May 29, 2011
Looking To Marry – Part 3
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Proverbs 18: 22

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The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.

More From This Series


If Jesus is our life, his word must find a home in our heart. That’s what Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16. “Let the word of Christ take up residence in your heart. Trust not as we come to God’s word. You’ll bring an alert mind, an open heart, and a submissive will.” Let’s turn to Proverbs 18:22 as we finish out a message we’ve been looking at for a couple of weeks now. Looking to marry, what is it you ought to be looking for in a spouse, or what ought you and I continue to seek to provide to our spouses? Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” I was reading the other day about a husband shopping center that’s opening up where a woman can go and choose a husband from a wide selection of men.
I believe that this is housed in a building that has five floors. You can ascend the floor and take a look at the choice of men that are available, but the only rule is that if you open a door, you can’t ascend to another floor. And if you go to another floor without opening the door, you can’t go back down to the floor you’ve just left. And so I was reading about a couple of girlfriends that visited this shopping center. They went to the first floor, they found a door, and on the door where these words, “These men have jobs and love kids.”
They thought to themselves, “You know what? That’s not a bad start, but since it’s the first floor, let’s hold on here. We’ll see what’s up on the second floor.” So they climbed the stairwell, they got to the second floor, and on the door of the second floor were these words, “These men have high paying jobs, love kids, and they’re extremely good looking.” They say to themselves, “Man, that’s sign was even better than the first floor. If the second floor is better than the first floor, you can only guess what the third floor is going to be like.” So they climbed the stairs and got to the third floor.
There on the door with these words, “These men have high paying jobs, are extremely good looking, love kids and help with the housework.” And they said to themselves, “Now you’re talking. I mean, how good can it get?” And one of them said, “I think it can get even better on the fourth floor.” Up they went, got to the fourth floor, there was the door. Sure enough, there was another sign. These words excited them. “These men have high paying jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, help with the housework and have a strong romantic streak.” They almost settled for that, but they decided to risk it all and go to the fifth floor. They got to the fifth floor and on the door were these words, “This is just to prove that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping. Have a nice day.”
Well, you know that’s fiction, right? But there’s something in it that made me think, and it’s this, while some of us are in danger of looking for too much when it comes to a spouse, being unrealistic, not giving people a chance to grow, looking for the whole package out of the gate, I don’t think the problem actually as our story kind of hints at is people looking for too much. I think the problem is speaking pastorally from what I’ve seen in counseling people is that they’re looking for less than what they should. They’re settling for less than what the Bible encourages them to seek for.
Marriage is such an important and influential issue if you think about it. And we can’t approach it in any kind of superficial manner. We should be looking for what God seeks for us. And I think many young people, if they’re not careful, will under investigate and under invest when it comes to the relationship that leads to the marriage. And so I think that what we have been looking at here over a number of studies is worth our time because in Proverbs we have these fathers who are writing to these sons about this very issue.
Proverbs was written by some of the leaders in Israel, King Solomon one, King Hezekiah another, along with a few other wise men. They’re writing to these emerging leaders, these young, strapping, red-blooded young men who are ready for life, who are ready for love and they need the wisdom of God. They need to be directed in their thinking, they need to be controlled in their reactions, and they need to be pointed in the right direction in terms of their choices.
And so, these fathers write to their sons about the choices they ought to make concerning their spouses. They encourage them to embrace the thought of marriage with joy. If any man finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. As these young men seek a partner in life, these fathers warn them about what they ought to look for and how they ought to look concerning what they’re looking for. And we have that great verse right at the end of the book. That’s how important the subject is, it finishes on this very theme that charm is deceitful, beauty as vain, but a woman that fears God is to be praised.
And we started to look at this issue under the whole matrix of beauty and the whole issue of attraction. And we extensively covered the idea of debatable beauty. That is beauty that simply sits on the surface. That is beauty in terms of physical form and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but you know what, if that’s the first floor, you got to get up to the second and third and fourth floors in terms of what you’re looking for. You got to get past the issue of physical form and attractiveness and prettiness based upon what you see because if you’re not careful, the outside can mask something on the inside that you don’t want. We looked at the immoral woman, the imprudent woman.
