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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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