As we dive back into our discussion on the home, we need a reminder that we face a battle each day that is spiritual in nature. The forces trying to take down the home, dismantle marriages, and break family bonds are strong. We have to recognize that these forces are at work and will continue to advance if we do not set up boundaries and precautions. We must also pray, knowing that prayer is the mechanism through which God primarily moves. I believe spiritual warfare is real and that we are waging war not against the physical things of this world but against the spiritual principalities and strongholds of the unseen. Paul realized this and starkly drew the battle lines for his readers in Ephesians:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. Ephesians 6:12
I stated last week as an introduction that I believe the home is under attack. The signs are all around us. We live in a society that has forgotten the impact of Paul’s words and has not guarded the home as a place needing Christ as its foundation. The Bible is still the most widely purchased book and copies are readily accessible in most Christian homes. However, it is rarely cracked nor are its pages consulted. Church attendance has declined especially since the recent COVID-19 pandemic (for some interesting insights, read "Church Attendance Is Dying. What's Next?" by Carey Nieuwhof). Prayer is not a priority; we lack the commitment and focus to go deeper on our own accord. If we attend church, we believe it is the pastor’s job to meet the spiritual needs we may have. In short, we are failing to recognize what is at stake and our homes are suffering as a result.
If we look at the basic unit, i.e. the family, the place where ALL of this starts is in the marriage covenant. We have a husband and a wife who are committed to one another in holy matrimony. At least, that is where it begins. The covenant before God is meant to be lifelong as we declare “till death do we part.” I believe the reason why Satan attacks marriages so strongly is because he knows how important the institution is. If a marriage can be disrupted (I’m talking about Christian marriages), then a key part of society can be thrown off course. As the marriage goes, so goes the family…the kids and beyond; likely having detrimental effects to the next generation(s). If godly principles between husband and wife can be established, the safeguards are in place to protect and foster both their relationship and the parent-child relationship (more on that next week).
Today I want to dive into the practical. I know the topic at hand is deeper than just a 3-point blog. But hear me out. If there is a quick way to get across some truth that can have immediate impact into your marriage, I believe this will be worth your time. Even if you are not married but consider yourself a prospective husband or wife, there are things here that I believe will benefit you.
All that being said, let’s begin.
1. As husband and wife, there is no substitute for reading God’s Word and praying together
Last week we touched upon the idea that Christ must be the center of the home and everything must flow from Him. I love that and I’ve tried to figure out what that looks like for my own marriage and household. I think back to the godly examples I’ve seen in my life and the strong marriages I have witnessed. One common thread is the repetition from day to day and week to week of husband and wife spending time reading the Bible and praying together. I can clearly remember as a little boy spending the night with my grandparents and coming into their bedroom early the next morning to seeing them on their knees, praying together. And it wasn’t a one-time event. This was a practice and a habit in their marriage.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiates 4:12
The three stands (husband, wife, and the Lord) make up a bond that is not easily unraveled. Marriages go through tough times. There are things that will try to stretch a marriage to the limit; to its breaking point. But if God is at the center of that union, there is nothing that can undo it. It is through prayer and reading Scripture together that the bonds become permanent and lifelong. At the altar we say our “I do’s” but that is really only the start. Now the work begins. Now the labor of love commences and if both are committed to walking together in Christ, there will be joy despite sorrow, peace despite pain, and hope despite any sadness.
2. There are no secrets between husband and wife
I find it interesting to listen to couples speak about their spouse when he or she is not around. There are times when a good friend has confided something in me. Sometimes it honestly saddens me because he has not told his wife; either from a lack of trust or out of fear of what she will think. And it can be entirely small and seemingly insignificant things…or all the way up to very devastating things.
I am in no way perfect and I do not have a perfect marriage by any stretch. But my wife and I often think we are weird because we share everything with each other. This was a commitment we made at the start and knew it was the only way we would operate. And it’s been humbling at times because when you don’t keep secrets, you are exposing all of your flaws and all of the skeletons in your closet.
If Christ is our example and our relationship as the church is likened to a “Bride-Groom relationship”, then we know He knows us intimately. That serves as an example for us in the marriage covenant. What freedom comes as we submit to one other, pledging before God and our spouse to be faithful, to be honest, and to be true. I know this sounds scary and I know it puts us in a vulnerable place. But we do it out of love and out of a genuine desire to emulate Christ to our spouse.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
3. Invest in each other
If there’s one practical aspect of all of this in which I struggle the most, it is this point. I sense that one major breakdown in the family over recent years has been the “hyper-driven” culture around us which says you must do everything possible for your kids. You have to make everyday amazing. Your kids must be wowed and astounded by the toys, events, and just basic activities of daily life. In reality, “helicopter parents” are the product of a generation wanting to give everything to their children and in some cases, those routines lead to idolatry.
What comes as the expense to all of this “doing”? You guessed it. The marriage. Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to meet the needs of everyone and everything around us except for the needs of our spouse. Guys! We have to stop doing this and we have to start being intentional about spending one-on-one quality time together. Date nights. Weekend getaways. Even just going out for coffee. If it’s hard to find time, make it as simple as possible. But still do something.
In our dating and courting time before marriage, all we thought about and anticipated revolved around seeing that other person. The butterflies in the stomach were there. The feeling of being “swept off our feet” was there. Somewhere along the line after the wedding, after having kids, and after all the demands of daily life crept in, we stopped dating and investing in each other. Those lovey-dovey thoughts diminished and for so many, the question crept in “Do I still love him or her?” Guys this is reality. Don’t trade busyness for relationship. I have 5 busy kids…I know! But they come secondary to my wife and they know that.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
As we transition into next week’s topic of raising up kids to follow after Christ, it serves us well to mention once more how necessary it is to get this first part right: in the home, the marriage must be founded upon Christ. If that key ingredient is missing, all other parts will be out of balance. Perhaps you are in a marriage where the relationship is “unequally yoked,” i.e. one spouse has a level of faith that the other does not have. Although not uncommon, this type of relationship requires a lot of grace and continued effort to sustain itself long-term. However, everything listed here still applies: you must extend the love of Christ to that unbelieving or distant spouse knowing that God has called you to be faithful and to honor the vow you have made.
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 1 Corinthians 7:12-13
This topic of marriage is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I would love to talk further with you about any of this if you have questions. If you simply just want to discuss something on your heart, I’m here as well. I say this all the time, but if you e-mail me, I will reply back. Promise!
Love you guys!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17