not become you.
But compassion, and thoughtfulness, these are the graces of the Christian woman. What is it that clogs the flowing of compassion and thoughtfulness? Envy, jealousy, bitterness, distrust. And lack of confidence in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This is a profound commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. “What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits toward me,” asks the psalmist in Psalm 116. What shall you render? Once again, for a woman in the church, there is not a list that is given to direct and to guide. But there is the grace of God using the womanly, divine gifts. It is a potluck, a nursery schedule, a meal to the sick, a meal to a new mother, a visit to the nursing home, the invitation of a widow or a single to your family dinner, the sending of a note of encouragement, the visiting of the sorrowful, the taking of the time simply to help—these are sacred things.
You might say, “Well, yes, but the secular world does much the same.” But it is not the same. They come with the milk of human kindness. You come from a bloody cross. They come moved by human sympathy. You come moved out the eternal depths of the love of God in Jesus Christ.
If the church of which you are a member changes, and slowly there is not much fellowship or not much life; if the church of which you are a member seems to have no sense of family and no time for fellowship and no involvement with each other, then the reason for this is not because you and I are living in this world of the “me” generation, and because the fads and the influences of the world have overtaken the church and now the infection of self-absorption has come into the church. That is not the reason. It is because of a failure of faith. It is because our hearts are estranged from God. What is needed is men and women, ordinary men and ordinary women, who desire to live lives of faith and humility before God—a faith that sees the hard work (unnoticed tasks) as sacred. Because He said: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of these the least of My brethren, you have done it unto Me.”
May God grant you as a believing woman today, and always, strength and grace and joy to walk worthy of your calling in the ministry of the saints of God through your feminine gifts, so that your church (no, God’s church) may be a home for weary sinners, for the sorrowful, for the lonely, and for the stranger—so that God may be glorified in the church.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the precious Word. We thank Thee for the gift of women, of mothers, sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their sacred task. Encourage us today and bless us through Jesus Christ our Savior. In His name we pray, Amen.