Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Making of a Good Works Quilt

I spoke at our church's "Mother's Day Banquet" last Satuday--what an honor to be asked! I was also on the program team, so I had part in deciding on the theme. If you know me, you know how much I love themes! We chose a patchwork quilt theme, and it came together beautifully! So much work went into every detail.

Our theme verse was Titus 2:7a, but the main verse I used for my challenge was 1 Timothy 5:10, a little gem I discovered sometime this winter. In some ways, it's an outline of the characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman, but I've never heard this passage used for a ladies' challenge--and I've heard more than a few!

I wasn't originally intending to publish these notes, but I thought maybe someone could benefit from them. If you want to use them as a springboard for a Bible study or challenge you're giving, I'd be happy to provide you with the PowerPoint I used (including the above graphics), as well. Btw, in case you're wondering, "Character Cameos" were brief first-person descriptions of the women mentioned, performed by women from our church.)


What is a successful woman? What does success mean to you? I’ve heard it said that the main difference between Super Man and Wonder Woman is that at some point, most men have stopped believing that Super Man is real.

Depending on which women’s magazine you pick up, you may see a successful woman portrayed as a flamboyant fashionista, a sparkling socialite, or a decorating diva.

If you find yourself closely resembling any of those ideal images, you may feel pretty good about yourself. However, if you know you don’t measure up, you may feel inferior. Or perhaps you’re the type of woman that doesn’t care about such unrealistic expectations: “I am who I am,” you say with confidence. Whatever your response to the world’s idea of success, I trust that we all desire to evaluate our lives according to the measuring tape of His Holy Word.

The difference between the world’s idea of a successful woman and God’s expectations, as shown in Scripture, is similar to the difference between an intricately designed pattern quilt made for show and a traditional patchwork quilt. The patchwork quilt originated in 1800s America, not for decoration but for a purpose. Fabric from old blankets and outgrown clothing was repurposed (upcycled, if you will) and pieced together into a quilt that would keep loved ones warm at night. As Christian women, we’re all equipped to do more than “sit pretty” in church each Sunday and be “good girls”: He wants the kind of good that works.


Let’s explore this idea of “the making of a good works quilt.” We'll look at 1 Timothy 5:10, where an honorable woman is described as follows: “Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”

Background of passage: Describing worthy widows, women deserving of God’s (and the church’s) approval and financial support

How many of you can multi-task? How many of you have forgotten how to single-task? Sometimes simply planning our family’s menus can be overwhelming, while we consider the sometimes conflicting priorities of nutrition, budget, time-management, and personal preferences. Many women face chronic fatigue, and some of that is because we try to do it all—not over a lifetime, but Every. Single. Day.

We can get burnt out easily when we do this to ourselves. I did this with my first quilt—to-date, my only quilt. Let’s not do this to ourselves or one another as we build our “good works quilts.”

Before you start to get overwhelmed by these biblical principles, keep in mind that this “good works quilt” you’re making isn’t your project for this weekend, this month, or this year. It’s the project of a lifetime, a resume of sorts.

2 Timothy 2:15—“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

“Rightly dividing” has the idea of measuring, cutting, and piecing together, much like you would various fabrics in a quilt. Paul, after all, was a tentmaker. He likely pieced together camel skins in order to make tents. Wisdom is skillful application of biblical truth; “rightly dividing” both God’s Word and our own lives in order to piece together a life that glorifies Him. 

Consider which good works God has best equipped you for, with your unique background, spiritual gifts, talents, and current life stage.

2 Timothy 3:16-17—“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Good works are the end use, or purpose behind studying Scripture; knowledge is not enough. God wants the kind of good that works.

Let’s look at some of the “works” God had in mind when He designed us as women and equipped us as believers.

As we look through them, you may think that some of the most obvious applications may not apply to you, at your age and your situation. But be creative—there are ways you can apply them!

The first good work listed in this passage is the idea of raising children. What better example to consider than Mary, the mother of our Lord.

·         Brought up (raised) children—Mary, the mother of Jesus—character cameo

Of course, not all women biologically bear children. Note that while the idea of having one’s own children to care for full-time is the implication of this verse, I praise the Lord for many women who do not have their own children but purpose to impact other children in their families and in their church.

