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Nurturing a healthy marriage Psalms 128 We, though, live in a culture in which people definitely believe in Sermon 05 marriage. One reason they do is because inside they know we each need October 31st, 2010 companionship in life. That's the way we’re wired. In the beginning of the creation account it tells us, "It is not good for man to be alone," (Gen. 2:18) Imagine for a moment that you’d gotten because it’s not. Our God-given instincts tell us that it’s not good to be married fifty years ago, that you were alone so the majority of us marry. In spite of a sky-rocketing divorce rate celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary most people still search for someone to share their lives with, someone to today. Imagine that you had gotten do for themselves what they can't. married on October 31, 1960. Psalm 128 is part of what is called “a song of ascent.” The ―songs of The Golden Anniversary is one of the most celebrated wedding ascent‖ were likely psalms that were sung by bands of pilgrims on their anniversaries. And rightly so! Investing half a century in a loving way to the yearly feasts in Jerusalem. Because a person always went up to relationship with one person is a wonderful statement about the gift of Jerusalem, if one sung these psalms on the way, they were then songs of married life. 50 years. A lot happens in half a century—particularly for a ascent, sung as one ascended to Jerusalem and to the Temple. husband and wife who have built a life together. Consider some of these facts. In 1960 the United States population was 181 million—half of what The psalmist’s selection of blessings is particularly significant. Some it is today. The world population was a little over 3 billion—half of what it popular preachers today focus on health, wealth and prestige as the is today. The average cost of new house: $12,400 and the average yearly blessings of God. They’ll tell you, ―Believe for a large house and you’ll get wages: $5,010. The cost of a gallon of gas: 25 cents. The average cost of a it,‖ or ―Believe for a more prominent position at work and you’ll get it.‖ new car: $2,200. A movie ticket: $1. A loaf of bread: 20 cents. The cost of But this Hebrew poet doesn’t hold up wealth or prestige or power. He a first-class postage stamp: 4 cents. Federal spending was at $92 billion and upholds the simpler treasures of life, which are also the greater ones: a the Federal debt was at $290 billion. Unemployment was 5.5%. All of us work which is meaningful and which gives appropriate return; a wife who would agree that a lot has changed since 1960. is the completion of and is made complete by her husband; and children who are the promise of the present and the security of the future. But what if you got married this year? What will happen by 2060? I don’t know. I do know that if you’re going to have a healthy marriage, if you’re He writes, “your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house.” The going to have a fulfilling 50th Wedding Anniversary, then it won’t just vine was a symbol of fruitfulness, of charm, and of festivity. This dear lady happen. A healthy marriage must be nurtured. My Bible is open to has been fruitful in rearing children but also in all of the things she puts her Psalm 128 (p. 442). hands to. She has charm and provides a sense of festivity to life. She’s very much a Proverbs 31 kind of woman. In our culture weddings are a very big deal. The United States has one of the highest marriage rates in the world. Even though many people wait The blessed man’s wife is like a fruitful vine within his house. This word until they’re older to marry than they did twenty years ago, about 96% of ―within‖ is very important. It means she’s faithful to her husband, not Americans still get married at some point in their lives. If you did a survey promiscuous. She’s all about her calling by God to be the wife of this man. in which you asked the average American to list the ingredients of a good life, most would place being happily married near the top. Even 80% of “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.” The olive tree was those who divorce decide to give it another shot and marry again. Recently, vitally important for daily life and the economy of Israel. Olive shoots were I read that 80% of American men say they’d marry the same woman if they a symbol of hope for the future. And this man’s sons provide great hope for had it to do it all over again but only 50% of American women say they'd the future. marry the same man. I doubt that you’ve ever heard of George McCluskey, but he could easily be sitting here this morning. George McCluskey decided to make an a. The first stage of marriage could be referred to as the romance stage. investment in his family. As he married and started a family, he decided to During these first months or years, couples intensely focus only on each invest one hour a day in prayer. He was concerned that his children would other. They’re spellbound and absorbed with each other. During this stage follow Christ and establish their own homes with reverence for God and the tendency is to put your partner up on a pedestal. He or she can do no obedience to Christ. After a while, he decided to expand his prayers to wrong. Spouses often wax poetic in this stage as an expression of their love include not only his children, but his children’s children, and also his for their spouse. We find a prime example of this in the 4th chapter of the children’s children’s children. So every day between 11 a.m. and noon, Song of Solomon where a love struck husband describes his wife by George McCluskey would pray for the next three generations. As the years saying: "How beautiful you are my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes went by, George’s two daughters committed their lives to Christ and behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending married pastors. Those two couples produced four girls and one boy. All from Mount Gilead!" (Song of Solomon 4:1). Remember this is a middle- four of girls also married ministers and the boy became a pastor. The first eastern setting so these are complimentary phrases! He goes on, "Your lips two children of the fourth generation were both boys. One became a pastor, are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your