Understanding Marriage

   marriage  I posted about the vows we took when we married the love of our lives in The Vow Matters (https://letitbeginanew.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/the-vow-matters/) so I won’t go into all again.  Today, we are going to begin to understand what marriage means to God.
      For Christians, our marriages are to go beyond the worldly definition of marriage.  Marriage to God is a divine picture of the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church.  Marriage is a spiritual representation of our relationship with God.  As I read this I began to understand more, to see more about myself and my marriage.
      Think about it, when we haven’t spent time in the Word, when we haven’t prayed, when we are not about the Lord’s work… what happens? We don’t have the guidance we need, the love within us.
      I want you to take some time and think, really think about what a day looks like when you begin it with God.  Now I want you to think about a day when you didn’t begin your day with God.
     WOW!  I know that light bulbs are going off everywhere right now!  See how our relationship with God is so important to our marriages, our relationships, our lives.  When I don’t begin my day in my  Quiet Time with God, studying scripture, praying, praising my day is all over the place!  Things that I thought I had a handle come back up!  I wonder “where did that come from?”  I know I stress all the time to begin your day with God… before anything else… it’s because it’s so very important!  It’s the foundation for the day.
      Our goal in our marriages (yes, there should be a goal, who would have thought?) is to have a oneness, a loving, spiritual and physical bond between each other.  A bond that glorifies God.  This oneness is obtained when each of us helps the other to become more and more like Jesus. This oneness is not something that we will  ever be “complete” but something that needs to be worked on each minute, of each day.  We set goals every single day of our lives, but how can we forget to set the goal of the most important relationship (under God) of our life?  It just makes sense but we just don’t see it as a goal.  I know I didn’t until this study.  I was just going along my merry little way… praying and hoping but not working it!
       Martha Peace tells us in her book The Excellent Wife that there are four biblical ways to achieve the goal of oneness and spiritual growth.
1. Make your marriage a matter of faithful prayer.  Pray for your marriage.  Pray your marriage will glorify and please God.  Be specific.  Be humble.  Let God know where you are weak, confess your sin and ask God to change your weaknesses into strengths.  Do the same for your husband.  Even if you don’t see instant results ~ don’t give up!  God hears our prayers always and will answer according to His will, in His time.
2. Commit to a biblical course of action.  Simply make a plan based on the Word.  You begin this by taking personal responsibility for you.  Look at you first, not your husband.  Study the Word and see for yourself what God wants your marriage to be.  Try writing those scriptures on index cards, or type them into your phone so you always have easy reminders of what steps you should be taking in your marriage.
3.  Take a personal responsibility for your own failures and repent.  “In their testimonies to the Lord, many Christian husbands express gratitude for the influence that their wives have had on them.  Even if your husband is an unbeliever or is uninterested in spiritual growth, you can still glorify God and have a positive affect on your husband.”  How cool is that!  I can relate to this completely.  When Hubs and got married, our faith was important but it wasn’t something we went all out about.  Then I got serious about following Jesus.  I began to speak differently, I began to express my feelings, I began to talk about (all the time) what I was learning, experiencing.  How could it not effect Hubs?  Soon we were discussing the Word, we were praying together, and our home is as Joshua says in 24:15 ESV, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
      I have a little story about this… This past Thanksgiving, Hubs mom and sister came to celebrate with us, we hadn’t seen them in over a year.  Hubs and I had started a tradition of getting a pumpkin and putting all the reasons we were thankful on it.  As we read the pumpkin Thanksgiving day, his mom read what Hubs wrote, “I’m thankful for my wife who has been brought me closer to God.” Tears people, tears.  I had no idea how much my faith had changed him!  His mom said, “So, that is the wonderful change in my son!.”  So what I’m getting at is that even though I thought Hubs may not have been all in, he did see the changes in me, and they did affect him more than I knew!
4. Submit to and participate in the process of sanctification.  This is the biblical process of helping each other become as much like Jesus as possible.  We know our husbands are the spiritual leaders of our homes (or should be) so he should be helping us to grow and mature in Christ.  We are his helper so we are to be doing the same thing.  I’m blessed that Hubs has stepped up in the past year to take over as leader of our family’s spiritual growth. I thank God everyday that he has.  It has given me more time to focus on Hubs and building him up.
      We all have work to do to become more like Christ, it takes work no easy way to go.  This is where the talk meets the walk.  Are you willing to work this?  To walk the walk not just talk the talk?  If you are then let’s let Martha gives us some ways God helps us to become more like Christ:
Testing or Pressure:  Getting along with your husband. 
Scripture References:  Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Potential Character Qualities:  Humility, forbearance, love, diligence, patience.
Scripture Reference:  Philippians 4:2-3 ESV “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
Potential Character Qualities: Living in harmony.
Testing or Pressure: Suffering for the Lord’s sake.
Scripture References:  1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Potential Character Qualities: Joy, gratefulness, deeper trust in God.
     *  On a note, here.  Remember, as we get closer to God, as we walk more like Jesus there will be fiery trials!  The Devil is trying to gain a foothold in you and in your marriage!  Don’t let him, don’t give up!  Draw closer to God and He will draw closer to you!  Be prepared!
Testing or Pressure: Other’s Sin (Possibly your husband’s.)
Scripture References: 1 Peter 3:8-9 ESV “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Potential Character Qualities: Harmoniousness, sympathy, brotherliness, kindheartedness, humility.
Testing or Pressure: Financial Pressures
Scripture References: Philippians 4:11-12 ESV  “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
Potential Character Qualities: Contentment
Testing or Pressure: Daily Work
Scripture References: Colossians 3:23 ESV “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
Potential Character Qualities: Working heartily from the heart.
Scripture References: 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ESV “And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
Potential Character Qualities: Behaving properly, financially responsible.
Testing or Pressure: Illness (Due to Sin)
Scripture References: James 5:14-15 ESV “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
Potential Character Qualities: Repentance
Testing or Pressure:  Trials (Temptations, Testings)
Scripture References: James 1:2-3 ESV “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
Scripture References:  James 1:12 ESV “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Potential Character Qualities: Joy, endurance.
Testing or Pressure:  Providentially Hindered
Scripture References: James 4:13 – 16 ESV “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
Potential Character Qualities: Mindful of God’s sovereignty.
Testing or Pressure:  Death of a Loved One
Scripture Reference: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. …”
Potential Character Qualities: Hopeful in the Lord.
Testing or Pressure: Bearing Each Other’s Burdens
Scripture Reference: Galatians 6:2 ESV “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Potential Character Qualities: Love.
Testing or Pressure: Admonished by Others
Scripture Reference: Romans 15:14 ESV “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”
Scripture Reference: 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
Scripture Reference: Colossians 1:28-29 ESV “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Scripture Reference: Colossians 3:16 ESV “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Potential Character Qualities: perseverance, patience, wisdom, diligence, gratefulness, humility.”
     I know that we probably have more testing or pressures in our marriages, in our lives right now than just these.  What are yours?  What Scripture reference speaks to you?  What potential character qualities can you gain from this lesson?