Marriages that work
When I was 15, I worked for a summer at a camp in Maine. It was an all-boys camp on an island where every camper stayed for the entire summer and lived in tents and spent the summer going out on all kinds of hiking and canoeing trips all around Maine and New Hampshire. I have many great memories for those days—but I have one difficult memory early in the summer of 1986. I was helping teach a canoeing class. I was too young to be the lead instructor, but I was an assistant. It was a beautiful sunny day. Very little wind. And so, the lead instructor decided that we wouldn’t work on any skills-training, or strength training, instead, we’d just work on our tans.
Now, because I was on staff, we put one of the youngest campers in my canoe. So, we paddle a little ways off the island and then we all just stop, and lean back and catch some rays. It’s a glorious day— and we’re talking and chilling out— then all of a sudden crash! I’m in the water! It turns out, the kid in my bow saw a leaf floating in the water—and reached for it—and capsized us. He was terrified, he lost his glasses, and I was humiliated.
So, why did we tip over so easily? Because we weren’t going anywhere!
When a boat is moving, it has several forces on it that creates something called “dynamic stability”… and that makes the boat more stable. But when we’re sitting still, doing nothing, and with me leaning all the way back in the stern…we were especially vulnerable to capsizing. So, a boat that is moving is more stable.
Now, I’d like to link that principle to marriages. I’ve noticed that marriages will often struggle when they sit still in the water, when they don’t have a purpose. They’re not going anywhere. And so, marriages that sit still in the water are in danger. And often, marriages that are stable in life’s “ups and downs” are marriages that are going somewhere and accomplishing God’s purposes where the husband and wife are working together in fellowship with the Lord. So, I’d like to talk today about marriages that work for the Lord and have the stability of a boat in motion rather than the fragility of one that’s standing still.
We’re continuing our series on marriage and I hope today’s message will be helpful to all of us (not just married people) but anyone who names Christ as Lord and savior! Because whether or not you’re married… you still need to be going somewhere. And you need to have a purpose. And when you’re going someplace / aligned with God’s purpose you’ll find that God gives you a strength and balance to handle whatever rapids he takes you through.
And so, for this morning, we’re going to make a biblical case for having a life-purpose, and we’ll end with some practical ways we can live this out in our home. So, with that, let’s turn to Genesis 1 and let’s go to our first point…which is simply…
Point #1 God created marriages to “work”
This first point covers some reasons for marriage. The Bible gives several reasons why God created marriage. And as we align our home with God’s purposes for marriage, we’ll find that he gives us the strength and stability to weather the waves of life! And to get moving…we need to understand why God created marriage. And that brings us to the beginning of the book of Genesis—where we’ll see that God created marriage to reflect the Trinity!
We’re getting this principle from Genesis 1 26. Let’s look at Genesis 1 26 which says… "then God said, “let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in his image specifically to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky. And the work he has called us to is a unique reflection of the Trinity that no other created being possesses! We’re like a mirror to show the world God! And this reflection is most clearly seen in the creation of man and woman.
Look at the next verse. Genesis 1 27 says, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." So, God created mankind to reflect himself and he did this by creating both man and woman. So, let’s build on this idea and dive deeper into how a man and woman, united together—reflect the Trinity.
As you probably know, God is triune. He’s the Trinity! Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is equally… omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, and unchanging. They are equal in love, mercy, justice, holiness, knowledge, and every other attribute. And yet, each has unique functions the Father is the one who decreed to save us! The Son is the one who went to the cross to save us! And the Holy Spirit is the one who puts spiritual life into our souls so that we can be saved!
So although all 3 members of the Trinity have a role in our salvation, and there are distinctions between them. For instance, neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit died for us on the cross. That was specifically the work of the Son. So, that’s a clear distinction and there are several others. The point is… the Father is not the Son, nor is the Holy Spirit.
Now, from the earliest days of the church, Christians have represented these distinctions as a triangle. Picture a triangle in your mind the entire triangle represents the triune God each corner represents a different person of the Trinity. Usually, the Father is at the top, the Son is on the bottom left and the Holy Spirit is on the bottom right. (there are other ways of depicting the trinity, but that’s one of the most common ways). Now, here’s how this ties into marriage… just as there is unity within these distinctions of the Trinity there is unity within the distinctions of marriage.
Genesis 2 24 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his Father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” When a man and woman get married, they become a true & real spiritual union that mirrors the oneness of the trinity. And just like we can draw a triangle to reflect the trinity, we can also draw a triangle to reflect marriage!