but the other didn’t. He was the first descendant and the first boy in the veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. Your neck is like the tower of family to not be a pastor. He was the black sheep of the family. David, built with elegance..." (Song of Solomon 4:3-4). He continues to describe her physical attributes…you get the idea so we'll stop at the This ―black sheep‖ pursued his own interest in psychology, and, over the neckline. It’s obvious that Solomon is in the romance stage. He’s totally years, met with considerable success. After earning his doctorate, he wrote focused on his wife, and it's a focus that drives him to write poetry. a book for parents that became a best-seller. He then wrote another book and another and another…and on and on it went. Eventually he started a This stage is also characterized by indulgence. There's a lot of giving in radio program that is now heard on more than 1000 stations a day. and giving up, "Whatever you want darling!" Couples go along to get along, catering to each other's whims. For example: wives can't stand Want to know that black sheep’s name? Dr. James Dobson, perhaps the sports but during the romance stage they go to football games with their most influential pro-family leader in America today. His ministry is the husbands anyway. Husbands can't stand shopping but they go to malls and direct result of the prayers of one man who lived four generations ago. outlets with their wives anyway. Dad…Mom…Husband…Wife, never underestimate your importance in the And there's also a lot of naïveté in this early stage of marriage because future of your family. Make a difference. Be this type of husband and couples really don't know each other. Now this stage doesn't last long. father, this type of wife and mother, this type of child…and God will bless Soon couples do get to know each other and realize that their partners you. Not the stuff of this world but blessings that count for all eternity! actually have faults. They see how they look and smell in the morning. This romance stage is referred to as the ideal, but when they get to know This morning we want to focus on what it means to Nurture a healthy each other the ideal turns into an ordeal and at this point they enter the marriage and examine three basic principles that help nurture successful, second stage known as... healthy marriages. These three principles encourage marriage relationships that are able to supply us with this inborn need we have for b. The second stage of marriage could be referred to as the reality stage. companionship. If you’re taking notes… Once again Solomon gives us an example of this. In the text we read a moment ago Solomon was saying that his wife was perfect...flawless. 1. To nurture a healthy marriage both the husband and the wife must Remember? But a little while later in Proverbs 27:15-16, he's changed his be committed for the long haul. In other words spouses must agree that tune, saying this about his lovely wife with lips like a scarlet ribbon and a they are devoted to their relationship no matter what, “until death do we neck like the tower of David. Now he writes, "A quarrelsome wife is like a part.” Anyone who’s been married for ten years or more will tell you that constant dripping on a rainy day. Restraining her is like restraining the all marriage relationships go through different phases. wind or grasping oil with the hand." What happened? Rick Warren puts it this way, "His delight turned to disillusionment. His dating to debating. ideal. The Reality Stage is where the ideal can turn into an ordeal. The His romance to resentment. The ideal to an ordeal." Rethinking stage is when we want a new deal. At this point more and more couples do exactly that. They file for divorce and search for a new deal. At this point Solomon is like the man who went to his pastor complaining two months after his wedding saying, "I got false advertising here." The What too many couples don’t realize is that they can get through these Pastor said, "Hey, you took her for better or worse." The man replied, stages and even grow marriages that are better in spite of them...if they go "Yeah, but she's a lot worse than I took her for." into marriage with a mutual commitment that a new deal is not an option, deciding that no matter what comes they are committed to their relationship Of course, the opposite is also true. The trouble with some women is that for life. The fact is that… they get all excited about nothing (and then they marry him)! * With a “long haul mind set” we are more likely to marry right in the Anyway, in this stage dullness often sets in. Things are no longer exciting. first place. If a couple marries with this conviction as the foundation of Disagreements often turn the relationship into a marital cold war. What their marriage, couples are much less likely to get married without due started as puppy love has gone to the dogs. thought and consideration. If we know there's no turning back, we won't look at marriage trivially. We'll take it very seriously, and we should. As This change in the marital relationship reminds me of something that has most pastors say at the beginning of a wedding ceremony, "Marriage is not been referred to as the 7 STAGES OF A COLD for a married couple. to be entered into unadvisedly but seriously, reverently, and in the fear of Stage 1: Sugar dumpling, I'm really worried about my baby girl. That's a the Lord." bad sniffle and there's no telling about these things with all the strep that's going around. I'm going to put you in the hospital for a general check-up That’s a word picture to help you see the importance of this. Imagine what and a good rest. I know the food's terrible, but I'm going to bring you it would be like in America if the law was that you could only own one car dinner every night from Rosini's. I've got it all arranged with the floor for the rest of your life. You could never trade it in for a newer or better supervisor. model. You could never junk it because it cost too much or breaks down Stage 2: Listen, Darling, I don't like the sound of that cough. I'm going to too often. If that were the law of the land, wouldn't you be very careful in call the Doctor and have him rush over here. Now you go to bed like a making this purchase? Of course you would! And the same principle good girl