Marriage and Family
How to Have a Strong and Happy Marriage
Some people spend more time planning a wedding than preparing for a marriage. They spend more time thinking about what they will wear for a one-hour ceremony than what they will do to build a strong marriage that should last the rest of their life on earth. They spend more time building a house than a home.
A happy and strong marriage is no accident
Sometimes we hear the phrase, "They have a marriage made in Heaven," implying that some marriages are destined to be good, while some marriages are destined to be bad. Such thinking suggests that marriage has a life all its own, and the only way to find out if you can have a good one or a bad one is to try it.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Marriage is a lot like a mirror. It reflects. It gives back a reflection of you. If you do not like the way you look, don't blame the mirror! In order for a marriage to be strong and fulfilling, it takes the effort of both the partners involved.
A strong and happy marriage is the result of an obedience to God and His Word, and a laying aside of the world's distorted "take it or leave it" concept of marriage.
I can say, without hesitation, that marriage God's way—next to salvation itself—is the most fulfilling and wonderful thing I know. As Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord."
An alarming trend
Sadly, flourishing marriages are not the norm today. The statistics are alarming:
- The divorce rate rose 700% in the last century—and continues to rise.
- There is now one divorce for every 1.8 marriages.
- Over one million children a year are involved in divorce cases.
This breakdown of the family has had a devastating effect upon our nation as a whole. And when we tamper with God's plan, we do so at our own peril.
"The breakdown of the family contributes significantly to the major problems confronting our society today. Research data make unmistakably clear a strong relationship between broken families and the drug epidemic, the increase of violent crime, and the unprecedented epidemic of suicide among children and adolescents," says Dr. Armand Nicholi, professor at the Harvard Medical School and a staff physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
If we want to have the marriage that God wants us to have—a marriage that can withstand the inevitable storms of life, we must get back to the principles God has laid out in His Word.
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God's Original Design
God's plan for marriage is laid out for us in Genesis 2:15–25.
God created man and woman for companionship.
"And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Genesis 2:18).
Adam's original job description
As you read the creation account of Adam, you might say that he had it made. His job description (Genesis 2:15–17) was to discover the secrets of the garden and enjoy fellowship with God and His creation. He enjoyed the companionship of the animal kingdom. He even took time to name them—but something was missing.
God made a helper comparable to Adam.
The Hebrew word helper in Genesis 2:18 could be best translated "someone who assists another to reach fulfillment." It is used elsewhere in the Old Testament when referring to someone coming to rescue another.
The phrase comparable to him could also be translated "suitable to him," or, more literally, "corresponding to him." Eve would provide what was missing in Adam's life.
"Eve was made by God not out of [Adam's] head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, but under his arm to be protected and near his heart to be loved." —Matthew Henry
God wants a husband and wife to leave and cleave.
Marriage begins with leaving.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife" (Genesis 2:24).
Marriage begins with a leaving of all other relationships. Note that God specifies the closest relationship outside of marriage—the parental relationship. In essence, God is implying that if it is necessary to leave your father and mother, then certainly all lesser ties must be broken, changed, or left behind.
The man's primary commitment must be to his wife, and the woman's primary commitment must be to her husband. Each must still honor his or her parents, but a leaving must take place. Otherwise, this attachment can be extremely detrimental to the marriage.
Leaving means giving other relationships a lesser degree of importance. Your husband or wife is not just to be your spouse and lover—he or she should also be your best friend! Malachi 2:14 says, "The Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant."
Leaving means giving other activities outside of the marriage a lesser priority. This means that your business, career, house, hobbies, interests, and even church work should come after your relationship with your spouse. The order should be God, family, service!
Marriage involves a cleaving.
"And they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
It is no use leaving unless you are willing to spend a lifetime cleaving. Becoming one flesh suggests a process, not an instant fact. This begins at the marriage altar and is a lifelong pursuit.
To cleave means to "adhere to, to stick, to be attached by some strong tie." The verb suggests a determined action in its essential meaning. In other words, we hold on because we choose to hold on. There is nothing passive about the act of cleaving.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for cleave means "to stick like glue, to be welded together so the two cannot be separated without serious damage to both."
Points to ponder
If you are married, take stock of your life periodically and make sure that you are applying these basic principles. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is there any relationship or pursuit in my life right now that would put distance between me and my mate?
- Will my current activities or friendships build our relationship up or tear it down?
- Are my mate and I leaving and cleaving as God intended?
If you fall short of God's original design for husbands and wives, take steps now to change the direction of your marriage. If you do, God will bless your marriage.
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The Problem with Marriage
The Bible makes it clear that God loves and wants to bless the family. After all, the family is the order that God established for humanity. Yet, from its very inception in the Garden of Eden, Satan has tried to destroy it.
Obsession with self
One way Satan has tried to wreck God's family ideal is through our selfish desires. This is especially evident in our world today. We are encouraged to abandon our commitments and responsibilities in order to find ourselves.
We are told to give to a certain cause so that we can feel good about ourselves. We are taught that we need to have a healthy self-esteem. Concepts like sacrifice, selflessness, and keeping one's commitment are rarely heard of today. Not surprisingly, Paul lists radical self-centeredness and self-indulgence first among the traits of people living in the Last Days in 2 Timothy 3:2.