To diagram marriage—we’d take the same triangle…but this time, we’d put… the triune God at the top, the husband on the lower left and the wife on the lower right.
The husband and wife are on the same level together united in a new spiritual union with God. Now, the analogy breaks down, because we are not equal with God and we don’t form a new Trinity… but these diagrams help us see that God created man and woman (as individuals) to reflect his image, and he created the marriage union to reflect the Trinity. And marriages that are going somewhere are living out this purpose. To build on this idea let’s turn over to Genesis 2 18 and see how we reflect the Trinity.
Genesis 2 18 says, "then the Lord God said, “it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” And if we tie this verse to the principle that marriage is to reflect the Trinity we see that it reflects the Trinity with companionship.
God didn’t want Adam to be alone. He wanted Adam to enjoy the same kind of intimate fellowship that God has within the Trinity. It’s easy to forget how astounding it is for God to say, “it is not good for the man to be alone.” This is the first time in God’s word where something is not good. Back in Genesis 1…God said all kinds of things were good… in verse 4 — the light was good. In verse 10 — seas and the dry land was “good”, in verse 12 — the plants were “good”, in verse 18— the sun and moon and stars were “good”, in verse 20—the animals were “good”, in verse 31—everything was “very good.” But suddenly in Genesis 2 18… there is something that is “not good”. It’s “not good” for Adam to be alone…
Afterall, Adam was made in God’s image, and the triune God had had unity and harmony from eternity past… and God wanted people to experience the same blessing of pure, united, joyful, harmony and fellowship. So, God created a companion that was “suitable” for Adam. The Hebrew word for “suitable” is “kenegdo” which has the idea of “corresponding” to him. So—the thing that was “not good” in Adam’s life wasn’t going to be solved through animals or work, but through a companion provided by God! So, God gave Adam someone like him…
Malachi 2 14 calls her a “companion and… wife by covenant." the word “companion” in Malachi 2 14 is the Hebrew word “chaber” which means, “an associate knit together.” That points to the special kind of companionship God intends for us to have with our spouse. We don’t just live together, we don’t just have the same address God has designed the marriage covenant to be a knitting together of two lives. And marriages that work seek to build this companionship. They’re not strangers passing in the night. They don’t allow themselves to build separate lives apart from each other. They are taking their roles and responsibility to reflect the Trinity knowing that God’s grace will enable them to do his will and overcome frustration and petty annoyances and disappointments. It takes work to maintain a companionship over a lifetime, but God wants husbands and wives to keep at that work, for his glory and their joy!
God wants us to be companions that reflect the Trinity …and he wants us engaged in work together for his glory. We see this principle in Genesis 2 18… look over at Genesis 2 18. Genesis 2 18 says, “then the Lord said, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.’”
The word “helper” is the Hebrew word “ezer” which means “to aid”. When you think about the task God gave to Adam, it was massive… God put Adam in the garden to tend it and keep it. But this project was too big for just Adam, and so, God gave Adam eve to join him in the work. And we can extrapolate from this that God created husbands and wives to do something together that matters for eternity.
Think about the following passages in terms of how these would relate to a husband and wife working together in the cause of Christ.
Jesus said in Matthew 6 19–20 “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;"
Jesus tells us to be investing in eternity…and when a husband and wife are united together, they have a wonderful new capacity to serve the Lord together. Paul told the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 2 10 "for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." God knew we were going to be married, and there are good works he has ordained for us to do together. And he told Titus in Titus 3 14 "our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful." and so, God calls us to engage in work that lasts for eternity—and often that work will be together with our spouse. You see this with Boaz and Ruth, or Pricilla and Aquila in acts 18. Or Andronicus and Junias in romans 16 7 (who were possibly. married). It is beautiful and God-glorifying when a husband and wife combine their resources to serve the Lord.
Beloved, the Holy Spirit has things he wants to do in you and through you and for many of us and if he has given you a spouse, He wants you to join together in his eternal work. This is not just for some marriages. It’s for all of them. We are to unite our work together for the lord.
And this goes back to my opening story about capsizing the canoe when our marriage is standing still and doing nothing for eternity, we’re in danger of capsizing because life’s waves have a way of flipping people who are not working together on kingdom purposes.
And when you talk with couples about what causes conflict in their home it’s often related to what the other spouse is “doing”. The husband doesn’t like how much she’s serving at church. The wife doesn’t like how much he is watching tv. He doesn’t like how much she’s does with the kids. She doesn’t like how much he’s gone for work… and when you come down to it… often the tension is over how life should be lived.