just for papa. applies to marriage. When we recognize its permanence, we’ll be wiser Stage 3: Maybe you'd better lie down, honey. Nothing like a little rest when it comes to when and with whom we make that once-in-a-lifetime when you're feeling lousy. I'll bring you something. Have we got any commitment. canned soup? Stage 4: Now look, dear, be sensible. After you've fed the kids, gotten the * If the “new deal” isn’t an option, we're more likely to determine to dishes done and the floor mopped, you'd better lie down for a while. make our marriages work. We realize – this is it! This is my one and only Stage 5: Why don't you take a couple of aspirin? shot at this. I've got to work to make this relationship work and that's good Stage 6: Would you try gargling or something instead of just sitting because to be good at marriage it take work. In fact, it takes a life-time of around barking like a seal all evening! work. To be good at marriage requires skill and to develop any skill, it Stage 7: Would you stop coughing on me?!? Are you trying to give me takes time and practice. Someone once said, "Marriage is like twirling a pneumonia?!? You’d better sleep on the couch tonight." baton, turning hand springs, or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it." And that's correct. Marriage takes time and practice. It takes Most marriages do change at the beginning. They go from romance to years of work for two different sinful beings to learn to live together. reality, and shortly thereafter they enter the third stage... A healthy, growing marriage takes time, work and perseverance. It takes a c. The third stage of marriage could be referred to as the rethinking lot of time to get good at marriage. You don't become a good partner to stage. The Romance Stage is when we think of marriage as the perfect your spouse over night. The longer and harder you work at it, the better...no the more wonderful it gets. Please understand, couples who until noon. One loves to talk and has the gift of gab. The other is deaf and decide they want a ―new deal,‖ couples who quit when things get tough – dumb. One is a people person. They love to be around groups of people. will never really experience genuine marital bliss because that kind of The other is more comfortable alone. One loves to go out. The other hates fulfilling marital joy only comes to those who work to learn to give it. that and is a real homebody. One loves to spend money. Their spouse is a Unfortunately, these days the omnipresence of divorce makes it hard or tightwad. One is always on time. The other is never on time. even impossible for the average spouse to learn the skills he or she needs to learn in order to develop a great marriage. As Gary Chapman pointed out in his best-selling book, spouses also communicate love differently. Some do so through physical touch while A nurturing marriage is not built on compatibility, as much as it is a others do through acts of service and so on. Most couples don't commitment to a lasting relationship. One writer put it this way, "A good communicate love in the same way. But once couples realize how different marriage is not a gift which the bride and groom discover among the they are from their spouses, they often think they’ve made a big mistake wedding presents. It's an achievement, a home-made, life-long, do-it- and must give up on the relationship...and start searching for a new deal. yourself project. It's built by two hearts and two pairs of hands, constantly They think their only option is to quit the marriage and renew their quest working together at the task over a long period of time." for someone who is the perfect match for them, someone with whom they share likes and dislikes. This is one reason that God has commanded in His Word, that, "...what He has joined together, no man is to separate." Our Heavenly Father did not Perhaps you’ve heard of the ancient Greek legend of a Cyprian king named issue that command to restrict us or to make us miserable. It’s just that, as Pygmalion who found a unique way to solve potential marital differences. the Inventor of marriage, He knows that real love and fulfillment exist only He became so frustrated with his inability to find his perfect match, to find in conditions where there’s long term trust and commitment. It’s only in the right woman to marry, that he decided to sculpt one. So, out of the most this atmosphere of "no matter what I'm not giving up" commitment that exquisite ivory he could find he fashioned the woman of his dreams. When genuine love is deepened and takes root. But couples who give up and he was done, he bowed and prayed and the ivory woman miraculously search for a new deal never discover this. came to life. Pygmalion took his perfect match as his wife and they lived happily ever after. It's like the miner who gives up digging when he's only six inches from hitting a vein of pure gold ore. To get to "marital gold" spouses have to be When husbands and wives discover how different they are they often use committed for the long haul. And then, a second principle we must Pygmalion's technique and chip and chisel and sculpt away their spouses understand in order to nurture healthy marriages is this… "flaws." That’s a big mistake. If a marriage is to be strong, if the husband and wife are to be a team then they need to learn to discover and 2. To nurture a healthy marriage both the husband and the wife must embrace…and even delight in one another's uniqueness. seek to understand and embrace each other's differences. Each man and woman is different beyond the obvious physical differences. Spouses don't As someone once put it, when two people always agree in marriage one of usually realize how different they are until they get through the romance them is not necessary. To have a whole marriage, you need to have some stage. At that point their eyes are opened and they often say something like diversity. It takes two unique people. In the same way it takes a fork and a this, "Before we were married we had so much in common and now that knife to eat a meal...it takes two different people to make a complete we’re married, we have nothing in common." To say that they have nothing marital team. Three times the Bible reminds us that in marriage as God in common is a little extreme, but most couples soon realize that they have intended, husband