The World-Changing Power of Christ-Centered FemininitY
By LESLIE LUDY
The stillness of the African night was shattered by a piercing scream. Fair-skinned, red-haired Mary Slessor hurried out of her hut, a concerned look on her face. As she stood listening, she heard the sound of yelling and drumming growing steadily louder in the distance. Mary began walking briskly toward the village center, a feeling of dread overtaking her as she drew closer to the commotion. Nearly the entire tribe had gathered together. They were standing in a circle, whipped into a chaotic frenzy — laughing, jeering, and chanting. Mary’s heart beat faster as she quickly pushed her way to the front of the crowd. She saw a young woman lying on the ground, screaming in terror, her hands and feet bound to a stake. A huge pot of boiling oil sat next to her and a wildly dressed warrior was dancing around it. Suddenly Mary knew what was about to happen. The young woman was going to have scalding oil poured over her body — most likely for violating one of the tribe’s rules or customs.
In an instant, Mary ran into the middle of the circle and stood resolutely between the warrior and the young woman. The drumming stopped abruptly and a hush fell over the crowd. Every eye was fixed on the fiery redhead who was daring to interfere in their tribal justice. Mary glared at the warrior, who was poised and ready with a ladle of hot oil in his hand. For a moment, he looked confused. Then, as he realized that Mary was defying him, he let out a loud war cry and began dancing menacingly around her. Praying for courage, Mary stood her ground even as the warrior came closer and closer to her, the hot oil swishing in his ladle.
There was no sound except for the shuffling of the warrior’s feet as he danced his way toward Mary. Eventually he came so close to Mary that the two were standing face to face, only inches apart. The villagers watched the scene with intense curiosity. Would the warrior attack Mary with the boiling oil, or would he back away? No one had ever seen a fierce tribal warrior back down. But then, no one had ever dared to stand up to a strong warrior as Mary was doing now.
The warrior glared at Mary, and Mary stared right back at him, unflinching. Several seconds passed as a tense silence hung over the crowd. Suddenly, with a cry of disgust, the warrior threw the ladle aside and walked away in a huff.
The crowd was bewildered and confused. Mary had boldly challenged one of their toughest warriors — and won. Never had they seen such audacious courage. She had not backed away from danger. Rather, she had run toward danger, fearlessly faced a horrific threat, and emerged as the victor. What kind of power, they wondered, could enable this woman to demonstrate such valor and hold such sway over the strongest among them?
It was a warm afternoon in the village of Yangcheng, China. Petite, dark-haired Gladys Aylward listened with dismay as the men’s prison warden told her that there was a violent riot taking place at the prison. “The men are killing each other!” he said in a desperate voice. “You must go in and stop them!”
Gladys gasped. “Why me?” she sputtered in disbelief.
“You are always telling us how powerful your God is,” the warden replied. “Is He or is He not?”
Gladys took a deep breath. “He is,” she said with renewed confidence, “I will go in.” As she stepped into the courtyard of the prison, she declared, “Only through the help of Jesus will I prevail, for the Bible says that ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’”
As Gladys entered the prison, she saw dozens of men savagely clubbing and beating each other. Many prisoners had already collapsed to the ground, injured or dying. In the center of the chaos stood a man with a large knife poised above his head. Boldly, Gladys walked straight towards him. “Stop!” she commanded in a loud voice. “Put that down!”
The man looked at her in surprise. Just who was this tiny woman with the audacity to march straight into the midst of a violent, bloody riot? Even the armed guards were afraid to come near the fighting prisoners. Yet Gladys showed no fear or hesitation as she stood in the midst of the mayhem, looking the hate-crazed man straight in the eye. The man held the knife threateningly for a few seconds, then suddenly dropped it to the ground with a thud. The other men froze in surprise at the scene. The fighting stopped as all eyes turned toward Gladys and a hushed silence fell over the room.
“Put down your weapons!” Gladys ordered the men. “Form into ranks! Then, you can tell me what this is all about.”
When Gladys exited the courtyard a short time later, the warden and guards were astonished to learn that the prisoners were all sitting quietly in rows. Gladys told the warden that the riot had been caused by the men’s miserable conditions. She insisted that the half-starved prisoners needed better food, warmer clothes, and something productive to occupy their time.
Singlehandedly, Gladys transformed the men’s prison from a place of misery and despair into a place of hope and dignity. The authorities at the prison, and even the governor of Yangcheng, were mystified. What kind of power could enable a lone woman to walk fearlessly into a den of terror and transform it into a place of peace?