Well, now we’re picking up, that’s on the negative side. Now we’re moving towards the positive side. The book of Proverbs encourages us to look out for debatable beauty. But the Book of Proverbs encourages us secondly to look out for desirable beauty. These fathers, in speaking to these sons, are encouraging them to remember that looking good is not the same as being good. And if they do find a woman they’re attracted to physically, they’ve got to look beyond that, and they ought to desire for an inner beauty, a character-based behavior on the part of this young woman because there’s the clear and present danger that we can, it’s a human tendency, we can inflate the value of outside appearance, while at the same time discounting the worth of inside qualities.
I think we have one of our own proverbs that speaks to this, never judge a book by its cover. That’s a proverb. That’s an axiom. That’s a truth worth thinking about. And just as the contents of a book are far more important than its cover, so with people. The cover being the body, the contents being the life, the character, the behavior traits. The worth and significance of a person ought not to be determined by what you see, but by what you come to know about that person.
Like God, we mustn’t base our opinions upon physical form. In Proverb 16:2 we’re reminded that’s God’s approach. All the ways of man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord wears the spirits. The Lord looks at the heart, it takes his back right to Samuel’s choice of a king to replace Saul among the sons of Jesse. You’ve got this line of strapping, bronze-skinned, muscular young men. They’re tall, they’re handsome. In every way they fit the bill in terms of a king. But God says to Samuel, “No, he’s not here.” Samuel says to Jesse, “Is this it?” No, there’s one young brother, the youngest, he’s out looking after the sheep. He’s got a little bit of fuzz on his chin. He’s kind of moving out of those teenage years into the young manhood. He’s rosy-cheeked. His name’s David.
David’s brought in. Compared to his brothers he’s not as intimidating physically speaking, but God says to Samuel, “He’s the one. Anoint him.” And we have that great verse in 1 Samuel 16:7 that reminds us God doesn’t see as we see. God doesn’t look on the outward appearance but looks upon the heart. And we need to look the way God looks at things. A man’s passion is more important than a man’s fashion. How a person lives, biblically speaking, is far more important than how a person looks. And our young people need to remind themselves of that when they set out to find a partner in life. And even within marriage, you and I need to remind ourselves that how we live is far more important than how we look.
Think with me a moment about something that Erwin Lutzer got me thinking about, what did the Lord Jesus look like? Have you ever thought about that? Tried to imagine that? I mean, we’ve got artists’ renditions of what he may have looked like. And they have kind of taken the image of a Middle Eastern man, the culture and we’ve tried to approximate what the Lord Jesus may have looked like. But you know what? The bible doesn’t tell us anything about his physical form. I don’t know the color of his hair, his eyes, I don’t know the shape of his nose. Was he 5’2″? Was he 6’1″? Was he broad shouldered? Was he of a narrow frame? I have no idea.
In fact, if we do have a clue, we’ve got Isaiah 53:2, which says what? “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Isn’t that interesting? Now, that may be a verse that’s trying to draw a comparison when we know that in him dwell the fullness of the Godhead bodily by comparison of who we knew Jesus to be. When you saw him in human form, you didn’t think of him as the maker of the universe. It could be that. But if you really took it very literally, it was simply saying that the Lord Jesus in bodily form was not very imposing. He may have actually been 5’3″ rather than 6’2″. His nose may have been bent, his eyes an ordinary brown. We just don’t know.
And you know what? We don’t need to know, do we? Because that’s not the issue. The loveliness of the Lord Jesus is not about his physical form. The significance of the Lord Jesus is all about that God was dwelling in all his fullness in that body, that God had given his son a body, and though it is written in the volume of the book, he delighted to do God’s will. Whatever the body was like, Jesus Christ used it to glorify the Father, train his disciples, heal the sick, ultimately give his hands to the cross, even the death of the cross for us. That’s what counted. And that is a reminder that really a person’s worth or significance ought not to be determined in any significant way upon the basis of how they look.