We often carry this me-first mentality into our marriages. We say things like, "I will marry this person for what they will do for me." Or we go into marriage thinking that it will make us happy and bring us fulfillment.
A good marriage is not based so much on finding the right person as it is on being the right person.
A different standard
As Christians, we must abandon this worldly and destructive type of thinking. God has called us to a different standard—a higher level of living. He has called us to a new way of thinking and behaving.
We cannot think as this world thinks or act as it acts.
"Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. . .and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 4:1, 24 NIV).
"Come out from among them and be separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17).
"Do not be conformed to this world" (Romans 12:1).
If we want our marriages to not only survive, but flourish, we must get back to God's original design for marriage.
We must put obedience to God and the needs of our spouse above our own.
"[Be] like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2:2–3).
If every married couple did that alone, our homes would be transformed overnight! Obviously, there are certain obstacles or problems we must face in the marriage relationship if we are to reach that point. The main problem goes clear back to the Garden of Eden.
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The Consequences of the Fall on Marriage
Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and shared it with her husband (Genesis 3:6), thus bringing a curse upon humanity, and upon the earth itself (Genesis 3:14–19). We face a number of consequences today as a result.
The curse of death
"For dust you are, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).
Up to this point, man would not have died or faced illness and the aging process. Yet, because of this sin, the curse of sickness, a limited life span and the ultimate termination of life on earth began.
God had previously warned: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
Pain in child bearing
"In pain you shall bring forth children" (Genesis 3:16).
The wonderful joy of giving birth to a child would now have the added dimension of physical pain.
"In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" (Genesis 3:19).
Prior to the fall, Adam's job description was primarily to discover and enjoy what God had made. Now man would have to labor hard and long to make a living.
Strife and selfishness in marriage
After Eve's fall in the garden (which resulted from her failure to consult with Adam about the serpent's temptation and her disobedience to God), the Lord had something very important to say:
"Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (Genesis3:16)
After Adam and Eve sinned, the battle of the sexes began! Understanding the word desire in verse 16 will make this point even clearer. This word is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 4:7, where God tells Cain, "And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
This term desire comes from an Arabic root that means "to compel, impel, urge, or seek control over." Sin wanted to master Cain, but God commanded Cain to master sin.
The beginning of women's desire for liberation
In light of this definition of the word desire, the curse on Eve was that woman's desire henceforth would be to usurp the place of man's headship—and that he would resist that desire and would rule over her.
The start of male chauvinism
The Hebrew word for rule in verse six is not the same word used by God in Genesis 1:28 when He tells Adam to subdue the earth. Instead, it represents a new word of authoritarianism that was not in God's original plan for man's headship.
With the fall and its curse came the distortion of woman's proper submissiveness and man's proper authority.
At this point in history, women's liberation and male chauvinism came into existence! Women have a sinful inclination to usurp the authority of men, and men have a sinful inclination to put women under their feet.
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The Root of the Problem: Self
The problems most married people face could be summed up in one simple word: Self.
The traits of sin and selfishness, coupled with a desire to concentrate on our own needs and wants, all started here at the fall. Sin creates a false hunger, not for communion and fellowship with God, but for individuality of a destructive nature.
You might say, "Well, that's human nature. There's nothing we can do to change that." But there is. God can give us a new nature to be the husbands and wives—and the mothers and fathers—we need to be.Back to Top
The Source of the Solution: the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 5 is known as the chapter on the Christian family. It is in Ephesians 5:18–21 that we learn about the role of husbands, wives, parents and children. It is worth noting, however, that before anything is said about submission or leadership, we are told of a power that will enable us in those areas: God's Holy Spirit.
"Be Filled with the Spirit."
This is a command.
In the original Greek, this is not simply an exhortation; it is a command (Ephesians 5:18). Before specific family roles are defined, we have this prerequisite. In other words, for a Christian marriage to succeed, both parties must realize that they cannot follow their God-given roles in their own strength. They can only accomplish this in and through Jesus by the power of His Holy Spirit.
This needs to be a continuous action.
When we think of the filling of the Holy Spirit, we often think of Pentecost, the gift of tongues, miracles, or bold preaching. When Paul tells us that we must be filled with the Spirit, he is not speaking of a constant state of euphoria or some emotional experience. He speaks of a moment to moment submission to the Spirit's control. The verb "be filled" in the original Greek speaks of a continuous action.
We cannot rely upon a past filling, nor can we live in expectation of a future filling. We need a present filling. Likewise, the mark of a good marriage is not the love and devotion the husband and wife had in the past (as wonderful as that may have been). Nor is it the love and devotion they hope to have in the future (though that is a great goal). The strength of their marriage is in the love and devotion they have for each other in the present.
"Submit to One Another in the Fear of God"
As I am continually being filled with the Spirit, I am then able to move on to the next step: submission to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21). Before a word is said about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives submitting to their husbands, we are told that both husband and wife are to submit to one another in the fear of God.
The idea of submission is not popular in today's self-centered culture. It is perceived as giving up our rights and being a doormat for someone to walk on. The word used for submit here means "to get in order under something." In a military sense, it means to rank beneath or to rank under.