The Secret of Our Spiritual Heroes
It’s easy to be impressed and even inspired by these amazing stories from Christian history. But most of us don’t actually believe that we could ever accomplish the same kinds of daring feats that these women did. We usually think, “I’m glad I’ll never be in that situation!” or “Good for her, but I could never do that!”
But what if God wanted to infuse us with the very same bravehearted spirit that marked women like Mary Slessor and Gladys Aylward?
I’ve heard some modern Christians dismiss the mighty exploits of the great missionaries by declaring that they were “special Christians” who only come along once or twice in every generation. Others say that their incredible stories have been exaggerated. But when I look at the pattern of Scripture, I disagree. Edward Meyrick Goulburn said it well with his compelling statement: “The greatest Old or New Testament saints were on a level that is quite within our reach. The same spiritual power that enabled them to become our spiritual heroes, is also available to us.”
James 5:17 tells us, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.” And Hebrews 6:12 says, “…do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
All throughout the Bible, we are reminded that the very same power that enabled our spiritual heroes to accomplish their mighty feats is also available to us. Not only that, but God specifically goes out of His way to make it clear that this conquering, bravehearted spirit is not only an important quality of godly masculinity, but a key component of godly femininity as well.
In previous articles, I’ve written about the amazing valor of the Proverbs 31 woman. The chief characteristic that marks her life is strength. Early in my Christian walk, I used to read the opening statement “Who can find a virtuous woman?” and picture a somber, mousy woman quietly sewing in a corner. Yet the Proverbs 31 woman is nothing of the kind. The word “virtuous” literally means “valiant, mighty, and strong.” It is the very same word used to describe King David’s might when he wrestled the bear and lion, conquered Goliath, and slew tens of thousands of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Wow.
God desires to equip us with a super-human strength and valiance to face impossible odds and win, just as He gave Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, and thousands of other great believers throughout the centuries. But it is important to realize that this bravehearted spirit is absolutely impossible to gain by sheer determination or willpower. So many Christian women have become sarcastic toward the high standard presented in Proverbs 31, saying, “If a woman actually tried to live that way, she’d only end up burned-out and exhausted!” But God has not called us to muster up the strength to live this “impossible life” on our own. If we try, we certainly will fall apart.
Becoming a bravehearted woman does not come through striving, but through surrender. Only when we lay down our own agenda at the foot of the Cross and yield to the supernatural enabling grace of God can we live out the high calling He has placed upon our lives. That is the secret of every true Christian hero. It is not a complicated formula or an exhausting list of rules to follow. It comes from a passionate devotion to the one true King, and a mighty faith in a mighty God.
IT COMES FROM A PASSIONATE DEVOTION TO THE ONE TRUE KING, AND A MIGHTY FAITH IN A MIGHTY GOD.
You may not be personally called to stop a bloody prison riot or stand up to a savage African warrior with a ladle of boiling oil. But as a daughter of the King, you are called to fight and win epic battles for the Kingdom of God. Your Christian life is not meant to be a meandering journey of mediocrity and selfish pursuits. Rather, it is meant to be an amazing daily adventure that showcases the glory of King Jesus.
No matter where you live or what your circumstances; no matter how unexciting or insignificant your life may seem right now, you are called to be a bravehearted woman.
If you are ready to respond to this sacred call, here are three key principles to build upon:
Bravehearted Secret #1
Sprint Toward the Battle
Goliath was the most intimidating warrior Israel had ever encountered. He was a towering giant of fierceness; a ruthless beast who had been built into a killing machine from his childhood. Every soldier in Saul’s army was utterly terrified of him. Not even the biggest or bravest Israelite was willing to take him on. Instead, they remained trembling behind their battle line, their hearts failing them with fear.
David, who was so young and seemingly inexperienced that he hadn’t even been invited to the battle, came to deliver food to his brothers. He took one look at the situation and became indignant. Who was this uncircumcised Philistine that he would dare to blaspheme the armies of the Living God? Instantly, David knew what he must do. Going to King Saul, he confidently declared, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37).
When Saul reluctantly agreed to let David fight Goliath, David wasted no time. He quickly selected five smooth stones from a nearby brook and prepared his slingshot. The moment he saw Goliath stand up and come toward him, he did something truly extraordinary. Instead of hesitating, shrinking back, or second-guessing his decision to fight, he did the opposite. The Bible says that David “hurried and ran … to meet the Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:48, emphasis added). Stop and think about that for a moment. David eagerly ran toward the object of greatest threat and danger. A detailed study of the phrase “hurried and ran” in this context reveals a powerful word picture that means “to sprint with liquid ferocity.”