There is a desirable beauty in the Book of Proverbs that goes beyond the physical. These fathers speaking to these sons knew these young men and their tendency. They had a tendency to overdose on the physical. They had a tendency to define beauty in a very narrow way in terms of a girl’s figure or shape, or the color of her hair, or the complexion of her skin. And these fathers say to these young men, “Don’t do that because charm is deceitful. Beauty, physical form is passing, but the fear of God in the heart of a woman, godly character, find that kind of woman and praise God for her and praise her for her devotion to God.”
Noble character and abiding virtue is the issue. Listen to these words from Alistair Begg in his book on marriage, “A wise man looks for a woman who possesses a natural radiance rather than a glow that comes from a bottle. It is less important to find a woman whose beauty comes from time spent in front of a parlor mirror than someone who is regularly before the mirror of the word of God.” See, his point is there’s a debatable beauty and there’s a desirable beauty, and the debatable beauty is outside, the desirable beauty is inside, and every young man ought to be looking for that, and every young woman. Well, to help you think that through, help those who are listening by means of our website or our CD ministry, let me talk to you about the Proverbs 31 woman, and I’m not going to let the guys off the hook. We’re then going to look at the Proverbs 32 man.
Now you say, “Pastor, there’s no Proverbs 32 in my bible.” Neither in mine, but if you read over the Book of Proverbs, you’re going to find character traits from men as much as for women. So we’ve got a Proverbs 31 woman and we have a Proverbs 32 man. And these are the desirable beauty characteristics that ought to mark someone worthy of your devotion and dependence for life. The Proverbs 31 woman, we’re going overnight at chapter 31 in the very passage where we’re warned not to overdose on the physical. Now, you can imagine this is a passage we could spend a whole day on. It’s about passage we could spend a few weeks on, but I’m going to take the ladies quickly through six characteristics that mark a virtuous woman, an excellent woman, a woman whose worth as far above rubies, a woman whose husband’s heart trusts in her, a woman whose children will rise up and call her blessed. A woman who fears God and is to be praised.
The first thing about her in terms of virtue is I want you to see her faithfulness. Here’s what you ought to be looking for. Faithfulness. Proverbs 31:11, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” She’s trustworthy. You can depend upon her. She has a character that’s marked by integrity and trustworthiness. She can be depended upon. Remember the Book of Proverbs told us elsewhere, “An unfaithful man is like a broken tooth or a sprained ankle.” Same with an unfaithful woman.
It’s a terrible thing to have to go through life depending upon someone you can’t depend on, isn’t it? And these fathers sit down their sons across the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand and say, “Hey, I want to talk to you about a few things. You’re looking for a good woman, and I’m sure you’re attracted to a particular woman. Here’s what you got to look for beyond the physical form. Faithfulness, her abilities and character breeds confidence. Secondly, not only faithfulness but industry.”
Look at verse 13, “She seeks wool and flax, willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ship, she brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.” And on and on it goes telling you about this woman busy about the house. Active. She makes full use of her day. She’s not a woman to waste ideas or abilities. She puts them the full use for the benefit of her home, to the blessing of her children, to the enhancement of her husband, to the good of her neighborhood. Look at verse 27, “She watches over the wares of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
This woman is always building and making things happen. She’s contributing in a positive way. She not only contributes in a positive way, she contributes with a positive attitude. Remember we saw back in Proverbs 19:13 and 14 that a nagging wife is like the dripping of water upon a stone. She’s not only positive in her action, she’s positive in her attitude. She’s faithful, she’s industrious. Number three, “Looking at a woman’s character, kindness marks her. Look at verse 12, “She does her husband good and not evil.” She’s got the best intentions for her husband. She wants to please him, prosper him all the days of her life and his life. Look at verse 20, “She extends her hand to the poor. She reaches out her hands to needy.” Look at verse 26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”
This woman’s character is marked by compassion. She does things for others with an uncomplaining spirit. She’s happy that she’s in constant demand. In fact, her happiness is putting a smile on another person’s face who needed her help. And these fathers are saying to these sons, “Get excited about a woman like this.” Remember what we said, godliness is sexy. Righteousness, faithfulness, industry, kindness, these are the things that ought to excite a young man who’s got his head screwed on biblically.