A husband's submission to his wife does not mean that he abdicates his responsibility of leadership in the home, but that he helps her to bear her burdens. He gets underneath to help carry her cares. He is always ready to meet her needs and to sacrifice his own desires for what helps fulfill those needs. And the wife is ready to do the same for her husband.
In a marriage, we all must submit at some point.
God is in charge, first and foremost. Then the wives are called to submit to the loving leadership of their husbands. And husbands are to bow to the needs of their wives. God's order of priority for your life is God first, family second, and your career and/or ministry third—not the other way around.
The issue is not superiority or inferiority. Submission is about sacrifice. It is about your mate. Most importantly, it is about obedience to God. Remember, we submit to one another in the fear of God.
Something to think about
- Are you willing to place your spouse's needs and wants above your own?
- Are you willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to make your marriage what God wants it to be?
- Are you willing—without reservation—to do what the Bible tells you to do?
If you are, you can begin by praying that God would fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you can be the husband or wife He wants you to be. Then submit to one another in the fear of God. Your life and marriage will never be the same.
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The Need for Godly Fathers
Good and godly fathers are the unsung heroes of America today. They are greater than any athlete, rock star, or actor. They are more influential than any politician.
While a godly father can have such a significant influence on his children—and, as a result, on the next generation—tragically, the father that faithfully stands by his wife and children is becoming more of an oddity.
The absent father
Throughout history, men have been torn from their families by war, disease, and death. But in America now, men are choosing to disconnect from family life on a massive scale—and at far higher rates than other industrialized countries. Consequently, we are in danger of becoming a fatherless society.
Father Greg Boyle of Dolores Mission Church in East Los Angeles once listed the names of 100 gang members who came to mind and then jotted a family history next to each. All but five were no longer living with their biological fathers—if they ever had.
Without good and godly men around as role models, adolescent boys create their own rites of passage: perhaps getting a girl pregnant, dealing with drugs, or murdering a rival.
I believe the root of American's problem with absent fathers can be traced to the same destructive cause of America's marital problems: selfishness. When it gets a little bit hard, or you're no longer happy, or a more attractive woman than your precious wife comes along, you walk away. Yet, if more men understood what God has to say about the difference a godly father can make in the lives of their children, they wouldn't even entertain such thoughts.
The impact of a godly father
Fathers are the visible link children have to their Father in Heaven. In many ways, the viewpoint our children develop about God will come from us. The potential impact of a godly father is almost immeasurable.
Consider the impact of one godly father, Jonathan Edwards, This famous early American pastor, writer, and one-time president of Princeton University had 11 children. Of his known male descendants:
- More than 300 became pastors, missionaries or theological professors
- 120 were professors at various universities;
- 110 became attorneys;
- 60 were prominent authors;
- 30 were judges;
- 14 became presidents of universities or colleges;
- Three served in the U.S. Congress; and one became vice president of the United States.
In spite of Jonathan Edwards' busy schedule of writing, teaching, and pastoring (he was known to have studied 13 hours a day), he made it a habit to come home and spend an hour each day with his children.
"A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you, and were helped by you, will remember you. . .carve your name on hearts and not on marble." —C.H. Spurgeon
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Biblical Principles for Effective Fathering
"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).
"Do not provoke"
To provoke a child to anger suggests a repeated, ongoing pattern of treatment that gradually builds up a deep-seated anger and resentment in the child, which eventually boils over in the form of hostility. This can be done in several ways.
In the Old Testament, Isaac favored Esau over Jacob, and Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau (Genesis 25:28). This favoritism created a conflict that followed those boys well into their adult years. Jacob then repeated the cycle later in life by favoring his son Joseph over his brothers (Genesis 37:3). This created a great conflict and jealousy between Joseph and his brothers.
It can be discouraging and even devastating to compare one of your children to another. The resentment that builds in a child who is constantly compared with his or her siblings can be carried well into that child's adult years, where he or she constantly tries to win your approval.
Your children need to know that you always love them—no matter how well or how poorly they succeed in academics or sports. Your child needs to know that you love and support him or her regardless of performance. Even when the prodigal son was in a country far away from his father, he still knew that his father loved him and would welcome his return. He also knew that there would be repercussions for his actions. Yet, he never doubted that his father would take him back.
Never complimenting your child
You need to verbally tell your children that you love them. You need to notice their achievements and give them credit for what they are doing while enabling them to see their own potential and to strive to do even better. It's a delicate balance.
You can over-praise children and not encourage them to be all that they are capable of being. This sets them up for great disappointment in the future.
On the other hand, you can under-praise a child and not give credit where credit is due. At this point, your child has no reason to even try. A child needs approval and encouragement in things that are good, every bit as much as he or she needs correction in things that are not.
"Bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord"
The systematic training of children needs to be spontaneous, natural, and consistent.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7–12, Paul referred to himself as a nursing mother and an encouraging father. While this passage is directed to the Thessalonian believers, Paul used what would be considered the natural action of a mother and father to illustrate his affection for those children in the Lord. From this, we can draw some scriptural conclusions regarding the roles of parents.
"A nursing mother cherishes her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Of all the words that Paul could use to show affection, he chose one that we all could understand—a mother. The phrase "affectionately longing for you" means "to feel oneself drawing to something or someone." It is the picture of a father who holds and treats a little child tenderly, feeling drawn to that little one. This fond affection for our children is not only to be reserved for them when they are tiny and vulnerable. We need to continue to love and care for them through their different stages of development.
