by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, February/March 2019~Volume 18, Number 6
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 23
What will you be remembered for after you breathe your last breath? It is a sobering and difficult question. Will it be your stylish clothing or your quick wit? Will it be your wall of accomplishments or your trophies of praise? Will it be your pile of possessions or your pretty hair? Probably it will be none of those things, but rather something related to who you are on the inside. But how does this inner character manifest itself outwardly in a life? We can't see inside and know what the heart and mind of a person is. Most often we see the inner workings of the heart by the outer workings of the hands and mouth. Yes, it is often your good works that show your good heart—a heart made good by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Ruth, Tabitha, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Lydia, Sara, and Phebe were all known for their good works. In fact good works can be used of God in a great way. Besides giving you true, enduring beauty, your good works also give God glory. What a high privilege and joy, and yet there is more too that God speaks regarding good works. Come, let us find the path the Virtuous Woman walked before us as God speaks to us the truth about the purpose and plan He has for our lives, for our works are writing our epitaph.
The Virtuous Woman's life was filled with good works done with meekness and wisdom and this has distinguished her for all time as someone wise and knowledgeable (James 3:13). Her memory lives on as Scripture paints the picture of her good works in Proverbs 31.
She worked willingly with her hands, fueled by a thinking mind and a God-fearing heart, which her husband could always trust. She rose early to feed her household and stayed up late to work. Spinning, weaving, and making fine linen of the utmost quality, she confidently sold her wares and ran a profitable business. Beautiful tapestries were her handiwork and strength and honor were her clothing, along with wonderful silk and purple garments. She stretched out her hands to the poor and needy while still looking well to the needs of her household, clothing them snugly in scarlet. She was a saver, a thinker, and an investor, considering and buying a field with the fruit of her hands. Speaking wisdom in kindness, she was a crown to her husband, and he and their children knew it. He praised her and we do too. But how did this woman become who she is? Where did her good works originate?
The fear of the Lord which was planted in the heart of the Virtuous Woman, causing her to garner praise, did not remain dormant, nor did it remain unfruitful. This seed—the fear of the Lord birthed by faith—germinated and sprouted and grew into a beautiful, prolific person who bore much fruit, many good works. Her secret and her story were true faith that works! And let us not jump straight into the good works, before we see the solid foundation upon which they grew.
The Virtuous Woman's life was a prolific plant filled with good works. But the works were not the seed—not the foundation. They were the fruit; the seed was faith. This faith, which was by grace, grew in her and the Spirit bore fruit through her. Good words can't earn salvation, but rather follow salvation. Faith alone in Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation. After having faith, she was grown and pruned by God, the Husbandman and the Author and Finisher of her faith. The seed of faith blossomed and many good works in her life were seen as a result of the work of the Spirit. The works never made her holy. They never made her loved more by God. They never were something for her to glory in. But they profited her because they flowed out of the right Spirit. They indeed were fruits born of the Spirit. These always profit. Good works do have value, if grown out a humble, God-fearing heart of love, working unto God, for the glory of God. Works birthed of any other spirit—for personal merit or to procure God's favor or men's praise or to attain righteousness, forgiveness, salvation, or justification—are a stench (Philippians 3). Never work for what you can never attain through works. It is a supreme insult to Him who worked once on your behalf and finished the work, offering it to you freely by grace.
Some even today peddle the age-old fable of working to help earn salvation. Salvation was earned by the blood of the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Salvation is granted to us by faith. But what is the true story about good works?
God admonishes us as believers to be careful to maintain good works, that we be not unfruitful (Titus 3:8, 14). Additionally, God has created us for this very thing and will lead us into these good works. We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). God already has prepared good works for us to do. How comforting to understand that the Potter who created and forms us has foreordained a purpose for us as well. (Stay on the Potter's wheel!)
One may wonder then how to prepare ourselves to be ready for this purpose, these good works, God calls us to. The wonderful thing is that God not only prepares the works for us, He also prepares us for the works! We are indeed prepared and furnished to do all good works by the Word of God—the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17)—and by the Holy Spirit. God didn't leave us without an owner's manual, but the Owner Himself inspired and breathed into existence the Scripture for our profit, to perfect, mature, prepare, and fully equip us for His work. (Stay in the Book!) He also didn't leave us without a guide, but gave us the Holy Spirit Himself to lead us into all truth (Joh. 16:13). Hence we have a teacher, comforter, guide, an intercessor to help us in prayer, and One Who faithfully reminds us of the Word that is ever present, living inside us (Joh. 14:26, Rom. 8:26-27, Joh. 14:16-17). (Walk in the Spirit!) God indeed has prepared the work and the workman! But we must abide in the Word and in the True Vine. Knowing God will lead us into His work, we labor to do good and be “rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18). God's plan includes our lives touching others as well.