Number four, excellence. Look at verse 29, “Many daughters have done well but you excel them all.” This man talking about this woman recognizes there are great women out there, but he believes he got the best one. He got the pick of the bunch. And you know what? Every man can feel that about his wife, and every man ought make his wife feel that way, but this woman has an excellence about her. Whatever she does, she does well, she’s not sloppy.
Look at verse 27, “She watches over the wares of her household.” And she’s got [inaudible 00:19:23]. Look at verse 22, “She makes tapestry for herself. Her clothing is fine linen and purple.” I don’t want you to get the image of this woman, she’s busy about the house, but you’re not going to find her in flip flops and with an apron on, and her rollers in her hair, and she’s just a nightmare, and the kids are scared to look at her, and they’re up in their bedroom. That’s not the proverb 31 woman. Now, there may be times when she’s kind of got her working clothes on, maybe her slacks are… her loose-fitting clothes, but when you meet her too or go into her home, you’re going to take a look at her curtains. It’s going to be good quality curtains. The house is going to look well and she herself is going to be dressed well. She’s a woman taste and distinction. She’s a woman of excellence. She just doesn’t settle for mediocrity, either in what she does or how she goes about things. She’s a phenomenal woman, isn’t she?
Fifthly, stability. This woman’s marked by faithfulness, industry, kindness, excellence, stability. Look at verse 25, “Strength and honor are her clothing.” Now, she’s wears fine linen. She’s well dressed, but metaphorically speaking she wears other things too. In terms of her character, she’s a strong and honorable woman. And look at her, she shall rejoice in the time to come. That phrase in the Hebrew carries the idea of when bad times comes, she’s ready for them. She’s a strong, stable woman who on good days or bad days is a solid rock for her husband and children. She’s no weather vane that’s blown around by the changing winds. Her family don’t have to ride an emotional rollercoaster with her every day. She’s tender but she’s tough.
I don’t mean tough in terms of stoic and just pulling up her socks and biting her lip. No, she doesn’t panic because she knows that her life is rooted in God. She’s a woman of integrity, biblical character, and therefore she knows that on her side of things she has provided for the home. She knows winter’s coming, so she’s knitting, getting stuff ready or purchasing linen. She’s out like merchant ships, getting whatever’s needed for the home. She knows winter’s coming. She’s done whatever she’s going to have to do and then the rest she leaves with God. If it gets tougher than she expected, she leaves that with God.
In fact, come with me to 1 Peter 3. 1 Peter 3, I want you to read a verse with me that I think has troubled me and I think it’s troubled many women in terms of its meaning. 1 Peter 3:4, it says… In fact, we’ll back up in the verse three, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward, arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel. Rather, let it be the hidden person of the heart.” I listen to theologians and sometimes even listen to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, and they give you the idea that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament, that the Old Testament is harsh and the New Testament’s all about love and kindness, and as if the two testaments, that’s there’s a disparity between the two. There’s not. It’s one God who’s speaking the one truth.
And here you’ve got the same theme coming through that we find in the Book of Proverbs. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself physically, looking attractive. This is not a prohibition not to wear gold or silver. It’s simply saying, “Ladies, don’t fixate in that.” Remember that God looks upon the heart, so let your beauty be hidden. This incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God, for in this manner in the former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves.
What does that mean to be gentle and quiet-spirited? I don’t think it means that a woman’s a wallflower. I don’t think it means she’s got to zip her lip anytime her husband speaks, that she can’t enter upon the discussion about where the family’s going. I don’t think it means she can’t challenge her husband about his behavior. I think what it means is what we read back in Proverbs, “She’s a woman of quiet confidence in God.” She’s not easily disturbed. She’s not all over the map emotionally. She’s quiet. She’s got a composed spirit because like the holy women of old, she’s trusting in God. And as Corrie Ten Boom once said, “There is no panic in heaven. The Trinity never meet in emergency session. Therefore, a godly woman who is fearing God, being faithful, kind, excellent, hardworking, is a stable woman because she trusts what she cannot do to God’s keeping.” And therefore, you won’t find her running about the house in a panic and not being overly anxious about family affairs or the general state of life.
