5 Ways to be Consistent and Guard Against Legalism: Tracking the Proverbs 31 Woman Series 14

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:12-KJV)

 

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:12-NIV)

I would like to begin by reiterating what I mentioned at the beginning of this series; that the Proverbs 31 woman is a prototype; a model; a bar set for us in scripture that we can look up to, in trusting God to be the women He wants us to be.

The Proverbs 31 woman presents the standard God has set for us; a standard we look up to. She is therefore not meant to scare or intimidate us. She is there to help us focus on what matters to the heart of God for a woman, wife, and or mother.

The verse we are focusing on today is verse twelve. What comes to mind when I read this verse, is the one word loaded with virtue. This word is consistency. You’ll see why in a moment.

The Cambridge dictionary defines the word consistency as:

“The quality of always behaving or performing in a similar way or of always happening similarly.”

If I can behave similarly for some time about a character quality or an action, then I can deem myself consistent in that virtue or action.

Consistency and character go hand in hand. Consistency is at the core of character transformation.

One is described by a particular character depending on the consistency with which they keep portraying the virtue in question. For example, a person can be described as a patient because they have consistently been patient. Patience is now part of their character.

Consistency is an attribute you and I need to cultivate if we want to be women of noble character.

For a woman to bring a husband good and not harm; not one day, not two days, but all the days of her life takes consistency.

But how can consistency be achieved?

First of all, consistency takes conviction that is slowly but surely built into our lives as we remain in a relationship with our ever-consistent heavenly Father.

God is consistent. The Bible in Lamentations talks of God’s mercies that are new every morning. (Lam. 3:22-23)

The rhythms of the universe that God has set in place operate day in and day out without fail. He doesn’t stop the sun from shining on all people whether they are good or bad.

God keeps these rhythms going to create a conducive environment for us to propagate His purposes while living out our lives to the full.

We hence cannot talk about consistency without talking about certain rhythms and routines that undergird our consistency. We will however talk about these in our next blog post.

I want you to keep in mind that when we talk of rhythms and routines, we are not talking about a legalistic framework whereby we, others, or even the enemy of our souls will use to judge us and cause us to feel guilty because we are not meeting a certain standard.

Rhythms and routines help us to be consistent, granting as an avenue through which God can work in us to make us into the women, He wants us to be. We want to develop the godly character to the glory of God.

Any woman who wants to be consistent as God intends must guard against legalism.

According to the Oxford dictionary, legalism is excessive adherence to a law or formula.

Paul warns the Galatians against legalism, reminding them that it is for freedom that Christ has set them free. They are not to let themselves get burdened by a yoke of slavery. (Gal.5:1)

We want to trust that in seeking to be consistent, we will not get into a legalistic way of life whereby we are “glorifying” the rhythms and routines, imagining that in themselves, they are leading to our character being formed.

In that next blog post, we will talk about the 7 rhythms and routines of the noblewoman.

(Just in case you’d like more insight into the Proverbs 31 chapter, you can buy our  book based on this passage right here on Amazon.)

In today’s blog post, I want us to look at 5 ways we can guard against legalism and remain on the pathway of the grace of God.

  1. Focus on the end – who you are becoming.

When I get engaged in a routine or daily rhythm, I must focus on the purpose: where I am going and who I am becoming at the end of the process.

If I don’t focus on where I am going, I will tend to get swallowed up by these, or worse still get disillusioned as to why I am engaged in a given rhythm or routine.

One of my daily routines is having my devotion with the Lord.

Where am I going with this routine? I am growing in fellowship with God and His Son Jesus. Who am I becoming? God is working in me, making me into a woman of noble character, all for His glory.

This keeps me going. I, therefore, don’t do it as a legalistic practice or expectation. I am doing it because I can tell where I am going and who I am becoming.

I think of Jesus Christ, facing his imminent death on the cross. This is how the Hebrew writer put it:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb.12:2-3)

Jesus focused on what was coming. He was therefore able to endure, not by focusing on what he had to go through but on what would be fulfilled when he endured the cross.

  1. Make room for flexibility.

Legalism has a way of making us believe that the routine, rhythm, or discipline I am engaging in is the end in itself. I must therefore engage in it without fail or else I’ll not be righteous before God.

I will hence end up deifying the rhythm or discipline. I will even find that I am deriving my sense of worth before God and others from stringent adherence to these to be consistent.

We however know that when you and I are operating in the grace of God, this is far from the truth. The truth is that these routines and rhythms are what provide an enabling environment for me to be consistent. They must never be the end in and of themselves.

What if, for one reason or another, I am unable to engage in a particular routine or rhythm? What if my program is changing during a given season in my life?

I must learn the virtue of flexibility. Flexibility, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is being able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances.

We live in a fallen world. However much we try to keep to a routine and to rhythms that make our lives productive, we will always have interruptions in our well-structured programs.