Imagine approaching each challenge of our lives as David approached Goliath. To sprint toward the battle with liquid ferocity. No hesitation. No cowardice. No self-protection. Only the unflinching resolve to fight for God’s glory, no matter the cost.
David ran to meet Goliath. Mary Slessor rushed toward the savage warrior with the boiling oil. Gladys Aylward marched straight up to the angry man holding a deadly knife.
They sprinted toward the battle. They ran toward difficulty instead of shrinking away from it. They did this not because they had confidence in themselves, but because they had an unshakable confidence in their undefeatable God.
THEY HAD AN UNSHAKABLE CONFIDENCE IN THEIR UNDEFEATABLE GOD.
Incredibly, Proverbs 31 makes it clear that this other-worldly valiance is not meant for only a handful of exceptional heroes throughout history — rather, it is meant to be the chief quality of every woman who belongs to the one true King.
Our natural instinct is to run and hide from difficulty. We easily forget that God intends us to be spiritually offensive, not defensive. He has not called us to cower in a corner of fear and self-protection. Rather, He desires us to boldly go where others fear to go, “out of weakness [to be made] strong, [become] valiant in battle, and to turn to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:34).
It may sound like an impossible calling — but we must always remember that what God calls us to, He equips us for. It wasn’t David who defeated Goliath. It wasn’t Mary Slessor who caused the warrior to back down. And it wasn’t Gladys Aylward who made the prisoners stop rioting. It was our mighty God who is altogether faithful and triumphant in every circumstance.
WE MUST ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT WHAT GOD CALLS US TO, HE EQUIPS US FOR.
And just as He was victorious in those situations, He desires to show Himself victorious in our lives right now. So I encourage you to ask yourself: What are the battles that God has called me to sprint toward today?
Maybe it’s accepting a task or assignment that intimidates you.
Maybe it’s choosing to stand firmly in faith for a financial or physical need.
Maybe it’s aggressively fighting for the salvation of a soul God has placed in your life.
Maybe it’s choosing to conquer strongholds in your life such as fear or unforgiveness through the enabling power of God.
Maybe it’s joyfully embracing a challenging circumstance and trusting that God will gloriously triumph through it.
Whatever difficulties you have been shrinking back from, ask God to infuse you with a bravehearted spirit; one that will cause you to sprint toward the battle with liquid ferocity and with absolute confidence in your mighty, faithful God.
Bravehearted Secret #2
Fight for the Right Cause in the Right Way
It is very possible to be a bold, confident woman without truly being a virtuous, bravehearted woman. The biblical stories of Jezebel and Herodias reveal angry, rebellious women who stopped at nothing to push forward their own agenda and ruthlessly destroy anything that stood in the way of them getting what they wanted.
Secular feminism is similar. Women who are driven by defiance toward God, hatred of men, and a desire to preserve their own comforts and pleasures at any cost, often believe they are “fighting for a righteous cause” when in reality they are merely fighting for selfishness and sin.
We can only expect God to equip us with heavenly valor when our core motives and desires are in line with His. David was solely motivated to fight for God’s glory when he stood up to Goliath. Mary Slessor was driven by love for the woman who was about to be cruelly tortured. Gladys Aylward was moved with compassion for the prisoners and a desire to showcase God’s power to the people of Yangcheng.
None of these believers were fighting for their own agenda or selfish wants. They weren’t trying to be honored, esteemed, or applauded. They simply wanted the Name of their God to be lifted high.
So it must be for every bravehearted Christian.
Truly courageous believers are those who have completely laid down their own agenda and are walking in the reality that their lives are not their own — they have been bought with a price (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). They have already given up everything, so they have nothing to lose. They have placed their lives and futures entirely in God’s hands, and that is what makes them so fearless.
Additionally, to walk in heavenly boldness means to be motivated by love, not selfishness. Only when we lose sight of ourselves and become concerned with the souls of others and the glory of our King are we truly fighting for the right cause in the right way.
It may seem trendy and desirable to jump on the cultural bandwagons of the modern feminist agenda. While there is nothing wrong with protecting a woman’s dignity or women having equal rights with men, the majority of secular feminism is rooted in an angry, defiant “it’s-all-about-me” attitude (i.e. “If I want to abort my baby, that’s my choice” or “if I want to stomp on the men in my life, I have the right to do it”). This kind of womanly “boldness” is the polar opposite of the valiant bravehearted spirit God wants to equip us with.