Faithfulness, industry, kindness, excellence, stability. Finally, reverence. Verse 30, we’ve quoted it a number of times, “This woman fears God and therefore this woman’s to be praised.” This is a woman who’s not a law unto herself. This is a woman who’s living under authority. She’s godly, she’s submissive. Primarily she’s submissive to God. She’s under his authority. To reverence God remember means you know who God is and what you are before Him. To reverence God means that you know He is to have the supreme place in life. He orders life. Life is to be lived according to His word, according to His will. That’s what it means to fear God.
So this woman understands her place before God. Now, she understands her place before her husband. Because God has designed it, God has ordained it, that the head of the home is the man and that the wife is his helper, comes alongside him, comes under him to help him, along with herself, to fulfill all of God’s purposes within the home. And she doesn’t balk at that, she doesn’t fight that, she’s not angry and bitter in doing that. No, she’s a woman that fears God. And since she fears God, she’s not frightened to be under the authority of her husband.
These are some of the traits of a godly woman, a woman who looks at life from a sacred duty perspective. That’s the Proverbs 31 woman. And Proverbs 18:22 tells us, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and he who finds a virtuous wife finds something that money cannot buy.” This woman’s price is beyond rubies. You can’t put a price ticket on this woman. And the man that finds her should get on his knees and thank God for the gift that she is to him. The Proverbs 31 woman leads us to think quickly about the Proverbs 32 man.
Now, while the perspective has generally been upon what these sons ought to look for in the Daughters of Israel, we wouldn’t want you thinking, ladies, that the Book of Proverbs leaves man untouched and unchallenged. In fact, throughout this book, these young men are challenged by their own character, their own inner beauty, the state of their own hearts and souls. Let me run down a couple of characteristics you ought to look for if you’re a young woman here and a young man, and if you’re a mom and dad, what you ought to look for in a prospective daughter-in-law or a prospective son-in-law. Godly young men who are character based in their conduct will be one marked by reverence. We’re back to that thought where we finished off.
In Proverbs 1:9 we’re told what, “The beginning of wisdom is to fear God.” I mean, this is where you got to begin. This is where every young woman’s got to begin when they’re looking at a young man. Has this young man got a strong and growing relationship with God? As I look at his life, is it marked by attendance to public worship? Does he have an appetite for the word of God? Do I see him serving in the Kingdom of God? Is he under the leadership of Jesus Christ? Is he living his life according to the lordship of the Savior? Because how can he lead me if he himself is not being led?
He’ll become a tyrant. He will put demands on me. He will be unable to love me like Christ loves the church, and that’s what Christ calls him to be. But if he’s not living for Christ, then he’s not going to love me like that. But if I get a young man who’s passionate about God, who’s got a concern for souls, who loves the church, who thinks that the Lord’s day is a special day, his life is marked by the fear and reverence of all things sacred, then I’ll get a man who’s got a heart for God, and he’ll give me that heart the way God has asked him to.
Reverence. Secondly, diligence. We’re back to that theme that’s repeated throughout the Book of Proverbs, chapter 10:4, “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in the summer as a wise son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.” Any young woman should look at a young man, see that he loves God, secondly, that he’s proactive, that he’s a leader, that he’s got a sense of where he is going in life, that if a good education’s available to him, he’s going to take it. He’s going to enhance his ability to provide for his home. He’s going to be productive and diligent.
After all, this young woman’s going to be dependent upon him primarily because the husband is the primary breadwinner according to the Bible, and therefore she should look for this trait. How this young man handles money. You don’t want a young man, by the way, who’s get caught up in worldly ambition and who’s into materialism, but you do want a young man who’s recognized by his bosses as a young man who’s got a lot of gift and is going somewhere within the company, who’s got a bit of get up and go, who’s diligent, hardworking, productive.