We must therefore make room for circumstances we didn’t anticipate and trust God to work in or around them to make the most of our day.

Recently, my husband received an emergency call just before 4 am to take our mom to the hospital.

4 am is our time to wake up and to pray together before we read God’s Word separately. We value this rhythm of prayer together.

We made a brief prayer and he left. It was somewhat disorienting but flexibility helped us modify each of our mornings where we each were, making the most of it in our worship and service to God.

Some interruptions are necessary. They might be God-ordained.

For instance, I will often receive a guest I hadn’t planned at all to have. My structured nature often wants to resist this. As the guest is leaving, perhaps the next day, I more often than not see the hand of God behind that visit when I see myself and or the guest ministered to deeply.

Keeping a flexible mindset will help to guard against the guilt of not accomplishing the things you have set to accomplish when interruptions come or the resentment that comes because your program was interrupted.

  1. Have an accountability partner.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” (Eccl.4:9) says the Bible. Elsewhere, the Bible continues to say:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the another.” (Prov.27:17)

We need each other. We can never operate as lone rangers in the body of Christ. We are even exhorted not to neglect meeting together. (Heb.10:25)

It is the will of God that we have an accountability structure around us, by which we are helped to lead godly lives.

This is a structure by which we can be vulnerable before others, allowing them to speak into our lives, rebuke us, and help us remain on the path that God has ordained for us.

Out of this structure, I can even go further to trust God for one particular person, in our case a woman, who can help keep us accountable in doing the will of God.

Left to ourselves, now that we are human, we can find ourselves falling so short of what God wants us to do and explaining this away because of our weaknesses and sinful nature.

This is the person I am calling an accountability partner.

An accountability partner will help you to keep to the rhythms and routines that you have decided to abide by. They can even help you clarify whether what you are doing is practical or achievable. You can then make adjustments when required.

  1. Give yourself grace.

Many women, and especially those that tend to be structured, tend towards being hard on themselves. I know this only too well now that I thrive when I have a structure in which to operate.

Such women will often set a high standard for themselves with a set of goals that cannot be achieved in one day unless they are a ‘superwoman’.

Recently, my 12-year-old looked at my goals for the day and casually remarked, “Mum, are you sure you are going to finish doing all those things today?” I shamefacedly looked at my list of goals critically. God had just used her to rebuke me. You see, for several months, up until then, I was always setting goals and never fulfilling all of them.

I made the decision never to have more than 5 things to do on my to-do list. I would keep it at 3 in addition to my daily constants.

There is so much information out there on consistency. This can cause you and I to be hard on ourselves. Being hard on yourself fosters legalism and constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses.

God calls us to operate by his grace in our lives. Are you too tired today to accomplish what you set out to accomplish? Give yourself a break! Rest; unless of course, it depends on you to accomplish the task and others are involved or will be affected if you don’t finish the task.

Allow the grace of God to operate in your life so that you can do these routines and rhythms from a place of joy and rest. This will help you work and finish, having a sense of fulfillment in what you are doing.

  1. Be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

My reading of the scriptures concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life brings lots of anticipation to me when I consider what God wants to accomplish in me.

God wants to lead us by His Spirit to do His will. Being right in the will of God is the best antidote against legalism.

Consider the example I shared earlier of a guest coming over to our house when I least anticipated it. Nothing happens by chance with God. The coming of this guest is right in God’s will.

Legalism dictates I continue doing what I had planned to do and somehow occupy the guest. The Holy Spirit might just impress in my heart that it is God’s will that I engage the guest, choosing to be part of what God is doing in their lives. If I do the latter, I have guarded against legalism.

Some time back, I read Samuel’s story. I was excited to note how God was speaking to him. In 1Samuel 9:15, the Bible says that God spoke in Samuel’s ear. He got to know what God wanted him to do and he went ahead and did it.

In the new covenant, God has spoken to us through his Son Jesus Christ, who sent the Holy Spirit to us.

We have the opportunity as believers to be led by the Spirit of God. He speaks and leads, helping us remain within the will of God so that we operate by the grace of God and not by works, which are legalism.

When we depend on him, the Holy Spirit helps us to guard against legalism.

 

Consistency is key as you and I look to God to make us into the women He wants us to be.

Doing to a husband (and others) good and not evil all the days of one’s life takes the grace and hand of God as he works in us.

He will use the simple rhythms and routines that we have in place to bring this about. The Bible tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is at work in us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.

As he works in us, we begin to see our lives getting transformed. We begin to see others thrive around us because we are bringing them good, not evil.

The change may not be immediate. By and by it will surely happen; we will see it, as when my daughter tells me I am not as moody as I used to be.

God is doing it as we provide a conducive environment for this to happen through our rhythms and routines that we will talk about in our next blog post.

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