"Impart not only the gospel. . .but also our own lives" (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
There is no greater joy than to see our children embrace Christ as their own Savior. The apostle John wrote: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 4).
David said: "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of your thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9).
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How Do We Reach Our Children with the Gospel?
Our children need to see the gospel lived as well as preached. It is a bad thing to never tell our children about the Lord. But it is even worse to tell them about the Lord, and then blatantly contradict it with hypocritical living.
As believing fathers, we need to set the example by modeling a true Christian lifestyle. Andrew Murray once said, "The secret of home rule is self rule, first being ourselves what we want our children to be."Back to Top
It Begins with You
Before we can tell our children about the Lord, we must develop our own fellowship with God. We can not lead a child any further than we have come. We then must teach the Word naturally, spontaneously, and consistently to our children.
Moses, speaking to the Israelites, said, "Hear, O Israel...you shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and these words which I command today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you talk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deuteronomy 6:4–7)
"The Bible is alive; it speaks to me. It has feet; it runs after me. It has hands; it lays hold of me!" —Martin Luther
If we want to turn our world upside down like the early church, we must get back to the principles they lived by. That includes continuing in the apostles' doctrine by being learners of God's Word. May His Word become part and parcel of our lives.Back to Top
The Role of the Husband in the Marriage
Every marriage is going to experience some serious challenges and difficulties. What you must do to make sure that you are doing your part in the marriage. One of the primary reasons for the break-up of so many marriages today is the failure of men and women to understand and apply the specific roles and responsibilities God has given to the husband and the wife. And the bulk of that responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the man!
When a man is out of the will of God, he is a menace to himself and everyone else. Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, just about brought a whole ship down because of his disobedience. Many husbands do the same to their marriages. Their marriages are in trouble because they are unwilling to obey God's commandments to them. Let's look at some of those specific commands to a husband in Ephesians 5:22–33.
The Husband Must Love His Wife
The main responsibility of the man is summed up in three words: "Love your wives" (Ephesians 5:25). Husbands hold the key to a flourishing marriage. Men are to be initiators. The wife comes into full fruition and submission in response to the husband loving her as he should.
Love as Jesus loves.
How are we to love our wives? Ephesians 5:25 answers this question by stating, "just as Christ...loved the church and gave Himself for her."
How did Christ demonstrate his love? Primarily by His example and His death: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8; see also John 15:13).
As a result of Jesus' selfless love, the church loves Jesus and submits to Him: "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). In the same way, when the wife sees the love of her husband, she will love him and submit to him.
But this cannot be our goal! Our goal as husbands must be to fulfill God's command to us and leave our wife's reaction up to Him.
Be willing to lay down your life.
To love as Christ loved and to lay down your life means that you must focus on your partner's needs and not your own (Philippians 2:3–9). Verse 3 tells us to do nothing through selfish ambition. Remember, Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
"He made Himself of no reputation." The literal translation of Philippians 2:7 is "He emptied Himself." Jesus had a complete attitude of unselfishness.
"He humbled Himself." True authority comes from humility (Philippians 2:8). Authority does not mean to manipulate and lord over someone (That is insecurity). A man who is constantly lecturing his wife on his authority probably has very little. A husband must be firm and decisive, but also humble and unselfish.
Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time, was called "the meekest man on the face of the earth." Meekness is not weakness; it is power under constraint. True authority is given by God: "The head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Spiritual authority is rooted in a paradox: "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35).
Jesus demonstrated this principle when He washed His disciples' feet. "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hand...rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself...and began to wash the disciples' feet" (John 13:3–5).
Do you love your wife? The fact of the matter is that many wives are not sure if their husbands love them. There are three different words in the original Greek language for love. Each one of these loves has an important part to play in the marriage, but one of them should always prevail.
- Eros—love on the physical level
Eros is initial love that attracts a man and woman together. This sexual love plays an important role in marriage, building intimacy and closeness. It is a way of expressing your oneness as a couple. It is part of being fruitful and multiplying. And it is a source of sexual fulfillment, a God-given desire to be fulfilled only in marriage.
Scripture says, "Drink water from your own cistern and running water from your own well. Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:15, 17–18).
Paul speaks of the importance of this love in marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:3–5:
"Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
The problem with eros is that it is essentially selfish. It takes, wanting to give nothing in return.
- Phileo—love on the emotional level
In contrast to eros, phileo takes, but it also desires to give. It is a friendship type of love. It has been defined as "a love that comes as a result of a pleasure or delight one draws from the object loved."
- Agape—love on the spiritual level
In contrast to phileo, agape springs from a sense of the preciousness of the object. Agape is primarily determined by the character of the one who loves—not necessarily by the lovability of the object. It is not feeling emotion. It is unconditional. And this is the kind of love God commands us as husbands to love our wives with.
The world's love is always object-oriented. A person is loved because of physical attractiveness, personality, wit, prestige, or some feature or trait that we find appealing. This type of love is fickle, however. For once the trait that is found lovable is diminished by age, or someone more talented or gifted comes along, this fickle love ceases.
A sacrificial love
Our love for our mate is to be an agape form of love, since that is the kind of love Christ displays toward the church. Pastor John MacArthur says, "Loving as Christ loves does not depend in the least in what others are in themselves, but entirely on what we are in Christ."