Number three, kindness. He’s not just a tough guy. Proverbs 11:17, “The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.” There’s a contrast here between a kind man and an angry man. And every young woman who’s smart enough to think about it will wish to avoid a critical, angry, young man because he’s unable to live with her with understanding. He won’t be attentive, he won’t be sensitive. She wants toughness and tenderness rolled into the one man who loves God and therefore will love her, who’s hardworking, kind.
Number four, honorable. Look at Proverbs 10:9, “He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his wares will become known.” Any woman wants security. She wants a man to provide for her, take care of her. Well, the kind of man that will do that is a man who is secure in himself, who walks with integrity, who’s got an honor code that he lives by. His word is his bond. He’s courteous, he’s punctual, he’s dutiful, respectful, committed. He’s not something on the outside. He doesn’t project an image that lacks reality on the inside. He’s not one thing during courtship and then another thing after the ceremony. What you see is what you get. What you see, you like. And since what you see is what you get, you’re not going to be disappointed in a man of integrity. He’s the same in the dark as he is in the light.
The final character trait that I want to touch on as I’ve scanned the Book of Proverbs for the Proverbs 32 man, faith, reverence, diligence, kindness, honor, temperance. Temperance. Look at Proverbs 11:12, “He who is devoid of wisdom, despises his neighbor, and a man of understanding holds his peace.” This young man will know how to conduct himself. He won’t barge in where he doesn’t belong. He won’t say what he doesn’t need to say. He’s got himself under control. He’s temperate in his appetite, in his actions, in his attitudes. He’s restrained. He’s under the lordship of Jesus Christ. He’s under the control of the word of God, and he’s under the supervision of the Holy Spirit. This ability is a great ability.
According to Proverbs 16:32, we read, “He who as slow to anger is better than the mighty. He who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” There again, we’re back to this image of the warrior, this big guy, broad-shouldered, six pack, his chest stands out, he could lift two men up with both arms, one in each hand. He’s a strapping, strong guy. He can storm the hill. He can take the city. But when the victory’s won, you’ll find him around the campfire getting drunk, shouting his mouth off, treating women with disrespect. He can’t control himself. He can’t control his passions. Proverbs says you want a man who’s temperate. You want a man who can storm a hill, but you want a man who can control himself in victory. You want a man who knows when to say what needs to be said at the right time.
There you have it, a Proverbs 31 woman, a Proverbs 32 man. And what is striking is that this inner beauty is rooted in character. It’s not rooted in personality. A person’s character, not his credentials or his charisma is the issue of greatest importance when it comes to measuring up a man. Not credentials, where you come from, where you were born, whose family you belong to. Not your charisma. Are you an introvert and extrovert? Those things are not what you’re looking for primarily. You’re looking for character because character is universally attainable. I don’t care where you’re from, and I don’t care how much or how little you have in terms of letters after your name or credentials, but character is universally attainable to all of us.
We can change by God’s grace and become the men and women that God has called us despite our background. So character is far more important than charisma and far more important than credentials. Character has value in crisis. Credentials and charisma have little value when things get tough, character reflects the beauty of the Lord Jesus. Credentials and charisma have nothing to do with Christ likeness. We need to be alert to the fact that our culture has shifted from a focus on character and abiding virtues to a focus on personality and passing values.
You’ll hear all sorts of words today that describe someone. They’re fascinating, they’re stunning, they’re attractive, they’re magnetic, they’re glowing, they’re masterful, they’re creative, they’re dominant, they’re forceful, and they could be all those things and still lack character. They can have a great personality, yet lack so much in terms of the harp. Drunks can be great fun to be with when they’re not drunk. Some of the most interesting people are the most devilish people. And in terms of personality, they’re very engaging and interesting and you’re drawn towards them, but they’re not the kind of people you’d want to build a marriage upon, or a home with, or invest your money with, or become your best friend for life.