One of the books I was looking at for this sermon series is a few decades old, and it cites a survey from the 1960’s. The survey ed a bunch of newly married Christian couples about their goals. 40% of couples said their number one goal was to be devoted to God and do his will. The 2nd goal was to build a loving family. The 3rd goal was to find peace and contentment. That survey was from over 50 years ago and I wonder how many Christian couples today would say their number one goal is to do God’s will? I believe one of the greatest sources of marriage-frustration comes from the fact that one, or both spouses don’t have “serving god” as their highest priority in the home.
I think this is reflected in the rise of entertainment… a study was released last year that found that the average adult spends between 6 to 9 hours a day consuming media from tv, to video games, to smart phones or computers. 6 to 9 hours a day is a staggering statistic. Over a typical lifetime that averages to about 8000 days or almost 22 years! People are going to stand before the Lord and give account for their lives and he’s going to “what did you do with this amazing gift I gave you?” And they’re going to say, “Well, I spent 22 years just being entertained.” That’s not going to be a good day for many people.
The world entices our flesh to say that we’ve got to watch the latest tv show, or catch up with that Facebook friend, or get to that next game level…but how much of those 8,000 days are going to matter for eternity? Realistically, it’s hard to say that anyone who is consuming 6 to 9 hours a day of media is making much of a dent on this world for eternity. There may be the occasional exception—like posting stuff about the Lord on Facebook, but for the most part, this is the opposite of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25… you remember that parable… the Lord gives talents to his people to use for his kingdom, and they will one day give an account for how they invested their lives for him. Many people are not investing in work that matters for eternity… and it’s possible (and even likely) — that a real part of the breakdown in our homes comes from the fact that many people are not trying to make their life—much less their marriage—count for eternity!
But when a married couple is working together for eternity… that work can actually bring harmony and unity where there was once bickering and disunity. Let’s go on to our second point and discuss why this principle is true.
Our second point is: Marriages that work abide in his grace. And this principle really applies to everyone; married or not.
Point #2 marriages that work / abide in his grace
The reason why a moving boat is more stable than a boat that’s standing still is because of all the forces that are upon it. This principle is called “dynamic stability”. Marriages that are aligned with Christ’s purposes have a new force on them that comes from the presence of Christ and his grace working in them. Paul alluded to this principle in 1 Corinthians 15 10 "but by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." He was working hard, but it was God’s grace working in him.
Now let’s be clear we’re not necessarily saying, “do more, do more, do more!” And we’re not saying that the key to a good marriage is to be crazy busy. What I’m saying is that God has a plan for your marriage… and he has given you gifts and talents to accomplish his will and when you resist that plan your marriage is like a boat that’s doing nothing and going nowhere and in danger of capsizing. But when you submit to his will and serve him you will have his pleasure and his grace and his presence giving you the strength to endure whatever he brings your way. Let’s turn in our bibles to John 12 25 & 26.
Jesus starts in john 12 25 saying, “he who loves his life loses it...” That’s pretty clear if your life is all about self and self-preservation, it’s not going to last. It won’t be fulfilling, meaningful or joyful. But look what Jesus goes on to say… he says, “he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”
This is the paradox of living for Christ: If you cling to your own life, you’ll lose it. But if you give up your life, you will get eternal life; and the eternal life you gain in his life in you, and his life in you will most joyful when you are in fellowship with him, doing the work he is doing. Look at what Jesus says in verse 26 verse 26 says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him."
And here’s the spiritual principle that we need to understand: When we are following Jesus, we will be where he is, and he will be with us and we will be doing his work. This is a major difference between us and the world. The world does their own thing. But we do Jesus’ thing. And if we want to be with Jesus, we need to join him in the work he is doing.
I used to have a pastor who’d talk about how there was a stretch in his life when he wasn’t about Jesus’ work, and he says, the Lord just put him on a shelf. But after sitting on that shelf for a while, doing nothing, he realized he was being disobedient to the lord’s work, so he decided to be about the lord’s work and over time, the Lord took him from being a sheet rocker to a pastor…and God has used him in wonderful ways. So, serving Christ connects us with his work that he’s doing.
Not only that, it is the manifestation of a living faith. It takes faith to give up your morning and join in the serve day yesterday. It takes faith to start investing in Christ’s work. And when we step out in faith and start doing things outside of our comfort zone, and start dying to self and living for Christ, and put ourselves in situations where we’re totally reliant on him—we’ll see Jesus work.