The husband who loves his wife for what she can give him loves as the world loves, not as Christ loves. The husband that loves his wife as Christ loves His church gives everything he has for his wife, including his life, if necessary.
If a loving husband is willing to sacrifice his life for his wife, he is certainly willing to make lesser sacrifices for her. He puts his own likes, desires, opinions, preferences, and welfare aside if that is required to please her and meet her needs. He dies to self in order to live for his wife, because that is what Christ's kind of love demands.
A patient love
The definitive illustration of agape love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Verse 4 says that "love suffers long." In other words, this type of love allows your spouse to change in God's timing.
A kind love
Verse four also states that "love is kind." You display this type of love to your wife through such things as tenderness, gifts, and telling her that you love her. (See Proverbs 31:28; Colossians 3:19).
- Eros—love on the physical level
The Husband Must Spiritually Lead
Notice what Paul wrote after likening the love Christ has for the church to the love the husband should have for his wife: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her" (Ephesians 5:25–26).
Too many men in Christian marriages are not the spiritual leaders they should be. At best, many are passive. At worst, they are actually hindering the spiritual growth of the family. No one can be a greater hindrance to the wife's spiritual growth than the husband. On the other hand, no one can be a greater encouragement.
Look after your wife's spiritual well-being.
The husband's first priority must be to make sure that his wife is properly aligned with God! He should recognize that her personal happiness as a woman, wife, and mother all hinge upon her relationship with the Lord.
You can't say that it's her problem! Remember, you are now one flesh, you are joined in matrimony. The husband needs to be the spiritual leader in the home. "Husbands, likewise dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).
The phrase dwell with literally means "to dwell down with; to be aligned to." In other words, you are allowing God to work in your lives. You are settling down, and not looking for any excuse to get out of the house. It comes as no surprise that one of the major causes of unfaithfulness on the part of the wife is the continued absence of the husband.
A failure to lead will spiritually hinder you.
Husbands, notice that a failure to dwell with your wife will result in your prayers being hindered. This happiness is hindered because your relationship is out of order. Jesus speaks of this same principle in Matthew 5:23, where He says that if a person brings a gift to the altar and remembers that someone holds something against him, he must leave his gift at the altar and seek reconciliation with the individual he has offended (Matthew 5:23).
One of the key ways we can do this in our marriage is through communication. We must not let anything or anyone close this lifeline off.
Interestingly, Paul refers back to Genesis in his description of the role of husbands in Ephesians 5: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife..." (verse 31). The key to a healthy marriage and open communication goes back to the principle of leaving and cleaving. You must cherish and honor that oneness, that friendship.
An Encouraging Thought
Husbands, you may feel as if loving your wife as Christ loved the church is an impossible task. Remember, the "love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5).
God has given you the ability to do this through the power of His Holy Spirit. So make sure you follow Paul's admonition just a few verses prior to this description of the husband's role to "be filled with the spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).
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The Role of the Wife in the Marriage
The biblical definition of the roles of husband and wife has been rejected as outdated and archaic in today's "liberated and enlightened" society.
In the name of equality, we have blurred the lines and removed the wonderful distinction between man and woman. We have offered substitutes for the family, from unmarried couples living together to homosexuals trying to adopt children. We have dissolved our marriages and broken apart our families at a record rate, reassuring ourselves with how resilient our children are, and how they will bounce back. After all, our society tells us that all that matters is your personal happiness and fulfillment. It does not matter how your actions affect others—as long as you are true to yourself.
But we haven't found that elusive happiness we have been seeking outside of God's order. This new view of marriage has not been successful. Our children have not bounced back as we hoped.
The question we must answer is this: Are we going to let secular culture dictate how we view marriage, or will we follow God's design?
Far too many people, even in the church, have bought into today's selfish, narcissistic mind-set. Such thinking will only bring personal and marital misery. We need to return to God's blueprint for the family. It is time that we start thinking and acting biblically, even if it means going against the grain of much of today's popular thinking. In understanding God's design for the wife in the Christian marriage, it is important that we understand the internal struggle that makes following God's principles so difficult—a struggle that dates back to the Garden of Eden.
The Source of Struggle: A Woman's Desire for Headship
After the fall of Adam and Eve, God told Eve, "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16b).
In essence, God was saying, Things will be different now, Eve. You are going to have a bend in your nature, as will Adam, that is a direct result of the curse of sin. That bend, in a word, is selfishness.
As mentioned before, the word for "desire" in this verse means "to compel, impel, urge, or seek control over." God was telling Eve she would have a sinful and selfish desire to seek control over Adam, to usurp the place of man's headship. When God told Eve that Adam would rule over her, He meant that man would seek to dominate and control the woman.
With the fall and its curse came the distortion of woman's proper submissiveness and man's proper authority. As a result, women have a sinful inclination to usurp man's authority, and men have a sinful inclination put women under their feet. This was not part of God's original design for man and woman.
The Secret of Success: God's Blueprint for a Successful Marriage
God's step-by-step plan for a successful marriage is given in Ephesians 5:18–33.