That’s why the Book of Proverbs warns us. Let me tell you a story. And the last point, I will wrap up in five minutes, but this is a great story that I came across in a book I read recently on the will of God. It relates to a Lieutenant George Blanchard. He was a soldier in basic training in Florida during World War II. And one night he decided to take some time off and he wandered from the post and he went down to the local library and found himself a book. And sitting in the corner of the library began to read the book and became intrigued that in this book there was handwriting on the margins of the book, and it was very evident that was the handwriting of a woman. It was a feminine touch to both the insights and the writing itself. And he became intrigued. And he decided to try and find out who this woman was. And further investigation led him to understand that this book had been previously owned by the woman who had written in it. And the woman’s name was a Miss Hollis Maynell. And so Blanchard did more research and found out she was now living in New York.
The next day he was shipped overseas, but for the next 13 months and two weeks he began to correspond with this woman by letter. And both of them began to open their hearts, and evidently, began to bond and actually fall in love. He wrote her in one of these letters a request that she would send him a picture. She wrote back and said, “I’m not going to send you a picture because it doesn’t matter what I look like if you love me.” And they kept writing until he got a bit of a break, was brought home. And so they, in their correspondence, had agreed to meet up on that fateful and final day in the Grand Central Station in New York City. And she had instructed him that she’ll be there waiting for him, and that he will recognize her by a red rose that she’ll be wearing on her lapel.
Now, I’ll let him tell the rest of the story. “A young woman was coming toward me, beautiful, trim, blonde, eyes were blue as flowers in her peel green suit. She was like springtime come alive. I started toward her forgetting that she wasn’t wearing the rose. Then I saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing behind the girl. A woman with graying hair, but she wore a red rose on a rumpled lapel of her coat. So deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had captured me that I approached her. There she stood. Her face was gentle and sensible. Her gray eyes had a twinkle. I didn’t hesitate.
My hand gripped the small worn blue leather book which would identify me to her. I squared my shoulders, I saluted, and held out the book to the woman even while choking back the bitter disappointment. ‘I’m Lieutenant John B. Blanchard and you must be Miss Maynell. I’m so glad to meet you. May I take you to dinner?’ The woman’s face broadened into a smile. She said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about son, but the young lady in the green suit who just went by told me to wear the rose. And she said, if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she’s waiting for you in a large restaurant across the street.'”
It’s some kind of test. It’s a good test, isn’t it? It’s a great test, and every young man and every young woman needs to pass it. There’s nothing wrong with looking for blue eyes and blonde hair and a shapely figure if that’s your deal, but that’s not really that important is it? It’s all about the heart because that blonde hair will become gray hair unless it’s washed in this particular stuff, and those blue eyes and young complexion will begin to change over time, and ultimately, it’s an inner beauty that really counts. It does in the start. It does in the middle. It does at the end.
Which brings me for five minutes to the durable beauty that the Book of Proverbs talks about. It talks about debatable beauty, it talks about desirable beauty, and it talks about durable beauty, which is an extension of the last thought. It talks about a beauty that’s an inside out job that grows with the passing of time. See, the Bible talks about a beauty that doesn’t fade as you get older. And this is the kind of beauty that you and I ought to look for from the get-go. Even when we are in the flush of youth, even when physical form has a much more important role to play in a relationship than it does 60 years later. But there is an unfading beauty, there’s a durable beauty, there’s a forever beauty. There’s a beauty that outshines youth and there’s a beauty that triumphs over old age. It’s a beauty centered on the self. It’s a beauty that’s centered on the soul. It’s a beauty that doesn’t perish.
Remember Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16 and how we put it? “While the outward man perishes, the inner man… ” What’s the inner man? It’s the soul. It’s the spirit. It’s that which doesn’t die when our body ceases to function. But the inner man, the self, the soul, the spirit, the inner man can be renewed day by day. While we are getting older and the wrinkles start to appear, and the gray hairs start to sprout, when we are getting older we can get more beautiful. You know that, don’t you? I hope you know that. And I hope you’re pursuing that whether you’re young or old, whether you’re married, hoping to be married or you’re married.