This is what happened when the Lord rescued the Jews in 2nd Kings 18 & 19. In 2nd Kings 18 & 19 — the Assyrians came up against Hezekiah in Jerusalem and a general by the name of Sennacherib was sitting outside Jerusalem threatening to attack it. At first, Hezekiah gave in and emptied the temple of its gold. (it was really tragic) but the Assyrians said it wasn’t enough. So, Sennacherib sent officials to stand outside of Jerusalem and mock Hezekiah for following God they had already destroyed other kingdoms, including the northern kingdom of Israel, so if their “gods” didn’t protect these other people, who would protect Hezekiah and the Jews? But Hezekiah stood his ground and didn’t give up and put his trust in the Lord and just as the Assyrians were about to pounce on Jerusalem, the Angel of the Lord swept in and killed 180,000 of them overnight.
God’s people saw God work because they stepped out in faith to obey him. But people who never step out in faith and never come to the point of total dependence on God…never really see him work in their lives. But marriages that serve God serve in places where they see him working.
Many modern marriages find this principle true… families that commit their finances to the Lord find his grace in times of difficulty. Families that are invested in a biblical church family, find his love through the working of his people. Families that pray together, stay together. And so, marriages that serve God connect us to with God because we see him working.
Another reason marriages that work are stable is because they often have an eternal perspective.
When a married couple understands they are serving the Lord together, they will have more grace with each other knowing that the other person is working towards the same goal. When couples have different goals, they’ll tend to bicker over what the other person is doing. But when they both have the same goal, they understand what the other person is doing and why. A great example of this was how couples worked together yesterday.
If you were part of the Serve Day yesterday, you know that Eric was a huge part of it. We were working on the town sign (we needed to put down some rocks, mow down some weeks, and clean up the sign). So, Eric checked things out ahead of time and assessed the project. He also drove down to Loveland and bought 4000 pounds of rock. He also brought his landscaping equipment. Then, during the project he showed us what we needed to do. But Eric’s got three kids…and having a 1-year old walking around the road is not a good thing. So, Amanda stayed home and watched the kids but not only that, she watched other people’s kids so that they could be part of the project too. They were working on the same goal, but from different angles.
A similar thing happened with Colby and Melanie. Melanie went to the meetings with the other churches and got our church organized. Thanks to her leadership, we had 22 people join in. And the whole family—Melanie, Colby and their team of 8 kids—came out and worked together. They worked on the town’s sign, then worked at the church, and then went over to Wanda’s house and worked there too. It was a great example of families working together for the cause of Christ.
That’s often what it takes to serve the Lord sometimes a family is working together sometimes they’re working on different projects…but they have the same goal to serve the lord.
And this doesn’t have to be just women who stay home… I know of men who will watch the kids so the wives can serve. They’ll make dinner, do the laundry, clean the house so that their wives can be about the Lord’s work. And God— who is everywhere— sees all these acts of service from the person pushing gravel around, to the person watching the kids, and God sees their labors and he abides with them and strengthens them to accomplish his work.
Now, having said this there’s an obvious there’s a danger to this. Psalm 127 2 says, it is “vain to eat the bread of painful labors.” And it is very possible to serve in capacities that God has not called us to do. Sometimes were serving out of a sense of obligation our kids are involved in the ministry so we figure we have to contribute something so we’re not freeloaders. Sometimes were serving out of pride we want to be able to pat ourselves on the back. Sometimes were serving out of fear that if we don’t serve, that ministry will die, and we’ve somehow disappointed the lord. We have to be on guard against these wrong reasons for service.
God does not need us. The Lord did not give Martha a gold start for her busyness. It is entirely possible to do good things by our flesh and it’s possible to do things that make us very busy but have no spiritual value. If Jesus isn’t doing the work in us and through us, we might as well not do the work.
This is why we need to have godly discernment with what we agree to. The goal is not to have the busiest church calendar in northern Colorado. The goal is to look for what Jesus is doing, and join him there… and we know that Jesus is working when souls are being saved, and when people are celebrating God’s holiness and when people are repenting of sin and when lives are being changed by the power and grace of Christ. And if we’re not seeing these fruits in our service…we need to be looking at what we’re going and how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it…because maybe we’re doing something that Jesus is not a part of.
When we’re joining Jesus in the work he’s doing, his spirit will abide with us, and give us the grace we need to serve him in whatever he brings into our lives.
So, okay, now this sounds nice—but how do it? Especially if our spouse is not on board? To answer that question, let’s go to our third point...