- Be filled with God's Spirit. The first step in following God's design for married couples is to be filled by the Spirit. To attempt to do what God is telling you to do without the Holy Spirit's help is impossible. The calling of God is the enabling of God.
- Before a word is said about wives submitting to their husbands, both spouses are commanded to "submit to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21). The word used for submit means "to get in order under something." In a military sense, it means to rank beneath, to rank under.
- Wives must submit to the husband's loving leadership. Though Paul starts out with ladies first, in the roles and responsibilities of the marriage partners, it is clear that the wife's submissiveness can and will be a response to the husband's godly and loving leadership.
A husband is not to treat his wife as a servant or a child, but as an equal for whom God has given him the responsibility to care and provide for, to love and to protect.
We are all submitting at some point. Wives are called to submit to the loving leadership for their husbands, and husbands are to bow to the needs of their wives. The issue is not superiority or inferiority. It is about sacrifice. It is about your mate. Most importantly, it is about obedience to God!
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The Principle of Authority in Marriage
When God calls a woman to submit to the leadership of the man, this is not saying the woman is any less than the man, because she is not. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 3:28).
Although there is no difference between man and woman in the nature of their salvation or their standing with God, there is a principle of authority in the family. Those who struggle with this concept will be helped by considering Paul's words: "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3).
What does this verse mean when it says that the "the head of Christ is God"? God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are coequal and coeternal. This verse is saying that God the Father is the head of Christ—not in essence or nature, but in function. Jesus was in His very nature God, but He laid aside His rights and privileges and humbled Himself as a servant (Philippians 2:7–8).
The relationship structure of Jesus Christ to God the Father is the same one presented to us for marriage. Though the husband and wife are equal in their standing before God, in order for the family to function in harmony, the woman, with no loss of dignity, takes the place of submission to the headship of her husband.
- God's divine design intends that the wife's respect, help and obedience would be matched by her husband's servant leadership as they submit together to the lordship of Jesus Christ and to each other.
Proverbs 31 describes the woman of virtue: "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. . .She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:11–12; 25–27 NIV)
There will be times where, in the interest of the family, a husband must make certain decisions that may not be popular. At those times, the wife needs to accept that God, having put her husband in that position of authority, will speak to his heart to guide him.Back to Top
The Motive and Model of Submission
Wives are told to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). Wives need to submit to their husbands as an act of submission to the Lord. Scripture reminds us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man" (Colossians 3:23).
That very attitude can change the way you do everything. Billy Graham's wife Ruth has a sign over her sink that reads, "Divine service done here daily."
In other words: make that meal, change the diaper, sing that song, perform those household chores as if you were doing that job "unto the Lord," and submit to your husband in the same way.
Those who are in authority over us do not always command our respect. They may not inspire us as we would like them to. We might even disagree with them at times. But we recognize that their authority comes from God. So we do those things for them as much as we do it "for the Lord."Back to Top
How to Get a New Husband
Madison Avenue discovered long ago that three words can help to sell a product: "new and improved." There is something in us that wants the newest, the finest, the fastest and the latest model of anything.
Unfortunately, this line of thinking has entered the realm of marriage as well. On your wedding day, you meant every word of your vows, and that person was the love of your life. You vowed to be the best husband that ever was. You would dedicate your life to making this person happy. But you neglected the maintenance of your marriage. You didn't keep it tuned up. It began looking more like a junker than that new model that caught your eye—that sensitive guy who actually listened to what you had to say, or that young girl who thinks that you have hung the moon. So you decide to trade in the old model for the new one. That is not the way it has to be.
Wives, here is how to get a new husband. I do not mean leaving him for another man, but helping him become a new man!Back to Top
Christian Wives and Unbelieving Husbands
Sometimes Christian women who are married to non-believers will meet wonderful godly men at church. In time, they may think the Lord is leading them to leave their husbands and remarry. But this is not what Scripture teaches.
"If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:12–13, 16).Back to Top
The Keys to Changing Your Man
Before you can help to turn your husband into a new man, perhaps you need to think about becoming a new woman—specifically, a virtuous woman. This entails understanding what you should and should not be.Back to Top
The World's Standard: What a Woman Should Not Be
In 1 Peter 3:1–6, Peter warns women against majoring on externals while ignoring the inside. The Greek word for "adorning" in verse three is cosmos, where we get the English word cosmetic. The practice of Roman women at the time of this writing was to wear towering hairdo's with nets of gold and expensive combs in it. They would dye their hair in outlandish colors, and then place golden rings and bracelets around their arms, ankles, and necks. When speaking of the "putting on of fine apparel," Peter was referring to the frequent change of clothing with the purpose of impressing people.
While God does not condemn a woman for dressing herself attractively, He does say that she should not be preoccupied with it. Remember the words of Jesus: "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25)
Women who consume themselves with their outward appearance alone will wind up shallow and empty.Back to Top
God's Standard: What a Woman Should Be
King Lemuel gave us the model of the woman after God's own heart in Proverbs 31:11–31. This writing is based upon the advice his mother gave him, to look for a balanced woman, who does take thought of her physical appearance, but one who recognizes that her spiritual life is the most important of all.
This passage describes a woman who is growing mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. She is maturing, becoming a deeper woman of God each and every day. Yet, she is also extremely practical.
She is virtuous.
"Who can find a virtuous wife?" (Proverbs 31:10).