Proverbs 31:30 tells us that, “Charm is deceitful. Beauty is vain.” The word vain there in the Hebrew means a puff of smoke. It’s like your breath on a cold day. That’s how significant physical form is. Beauty is passing. Temporary. Vain. But a woman that fears God, a woman whose life is centered upon God, a woman who’s growing in her character, a woman who’s looking more like God every day, she is to be praised, and she will bring happiness like nothing else. That’s what these men want to say, “Time doesn’t allow me.”
You get the same thought over in 1 Peter 3:4 where it says, “Let your adornment be that of the hidden beauty of the heart.” And it goes on to say, “Incorruptible beauty.” It’s the same great word that’s used earlier in the latter for the incorruptible nature of God’s word. There’s an unfading beauty. There’s a forever beauty that can be found in a relationship with God, in a life that’s rooted in a relationship with God that’s marked by holiness and kindness and the character of the Lord Jesus.
Can I finish a roundabout here for a moment or two just asking each of us, whether single or married, if you want to look beautiful, look like the Lord Jesus, we don’t know what he looked like physically, so see that’s not the issue. We’re talking about an unfading beauty. We’re talking about a forever beauty. Do you know what? When we are made like him, according to 1 John 3:2, remember it says, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we, amazingly, should be called the sons of God, and that doth not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall appear, we shall be like him.”
Does that mean that I’m going to physically, facially look like Lord Jesus? I don’t believe that at all. We would retain our own face and our own bodies. The body that will be resurrected is this one. Made perfect and glorious, like onto his glorious body, but it’s not going to be a likeness in terms of physical form or facial features. It’s going to be a likeness in terms of character. I won’t struggle with sin anymore. All my thoughts will be holy. All my attitudes will be balanced and beautiful. That’s the likeness that we’re headed for and that’s the likeness you won’t find in the mirror in the bathroom, but it is a likeness you’ll find if every day you look into this mirror and submit your life to the Holy Spirit and say, “Change me.”
There are ugly attitudes still in my life that need to be rooted out. There are actions, there are things I watch, there are things that I do that need to be changed. I want to look like the Lord Jesus. I want to become more attractive to my husband. I want to become more attractive to my wife because I want to be like the Lord Jesus. What’s not there to like about the Lord Jesus? What’s there not to like about a husband or wife that’s increasingly becoming like the Lord Jesus?
I think that’s a tremendous challenge to our seniors even. Forgive me. You know what I’m talking about. Your brows are furrowed with the years, the wrinkles have come, the gray hair is there, the bones are sore, the muscles are atrophying, the old heart skips a beat. And you look across the breakfast table or the dinner table and you’re not what you used to look like, but that’s okay. If you are like the Lord Jesus, you’re very beautiful in the eyes of your partner, and that’s the kind of beauty that our young people need to fixate on. That’s the kind of beauty each of us need to become preoccupied with. It’s a beauty that has more to do with spiritual health and physical fitness. It’s a beauty that has more to do with the heart than the face. It’s a beauty that has more to do with the Holy Spirit than the doctor. It’s a beauty that has more to do with going to church than going to the tanning salon. It’s a beauty that’s brought about by prayer, Bible study, repentance, worship.
Listen to these words of Kenneth Cancer and we’ll be done. On the 50th wedding anniversary that he shared with his wife this biblical scholar wrote in an article in Christianity Today, “My wife is 75 years old. At times her face is etched with old-age wrinkles, or so she calls them. And true to her femininity, she hates them. On the other hand, I think the lines are beautiful. And I love every one of them. I tell her they may come with advancing years, but they are lines of character, not old-age wrinkles. And I remind her of a bumper sticker a friend of mine reported seeing, ‘If you is 50 and ain’t got no wrinkles, you ain’t smiled enough.'”
Some of our young people are about to make one of the greatest choices of their life. May they watch out for debatable beauty, may they seek desirable beauty, and may all of us, whatever stage we’re at, be by God’s help seen formed in us a durable beauty that would ultimately culminate when Jesus comes and we are made very much like him.