For young women today, you’re growing up in a culture that promotes the pursuit of self-centered dreams and careers over a commitment to marriage and family. You should know that when it’s your kid, the diapers are still gross, and the wakeful nights are still exhausting. But the selflessness that motherhood requires is a huge part of how God designed us as women to serve Him and receive fulfillment.

I once heard a man say that he wasn’t raised, but rather “yanked up by accident,” describing the less-than-purposeful way that his parents approached his upbringing.

Excerpt from “Why Youth Stay in Church WhenThey Grow Up” by Jon Nielson on The Gospel

The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church. The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Questions: Are you willing to live sacrificially in raising your children? Are you just rolling with the punches, focused on surviving the day or your children’s current stage, or strategically orchestrating their influences and experiences, training your children with purpose?
·         Have lodged strangers (practiced hospitality)—Tishbite woman—character cameo

This scenario was unique in that God directly spoke to His prophet, who told this woman to care for him rather than her own son. Usually, any good works should be focused on our families, first. In a way, she was prioritizing her family in that she believed that they would be blessed if she obeyed God’s Word. (Illustration of deacon’s son)

That shouldn’t be an excuse not to minister beyond our own households, but an incentive to manage our households wisely. By being industrious, we can make the most of our limited resources of time, energy, and finances, in order to have some “extra” with which to serve others.

There’s a distinct difference between entertaining and showing hospitality. This isn’t about friendship, but about ministry. (I was once challenged to think of all friends as ministries, and that would help me not to get hurt. Guess what?! It works!)

Luke 14:12-14—“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”

I’ve heard it said, “What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today.” Well, I have a new spin on that idea: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only those possessions with which you were willing to serve God today?” The tithe is supposed to represent the idea that we realize that we’re only stewards, not owners, of all that we possess.

How can you truly minister to people if they don’t let you into their lives? How can you expect them to let you into theirs, if you don’t let them into yours? Nothing represents your life like your home, and when you let people in, you invite them to connect with you in a unique way that they otherwise would not do.

·         Have washed the saints’ feet—Mary, the mother of John Mark—character cameo

Proverbs 3:27—“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”

Hebrews 10:24--"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:"

·         Have relieved the afflicted (helped those in distress)—Rahab—character cameo

Run to the problem, & be there for people. It may mean providing a meal, helping with others’ kids, writing a note, or listening or lending a shoulder to someone who is hurting. It’s being a true friend.

You can’t help unless you know the person and the situation. Getting to know people to the point that they’ll share their burdens with you takes time and intentional interaction, beyond the surface. Developing a “radar” for hurting people takes practice, intention, and opportunity.

·         Diligently followed every good work (exhibited all kinds of good works)

In that list, we have women with a variety of less-than-ideal circumstances and backgrounds—a Gentile prostitute, a wealthy single mom, an impoverished single mom, a young Gentile widow, a good Jewish teenaged virgin whose character was questioned by many. God is not concerned with your heritage or history, but with what you allow Him to piece together to create a unique patchwork quilt of your life.


Warning #1: This is not in place of trusting Christ, but on top of it.

Isaiah 64:6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Ephesians 2:8-10--For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Warning #2: This is not a contest!

“Steps To Making a Good Works Quilt”

Step 1: Measure out what you’ll need & set goals for adding to your quilt

Step 2: Cut Out some activities and priorities that aren’t part of your quilt

Step 3: Find a mentor to advise you in designing your quilt.

Step 4: Gather Materials you need for your work.

Step 5: Get to Work on your quilt, realizing it will come together, piece by piece

Step 6: Trust God to help you stitch it all together into a masterpiece!

One thing that’s great about this list in Scripture is that it kind of gives us a set of goals or lifetime “to-do list.” Whether or not we measure up to the world’s standards of glamour, we can feel satisfaction knowing that we’re prioritizing the qualities God honors.

Fringe benefits of developing a “good works quilt” include lack of boredom and loneliness that comes from the self-centered lifestyle encouraged in our world. Proverbs 31 pits the world’s emphasis on popularity and outward beauty against what’s truly beautiful: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

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