and wife become "one." a lot less in common than they originally thought. In fact, it’s almost humorous how often God seems to put exact opposites together. When Jesus quoted this text in the New Testament He used a Greek word that’s pronounced, "heis." Heis means unity, but it was also used to express Here are some examples and as I list them, let's have no finger pointing or the idea of uniqueness. That may seem a bit contradictory. For example, to elbow jabbing! One spouse is an early riser. The other wants to hibernate say, "The two shall become one" seems much different than to say, "The two shall be come unique." But that’s what Jesus was saying by using this Instead, they only scratch the surface of intimacy that’s available to word in this way – a godly marriage is one that honors both your unity and spouses whose love for each other is empowered by their Christian faith. your uniqueness. In his book, Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships, Chip Ingram points out Think of marriage this way. Think of it as two circles so close that they that our culture has marriage all wrong. I love the way he’s done this. He have one ellipse of overlapping area. The overlapping area can symbolize rightly concludes that the world says that these are the steps to marital the unity part of marriage, while the non-overlapping parts represent the bliss: a. FIND the right person. b. FALL in love. c. FIX your hopes and uniqueness parts of the relationship. You need both for a marriage to be dreams on this person for your future fulfillment. d. If FAILURE occurs healthy. Couples should share some common interests but to be whole, get a NEW DEAL by repeating steps 1, 2, & 3. But, God's prescription for their relationship needs differences as well...because then husbands and marital joy is much different. It goes like this: a. BECOME the right wives form a partnership far stronger than either one alone as they person. b. WALK in love. c. FIX your hope on God and seek to please Him compensate for each other's weaknesses and encourage each other's through this relationship. d. If FAILURE occurs repeat steps 1, 2, 3. strengths. Do you see the difference a relationship with God can make in a marriage? Jane and I are very opposite but these differences make us a better team. In God says, instead of finding the right person, BE the right person. And this our 27 years of marriage we've come to see that we literally need each is so important because our love for others, especially our spouses, flows other's differences in order to get through life. We've come to not only out of our sense of being deeply loved by God. So instead of looking for understand them but embrace them and value them. And the same is true love, God tells us to realize that love has already found us. He loves us about any marriage. You need a spouse who is different than you. more than we could ever deserve. He meets our need for love and the best way for us to demonstrate that we have understood and accepted God's Understanding our differences has other benefits. First it's hard to love love is to learn to imitate Him as closely as possible in the way we treat someone authentically until you really understand them. It’s also hard to others, especially our spouses. resolve marital conflicts until you see the underlying issues, issues that so often come from our uniqueness. When you quit passing judgment on your As Ephesians 4:32 says, godly spouses are, "kind and compassionate to differences then you open the door for workable compromise and end up one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave them.” delighting in the very differences that once caused division. Spouses who have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ are secure in who they are; secure enough to be a giver instead of a taker. They can walk in In order then to nurture a healthy marriage spouses must be committed to love every day, giving their spouse what he or she needs the most when it the long haul. They must seek to understand and embrace each other's is least deserved because they know that's exactly how God has treated differences... them. Christian spouses express their view of each other like this. They say, "You are not the most important person in my life, Jesus Christ is. But 3. To nurture a healthy marriage both the husband and the wife must because He is I'm going to treat you even better than I could treat you if submit to God’s leadership in their relationship. Marriage was designed you were the most important person in my life. Christ will help me love to function best with each spouse acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord. you more than I could ever love you in my strength alone." Then, when the When spouses do this marriage works, when they don't, it doesn’t. Or, at inevitable problems come in a marriage where God is honored, they don't the very best it is a mere shadow of what it could be. The fact is we can't quit. They just repeat the first three steps. They work harder on becoming love each other in the way we’re designed to need to be loved on our own. the right person and on walking in love and on relating in ways that God We need an outside power source to do this and that power source is God. would want them to relate. Does that sound like a great spouse or what? The tragic truth is that a husband and wife who leave God out of their Maybe this morning you realize that the tough times you’ve been going marriage never really understand what it means to love one another. through with your spouse are because you’ve been leaving God out of your marriage. If that's true then you may need to respond by squeezing your spouse's hand as if to say, "I want to finish what we’ve started. I want to grow old with you. In our marriage I want to experience the blessing God intended it to be. I want God to be central in our relationship." Or, you may be an individual who realizes that you’ve left God out of your life. Our time together has helped you to see how lonely you are. You want to experience true wholeness. If that’s your situation, then I encourage you to talk to God right now. Ask Him to cleanse you of your sin and to come into your heart and life. God wants us to have and nurture healthy marriages but we must do it His way!
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