The word virtuous in this text means "a woman of force and strength." This is a woman of influence and strength, yet she is feminine. She is spiritually, morally, mentally, and physically strong.
She is trustworthy.
"The heart of her husband safely trusts in her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life" (Proverbs 31:11–12).
Truth is such an important virtue in the successful marriage. This is one of the reasons why adultery can be so devastating. The trust factor is dramatically damaged because a pattern of lying has usually preceded it. Yet this woman has her husband's complete trust. The husband knows that she will always be supportive of him, no matter what. He also knows his money, resources, and possessions are safe in her care.
Here is something worth remembering in a Christian marriage: never criticize your mate to others or in a public setting. If you want to correct or disagree with him, do it privately. Publicly, however, always support him. Let people know that you and your husband are one.
She does her work eagerly and diligently.
"She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants" (Proverbs 31:13–15).
Not only does this woman keep her family well-clothed, she goes out of her way to find the finest, freshest ingredients for their meals. This requires good planning and management.
She is a good businesswoman.
"She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard." (Proverbs 31:16)
The feminist movement has tried to prove that a woman who stays at home is really not working. However, anyone who has ever tended to a household knows that it is constant work. It is no nine-to-five job. It is basically 18 hours a day (and often more!). Though, this passage does not advocate that every woman needs to work out of her home. Its underlying theme is that this woman is resourceful, and she carefully manages her money.
She keeps herself in good physical shape.
"She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms" (Proverbs 31:17).
Needless to say, because of the constant manual labor required at this time, trips to the gym were not needed. In our time, however, we may need to make exercise a discipline of our life.
"Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things" (1 Timothy 4:8).
The pursuit of godliness is more important than the pursuit of a slim waist and trim figure. On the other hand, Scripture does not forbid you from presenting yourself in an attractive way. It does say that physical training is of some value. Being sloppy and unkempt is not a virtue. The godly woman will find that balance between the spiritual and the physical in her life.
We have to work with what God has given us and do our best to be as physically attractive to our mate as we can, without neglecting our spiritual character in the presses.
She is submissive to her husband.
"Be submissive to your own husbands" (1 Peter 3:1).
The wife may protest, "My husband is failing to love me as Christ loves the church; therefore, I am not required to submit to him." But that is not what the Bible teaches!
First of all, one needs a biblical understanding of what submission is and is not. It clearly does not mean that a wife is to have no opinion of her own, nor does it mean that she is destined to blindly submit herself to the whims of an overbearing husband. On the other hand, it does mean that she should think of herself and her fulfillment first before submitting to her husband.
Are there limits to submission? Colossians 3:18 says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." The limit to submission would be is if your husband asked you to violate God's will. For instance, if your husband asked you to do something immoral or illegal, you would not be required to submit. Likewise, God would not require a wife to submit to the physical abuse of herself or her children. As long as it is fit in the Lord, however, you should submit.
Principles for Effectively Reaching Your Husband for Christ
In God's ideal order, both partners would be living and thinking about the other more than about themselves. Yet, in less than ideal situations, Peter tells us how a believing wife can effectively reach a nonbelieving husband for Jesus Christ—or motivate a complacent husband to greater spirituality.
Be a silent persuader.
Peter tells the wife that you can effectively reach your husband without a word (1 Peter 3:1). Your husband will not be won to the Lord by telling him what to do, but by showing him what to do. Your actions speak louder than words. You live the godly life, and God will do the saving.
Avoid the temptation to manipulate.
The word manipulate means "to manage or to influence by artful or devious skill; to change something to suit one's purpose or advantage." Manipulation will never be a lasting change. If someone is manipulated into doing something, then he can also be manipulated out of doing it.
Avoid the temptation to nag.
A woman will usually resort to this when she feels that her husband is not paying attention to her. King Solomon (who had 1000 wives) wrote, "The contentions of a wife are a continual dripping" (Proverbs 19:13). He also said, "Better to live in a desert than with a contentious and angry wife" (Proverbs 21:19). Nagging will only drive a husband away, not draw him in. Remember to notice what he has done—and not what he has not done.
Watch what you do and say. "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18 NIV).
Cultivate the peace of God in your life.
Peter tells women to not let their adornment be merely outward, but to let it be the hidden person of the heart (verse 4). The J.B. Phillips translation describes it as "the unfading loveliness of a calm and gentle spirit."
Quiet does not mean lack of noise or activity, but lack of agitation or harshness. It does not mean that a woman cannot differ with her husband. She has a God-given right and responsibility to set her husband straight if he is off course. Instead, it means that she is to cultivate the peace of God in her life. Then, when she speaks, her husband will listen.
Wives, if you follow these biblical principles, you will help to break the ground of a hardened heart.
What about Parenting?
Former president George H. W. Bush was asked, "What is your greatest accomplishment?" This accomplished man could have mentioned the successful military campaign of Operation Desert Storm, his two terms as vice president under Ronald Reagan, his years as U.S. ambassador to China, or his leadership of the CIA. Instead, he answered, "My greatest accomplishment is that my children still come to see me."
He obviously had his priorities in order. When the dust settles in your life, and all is said and done, there will be your family. For that reason, it is important for us to realize just what a precious privilege it is to have children.