So if you desire to be infused with true heavenly courage, strength, and valor, it starts with two key steps: 1) surrender everything to Jesus Christ, and 2) allow God to remove any anger or selfishness in your heart and replace it with His amazing sacrificial love.
When you are completely His and no longer your own, you will become an unstoppable force against the enemy and a valiant vessel for His glory.
Bravehearted Secret #3
Conquer Discouragement with Truth
Nehemiah was chosen by God to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem — an exciting but daunting task. No sooner had he organized the workers and arranged the building plan then he encountered a cunning group of enemies who had only one desire: to weaken him so that the wall would not be built. These men mocked him, threatened him, falsely accused him, sent nasty letters to discourage him, and even tried to trick him into fleeing and hiding for his life. How easy it would have been for Nehemiah to become discouraged and give up the sacred task that had been entrusted to him. He could have reasoned, “This pressure is too much; I can’t handle it. I just need to take some time and focus on myself for a while instead of fighting this intense battle.” He could have taken the easy way out and simply returned to his honored, comfortable position as the king’s cupbearer.
But Nehemiah knew God had called him to rebuild the wall. He knew that he could find strength for his impossible task, if only he would go to the right Source for it. He was aware that his enemies wanted to weaken and discourage him, and that only God could give him victory: “For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, ‘Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.’ Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (Neh. 6:9).
Because Nehemiah battled his enemies’ lies with God’s truth, their plot against him came to nothing (see Nehemiah 4:15). The story of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem is a triumphant display of God’s amazing faithfulness to a man who trusted Him with all his heart.
As you are shaped into a bravehearted woman of courage and valor, it’s vital to be aware that the enemy will do everything in his power to try to discourage you from pursuing this high calling, just as he did Nehemiah. Follow Nehemiah’s example and be ready to fight against the enemy’s lies with God’s truth. Often, the enemy will try to bait us with self-pity and make us feel too weak to go on: “This is too hard for you; you are going to burn out, you need to take it easy and just focus on yourself for awhile!” Or if he can’t get us with self-pity, he’ll try the discouragement tactic: “You are such a failure, you aren’t cut out for this task — someone stronger and more spiritual than you should do it!”
BE READY TO FIGHT AGAINST THE ENEMY’S LIES WITH GOD’S TRUTH.
Often, the enemy’s voice will even masquerade as “wise counsel” from well-meaning people in our lives. I remember hearing a sincere woman respond to a teaching on heroic Christianity by saying, “Sometimes we just need to let go of these unrealistic spiritual expectations and go take a nap!”
While there is nothing wrong with slowing down if we are too busy, resting when we are tired, and being reminded that God loves us just as we are — all too often we allow these things to get out of place and become justifications for spiritual mediocrity.
If Nehemiah had listened to the smooth and seemingly wise words of his enemies, the wall around Jerusalem would not have been rebuilt. When the enemy attempts to discourage and weaken us with subtle lies, whether in our own mind or through the words of others, there is only one way to respond — not with self-pity or despair, but with truth.
I like to have some “emergency Scriptures” memorized and ready to recite whenever the enemy attempts to bait me with fear, self-pity, or discouragement. Some of my favorites are:
For fearful thoughts: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). “No evil shall befall you; Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling” (Ps. 91:10). “For the Lord will be your confidence, And will keep your foot from being caught” (Prov. 3:26).
For discouraging thoughts: “…The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11).
For thoughts of weakness or self-pity: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).
The “be soft to yourself” message is everywhere today, especially among Christian women’s circles. And when the enemy whispers his lies, they are so often reinforced by the soft, comfortable messages we are hearing within the walls of today’s churches. When you choose the bravehearted path, you are choosing a life of radical surrender to Jesus Christ; one in which you completely lose sight of yourself, take up your cross, and follow in His steps. This can be a lonely path. But if you immerse yourself in His victorious truth, you will have everything you need to press forward in victory, just as Nehemiah did.
. . .
Gladys Aylward and Mary Slessor — and the countless other bravehearted Christians throughout history — did not have any special qualifications to do what they did. They simply surrendered everything to Jesus Christ and followed Him with all their hearts, one step of obedience at a time. You do not have to have a list of specific qualities to become a bravehearted woman. Lay your life at His feet afresh and offer to Him everything you are. Let Him infuse you with His heavenly boldness. And let the world stand back and watch in wonder as His glory is showcased through your life.
“Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, still to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust him? Where is now the lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him.”
– James Gilmour of Mongolia