Point #3 how to make your marriage work
Now, as we’ve already said I’m not saying should be working more and more and more….I’m really not. But I am saying you need an undivided heart. If your heart is to serve God some of the time, and serve self some of the time, you’ll feel tension when you’re serving the Lord because serving God will always take away from your other objectives. And when that happens… you’ll be more inclined to argue with your spouse, you’ll be less able to discern what God wants you to do because you end up doing whatever you want… and your question won’t be, “Lord, do you want me to do this?” You’ll just do it and it might be something you’re doing in the flesh. So, we need an undivided heart? And that comes by making Jesus’s mission our mission.
Jesus is a king on a rescue mission to pull people out of this cursed world, and he’s calling us to join him in what he’s doing. Jesus said in Matthew 28 19–20 “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”" this is what Jesus calls us to be about. We go into the world and reach people with the gospel, and we teach them the principles of Christ kingdom.
So, we need to look at our marriages and how is our marriage part of Christ’s mission? Are we reaching people for Christ? Are we teaching people about Christ? Are we helping those people on the front lines by watching their kids or doing something else?
Now, some people will say “no” because they are too busy. Many people think they just don’t have time. When I was involved in Awana at John Macarthur’s church, they had an Awana commander who was always working on recruiting new volunteers. And if a person said to him, “I’d love to, but I just don’t have time.” He’d say something along the lines of “okay, what changes do you need to make in your life so that you will have time next year?” And he’d go back a year later, and them again to serve.
We need to evaluate our schedules in light of eternity…are we working for treasures in heaven or treasures on earth? There are many good causes in this world, but not causes that produce conversions where people are celebrating God for his holiness, and repenting of his sin, and turning to a life of obedience to him. We need to look at our lives and see if what we’re doing matters for eternity…and often, we’re doing things that seem worthy…but are not filled with the presence of Christ.
My hope is that every married couple at WCC can say together—husband and wife— “this is how we’re going to be part of making disciples at WCC …” Maybe you’re serving in the kid’s ministry together, maybe you’re having people over and you’re both cleaning the house and doing the cooking maybe your spouse leads a ministry…and they’re at church late…and you’re home watching the kids. The point is, every married couple should have an intentional ministry where you’re both committed to the work and you’re both praying together for God’s blessings on it.
And to figure out how to do this—the husband and wife should be praying together, asking the Lord to guide them to where he wants them to serve him. And then they need to jump in—It’s always easier to steer a car that’s moving.
God has already given your family the resources you need to accomplish his will. You just need to figure out what it is. Often, it’s something that combines talents from both of you so that it’s something new that you didn’t have when you were single. I know a family who sought God in this way and ended up going to Russia for a year as missionaries. They went there for a year, it was a great blessing to them, but not God’s ultimate plan. They came back and the husband ran for state senator and was elected and able to serve the Lord in government. I know another family who had a farmhouse, who opened it up as a bed-and-breakfast and every weekend would invite their guests to go to church with them. Last weekend, I met a family that fosters something like 6 or 7 kids. It’s been hard for them, but they know they are obeying god. God has given you and your spouse unique talents, that combine to form new talents that enable you to fulfill his plans for your home.
Now, I know this principle presents a challenge for some couples. One spouse might say the other is at church too much. One spouse might not even be saved, or care about things of eternity. Here’s something to remember…in the parable of the talents, the point is not about who has the most talents but who uses every talent he has for the Lord’s work. It’s about being faithful with what you have. You may not have a lot of resources. You might have a spouse who’s not on board. If you’re intent is to use every talent for kingdom-purposes…you will find kingdom purposes in whatever situation that God has placed you in.
Likewise, maybe your spouse isn’t persecuting you because of your faith, but because you’re involved in so many things, he’s saying just be home more…and maybe you need to cut something out so that you can devote more time to the cause of Christ.
Maybe your spouse doesn’t want to have people over, and so you demonstrate hospitality by taking food to people’s homes instead.
Maybe your spouse doesn’t want you to serve in the church, and so, you don’t have a public role in the ministry of the church, but you spend a couple hours each week on your knees in prayer.
Maybe you’re serving the Lord alone right now, but you’re asking the Lord to change the heart of your spouse. When you commit your work to the lord, and join him where he is working—at some level—you’ll be bringing your spouse along for the ride and they will be encountering the living Lord Jesus Christ, and that encounter with the Lord might change their hearts.
Beloved, God wants us to have marriages that work / that are stable and not easily capsized. And to give us that stability, he calls us to have marriages that reflect the trinity, and join in his work, and are filled with his grace and favor so that we join him in the eternal work he is doing in this world.
So, husbands—God has given you a tremendous responsibility. You are to lead your family in engaging in work that lasts for eternity where together your home reflects the Trinity and God’s design for his bride and uses the talents he has given you for his glory so that when you stand before him, he will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”