Children Are a Gift
"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:3–5)
The word heritage in this verse could be translated "a gift." Our children are not ours to mold into our own image. Instead, we are to do everything we can to mold them into God's image. They are not ours to keep, but to nurture. We are not to teach them to be dependent upon us for the rest of their lives, but rather to be independent and, more importantly, dependent upon God.
Harvard University sociologists Seldom and Eleanor Glueek developed a test (which proved to be 90% accurate) to determine whether five- and six-year-olds would become delinquent. They discovered that four primary factors are necessary to prevent delinquency:
- The father's firm, fair, and consistent discipline.
- The mother's supervision and companionship during the day.
- The parent's demonstrated affection for each other and for their children.
- The family's spending time together in activities where all participated.
In today's self-centered, anything-goes culture, these family dynamics are sorely missing. Instead of being seen as a gift, children are seen more as an inconvenience. Parenting is often perceived as a burden instead of a blessing. Now more of the secular press is beginning to pick up on the failure of the great social experiment of the '60s to the present day, where society sought to do away with the family as we know it—even questioning the wisdom of both parents working and leaving the children in daycare.
This culture is beginning to see what the Bible has said all along: children need their parents. They need their constant input, encouragement, discipline, and leadership. They may resist it at the time, but they will thank you for it later.
The Training of Your Children Begins in Your Heart
"These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deuteronomy 6:6–7)
Moses gives us some important insight into the training of our children in this passage.
First and foremost, we must have a right relationship with God. Moses tells us that these commandments and teachings of the Lord should first be in our hearts. We cannot lead a child any further than we have come ourselves. Nothing can really happen through us until it has happened to us. Once that happens, we can teach the Word naturally and spontaneously to our children. As Andrew Murray once said, "The secret of homemade rule is self-rule, first being ourselves what we want our children to be."
We must teach our children diligently. The word diligent in Deuteronomy 6:6 could be translated, "to whet or sharpen." It conveys the idea of an object piercing through another object, or something that makes a penetrating stab into something else. In other words, your training is to penetrate and pierce deeply into your child to make him keen, sharpened, and discerning. It is not just giving your child a set of do's and don'ts, but developing a set of convictions in your child that will carry with him or her through life. You should not teach through rigid, unbending dogmatism, but through explanation and example.
Each Child Is Uniquely Formed by God
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13 NIV)
Though a child will pick up certain family traits, it is important to know that they have been uniquely formed by God in the womb. The word you, speaking of God in this verse, could be translated, "Lord, You and no other." Mother Nature did not make your child. Your child is not a product of evolution. God inwardly and outwardly made and formed your child!
Each child has an individual bent.
"Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).
Literally translated, the words train up in this verse speak of the actions of a midwife, who, after delivering a child, would dip her finger in crushed dates and place it in the infant's mouth, thus developing a thirst for milk in the baby. In other words, the training spoken of here is designed to internally motivate our children instead of externally compelling them.
In various passages of Scripture, the word child has been used to refer to an infant, a young boy, a pre-teen, a teenager, and even a young man ready for marriage. The word child, therefore, refers to children from infancy to young adulthood in the things of the Lord, setting an example (creating a thirst) with our own lives. While we must establish external boundaries for their protection, we must also seek to develop an internal motivation to know and love the Lord.
The phrase, in the way he should go literally means "in the child's bent." The Amplified Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go (and in keeping with individual gift or bent), and when he is old he will not depart from it."
Consider the first couple, Adam and Eve. Their first two boys were as different as day and night. Abel deeply loved God and had a tender heart; Cain was stubborn and determined to go his own way.
Some children are born leaders; others are born followers. Some are creative and artistic; others are more practical and logical. The wise parent will note those differences and raise the child accordingly.
Each Child Is Born with a Sinful Nature
"Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5)
The words brought forth mean "born." The word iniquity simply means "with a sinful nature." This verse is saying, "Behold, I was born with a sinful set of bents in my nature, and in sin my mother conceived me." Simply put, this sinful nature is passed on to every child.
As a result, we must not only encourage our children to do the right thing, but we must also discipline them when they do the wrong thing. If a parent does not punish his or her children, that parent's children will be sure to punish him or her. "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him" (Proverbs 17:25).
Reasons to Discipline Our Children
To remove foolishness.
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).
To rescue from judgment.
"Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death" (Proverbs 23:13-14 NLT).
To receive wisdom.
"The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother" (Proverbs 29:15).
To relieve your anxiety.
"Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul" (Proverbs 29:17).
To reflect God's character.
"For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God's discipline is always right and good for us, because it means we will share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening; it is painful! But afterward, there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way" (Hebrews 12:10–11 NLT).
Susannah Wesley, mother of 17 children, including John and Charles Wesley, said this, "The parent that studies to subdue [self-will] in his child works together with God in renewing and saving a soul. The parent who indulges it does the Devil's work, makes salvation unattainable; and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body forever."
It is easier to build a child than to repair an adult. May God help us to take up that God-given mantle of spiritual leadership in the home and be the parents we were meant to be. What if your child grew up to be the same kind of Christian you are today? Would you be pleased? If not, some changes must be made.
May we emulate the example of our Father in Heaven and follow Paul's advice: "For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12 NLT).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version™. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ™. NIV ™. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by biblical, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.