We are told to consider one another and provoke other Christians to love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24). Sadly, often it can be a Christian friend who provokes his brother to sin instead of to good works. Sometimes we excite others to things that aren't necessarily sinful, but not the good works God has in mind. I remember when I was a child and my younger brother and I would play with our cousins. One cousin always got my brother to do dangerous, rather foolish stunts—jumping off a fence and doing a flip on the way down was one. Soon there had to be more oversight and limitations in their play because whenever my cousin got an idea, my brother would to do it. I fell prey once too, and I recall landing myself in the ER for stitches after landing on my chin while attempting a super steep jump on my bike, with the same cousin pioneering it all. We all had to grow in wisdom and discernment. (I will say here that the aforementioned cousin did go on to become the human cannonball in Barnum and Bailey's Circus and now works filming while skydiving. My brother, however, became a pastor.) God will lead us into His way, but we must take seriously our words of counsel and make sure our ideas and even advice to others is from the Lord, exciting them to his good works!
God can also use our honest conduct and works, which people see, for great purposes. Our well doing, which includes obedience to the law of the land and government, can be used to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15). Perhaps the highest purpose of our works is bringing glory to God. A Christian's good works can cause someone who is at first speaking evil of them, to later glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12). Jesus told how our works can cause others to glorify God as well. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Good works make you radiate the light of Christ within you, which is quite becoming, and they actually bring God glory.
Would you like a real beauty secret? Women can make themselves beautiful with good works! Rather than jewelry, fancy clothing, or great hairstyles, women are told to adorn themselves with good works (1 Timothy 2:10). Peter echos this, revealing the true adorning of a wife is not the outward adorning, but the hidden man of the heart, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (I Peter 3:4). This inward spirit is quite beautiful and it is manifested outwardly. Sara, who was known for her physical beauty, also possessed this inward beauty, her good works toward her husband exhibiting such, even respectfully calling him “lord” (1 Peter 3:5-6). We are called her daughters if we likewise do well without fear. Good works wear well on you and will beautify you better than the best beauty tips out there!
Good works can be used mightily by God in other ways. Tabitha, a disciple at Joppa, was said to be “full of good works” and acts of kindness toward the poor and was known for the many coats and garments she made for others. God used her life to draw many to believe when Peter raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36-42). A wife's submission to her husband can avail much too. The good works of a wife—her pure, respectful, God-fearing behavior—may win her husband (1 Peter 3:1-2).
Understanding Jesus' work for us will compel us to good works. Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify unto himself a peculiar people. These peculiar people are said to be “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). The seed of faith produces the growth of works. In fact, faith without works is dead (James 2:20).
It is important to remember that God works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. He is active in our lives. He brings the works into our sphere. At times He may move us or call us to a distant land to do his work, but most often, our work lies right under our nose. The Virtuous Woman didn't pack up and head to the mission field. She didn't cross land and sea. Her calling—her work—was to serve the Lord in the sphere she operated in each day. She glorified God as a God-fearing, trustworthy wife, a conscientious mother, an artisan, a business woman, an agriculturist, a textile merchant, a culinary creator, a manager, a philanthropist, and much more, but for her the home was the hub of her work.
We may be called by God to go to ends of the earth one day to serve Him, but today it is imperative to look right around you for the work God has for you to do. If we actually believe that God Himself ordained good works for us to walk in, then we must also realize that one job is not more important than another. If He asks us to do some seemingly small thing for Him and we don't joyfully surrender, thinking it almost beneath us and our ability, why would He ever ask more? Also, if His will for us is something we don't think is super significant, are we in the place of God to judge what is of value or not? We must trust our Creator, knowing His plan is always the best.
(We may concede that God indeed prepares the works and also prepares us to do them, but then we may begin to doubt our ability to find them....to know them....to recognize His will. In fact, this is common. But are we so presumptuous to believe that God is not able to lead us? We think that we are doubting ourselves, but in reality, we are doubting God. We are not really doubting our ability to follow, though we say so, but rather His ability to lead—to make His will known to us. Is He Who spoke the world into existence, and holds the hearts of kings in His hand and turns them where He will, Who works all things for good to them that love Him, sustains creation, is all-powerful, all-knowing, all -present, eternal….Is He unable to cause you to walk into His ways? Can the Good Shepherd not lead His sheep? This is most ridiculous. He can lead you and I, and will lead us into the purpose and plans He has for us if that is our heart's desire.)
We must wait on the Lord and trust and obey and serve with love in the big and small things. We can rejoice and give thanks and walk into the good works He has prepared us for and prepared for us, exercising trust and a true faith that works, for such does a Virtuous Woman.
As we come to the end of our study and reflection on the Proverbs 31 woman, I encourage you and I to let our epitaph become the epitaph of a Virtuous Woman—Faith that Works.
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